Monday, April 23, 2018

April 23, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around the Web

"When Volcanoes Almost Killed a Continent | The 6th Century Dust Veil"--Suspicious Observers (3-1/2 min.). A quick look at how major volcanic eruptions can swiftly change temperatures for a period of up to a few years. Long time readers of this blog will remember that this has come up over and again in looking at cooling events from Bronze Age Egypt to the cooling of North America and Europe by the 1815 Tambora explosion.


  • It is time to seriously discuss common sense car control:
  • "China may backslide on deleveraging if trade war looms"--Reuters. In plane English, China may return to borrowing and risky banking practices to grow its economy.
  • Add this to your "must-read" list: "Guide to Concealed Carry Holsters and Accessories"--Active Response Training. A reader directed my attention to this article by Greg Ellifritz discussing common concealed carry positions and holsters for each (e.g., belt holsters, inside-the-waistband holsters, appendix carry holsters, etc.). He includes some general considerations and thoughts, as well as some specific advice. For instance, as to the belt holster he notes:
         There are many different ways to keep your gun in the holster.  Some of the methods include the thumb break, tension screw, Serpa lock, ALS lock, and rotating hood.  For concealed carry, I would generally avoid open topped Kydex holsters that have no retention other than the friction fit of the gun.  In a fight, a bad guy will take your gun away so quickly that you won’t be able to implement your weapon retention strategies.
             This advice applies even more to the FOBUS PADDLE HOLSTER.  Don’t use it!  I haven’t had one make it through any of my high intensity fight scenarios.  Don’t believe me?  Watch this short video.  The holster breaks completely off of the paddle.  Save the Fobus paddle and open top Kydex holsters for the range only.  Don’t use them to carry your defensive guns.
    • A couple articles that mention the CZ 807 in military service:
    • "Pakistan Is About to Buy a Half-Million New Rifles"--War Is Boring. Pakistan is looking at replacing their HK G3 rifles (which are made under license in Pakistan) and AK style rifles. One of the favorites is the CZ rifle. Although the article specifically names the CZ 806 Bren 2 (a 5.56 mm weapon), the article suggests that Pakistan may be interested in a 7.62x39 version, which would be the CZ 807.
    • "Upgrades for the Beretta 92: A Different Gun?"--American Rifleman. If you have a Beretta 92/M9, this article suggests a couple changes to make the weapon a bit better: a lighter trigger spring, and G-10 grip panels to make it a bit thinner around the pistol grip.
    • Some (very) basic tools for home repairs and projects: "The Definitive Tool Box--Essential Tools For Any DIY Job." An infographic discussing a few basic tools and projects for which they can be used. It is oriented for the British market, and notes: "Did you know that a handyman can charge between £25 and £45 to replace a light fitting? Or between £30 and £55 just to hang up a picture or mirror?" I've never even thought about hiring someone to hang a picture or mirror or replace a light fixture.
    • Time to pressure retailers to stop carrying Yeti products. "Yeti Coolers Ends Its Relationship With The NRA"--Weasel Zippers. This seems to be a particularly stupid move on the part of Yeti inasmuch as there are now several competitors offering comparable products. 
    • "AR15 Rail Buyer’s Guide: Budget Edition!"--The New Rifleman. If you are building an AR or thinking of replacing your handguard, this article has the author's reviews of what he considers to be the better quality, yet relatively inexpensive (i.e., sub-$200), free float handguards out there.
    • The elites are really pushing gun control: "Amalgamated Bank Pressures Ruger To Support Gun Control Measures"--The Captain's Journal. I can't tell if this is a sign of desperation, or that the elite feel so confident that they don't feel the need to hide their behavior.
    • "LifeCard® by TrailBlazer Firearms: Weekly Product Review"--M.D. Creekmore. This is a review of a small, single-shot .22 that folds down to the size of a pack of playing cards. It is interesting to me to see the surge in interest in such weapons. For instance, The Firearm Blog today took a look at a prototype .380 Derringer that folds up to a 3x5 package.
    • Not necessarily, but it provides a standard for comparison or compatibility. "Is Mil-Spec Best?"--All Outdoor
    • Ignoring the elephant in the room: "Murders in the USA - the "Behavioral Sink" in action?"--Bayou Renaissance Man. Peter Grant suggest that John C. Calhoun's research into population density and rats explains the disparity in violent crime rates in the U.S. between dense urban areas and surrounding suburban and rural areas. Only problem is that there are plenty of examples of equally dense populations that don't experience the same levels of violent crime as those areas mentioned by Grant. Grant is from South Africa, and still feels the guilt of apartheid. However, that is no excuse for missing the obvious reason why certain dense urban areas in America have higher violent crime rates than suburban or rural areas.
    • "7 Forces Driving America Toward Civil War"--Townhall Magazine. These are: (1) the U.S. is in a post-Constitution era that either ignores the Constitution or treats it as infinitely malleable; (2) tribalism, relieving members of a tribe having to consider other opinions or views; (3) too powerful of a Federal government which forces nationwide conformity and prohibits local variances in government ("When people are unnecessarily forced to live under rules they find abhorrent because the federal government has become an octopus that has inserted its tentacles into every minute crevice of American life, it creates discontent on a wide scale."); (4) moral decline ("When America faces a challenge bigger than we can handle because of ineffective politicians and our 'amusing ourselves to death' population, there are no guarantees our republic will survive."); (5) national debt; (6) lack of a shared culture (i.e., not only do the left and right not want to talk to each other, but even if they did, they wouldn't understand the other); and (7) gun grabbing ("When it is discussed on the Left, there seems to be an assumption that lone resisters might get into firefights with dozens of police or soldiers, as opposed to ganging up with other formerly law-abiding Americans to waylay gun confiscators, politicians and anti-gun activists at THEIR HOMES in guerrilla actions that would be silently applauded and supported by hundreds of millions of Americans concerned about their freedom.").

    Our Praetorian Guard

           As you may remember from your history classes, the Praetorian Guard was a select group of Roman troops that acted as the bodyguard of the Roman Emperor. Due to Roman law and tradition, the Guard were the only troops allowed inside of Rome. However, over time, the Guard became increasingly politicized and powerful, to the point that they took upon themselves the power to depose emperors and raise new ones in their place.
    Proclaiming Claudius Emperor by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1867) (Source)

           The United States has developed its own Praetorian Guard, who also have come to see themselves as king makers. In an article by Jack Goldsmith, entitled "The 'deep state' is real. But are its leaks against Trump justified?," The Guardian discusses the current fight to discredit President Trump. Goldsmith writes:
             America doesn’t have coups or tanks in the street. But a deep state of sorts exists here and it includes national security bureaucrats who use secretly collected information to shape or curb the actions of elected officials.

             Some see these American bureaucrats as a vital check on the law-breaking or authoritarian or otherwise illegitimate tendencies of democratically elected officials.

             Others decry them as a self-serving authoritarian cabal that illegally and illegitimately undermines democratically elected officials and the policies they were elected to implement.
             The truth is that the deep state, which is a real phenomenon, has long been both a threat to democratic politics and a savior of it. The problem is that it is hard to maintain its savior role without also accepting its threatening role. The two go hand in hand, and are difficult to untangle.

             The deep state has been blamed for many things since Donald Trump became president, including by the president himself. Trump defenders have used the term promiscuously to include not just intelligence bureaucrats but a broader array of connected players in other administrative bureaucracies, in private industry, and in the media.

             But even if we focus narrowly on the intelligence bureaucracies that conduct and use information collected secretly in the homeland, including the FBI, National Security Agency (NSA), and National Security Council, there is significant evidence that the deep state has used secretly collected information opportunistically and illegally to sabotage the president and his senior officials – either as part of a concerted movement or via individuals acting more or less independently.

               The hard questions are whether this sabotage is virtuous or abusive, whether we can tell, and what the consequences of these actions are.

    Actually, the question is not hard, and the answer is that the actions of these agencies are abusive.

            The Constitution provides means of controlling the power of the President. Initially, there is the fact that a President must be elected by a majority of the electors in the Electoral Collage. This gives voice to not just the majority of voters, but also safe-guards the smaller states against a demagogue. Second, it provides for the impeachment of the President by Congress. There is no provision for unelected bureaucrats to decide who should be or shouldn't be President, and certainly no provision for these bureaucrats to sabotage a presidency based on gossip and innuendo.

               If there is some actual crime, take it to Congress for prosecution and impeachment (and, no, I don't believe that the FBI or DOJ have any independent authority to arrest the President). If they have no such evidence, then these agencies need to shut up and mind their place. And if they won't mind their place, then they pose a greater risk to national security than any foreign power, and, for that reason, need to be disbanded.

    (H/t Vox Day).

    Cattle and Shooting

          I got a chance to go shooting with an old friend this weekend. As is generally the case, we found a nice spot on BLM land and set up our targets in an area surrounded by hills and low ridges that would stop the bullets from flying too far if there was an errant stray. Since the road ran pretty much north-south, we were forced to shoot directly east, and set our targets accordingly. Fortunately, the sun was high enough that it wasn't an issue.  The morning was beautiful, quiet, and the breeze was pretty mild. All in all, a good day for shooting.
    Not our cattle (Source)

          After about half an hour of shooting, we suddenly started to see black shapes appear at the top of a ridge to the south of us. A small herd of cattle had heard the shooting, and had started wandering closer as they slowly grazed.

          Another half an hour, and the cattle had now drifted to within 100 yards of where we were, although still to the south of us. But, as though drawn by an invisible force, they continued north, finally forcing us to stop as they got too close to where we had our targets. As we packed up our gear, I suspect the animals took some small satisfaction at driving away some more human interlopers.

            This is not an uncommon occurrence when shooting on federal land that is also being used to graze cattle. Cattle seem drawn to gun fire. Never a sudden rush. Not even a leisurely stroll. But, all the while grazing, they just edge closer and closer. Then, generally, they stop about 50 yards away. Content to be close, but not too close. I've only had one occasion where the cattle actually came up to the group I was with, and that time, they were walking around the cars as we were packing up.

           I'm not sure what draws them in. It may be curiosity. But I suspect that, to them, shooting means humans, and humans mean a sort of safety. After all, a herd doesn't have to worry about a coyote hanging around if there is a group of people nearby--especially shooters. Cattle certainly aren't scared of the noise.

           It happens enough, though, that if I see cattle nearby, it is almost a given that they will mosey on over to see what we are doing.

    Sunday, April 22, 2018

    April 22, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around the Web

    The producer of this video tests the new Glock Marksman barrel versus the Polygonal barrel. Using 147 grain and 115 grain ammunition, he found a noticeably higher velocity for the 147 grain in the polygonal barrel versus the Marksman barrel; but only a negligible difference when comparing the 115 grain. Accuracy was noticeably better, however, using the Marksman barrel over the polygonal. 

    • Be careful what you wish for: "CDC, in Surveys It Never Bothered Making Public, Provides More Evidence that Plenty of Americans Innocently Defend Themselves with Guns"--Reason. Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz published a study in 1995 reporting that there were between 2.1 million and 2.5 million defensive gun uses (DGUs) per year by Americans. These findings have been severely criticized by the left, and various anti-gun researchers have concluded that the number of DGUs per year is in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, but certainly much less than Kleck and Gertz's findings. For instance. a 2013 study by the Violence Policy Center concluded that there were only 67,740 DGUs per year. Because of the large discrepancies, the left has wanted the Centers for Disease Control to research the issue and give its imprimatur on the conclusions that firearms aren't widely used for self-defense. It appears, however, that the reason the CDC didn't want to conduct the research was because it already had ... and its conclusions matched those of Kleck and Gertz. That is, that firearms were used nearly 2.5 million times a year for self-defense.
    • "Legally Armed People Have a Murder rate similar to Japan"--Ammo Land. "Within the United States, there is a law abiding culture that has a murder rate as low as Japan's. That culture consists of gun owners who carry guns legally." The author bases this on 14 years of Michigan records that showed 17 criminal convictions of CCL holders for murder during that period, working out to a murder rate of 0.43 murders per 100,000 CCL holders. 
    • Five more reasons for a 30-round magazine: "Home Invasion Victims Use AR–15 To Defend Themselves Against Five Armed Intruders"--The Daily Caller. The article reports that "[t]he armed victims shot about 30 rounds, killing the gunman who wore a mask — Corey Lauramore — and wounding two others — William Lauramore and an unidentified 16-year-old." But here is the scary part: the intruders attempted to pass themselves off as a law enforcement raid: 
           Three men were asleep inside their Glen St. Mary, Fla., mobile home when five young intruders claiming to be police broke down the front door at 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday, News 4 Jax reports.
              The first intruder wore a mask and shouted, “Sheriff’s office!” from outside the trailer before breaking the front door down and shooting a single round.
      This is not that uncommon. And the problem for the homeowner is determining whether it is a criminal home invasion or police action. 
      • "How Many Gallons of Propane in a 20 lb Tank"--Modern Survival Blog. According to the author, a standard 20-lbs tank can hold 5 gallons of propane, but for safety reasons, should only be filled 80% full, or about 4 gallons (or 17 lbs). He also notes how the exchange dealers rip you off: "Apparently today’s ‘exchange’ propane tanks are only filled with 15 pounds, or about 3.5 gallons."
      • "Looking For a Long-Gun Light? Crimson Trace Has 4 New Options"--Range 365. The 4 options are offered in 500 or 900 lumen, and mountable to a Picatinny rail or M-Lok/K-Mod, starting at an MSRP of $60 to $80, depending on the particular model, which includes a touch pad to activate the light.
      • "THE MYTHS OF THE AFTERMATH"--Suarez International. Gabe Suarez attempts to dispel myths on surviving the aftermath of a defensive gun use. He notes that the police will see you in one of two lights--as the victim or the perpetrator--and your job in the aftermath is to make sure that the police know that you are the victim. Thus, he notes that you will need to call the police to report the incident--if you don't, the police will assume that you are the perpetrator. (See Part 2, here).
      • "Preparing an Urban Emergency Kit"--American Rifleman. The author discusses several options and recommendations, and explains his choices. He recommends a single strap bag instead of a backpack; two or three sources of illumination (and a portable charger for your cell phone); work gloves, dust mask, foam earplugs, and safety glasses; a light jacket; a bandanna; "sensible shoes" (i.e., something you can actually use to walk long distances or run); a knife and/or multi-tool; some first aid supplies (the photograph he uses includes a tourniquet); and some high energy foods and bottles of water. He also discusses whether to include a firearm. Anyway, great article and worth the read.
      • "Terminal ballistics: The wound cavity"--Sporting Rifle Magazine. An excerpt:
                ... Apart from the small amount of heat generated as the bullet passes through tissue, most of the energy is converted to elastic energy.
                  Tissue within the body of your quarry has a certain amount of elasticity. Pinching your own skin is a demonstration of this. In the same way that the ballistic gel expands and stretches as the bullet passes through it, so too will flesh (we will tackle the effects on organs later). The extent to which a medium will stretch is defined as its elasticity, which – for those engineers among us – is determined by Young’s modulus, which is a ratio of stress over strain. Intuitively, it is easy to see that the more elastic a medium is, the larger the temporary cavity will be, as a given amount of energy transferred from the bullet will push the medium more easily away.
                    What’s interesting is that after the temporary cavity expands and collapses, residual energy remains. This creates a secondary temporary cavity, expanding once again before collapsing. This continues in a pulsing motion until no elastic energy is left. Just like the declining height with which a ball bounces, each created cavity will be smaller than the last. During this time, debris can be pulled into both the entry and exit wound.
                      With the tissue relaxed back to its stable state, we are left with a permanent wound channel of destroyed tissue, and an area around this known as the extravasation zone. Unlike the permanent wound channel, which can be defined visually from the by the residual signature left behind in the ballistic gel, the extravasation zone shows no visual destruction. Here, the stretching imposed by the temporary cavity isn’t sufficient to tear tissue, but is enough to rupture sensitive parts of the body such as capillaries. ...
              On Friday evening, President Donald J. Trump inadvertently referred to the disgraced Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz as "Wendy." In hysteria, the media and blue-check marked liberals on Twitter erupted with laughter as the tweet sat there for twenty minutes. President Trump finally deleted that mistake and replaced it with a tweet featuring her proper name. 
              It wasn't a mistake. Q recently posted about "Wendy." Now we know who was "Wendy."
              A large number of seasonless Americans fall into this category, including Paul Ryan, white women who work at nonprofits and anyone who believes in reverse racism. Businesses include Cracker Barrel and your church. Yes, yours.
                       Gang-related gun murders, now mainly a phenomenon among men with immigrant backgrounds in the country’s parallel societies, increased from 4 per year in the early 1990s to around 40 last year. Because of this, Sweden has gone from being a low-crime country to having homicide rates significantly above the Western European average. Social unrest, with car torchings, attacks on first responders and even riots, is a recurring phenomenon.

                          Shootings in the country have become so common that they don’t make top headlines anymore, unless they are spectacular or lead to fatalities. News of attacks are quickly replaced with headlines about sports events and celebrities, as readers have become desensitized to the violence. A generation ago, bombings against the police and riots were extremely rare events. Today, reading about such incidents is considered part of daily life.

                  Friday, April 20, 2018

                  April 20, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around the Web

                  "The Men Preparing for Civil War in South Africa"--Lauren Southern (5-1/2 min.)


                  • Greg Ellifritz has this week's Weekend Knowledge Dump up for your perusal. Check it out. Articles and videos that are listed include topics such as concealed carry gear you should avoid, why we are seeing more active shooters, where you should be looking when you do reloads (hint: keep your eyes on the threat), and a lot more. And thanks to Greg for linking to my AR15 article!
                  • "Single Action Revolvers for Personal Defense?"--Ammo Land. The author of this piece attempts to make an argument for using single action revolvers, including the Colt Single Action Army (SAA), for personal defense. He writes:
                           So again why would you want a single action thumb buster instead of the latest and greatest semi-auto pistol? Well, in more than one state the handgun magazine limit is stuck at ten rounds, so six shots aren’t all that far away from the limit. The single action revolver does tend to be a more “safe” choice if you are worried about what political climates might be coming sooner or later. While I despise the thought of any handguns being banned, it is something to think about.
                            The single action revolver is not merely a throwback to a bygone era. It’s not simply a Hollywood prop that looks cool and flashy when drawn from a holster at speed by some actor in a fancy outfit. A single action revolver is a tool and a darn good one at that. It’s as viable a defensive handgun in 2018 as it was in 1918 and even 1888 if you are willing to understand the limitations and practice with it, which is what you should do with any handgun, you carry to protect your hide

                      Old and simple is not necessarily the best for the job. For instance, I have an ax that is a darn good tool, but I'm going to use my chainsaw to cut down a tree, or cut up longer pieces of wood. Essentially, the author is attempting to argue that because it was the best option in the 19th Century, it is a viable option today, which is not true. Just because some people can use such a weapon well does not mean everyone will be able to do so. 
                             Now, I understand that if that is all you have, well, that's what you use. But deliberately selecting an SAA or similar weapon over a modern revolver or pistol is, to be blunt, foolhardy. Why would you deliberately handicap yourself as to something as important as self-defense? 
                             First, as the author acknowledges, these revolvers have to be cocked prior to firing. Yes, you can cock as you draw (which is easy to do with the wider hammer on a modern double-action, by the way), but that creates a risk of the firearm being more easily triggered and going off before you intend it to. If you don't cock when drawing, they you have to thumb the trigger back and fire, which, for most people, will be slower than simply pulling the trigger on a double action revolver or on a pistol. 
                               Second, these style of revolvers use a side-loading gate to reload--each shell is punched out one at a time and a new cartridge inserted. It is slow and requires manual dexterity well in excess of that required for reloading a double-action revolver with a swing cylinder. Which is why, even when the U.S. Army was in the process of ordering and distributing the SAA, it was still constantly testing and evaluating other styles of revolvers that were faster to load.
                                I also don't think much of the author's argument that single action revolvers will be spared from a more general handgun ban. We've never seen a cut-out for single action revolvers in past legislation, and there is no reason to believe that it will be different in the future. If government decides to ban handguns, it will probably be all handguns; if there is an exception for revolvers, it will probably apply to all revolvers, not just the single-action revolvers.
                               Finally, even the history of revolvers does not support there being any innate advantage to the single-action revolver. In fact, when double-action revolvers were introduced, people bought them in droves. The SAA\, for instance, was introduced in 1873. In 1877, Colt introduced the Colt Lightening (.38 caliber), which was a double-action revolver, followed quickly by the Thunderer (.41 caliber) and Double Action Army & Frontier (.45 caliber). Between 1878 and the end of 1909, Colt manufactured a total of 270,000 SAAs; during the same time period, Colt manufactured 220,000 of the foregoing double action revolvers. And this does not include the numerous other manufacturers of the same period that mostly produced double action revolvers, including Smith & Wesson. (Source: Walter, John, The Guns That Won The West: Firearms on the American Frontier, 1848-1898 (1999)).
                                A former city cop spilled his guts Tuesday, telling Manhattan jurors about years worth of bribes he and his fellow officers received for doling out gun permits — everything from cash, prostitutes and expensive watches to baseball memorabilia and exotic vacations.
                                   David Villanueva, an ex-supervisor in the NYPD’s License Division, said he and other cops — including officers Richard Ochetel and Robert Espinel and Lt. Paul Dean — were on the take for years from so-called gun expeditors.
                                    In exchange, the officers doled out pistol permits like candy — even to people who should not have had them, Villanueva said.
                                     One expeditor, he said, may have had ties to organized crime. Another got help with 100 gun permits over the years — “none” of which should have been approved.
                                        Now lets talk about you, oh private citizen gunfighter. I will bet that you don't go about your day with a shotgun or a rifle slung over your back. Not everyone wants to live 100 miles from the nearest civilization, so you make concessions. And while there may be an additional weapon in your vehicle or in your office or home, ready to access, what you walk around with is a concealed handgun. You should spend upwards of 75% of your time getting good with that, since 75% of the time that will be all you have.
                                         But what about the other 25%?
                                           Consider that your mission will most likely be one of fight and flee, not take ground, not go on the hunt, not fight off a horde of bayonet armed Russians. It will be to win the initial confrontation and get to safety to either call reinforcements or to have LE come to investigate and write the report. You will access an additional (and hopefully more powerful) weapon when the following has happened -
                                              1). It is nearby, in the vehicle, in your office, or home. In short, it is available within 30 seconds. Otherwise, don't bother.
                                                2). You have defeated the initial attack with your pistol and have time to consider that the event may not be over, thus you can "up-gun".
                                                  3). You have some prior warning of events - such as a business owner realizing there will be a riot or some other event that he may need to get through on the way home.
                                            He then goes on to explain the characteristics he thinks are important in a weapon you will be using more proactively than a pistol--that 25% of the time he discusses above. While I agree that a shotgun firearm meets his requirements, I am looking at the AR pistol for filling the same role. I'll get back to you on that.
                                            • Stupid: "The first person on Mars should be a WOMAN, says Nasa's chief astronaut trainer"--Daily Mail. No valid technical reason, just more PC garbage. Well, here is an interesting fact to consider: the current NASA spacesuits weigh 280 lbs. in Earth's gravity. That means that, even with the lower gravity of Mars, the suits will still weigh 93.3 pounds--and that is just the suit. In addition, due to the long voyage, muscles will have atrophied, and there will probably be bone loss. So, given all of that, who is going to be better able to walk around on the surface of Mars wearing a space suit: a man or a woman?
                                            • "Gear Tips From The Mammoth Sniper Challenge"--Guns America Blog. This is sniper competition that not only scores shooters on their shooting, but they also have to hike between targets and camp during the night. Thus, as the author notes, lessons learned from this competition are applicable to hunting or backwoods hiking. He has several interesting lessons from the whole experience, including ditching a sleeping bag for sleeping pads and a lightweight down quilt, but I thought the use of trekking poles was particularly interesting and clever:
                                                      These lightweight handy devils are not just for Appalachian Trail sight-seeing.  When you are carrying heavy loads and trying to move at a good clip up and down grades, having 4 points of contact instead of just two can be a lifesaver. Leaning into the poles powering up hills helps support the load, and push you forward. The poles are even more crucial while moving downhill; your most likely time to fall. They add needed support points to help to keep your feet under your center of gravity. The heavier the load the more you need trekking poles to keep from toppling over on hidden hazards under the snow or on broken terrain. They can also be used as adjustable shooting supports.
                                                The author has a photograph showing two trekking poles looped together to make an improvised bipod. In that regard, the author writes: "Trekking poles can be looped at the handles and used as makeshift shooting sticks or a bipod; allowing a more stable shooting position."

                                                Thursday, April 19, 2018

                                                April 19, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around the Web


                                                • "Prudent Prepping: Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone Sharpening System"--Blue Collar Prepping. A review of the Lansky sharpening system, including a couple tips on its use. I've used the Lansky system, and found it to be pretty good for shorter knives--folders and fixed blades of less than 5 or 6 inches. However, if you have a knife with a special coating, be careful because the clamp tightens down on the spine and can leave a mark. Although this article shows the clamp being held in the hand while sharpening, you can also get mounts that you can bolt to a workbench that make it easier to use.
                                                • "How to Reprofile the Edge on a Dull Knife"--Field & Stream. The author notes: "Use a knife like you ought to use a knife—that is, often and hard, and sharpened frequently—and you’ll need to reprofile the edge as you hone away more and more steel." He then provides instructions (including a couple of illustrations) on how to do it.
                                                • Back to the basics: "Handgun Grips: What Works, What Doesn't"--Range 365. A look at some ways of gripping a handgun that are fairly common to see, but are wrong. The author also explains a bit on why each of them is wrong.
                                                • "Remington’s R51 Is It all True?"--Load Out Room. This article contains two videos--one a review and test of the firearm, the other on field stripping the weapon--as well as the author's thoughts on the weapon. If you are curious about the R51, this is a good place to start to learn more.
                                                • Another blow to the "Out Of Africa" theory: "85,000-Year-Old Finger Bone May Rewrite the Story of Human Migration Out of Africa"--Live Science. The Out Of Africa theory is, at its essence, the belief that all significant evolution of humans occurred in Africa, and then disbursed to other areas; that nothing significant occurred outside of Africa, and certainly nothing filtered back into Africa. However, the further the date is pushed back on when humans left Africa, the more difficult it is to maintain that nothing significant occurred outside of Africa.
                                                • Related: "Ghosts of Africa"--Steve Sailor at Taki's Magazine. This article addresses the problems with the Out Of Africa theory in more depth, and its implications for the modern religion of "diversity."
                                                Breitbart Texas spoke with CBP officials Wednesday afternoon and learned the men were openly carrying weapons as they marched north from the border in a remote area with added survival supplies befitting a long trek. Officials could not say why they were carrying such a large number of firearms at this time.
                                                        The arithmetic is simple:  Even if a nation the size of China could mobilize all 5 million troops into the US, the 100 million armed American households, with potentially 2.5 rebels each, means it's possible for the US to soak up casualties 50:1. Even if major population centers were nuked first, we could manage 20:1, and we'd pick the softest targets first.
                                                          Then, when our partisans do eliminate a tank element, or ground unit, its weapons then become ours, and we're no longer "fighting tanks with rifles." Because we have diesel mechanics, electronic experts, and rifles.  Will they be as effective as a professional force? No.  But they'll be effective enough to tie up yet ANOTHER armor unit trying to stop them, which will pin that unit in place for even more harassment and attack.
                                                  The way to get around this is to infiltrate millions of your invaders into the country so they can then exert political power.
                                                  • Janet Reno had to kill the children to save them: "Bitter lessons 25 years after Waco, Texas, siege"--The Hill. The author mostly discusses how no one in government was ever held accountable. The tactical takeaway--which has been repeated many times since--is that in a siege situation, law enforcement will simply pump flammable gases into a structure, then ignite it with pyrotechnic munitions of some sort--"burners". It should also be a reminder that laws are ultimately backed up government violence--and people ought to think about that when they push for passage of some law or ordinance--that is, is this particular law worth someone being killed?
                                                  • The separation of the wheat from the tares: "Government vs. God? People are less religious when government is bigger, research says"--Miami Herald. It appears to me that the researchers have found a correlation, but, as we know, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Nevertheless, from the article:
                                                             The researchers also found something of a staggered link between the government services on offer and levels of religiosity in a given state. Between 2008 and 2013 in the U.S., for example, “better government services in a specific year predicted lower religiosity 1 to 2 years later,” researchers wrote.
                                                               “If a secular entity provides what people need, they will be less likely to seek help from God or other supernatural entities. Government is the most likely secular provider,” the researchers concluded. “We showed in two cross-sectional analyses, one using world countries and one using states in the United States, that better government services were related to lower levels of religiosity.”
                                                        There may be some causal link. For instance, I've known many people that only attend church when they want financial assistance from their ward (i.e., congregation). Obviously, similarly minded people won't come to church if the government is supplying their physical needs. However, there is something more going on here, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is, at least in part, the generally anti-religious messaging that comes from large, secular governments. We can see that in the United States where the push to ban religion from the public square, so to speak, began after the Federal government ballooned in size following the New Deal during the Great Depression, and as a further consequence of World War 2.
                                                        • Related: "Mormon growth continues to slow, especially in the US"--Religion News Service. According to the article, the Church's growth in the 1960s through 1990s was 3 to 9% in any given year. However, recent statistics show that Church growth is just under 1.5 % overall, and only 0.75% in the United States. The reduction not only reflects a lower number of new converts, but also a decline in the birth rate among members. 

                                                        Video: "Top Science News: April 3 - 18, 2018"--Suspicious Observers

                                                        "Top Science News: April 3 - 18, 2018"--Suspicious Observers (5 min.)
                                                        This is a quick review of some of the major weather/climate, solar, and space news for the last couple of weeks. One of the topics was that 3 major efforts attempting to detect dark matter failed to find any evidence of dark matter. These are but three in a long string of research into dark matter that has failed to find evidence. All of the major models of dark matter appear to be wrong. Rather than looking for some exotic material, it is likely that the "missing matter" in the universe is simply dust that we cannot see.

                                                        Wednesday, April 18, 2018

                                                        April 18, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around the Web

                                                        "A US-China Trade War?"--China Uncensored (10 min.)
                                                        A look at the current war of words between the U.S. and China over trade, background and possible ramifications. He also discusses that, as an export nation, China has much more to lose.


                                                                 Scientists from Britain's University of Portsmouth and the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory "tweaked" the structure of the naturally occurring enzyme after they found that it was helping a bacteria to break down, or digest, plastic used to make bottles.
                                                                   "We've made an improved version of the enzyme better than the natural one already," said John McGeehan, a professor at Portsmouth who co-led the work. "That's really exciting because that means that there's potential to optimize the enzyme even further."
                                                                     The engineered enzyme could in future help in the fight against pollution caused by plastics, which can persist for hundreds of years in the environment and currently pollute large areas of land and sea worldwide.
                                                                       The team of scientists is now working on improving the enzyme further to see if they can make it capable of breaking down plastics on an industrial scale. Their initial goal had been simply to understand the enzyme's structure.

                                                              Tuesday, April 17, 2018

                                                              April 17, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around The Web

                                                              "Basic Sling selection for the M4/AR-15"--Garand Thumb (13 min.)
                                                              A look at pros and cons of single and two-point slings, and some recommendations.


                                                              • "The Quickest Way I Know To Get a Family of Four Prepped for The Coming Collapse (Updated for 2018)"--M.D. Creedmore. A quick start guide on quickly putting together food storage, options for storing and filtering water, a couple recommendations for firearms for hunting and self-defense, food production, emergency power, and some odds and ends.
                                                              • "Why Do So Few New Calibers Manage to Become Popular?"--The Truth About Guns. The author briefly examines what calibers are popular and discusses some calibers that have come and gone. He concludes: "Why do you think this is? If asked, I’d guess it’s just the cost of buying and the availability of new and relatively rare (anything new will usually be scarce) ammo more than anything else." Cost is a factor, as is whether a particular platform uses the caliber. For instance, the flood of cheap AKs and SKSs certainly played a part in making the 7.62x39 one of the most popular centerfire rifle cartridges in the U.S.--the availability of cheap ammo merely cemented the deal. But I also believe that a lot of shooters (myself included) ask whether a new cartridge does something that they can't already do with an existing cartridge--at least, whether there is enough of a difference to make it worth it. It's hard to beat the .30-06 and .308, so those will remain popular. On the other hand, the .40 S&W doesn't really do anything better than the 9 mm (or .45 ACP for the more traditionally minded), and it costs more and recoils a lot harder. The problem for a lot of new AR cartridges is that they really aren't any better than the 5.56. .300 Blackout is somewhat of an exception in that it is superior for an SBR or pistol AR, so I suspect that it will hang on (my belief on this also seems bolstered by lower costs and increased availability of the .300 Blackout). .224 Valkyrie has potential because it appears that it can do a lot of the same things as the .243 Winchester, but out of an AR15 platform. 
                                                              • Related: "America’s Most Wanted Ammunition"--American Hunter. A look at Federal's top sellers in 2015. The top three: .223 Remington/5.56, .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO, and .30-06 Springfield.
                                                              Of course, .22 Long Rifle dwarfs them all: estimates of annual production is between 2.5 and 5 billion rounds per year.
                                                              • "The Color of Gun Crime in America’s Big Cities"--The Unz Review. The author of this piece hits back at claims in the media that "white men with guns are America's biggest terrorists," "the NRA is a terrorist organization," and so on, with some inconvenient (for the left) facts. Looking at New York City, the author observes:
                                                                      This means that in 2016, 88.3 percent of those arrested for murder or non-negligent manslaughter and 96.7 percent of those arrested for shootings were black or Hispanic. The data in the 2015 edition of “Crime and Enforcement Activity in New York City” are almost identical. All this in a city where whites comprise about a third of the population.
                                                                        Assuming arrest data are a good measure, whites in New York City are almost wholly innocent of murders, non-negligent manslaughters, and shootings.
                                                                  He also looks at crime statistics from Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Chicago. They all tell a similar tale: whites account for very few of the murders and gun crimes. So, comments that white men with guns are terrorists, or even unusually dangerous, is a lie.
                                                                  • "Accurize Your AR-15"--Guns & Ammo. The author built an AR using a premium barrel by Proof Research, but was unable to get very good accuracy from it with any load. He ended up lapping the face of the receiver to make sure it was square to the barrel/barrel extension; and used Loctite 620 ("a special high-viscosity, industrial-grade Loctite designed for setting bearings and other cylindrical devices") to make sure his barrel was fitting into the receiver tightly and without any slop. It worked, reducing his group sizes by half or more.
                                                                  • "The Best Ways to Cook Every Cut of Venison"--Outdoor Life. Useful information for those that hunt.
                                                                  • "The Best Free Medical References Available- Updated"--Active Response Training. Get 'em while they're hot!
                                                                  • "Massachusetts High Court Strikes Down Stun Gun Ban"--The Volokh Conspiracy (h/t Instapundit). The author notes: 
                                                                    By my count, this means that, since D.C. v. Heller, stun gun bans have been invalidated or repealed in Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, D.C., the Virgin Islands, Overland Park (Kansas), and Annapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Tacoma, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Harford County, and Howard County (all in Maryland).
                                                                    • "More evidence that it’s COLD not WARMTH that hurts humanity"--Watts Up With That. The article relates that "[a] recent study published in an esteemed academic journal indicates that volcanic eruptions in the mid 500s resulted in an unusually gloomy and cold period" due to dust and aerosols in the atmosphere. The reduced sunlight led to lower temperatures and adversely affected crop production and livestock. Reduced sunlight also meant that people produced less Vitamin D,  which compromised their immune systems. In that vein, the article notes:
                                                                      The unusually poor years coincide with the bubonic plague epidemic that devastated the Roman Empire. The epidemic caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium began in 542 CE and killed approximately half, or more, of the inhabitants of what was then considered the Eastern Roman Empire. The plague spread through Europe, from the Mediterranean, possibly as far north as Finland, and had killed tens of millions of people by the 8th century.
                                                                      • Running out of other people's money: "Harvey, the first domino in Illinois: Data shows 400 other pension funds could trigger garnishment – Wirepoints Special Report"--Wirepoints. Harvey, Illinois, is one of the hundreds of local government entities in Illinois that has underfunded its public pensions (or, if you prefer, overpromised on its pension benefits). But it has done a particularly bad job, and the piper has come calling. In the case of Harvey, at first a judge ordered the town to raise its property taxes to make up for low funding of the pensions, but the town didn't use the extra money for that, so now the unions have gone to the state to have the state garnish Harvey's tax revenues and apply it to pensions. Harvey is not threatened with having to lay off city employees, including police and fire personnel. It is a tragic conundrum to property owners in the town: higher taxes will drive people to sell or abandon properties to get out from the tax burden, while others will move away as the city reduces its services; more properties going on the market combined with higher taxes will reduce demand (and, hence, value) of the properties; a lower tax base means that the town will either have to increase taxes and/or cut services further, which will drive more people away....
                                                                      • The decline of civilization: "REVEALED: California trains are now late 15% of the time because of homeless camps on the side of the tracks"--Daily Mail. This article places the blame on increased trespassing on rail right-of-ways, requiring trains to slow or even stop. However, there is a bit more to the story than that. The Sacramento Bee reports:
                                                                        The reasons aren’t limited to trespassing. Agency officials say the rail line's problems with track signals, bridge closures and mechanical issues have been higher than usual. The number of vehicle strikes at street crossings has tilted up as well.
                                                                          New York City is typically not the first place that comes to mind when one mentions the word “quarterstaff.” For the average individual, unfamiliar with the history of western martial arts, the term is far more likely to conjure up images from “Robin Hood,” or of the medieval European peasantry. Yet, during the late nineteenth century, it was a Manhattan-based fencing master, Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, who produced one of the few treatises on self-defense technique with the quarterstaff—the first such treatise to be published during the nineteenth century, and the only one to be published in America prior to the twentieth century.

                                                                          Monday, April 16, 2018

                                                                          April 16, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around the Web



                                                                          • "Seven Things You Don’t Know About Body Armor"--Active Response Training. Those are: 1) Body armor is heavy and hot; 2) Body armor will make breathing under exertion more difficult; 3) Body armor will alter your shooting stance; 4) You can be choked out on your body armor; 5) Water and Ultraviolet light will cause soft armor to degrade.  Heat, moisture, and UV light are body armor’s worst enemies; 6) Body armor has an expiration date, but it often isn’t all that important; 7) Soft body armor offers adequate protection against most edged weapons threats. Ellifritz discusses each of these points in more detail, including offering tips and advice, so read the whole thing.
                                                                          • Related: "Body Armor 101: What You Need to Know"--Recoil Magazine. This explains the basic types of body armor, proper fit (i.e., making sure it covers what it needs to cover), and reviews some brands/models on the market. 
                                                                          • "The Best Bulletproof Body Armor When SHTF"--The Prepared. A review of some of the body armors available on the market, and the best in certain categories (cost, weight, etc.)
                                                                          • "Can Anything Defeat a Level IV Plate Body Armor?"--The Firearms Blog. The issue isn't really whether anything can penetrate Level IV plate: a .50 BMG will with no problem, and I have even seen a video using a civil war field cannon that turned the plate into a huge piece of half-shredded shrapnel. Rather, it is whether more common rifle calibers could penetrate Level IV, It is safe to say that standard military cartridges will not penetrate Level IV. Russian B32 armor piercing will not penetrate. U.S. M993 will penetrate Level IV. All of this should be taken with one caveat. These are tests of single rounds. Multiple rounds in the same location can damage the armor and create a hole (remember the recent video on shooting through bullet proof glass).
                                                                          I don't heal as quickly as I used to. What were once minor injuries or illnesses can now side-line me for days or weeks. This requires more attention to preventing injuries and illness as well as larger supplies of whatever I need to treat them. A minor cut that used to heal in three or four days, taking maybe a dozen bandages to keep it clean, now takes a week or more and a lot more bandages.
                                                                                 When humans carried out ‘shelter-seeking, evacuation, healthcare-seeking, and worry’ they were more likely to survive.
                                                                                    Researchers found the best course of action was to take shelter first and then take steps to escape afterwards.
                                                                                      Those who tried to seek out family members and ‘aided and assisted’ other people were more likely to die.
                                                                                        Previous research has pointed to the problems associated with a lack of regulation of private security firms in Latin America. Employees of such firms have been found to engage in a variety of criminal activities, including drug and arms trafficking as well as extrajudicial killings.
                                                                                          These issues are particularly acute in Mexico, where criminal violence has reached historic levels, and private security firms have stepped in to fill a security gap where trust in the police is scarce.
                                                                                           Stephanie Leutert, co-author of the Strauss Center report, told InSight Crime that even among properly registered private security companies, there are already a “wide range of crimes being committed” by personnel as a result of lax regulatory enforcement.
                                                                                               “When you don’t have audits to make sure that people are following regulation, then you’re more likely to see more instances of assault and robbery,” Leutert said.
                                                                                                Figures uncovered using freedom of information requests by the Daily Mail show that police dealt with 928 crimes involving machetes in the last two months of 2017.
                                                                                                 London saw the bulk, with 425 of the attacks. There were 99 in Greater Manchester, 77 in the West Midlands, and 29 each in Merseyside and West Yorkshire.
                                                                                            “[B]y using the justice system as a political weapon to attack the enemies of the country’s elite, Robert Mueller and his supporters in both parties are confirming what many Americans already believe. That in spite of all the fine rhetoric, we are not all equal under one law. There is in fact a privileged class, a ruling class that sees its own interests as identical with the public good, and never pays a price for its failures, its abuses, and its crimes.”
                                                                                                     ... This is the key point: the battle cry of bloody secession has always been peaceful negotiation. The exact analogy Kelly appeals to, of splitting possessions in a divorce, is the analogy Lincoln uses for his foes: insurgent agents seeking to divide effects by negotiation. This has always been the secessionist gameplan, from Hartford to Montgomery.
                                                                                                        This peaceful division, however, is likely impossible. The reasons are several, and I will begin with the basic logistical problem.
                                                                                                         Modern political coalitions are not actually regional. They are local. The electoral college map makes them look regional, but if you look at a county or precinct map, you’ll see very clearly that local factors drive our politics. We are not divided by north and south, or east and west, or even coasts and heartland. We are not divided by state. Our true divisions are about whether you live in a relatively dense city or not.
                                                                                                            Go look at a county map of presidential elections! Every state has Blue America holding some of its territory, and virtually every state has Red America holding some of its territory! How exactly is this territory supposed to be peacefully divided up? Any division would leave huge stranded enclaves of dissidents, dissidents who would suddenly find themselves vastly politically outnumbered, unable to effectively preserve their way of life at all. Many would flee to whichever country best represented their views, creating a refugee crisis that might agitate for revanche. But many would remain in place, forming an enraged and restive local populations. Blue Team’s countrysides would become the hills of Vietnam to them; Red Team’s cities would threaten the carnage of Mosul on every block.
                                                                                                              Elections would be contested, legal frameworks uncertain, military allegiances shifting: it would be a calamitous disaster of monumental proportions. No authority would exist with the ability to peacefully manage the transition and be respected by both sides. Local political factions would take measures to guarantee persistence and self-defense, such as training militias. In such an environment, it would be easy for a spark to set the whole thing ablaze. The ensuing war would be mind-blowingly violent. The entire war would be continental-scale streetfighting.
                                                                                                                 You might think you’d stay above the fray. You’d be wrong. Maybe you aren’t passionate about holding the union together! But the war won’t be on the Texas border. It will be on the border between suburbia and the urban core, as disaffected Blue Teamers refuse to recognize Red Team laws they abhor, and they eject officials and set up rebel governments. The battlefield won’t be the Mississippi River, it will the I-66 corridor heading out to West Virginia, which becomes impassible as Red Team militias close off the interstate and begin purging dissidents from the region, creating a safe zone around West Virginia.
                                                                                                                  Modern civil wars are not mysterious events. We have plenty of examples to look at, like Syria. And we Americans have so many guns (proud gun owner here!) that you’d have practically universal potential for combatancy, that is, everybody could be a soldier. The geography of political disagreement suggests that practically the entire national population would be within 100 miles of an active warzone at any given time; every household would face immediate existential risk if the other side made a breakthrough. Any sane and loving parent would join the militia and bring the fight to the other side.
                                                                                                                     Anyone imagining that this inevitable conflict might occur along some rational territorial border defined by large regions is hopelessly na├»ve. We would be spilling each other’s blood in every school district, parish, neighborhood meeting, and sports stadium in the country inside of 12 months. Not because we’re awful people, but because once the cat is out of the bag on disorganized tribal violence, it’s awfully hard to put it back.
                                                                                                              My personal belief is that Civil War 2.0 is inevitable because compromise is no longer palatable. As Angelo Codevilla explains in a recent article entitled "Living With Politics as War":
                                                                                                                        ... Over the past half-century, a ruling class formed by our uniformly leftist educational system and occupying the commanding heights of corporate life, governmental bureaucracies, the media, etc. accuses its targets of everything from murder and terrorism to culpable psycho-social disorders (racism, sexism, and so forth).
                                                                                                                           Leaders, marchers, and rioters speak from identical scripts. They do not try to persuade. They strengthen their own side’s vehemence. They restrict opponents from speaking on their own behalf, and use state and corporate power to push them to society’s margins. While demanding deference to themselves, they mention right-leaning Americans and their causes only to insult and de-legitimize them.
                                                                                                                    He continues:
                                                                                                                              For them, the rest of America is and will remain irredeemable. They well nigh removed Christianity and Judaism from the public square. Their schools have dumbed down a generation. They reduced raising children within marriage to a vanishing majority in the country at large and to a rarity among blacks. They have filled our streets with criminals. Their corporations try dictating what people may say and even think. They have stigmatized the verbal currency of two centuries, and bid to outlaw it as hate speech. And they continue to tighten their vise. In the process, however, these rulers are convincing the rest of Americans that they are irredeemable as well.  
                                                                                                                                When one side rejects persuasion in favor of war, what are the other’s options? To convince our opponents to accept us as equals? The culture, the institutions, bureaucracies, corporations, they have made their own will never again admit us as equals. To reform them? Fat chance! To punish them? To push them to the margins before they push us? What is the good of that?  
                                                                                                                                 Decency for ourselves is our objective. Hence, the words and deeds by which we deal with those who make war on us must aim at affirming ourselves, despite them. 
                                                                                                                            Codevilla expects that the next stage in the political war will be disobedience and nullification. The right will begin ignoring the judicial and legislative decrees of the left, just as California has chosen to thumb its nose at the Federal government. We begin to see this already as to the gun registration and restrictions imposed by several states, where compliance is increasingly rare, and the growing backlash against corporations that wish to crush "the deplorables."
                                                                                                                                      Richard Fernandez also tackles this question, coming at it from the issue of civilizational complexity a la Joseph Tainter (although he does not mention Tainter by name). He suggests that the path forward is to reduce the complexity resulting from the Federal government by devolving power and authority to state and local governments--i.e., a return to Federalism as established in our Constitution. 

                                                                                                                              Sunday, April 15, 2018

                                                                                                                              Survival Weapons: The AR-15 and Its Derivatives

                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                              Colt AR-15 Sporter SP1 Carbine (Source)

                                                                                                                                      This is my fourth article in a series looking at some of the more common weapons recommended for survivalists and preppers. My three prior articles were on the SKSAK style weapons, and the Ruger Mini-14. This article is about the ArmaLite Rifle (AR) 15 system of rifles and carbines. As originally designed, the AR15 rifle was a select-fire weapon using a direct-impingement gas system to cycle the action. Obviously, due to current gun laws, AR style weapons manufactured for civilian sale are semi-automatic only and, in fact, can only accept a semi-automatic fire control group.

                                                                                                                                      Besides serving as the United State's primary combat rifle for the last 50+ years (as the select fire M-16 rifle and M-4 carbine), in its semi-automatic form, the rifle has become one of the most popular sporting and self defense rifles in the United States, available in an almost endless number of variants and several calibers. However, the rifle was originally designed to fire the .223 Remington caliber cartridge and its updated version, the 5.56x45mm NATO ("5.56"). Since then, the system has been adapted to shoot a variety of different cartridges. This article will focus primarily on the 5.56/.223 weapon.

                                                                                                                              History:

                                                                                                                                     To understand the history of the AR 15, I think the best starting point is actually taking a few steps back and begin with the development of the M-1 rifle (the Garand) and early research on the effectiveness of different calibers.

                                                                                                                                      Following World War I, the Army Ordnance Department reluctantly recognized the need for a combat arm that would allow more rapid fire and reloading than the bolt-action rifles in use by all major combatants in the World War. The initial effort was spear-headed by John D. Pedersen. Pedersen who, as most of you know, had developed a "device" that could be attached to the Springfield M-1903 rifles, allowing for semi-automatic fire of a proprietary pistol sized .30 caliber cartridge. However, before the Pedersen device could be developed in large numbers, the Armistice was signed and World War I ended. Ordnance recognized the potential usefulness of a semi-automatic, high capacity weapon, but also (correctly) noted that the cartridges intended for use in the Pedersen device were woefully under powered for the battle field. Pedersen's solution was to develop both a new cartridge and a new rifle. After deliberation, Pedersen came up with .276 caliber, 125-grain cartridge that was half an inch shorter than the .30-06 in then-current use. Pedersen claimed that the cartridge would be more lethal than .30-06, with with half the recoil and 20% less weight. The army put together a board (the "Pig Board") to conduct tests by shooting pigs. The Pig Board tested three rounds: the .30-06, Pedersen's .276, and a .256 round apparently in use by some European armies. The results of the test showed that at "short range" (300 yards), the .256 caused the most traumatic wounds, followed by the .276, and with the .30-06 coming in last. At 600 yards, however, the performance gap had narrowed. Unfortunately for Pedersen, not only did Ordnance select John C. Garand's design for a new rifle (the M-1 Garand), but because of budgetary issues during the 1930s, elected to stay with the .30-06 rather than change calibers.

                                                                                                                                     However, World War II and the Korean War both again called into question the need for a high power cartridge. The Soviets and the European powers had been impressed with the German's 7.92×33mm Kurz cartridge used in the Sturmgewehr ("storm" or "assault" rifle) -- the StG 44--and clamored for their own "intermediate" cartridge (i.e., intermediate between handgun cartridges used in submachine guns and full power rifle cartridges). Of course, the Soviets developed and used their 7.62x39mm cartridge. The British lobbied for a .280 caliber weapon, and Fabrique Nationale obliged by developing a rifle to shoot it: the FN FAL. However, the American Army was adamant about sticking with a full-power .30 caliber round, although willing to move to a shorter overall cartridge length. Thus, the decision was made to adopt the 7.62x51mm NATO for all NATO forces (which, in its civilian version, is the .308 Winchester). In conjunction with this, the United States Army also elected to proceed with adopting the M-14 rifle to fire the new round.

                                                                                                                                       Nevertheless, there continued to be advocates for smaller, faster rounds. Research conducted by the Ballistics Research Laboratories (BRL) since World War II had suggested that velocity played a more significant role in wounding than did mass. In 1952, Donald Hall, a civilian researcher for the BRL published a report entitled The Effectiveness Study of the Infantry Rifle, which concluded that a smaller, higher velocity round than the .30 would be more effective for use on the modern battlefield--that is, more lethal within the typical ranges of engagement. By 1958, BRL would take this research farther and arrive at the conclusion that the best possible bullet would be a .22 caliber 50-grain bullet with a velocity of 3,500 feet per second. Concurrently with Hall's initial report, the Operations Research Office (ORO) also released a report in 1952*, entitled Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon (alternative source), that determined that 300 yards was a rifle's effective limit, and the vast majority of lethal hits occurred at under 100 yards. Finally, S.L.A. Marshall's ideas that very few infantry would actually fire their weapons were influential, as well as his solution: advocating mass firepower over marksmanship, suggesting it was better to arm soldiers with automatic weapons rather than precision rifles.** Effective automatic fire virtually necessitated a smaller, lighter recoiling cartridge.

                                                                                                                                     Of course, any history of the AR-15 would be incomplete without discussing the weapon, itself. After all, we know that the .223 could be used in a more traditional style combat rifle (e.g., the Mini-14). It was the combination of the cartridge with a light weight, modular rifle that gave us the AR-15 weapon system.

                                                                                                                                     The genesis of the AR-15 begins shortly after World War II with aviation manufacturing expert George Sullivan who believed that the advanced materials developed by the aviation industry, especially in aluminum and plastic, could be used to make a much lighter and better rifle. In 1953, Sullivan shared his ideas of an aluminum rifle to a aircraft manufacturer, Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, and, by 1954, Fairchild had created a firearms subsidiary: ArmaLite. However, ArmaLite's initial forays into manufacturing firearms were certainly innovative, but suffered problems, and Sullivan realized that he needed to bring on board someone with actual knowledge and experience in manufacturing firearms. A chance meeting with Eugene Stoner at a shooting range led to his being hired by ArmaLite as its chief engineer.

                                                                                                                                     While it would be tempting to say that history was made, it was a rocky start and the AR-15 nearly didn't come to fruition. With Stoner on board, ArmaLite decided to enter the competition for the new .308 caliber select fire rifle intended to replace the M-1 Garand. ArmaLite's entry was the AR-10, which performance exceeded all its competitors in all areas but one: the 6,000 endurance test. To keep the weight down, ArmaLite has used an aluminum barrel shroud with a steel insert, but the insert was too thin. The barrel overheated and deformed. The Army's in-house weapon--the T44--was officially adopted as the M-14.

                                                                                                                                      While other nations showed interest in the AR-10, there were no significant sales. However, Colonel Henry Nielsen (head of the Army's Infantry Board) and General Willard Wyman (commander in chief of the Continental Army Command) encouraged Sullivan to continue development of the weapon, but with a .22 caliber bullet as suggested by the ORO report. Thus, began the development of the AR-15. With support from Nielsen and Wyman (and to the consternation of the Ordnance board), a test of the AR-15 against the M-14 were conducted. The AR-15 outperformed the M-14 in reliability generally, but some shenanigans by the Ordnance board resulted in it failing the arctic (cold weather) test. About the same time, Nielsen and Wyman retired. With the chance of a U.S. Army contract dead, Fairchild sold ArmaLite to Colt, who then attempted (unsuccessfully) to market the arm. Things were looking dire for the weapon when Colt had the opportunity to demonstrate it for Air Force General Curtis LeMay. LeMay loved the weapon, and decided that he wanted it for the guards at the Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases. However, even that was frustrated when the Defense Department turned down LeMay's request to purchase AR-15s.

                                                                                                                                      Just as the AR-15 was on death's door, however, it caught the attention of yet another department: the relatively new Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA), who had been tasked to develop technological solutions to deal with guerrilla warfare. ARPA purchased a small number of the new rifles to give to U.S. military advisers in Vietnam for testing. Initial testing in 1961 resulted in enough enthusiasm with the new weapon and cartridge that ARPA ordered an additional 1,000 weapons for broader field testing in 1962.

                                                                                                                                      The results were impressive, to say the least, and appeared to support Hall's and the ORO's determination. As Alexander Rose recounts in his book, there was significant support for the new weapon by those that tested it. "[N]one of these hard-bitten veterans in Vietnam had ever before witnessed the kinds of devastating wounds inflicted by the AR-15; none had thought such lethality possible in a rifle, particularly one firing a 'varmint' round like the .223." Rose also notes that the photographs of the victims from this test remained classified until the 1980s because the wounds were so horrendous. Rose lists descriptions of the wounding effects reported by the testers, which are really quite gruesome; one, for instance, reported that "[a]t a distance of approximately 15 meters, one Ranger fired an AR-15 full automatic hitting one VC with 3 rounds with the first burst. One round in the head took it completely off. Another in the right arm, took it completely off, too. One round hit him in the right side, causing a hole about 5 inches in diameter." (Rose 373-74).

                                                                                                                                     Unfortunately, the later range testing of the weapon could not reproduce these wounds. The reason is that although Stoner had specified a 1:14 twist for the new weapon, Colt's test models went out with rifles with a 1:16 or 1:18 twist. This made the bullet very unstable. Nevertheless, the debate attracted the attention of Secretary of Defense McNamara, who despised the Ordnance department because of the expense of the development of the M-14 and its initial production and performance problems. In 1962, McNamara abolished the Army Ordnance by combining with other technical agencies into a Material Command. He also ordered another analysis--a more scientific analysis--of which was a better weapon. The analysis came back in favor of the AR-15. Nevertheless, the Army still objected to having to adopt a new rifle when they had just barely adopted the M-14. McNamara decided to split the baby, allocating funds for a limited purchase of AR-15 (now the M-16) rifles for the Air Force and or Army troops in Vietnam, but had also suspended manufacture of the M-14. The tide had turned. And when the Vietnam war subsequently ballooned, it spelled the death knell of the M-14.

                                                                                                                                      The M-16 would go undergo further refinement while in the service of the Army and Marines, including, eventually, the adoption of a heavier bullet and even faster twist rates to stabilize these bullets. Nevertheless, after the expiration of the 1994 assault weapons ban, considerable innovation and improvement has come with input both from the military and civilian shooters.

                                                                                                                                     As far as I can tell, Colt started selling a semi-automatic only version of the AR-15 to the general public in 1963, prior to it obtaining any significant military contracts. Initially Colt referred to its civilian version as the AR-15 Sporter. (The AR-15 Sporter sold for about $189.50 MSRP at the time of its introduction, or approximately $1,480 in 2016). But after the military adopted the M-16, Colt started calling its military rifle the CAR (Colt Automatic Rifle) 15, and re-designated the Sporter as the SP-1. One source I came across indicated that the Colt had manufactured (and presumably sold) 200,000 SP-1s by 1985.

                                                                                                                                  According to a detailed time-line of the AR 15 at AmmoLand, in 1989, "Jim Glazier and Karl Lewis of Lewis Machine and Tool Company (LMT), operating a new entity called Eagle Arms, begin producing complete AR-15 rifles for the consumer market. By this time, many of the earlier AR 15 Rifle related patents had expired, thereby opening up the market for complete AR-15 type rifles." This was, in many ways, a watershed moment because, with the expiration of the Colt patents, it opened up manufacture of  AR rifles and carbines, and their parts, to competition, spurring lower prices and innovation.

                                                                                                                                     I would suggest that the next watershed moment for the AR was the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. I've noted in other posts that the AR, while popular within limited segments of the firearms market, was not a particularly popular weapon overall in the 1980s and early 1990s. I suspect that most gun owners were probably not aware of the availability of the AR in the 1980s, or, at least, had probably never considered owning one. But, in a classic case of unintended consequences, the Assault Weapons Ban suddenly catapulted the AR (and other defensive rifles) into the consciousness of the gun owning public, and everyone suddenly wanted one. Although the rifle continued to be manufactured in a neutered form throughout the period of the ban, the expiration of the ban, concurrent with veterans returning from overseas conflicts, propelled the AR to one of the best selling firearms on the market. Subsequent threats to ban or regulate the weapons continued to drive high sales throughout the last decade. I suspect that the popularity of "first person shooter" video games will continue the popularity of the AR and other modern sporting rifles.




                                                                                                                              M16A1 (source)














                                                                                                                              Specifications: 

                                                                                                                                     The specifications for civilian versions of the AR vary considerably depending on the specific barrel length and other features. However, the specifications for the military versions of the AR should give you a good approximation of what you would see in a comparably sized civilian weapon. The specifications for the Vietnam era M-16A1 Rifle (see photograph above) are as follows:
                                                                                                                              • Weight (unloaded): 7 lbs (3.18 kg)
                                                                                                                              • Length: 39.5 in. (990 mm.)
                                                                                                                              • Barrel length: 20 in. (508 mm);  21 in. (533 mm.) with flash suppressor
                                                                                                                              • Operation: Gas, direct impingement.
                                                                                                                              In 1983, the Army began to replace the A1 models with the A2. Major differences were a heavier (i.e., thicker walled) barrel with a 1:9 twist (later 1:7), an improved rear sight capable of adjustment for both windage and range, burst fire rather than full auto, a sturdier round handguard, and a sturdier stock. The specifications for the M16A2 are as follows:

                                                                                                                              • Weight (with loaded magazine):  8.79 lbs (3.99 kg)
                                                                                                                              • Weight (unloaded): 7.5 lbs. (3.4 kg)
                                                                                                                              • Length: 39.6 inches (1000 mm)
                                                                                                                              The M-16A3 was introduced in 1994, but is essentially identical to the A2 except that it offered true full automatic fire instead of burst fire. It was never adopted for general use. However, in 1998, the Marine Corps adopted the M16A4. The major differences were that it went back to the burst fire over full automatic, and it offered a flat top receiver with a Picatinny rail for the mounting of optics and, subsequently, sported the quad-rail hand guard allowing other accessories to be added.

                                                                                                                                     In 1994, the M-4 carbine began to be introduced. Although initially intended as a weapon for officers and specialists, its light weight and handiness made it extremely popular with troops, and it has replaced the M16A2 as a general issue weapon. The specifications for the M-4 Carbine are as follows:
                                                                                                                              • Weight (unloaded): 6.5 lbs (2.9 kg)
                                                                                                                              • Length: 33 in. (840 mm.) with the stock extended.
                                                                                                                              • Barrel length: 14.5 in. (370 mm).
                                                                                                                              Obviously, weapons with heavier barrels, billet receivers, and/or quad-Picatinny rails will weigh more. And optics and other accessories can add to the weight, sometimes substantially.

                                                                                                                                     Just for comparison, the standard Ruger AR 556 (sporting an adjustable stock, milspec front handguard, and a 16 inch barrel) weighs in at 6.5 lbs. A Daniel Defense "Ambush" in 5.56 mm (sporting an adjustable stock, 18 inch barrel, MLok handguard with a monolithic Picatinny rail) is listed as weighing 7.0 lbs. So, it would be fair to say most ARs will fall within the 6.5 lbs to 7.5 lbs range (unloaded), without counting optics and other accessories.

                                                                                                                              Notable Characteristics

                                                                                                                                      The AR offers several advantages over other semi-automatic rifle designs. First, although more important for larger calibers than 5.56/.223, is the straight (in-line) lay out of the barrel, receiver, stock, which allows for greater control over recoil (which can be further reduced by an appropriate muzzle device). Second, unlike competing designs, the AR uses a solid, machined receiver of aluminum, giving it light weight without sacrificing stiffness necessary for accuracy. Most other semi-automatic rifles either use a light weight stamped sheet metal receiver, which lack in stiffness, or heavy milled steel receivers. Third, the bolt is completely enclosed and the dust cover effectively seals the interior of the rifle from dust, mud, etc. In fact, the AR is superior to all its competitors (including the AK) in reliability in the infamous mud and dirt tests you see on many YouTube channels. (The direct impingement system also assists in this as the ported gas tends to blow debris out of the action). Fourth, the rifle is of a modular construction that allows its customization and upgrades. Fifth, with modern designs incorporating rail systems, it is easy to attach optics or other accessories.

                                                                                                                                     The modular construction on the AR is worth a bit more discussion. One of Stoner's goals with the weapon was to make it easy to clean the weapon. To do that, he used two receivers (an upper and lower) that were attached by two easily removed pins. Cleaning is performed by removing the rear pin and, with the front pin acting as a hinge, tilting the rear of the receiver up allowing easy access to the barrel, easy removal of the bolt carrier, and access to the trigger group. This was not something unique to the AR; other weapons had made use of this arrangement including, for instance, the HK G3 and its descendants. However, whether it was intended or not, Armelite or Colt made a decision that was of potentially immense consequence to shooters, and which distinguish the AR from the G3 design: the lower receiver was the part of the weapon to receive the serial number.

                                                                                                                                     As most of you know, U.S. law requires every firearm have a serial number. But, for these purposes, the "firearm" is the frame or receiver of the firearm which is serialized. In the case of the AR, the lower receiver became the serialized part. Compare this to the G3 and its variants which also make use of an upper and lower receiver. In the case of the G3, however, the upper receiver was chosen for the serialized part. The consequence of this is that the whole barrel and upper receiver of the AR can be swapped out with another upper, possibly of different barrel lengths or even calibers, without having to purchase that upper through a licensed firearm dealer (FFL).

                                                                                                                                      For most of the history of the AR, the ability to easily swap uppers was probably not something of any real significance. However, the last decade has seen several serious attempts to develop calibers that are compatible with the standard AR 15 lower, but offer certain other advantages; calibers including the .300 Blackout, .458 Socom, .450 Bushmaster, .22 Nosler, 6.8 SPC, 6.5 Grendel, and so forth. A current shooter has the option of seriously changing the basic characteristic--the caliber and barrel length--of his weapon without having to buy a new weapon. Thus, for instance, a person could in theory have a single lower that, by switching the upper, could convert his rifle from a short barrel carbine suitable to home defense, to a large caliber rifle capable of taking large game at short range, to a longer barreled weapon capable of being used for long distance shooting. And all without having to learn a different manual of arms for each; and taking advantage of the best trigger you can afford without having to upgrade the trigger on multiple rifles. Having said all of that, though, I'll also acknowledge that I don't know anyone that actually uses multiple uppers with a single lower receiver; at least, not that I've noticed. So this may not be as significant of a feature as generally touted.

                                                                                                                                     The straight layout and direct impingement system also required a straight buffer tube attached to the back of the lower receiver. While probably not apparent with the original AR, the consequence today is that it is very easy to swap stocks between weapons using a carbine, multi-position, buffer tube.

                                                                                                                                     Because the barrel is attached via a large barrel nut, rather than being screwed in or pinned into place like many other rifles, it is relatively easy for even a hobbyist to remove or install the barrel. The use of a barrel nut has also made it easy for various manufacturers to design and produce modified barrel nuts that accept the mounting of free floated hand guards allowing better accuracy and further customization options.

                                                                                                                                    However, I believe that the development most significant to preppers was the incorporation of the Picatinny rail systems to common receivers, allowing the easy mounting of optics. When these rail systems were added to the hand guards (the well known, albeit heavy, quad rail systems), it allowed easy attachment of a multitude of accessories such as flashlights, lasers, forward grips, etc., without recourse to proprietary (and expensive) mounting systems. And although the quad rail has fallen out of favor due to its size and weight, the M-Lok and K-Mod systems on free-float hand guards still allows the same level of customization. If you have an older rifle or carbine sporting a quad-rail system, I would strongly encourage you to look at a newer M-Lok hand guard in order to save weight and provide a slimmer profile that is easier to grip.

                                                                                                                                     Another point, and something I raised in my discussion of the Mini-14, is that with so many different manufacturers and parts distributors, you can easily obtain parts for the AR. So, if something should brake or wear out, you could repair or replace it. Certainly, it would be worth putting together an extra set of springs, firing pin, o-ring for the extractor, etc.

                                                                                                                              General Handling and Thoughts

                                                                                                                                      To be forthright, I was not a big fan of the AR when I was younger because of the experiences I had with poor reliability when using other people's ARs. Also, used as I was to standard types of bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles, it was awkward to manipulate the charging handle and get used to a bolt release on the left side of the rifle. It was a long time before I decided to go the AR route, and the reason I finally did so was because of the ease of mounting optics or other accessories to it compared to the AK or Mini-14.

                                                                                                                                     However, now that I'm used to its operation and layout, I will admit that the AR has earned its place as the most popular defensive rifle in the United States. Although I still think the Mini-14 is superior for snap shooting--mostly because of the low sight to bore axis and the standard rifle stock--the AR is definitely quick and easy to use. It can be front heavy with a long, heavy barrel. But shorter barrels, such as the 16 inch, balance pretty well. The old mil-spec iron sights are superior to the iron sights of any other defensive or combat rifle in current use; and the ease of mounting optics on the current "flat top" receivers is superb.

                                                                                                                                     The reliability of the AR can be excellent with good parts; but there may be some fine tuning involved, especially if you assemble your own. On the other hand, I think the rifle is maintenance intensive because of the direct impingement system. That is, the cleaning of the BCG and receiver takes more time than many other designs where you can get away with wiping down the bolt face and swabbing out the chamber and barrel. Also, although I have not seen it first hand, it is my understanding that the hot gases, especially with heavy firing, can affect the temper of springs in the trigger group or for the ejector, requiring replacement. Fortunately, the design of the weapon is such that it is easy to perform that maintenance. Even replacement of the firing pin is easy.

                                                                                                                                     In short, the AR is equal to or superior to the other common defensive rifles on the market. I will admit that I do not have experience with everything else out there, but I've handled and shot SKS rifles, various versions of the AK, HK and Cetme roller-lock rifles, FAL's, Mini-14's, as well as various civilian semi-automatic rifles and carbines. Perhaps some of the updated AK designs may prove superior in coming years, but only because they have adopted features from the AR.

                                                                                                                                     With that out of the way, I would like to discuss specific options available for AR style rifles and carbines:

                                                                                                                              Calibers

                                                                                                                                     As I noted above, there are a plethora of different calibers for the AR15 platform, including, without limitation, the .223/5.56 (.223 Wylde), .22 Nosler, .224 Valkyrie, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, .300 Blackout, .450 Bushmaster, .458 SOCOM, .50 Beowulf, and probably some others that I've missed. However, the 5.56, with an appropriate barrel twist rate, will do 90 percent of what you need from a defensive and survival rifle/carbine, including hunting up to white-tail deer sized game. 5.56 mm ammunition is also widely available at very reasonable prices, and a standard magazine will hold 30 rounds of 5.56--other calibers, with the exception of .300 Blackout, not so much.

                                                                                                                              Barrels

                                                                                                                                     Other than caliber, the most basic consideration for an AR rifle is the barrel. Not just barrel length, but twist rate, barrel profile (e.g., heavy barrel, pencil profile, etc.), and barrel material and coatings.

                                                                                                                                      Barrel Length

                                                                                                                                     Bullets wound or kill by poking holes in a target that either destroy something vital to survival, and/or cause shock and loss of blood. Obviously, the bigger the hole (both diameter and depth), the more effective the wound at putting down the target. While you can use bullets that simply punch a hole, it is generally better to select a round that magnifies the wounding effect of the bullet used. There are three general methods used to magnify the wounding effects: fragmenting (i.e., the bullet breaks apart), "tumbling" or yawing, and expansion (i.e., mushrooming).

                                                                                                                                      When discussing rifles calibers, fragmenting bullets, because of their low penetration, are generally reserved for hunting varmints; they are typically not suited for self-defense against a man-sized target.

                                                                                                                                      Expanding bullets dominate the hunting market because they can be designed to reliably expand over a wide range of velocities. However, most expanding bullets use an exposed lead tip, which are susceptible to damage from rough handling or improper storage, and are not quite as aerodynamic as other types of bullets. Thus, while expanding bullets are ostensibly not used by militaries because they are banned by international law, the reality is that they are generally unsuitable for general military issue.

                                                                                                                                     Yawing, or tumbling, is when a bullet turns within a target. Most pointed rifle bullets will, if they don't expand or fragment, yaw so that the base of the bullet will proceed the tip (i.e., its orientation changes so that the bullet is traveling base first). The point that a bullet begins to yaw depends on the velocity, caliber, and velocity of the round. For instance, a full metal jacket (FMJ) .30 caliber bullet will generally penetrate quite deeply before it yaws, which is one of the reasons why the Russian 7.62x39 is not an effective man killer (but can be excellent for poaching large game animals).

                                                                                                                                     The M-16 has historically relied on both yawing and fragmenting. That is, when the bullet yaws, if it is still traveling at a sufficient velocity, it will fragment. This can be influenced by bullet design. So, for instance, the M855A1 round is designed to yaw no more than 3 inches from its impact point.

                                                                                                                                   However, this yawing is still highly dependent on muzzle velocity. For typical 55 grain FMJ (probably the most popular), this velocity is 2,300 feet per second (fps). The M855 projectile requires at least 2,500 fps. 77 grain BTHP generally needs velocities of 2,100 to 2,200 fps.

                                                                                                                                    So, how is this related to barrel length? Basically, shorter barrels will give lower muzzle velocities, which translates to lower velocity down range. For example, M855 has a muzzle velocity of 3100 fps out of a 20-inch barrel. That is down to 2900 fps from a 16 inch barrel. At 9 inches, the muzzle velocity is less than the 2500 fps required for yaw and fragmentation. So, if you want better lethality at long ranges, you will want a longer barrel: 18 or 20 inches. If you are okay with trading a little of the long range lethality for mobility, you can get acceptable performance from a 14 inch or 16 inch barrel. And you should avoid shorter barrels--at least for 5.56.

                                                                                                                                      Twist Rate

                                                                                                                                     Differing twist rates exist to stabilize different types of bullets. Contrary to popular belief, the necessary twist rate varies according to the length of a bullet, with long-for-caliber bullets requiring a faster twist rate than for standard length or short-for-caliber length bullets. Because most bullets are made from similar materials--copper and lead--long-for-caliber generally translates to weight. That is, heavier bullets will need a faster twist rate. But bullets made from lighter materials (e.g., all copper) will also be long-for-caliber even at lower bullet weights, but will still require a faster twist rate.

                                                                                                                                     The military originally used a 1:12 twist rate that is suitable for light weight (55 grain or less) bullets. Later, this was changed to 1:9 and then to 1:7 in order to accommodate the tracer rounds (which were long-for-caliber). Common twist rates for civilian rifles are 1:9 (which was, at one time, the most popular, but somewhat uncommon on new manufacture rifles), 1:8 (which is popular for target rifles), and 1:7 (just because that is what the military now uses).

                                                                                                                                     Typically 1:9 will stabilize bullets in the range of 45-75 grains.

                                                                                                                                     Typically, 1-8 will stabilize bullets in the range of 50-80 grains.

                                                                                                                                    Typically, 1-7 will stabilize bullets in the range of 55-85 grains.

                                                                                                                              However, the lower ranges on these may result in an over stabilized bullet. Thus, for 55 to 62 grain, a 1:9 twist rate may be better than a 1:7. Frankly, most people using an AR in .223 or 5.56 will be better off with 1:9 or 1:8 than the military's 1:7. However, if you think you will be shooting heavier bullets, go with the faster twist rates.

                                                                                                                                      For some reason I've never been able to determine, certain twist rates seem to be used (or not used) depending on the barrel material. For instance, the standard carbon steel barrels are typically in 1:7 or 1:9, but rare in a 1:8. On the other hand, almost all stainless steel barrels are in 1:8. So, keep that in mind.

                                                                                                                                     Barrel Profile

                                                                                                                                     The barrel profile is the outside shape and dimensions of the barrel. AT3 Tactical has a good article on different profiles available for AR rifles, which you can read here. The basic issue in selecting a profile is weight versus a change in point of impact (POI) due to either heat or barrel whip. That is, light weight barrels can quickly heat from repeated firing, which can cause the barrel to warp; and the thinner ("pencil") barrel is more susceptible to barrel whip (distorting of the barrel due to harmonic waves) when fired. Conversely, a heavy barrel weighs a lot, but will minimize POI shifts due to heat or barrel whip.

                                                                                                                                      If you are going to do a lot of shooting, or want something for target shooting, you probably should go for a heavier barrel profile. For most cases--particularly in a 16 inch or shorter barrel--the M-4 profile offers a good mix of stiffness and light weight.

                                                                                                                                      One highly regarded barrel profile is the M-4 SOCOM which is a heavier version of the M-4 barrel, but thicker at the magical distance of 4 to 6 inches from the bolt face, where barrels tend to heat the most. This greater thickness appears to reduce barrel warp and whip, making it more accurate than the standard M4 profile.

                                                                                                                                     Sometimes companies offer thicker barrels with fluting or dimpling to shave off weight while, in theory, maintaining stiffness. Based on my reading, fluting or dimpling can introduce other variables and actually reduce accuracy by aggravating the warping of a barrel when heated. Thus, research this carefully before putting down the extra cash for a fluted or dimpled barrel.

                                                                                                                                     Barrel Material

                                                                                                                                      Most AR barrels are either made of Chrome Moly Vanadium (CMV) steel or stainless steel. Military specifications calls for 4150 CMV steel barrels, but you may come across barrels using 4140 CMV steel. 4150 is used for automatic weapons because of its wear characteristics, and ability to handle extreme temperatures (over 700 degrees Fahrenheit). Thus, all other things being equal, a barrel made of 4150 will last longer than a barrel made of 4140.

                                                                                                                                      416-R stainless steel is also commonly used to make barrels. Because stainless steel is easier to machine and take fine cutting, it is easier to produce a highly accurate barrel using stainless steel. Also, because of the wear characteristics of stainless steel, it will maintain better accuracy over the life of the barrel. Finally, stainless steel is easier to clean and more resistant to corrosion than a bare CMV steel barrel would be--this is generally a moot issue, however, because of coatings available for CMV barrels. The downside of stainless steel is that it does not have the range of temperature use as CMV barrels. That is, high temperatures (such as from sustained or rapid firing) can lead to greater wear and throat erosion, and it is not as amenable to be used in cold weather. It also does not have quite the barrel life as CMV barrels--particularly 4150.

                                                                                                                                     Occasionally you will also see barrels listed as 41v45 or 41v50. These are steels used for making cold hammered forged barrels.
                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                     Most people will never notice the differences between the barrel materials: that is, they won't subject their rifles to the heavy use that would require a 4150 barrel, nor develop the shooting skill to notice the difference between a CMV barrel and a stainless steel barrel. However, since preppers are concerned, in theory, with having to use a weapon in combat, including rapid fire, the balance would favor a barrel made of 4150.

                                                                                                                                     Coatings and Treatments

                                                                                                                                     Coatings or treatments are not necessary for stainless steel barrels, although it is becoming more common for these to receive a Nitride treatment (discussed below).

                                                                                                                                     One of the initial problems with the AR in Vietnam was corrosion in the barrels, which had no coating or lining when the M-16 was first introduced. This was corrected by use of chrome lining (which, I would note, the Soviets had used from the get-go in the AK and SKS weapons). Thus, mil-spec barrels today feature chrome lining. The disadvantage to chrome lining is that it can (but not necessarily) reduce accuracy. Because it is an additional layer of material being applied to the inside of the barrel, chrome line barrels are machined slightly oversized to account for the layer of chrome that will be subsequently added. However, it is difficult to evenly apply the chrome, which is what can produce the reduced accuracy.

                                                                                                                                     One of the newest treatments for barrels is a Melonite/Nitride/QPQ Salt Bath treatment which chemically changes the surface of the steel rather than applying an overlying material as with chrome lining. In addition, because it is a chemical treatment, the entire barrel (inside and out) can be treated to produce a uniform appearance. This chemical treatment makes the steel "slicker" (i.e., easier to clean), corrosion resistant, and hardens the surface slightly. If you are using a chrome-moly steel barrel, my recommendation is to find one that is Melonite treated.

                                                                                                                                     Forming of the Lands and Grooves

                                                                                                                                    There are three methods for forming the lands and grooves of the barrel. One of the most common you will see is called button rifling which uses a carbide die (the "button") forced through a barrel blank to form the lands and grooves. Traditionally, lands and grooves were formed by cutting the grooves with a cutting tool, which would gradually cut the groove deeper with each pass. Finally, cold hammer forged barrels are made with a rifled mandrel against which the barrel blank is worked (hammered) to conform to the pattern on the mandrel.

                                                                                                                                     All these methods can produce an accurate barrel, depending on the quality and care of the work. However, hammer forging and button forming are more consistent than cutting. Also, hammer forging, because it works the metal, does harden the metal slightly. So, again, if you are interested in maximizing barrel life, hammer forging is probably for you. However, you will generally pay a premium for cold hammer forged barrels.

                                                                                                                                    Barrel Extension

                                                                                                                                     The barrel extension is a part that attaches to the rear of the barrel into which the bolt lugs lock. The important point about the extension is to get an extension with M-4 feed ramps cut into it, which ease the feeding of rounds. This make the feeding of cartridges easier, whether a carbine or rifle.

                                                                                                                              Trigger Group

                                                                                                                                     The trigger is probably the most important part of the rifle when it comes to accuracy. Standard mil-spec triggers are stiff and rough, and so the trigger will generally be one of the first things that should be upgraded.

                                                                                                                                     AR triggers are available in both single-stage (no take up before the hammer release) and two-stage (offering take up before the trigger is released). Two-stage is generally preferred for defensive rifles because it is more forgiving of an errant finger resting on the trigger prior to shooting.

                                                                                                                                     Replacement triggers are also available as a group of trigger parts, or as single-unit drop in. The drop in triggers are easier to install, but they will generally require a set of anti-slip or anti-rotation trigger pins so the pins do not slip out. Also, if there is a malfunction with the trigger group, it is harder to troubleshoot the drop in units.

                                                                                                                                     The Truth About Guns published an extensive test of drop in triggers in 2016, which reviews the various triggers available at that time. If you are interested in going this route, I would recommend checking out that article.

                                                                                                                              Receivers

                                                                                                                                     Mil-spec receivers are made of forged aluminum. However, billet receivers (machined from a block of aluminum) have become increasingly popular. Forged aluminum receivers are lighter and stronger than billet, but billet receivers may offer certain features that you may want (or just look cool). Billet receivers also cost more than forged.

                                                                                                                                     At one time, you would have had the option of getting an upper receiver with the forged carry handle that is one of the most distinctive features of the M16. However, almost all receivers manufactured today are "flat top" featuring a Picatinny rail for mounting optics. For a survival weapon, there is no reason to get anything but a flat-top receiver, so the lack of upper receivers with carry handles is no loss. In any event, if you want a carry handle, you can find handles that will mount on the Picatinny rail.

                                                                                                                              Sights

                                                                                                                                     I may be branded a heretic for saying this, but the era of iron sights is basically over. Given the top Picatinney rails which allow for easy, solid mounting of optics, and the sturdiness of many current optics available for the AR, I would forego iron sights in favor of getting a quality red-dot sight or 1-4, 1-6, or 1-8x variable scope with an illuminated reticle and designed for tactical shooting. Over the last couple of years, I have seen both special forces shooters as well as competitive shooters eschew iron sights--even back up iron sights (BIUS). The advantage to not mounting the iron sights is that you can mount the optic further back, if using a scope; or, if using a red dot, you have room behind the red dot to mount a magnifier. If you get a red dot, be sure to get one that has the extended (20,000+ hours) of battery life so that it can always be on.

                                                                                                                              Bolt-Carrier Group

                                                                                                                                     The bolt carrier group (BCG) holds the bolt, firing pin, and moves back and forth to pick up or eject cartridges. Most BCGs are an M16 (full auto) style, but you will also see AR15 (semi auto) bolt carriers which are a little lighter, and even lighter BCGs generally intended for competition. The latter generally require an adjustable gas block or some other way to regulate the gas system to tune the rifle for proper operation. For your purpose as a prepper, I would recommend avoiding light weight BCGs and just go with the standard M16 style.

                                                                                                                                     The decision that you will generally face in regard to the BCG is the type of coating. Mil-spec calls for a Parkerized (manganese phosphate) coating. More modern coatings are available that have greater wear characteristics and/or lubricity. These include chrome coatings, Melonite treatment, Nickel Boron coatings and titanium nitride coatings. Just for the wear characteristics and corrosion resistance, I would select something other than a Parkerized coating. I like the black (i.e., low profile) color of the Melonite coating.

                                                                                                                                     Because of the extreme forces on on the bolt, you will want to make sure that the manufacturer has tested it for material defect. These tests are high pressure testing (HPT) and magnetic particle inspection (MPI), and a manufacturer will generally advertise such testing if it has been done.

                                                                                                                                    Another item to check for is proper staking of the gas key. The gas key is the part of the BCG which is struck by the gas from the gas tube, and drives back the BCG. It is not cast or machined as part of the BCG, but is a separate part screwed into place. If the screws are not correctly staked, the screws can back out, resulting in a gas leak or separation from the BCG.     

                                                                                                                              Buffer Tube

                                                                                                                                     The buffer tube contains a buffer and buffer spring that act to retard the backward motion of the BCG as it recoils, and then returns it forward again to pick up a new round and lock into place. Rifle buffer tubes are intended to only be used with fixed rifle stocks. Carbine tubes are designed to take a collapsible/adjustable stock. Pistol tubes lack the ability to mount and lock into place a stock.

                                                                                                                                     The primary difference is between mil-spec and commercial tubes. The mil-spec tubes are machined so that the threading on the end of the tube is above the level of the rest of the tube, while commercial tubes simply have the threading cut into the tube. Also, the end of the tube is shaped differently. Importantly, stocks designed for a commercial tube will not work with a mil-spec tube, and vice versa. My recommendation is to just stick with a mil-spec tube.

                                                                                                                              Hand Guards

                                                                                                                                     The standard mil-spec handguard is a round polymer handguard that serves to protect the gas tube from damage and keep the users hand from getting burned on a hot barrel. For a period of time, aluminum handguards with machined Picatinny rails on all four sides (quad rails) were popular. However, these types of rails are bulky and heavy, and have fallen out of favor. Today, there are a large number of manufacturers that offer free float handguards of one sort or another; most of these offer a Picatinny rail on the top (12 o'clock position) of the handguard, and use either a Key-Mod or M-Lok slots to allow the mounting of sections of Picatinny rails on other locations.

                                                                                                                                     Free float handguards that allow mounting of Picatinny rails offers a lot of advantages over standard handguards if you are planning on using various accessories such as vertical or angled handgrips, flashlights, lasers, etc. However, they vary in length, cost, and quality. If you choose a free float handguard, be sure to get one that is long enough to extend past the gas block on the barrel in order to protect the gas tube. Also, investigate how solidly the handguard will mount--it is not unknown for cheaper quality tubes to twist.

                                                                                                                                     If you do go with a free-float handguard, you may consider whether to get one in Key-Mod or M-Lok. M-Lok was developed by Magpul to address shortcomings in the Key-Mod system--namely, that the Key-Mod system would crack polymer components. However, testing has discovered that the M-Lok system is inherently stronger than the Key-Mod system, and, at least from my perspective, it appears that the Key-Mod system is falling out of favor.

                                                                                                                              Gas Tube Length

                                                                                                                                      The gas system for the AR comes in various lengths (referring to the location of the gas port and the length of the gas tube). There are 4 lengths: pistol, carbine, mid-length, and rifle. Generally, best operation is when the gas port is located roughly mid-way along the length of the barrel.

                                                                                                                                      Pistol length systems are used for barrels less than 10 inches--the distance of the gas port from the receiver is 4 inches. As noted above, the 5.56 mm should not be used from short barrels because it lacks the velocity for effective terminal performance.

                                                                                                                                      The distance from the port to the receiver is 7 inches in a carbine length system. Consequently, they can be used for barrels of 10 to 18 inches.  However, the higher port pressure and sharper recoil really means that carbine length systems should not be used where a mid-length system is practicable.

                                                                                                                                      Mid-length systems are not found in military weapons because they are intended for 16-inch barrels (although they can be used for barrels of 14 to 20 inches). The distance from the port to the receiver is 9 inches. Mid-length systems have softer recoil and are not as hard on the weapon, and, for that reason, are preferable to the carbine length gas system where practicable.

                                                                                                                                     Rifle length systems are intended for the 20 inch or longer barrels, although you will sometimes see it on 18 inch barreled systems.

                                                                                                                              Muzzle Devices

                                                                                                                                     Muzzle devices, other than silencers, fall into three categories: flash hiders (which purpose is to prevent the shooter from being blinded by the muzzle flash), muzzle brakes (which are designed to reduce or eliminate recoil), and compensators (which are designed to reduce muzzle climb due to recoil). However, many muzzle devices on the market combine two or more of these categories. For instance, it is common to see a combination flash hider and compensator.

                                                                                                                                     The most common muzzle device on AR rifles and carbines is the A2 flash hider. The A2 does a good job of reducing the considerable muzzle flash from 5.56 mm ammunition; and, because there are no ports on the bottom of the flash hider (to keep from kicking up dust when prone), it also acts as a recoil compensator. There is certainly nothing wrong with the A2 flash hider, and if that is all you have, it should work well for you. However, if you would like to explore different options, The Truth About Guns also put together a comprehensive review of muzzle devices, which you can read here.

                                                                                                                                     For what its worth, my opinion is that for a combat rifle, a flash hider is more important than reducing the recoil--particularly from the 5.56 which already has light recoil. Most muzzle brakes redirect gas to the sides to mitigate recoil, which makes them loud to those to the sides of the firearm, or even the shooter. I would avoid muzzle brakes. If you want recoil mitigation, look at a combination flash hider/recoil compensator.

                                                                                                                              Winter Trigger Guards

                                                                                                                                     The mil-spec trigger guard uses a straight bar on the bottom that can be released on one end to open up the trigger guard for use with gloves or mittens. A lot of shooters and manufacturers choose to replace this straight piece with a fixed piece that is curved to provide a larger opening. Some manufacturers even produce lower receivers with the larger, curved trigger guard machined into the receiver body.

                                                                                                                                     I'm of two minds on this. While I like the curved trigger guard to facilitate a gloved finger in cool weather, it also leaves the trigger guard more open to a branch or piece of gear getting inside the guard. Also, if you are in extremely cold weather where you need to use mittens or an extra thick glove, even the enlarged trigger guards may not be large enough.

                                                                                                                                     I guess my point here is to not just reflexively replace the standard mil-spec trigger guard.

                                                                                                                              Charging Handle

                                                                                                                                     The mil-spec charging handle works, but that is about all that can be said about it. It is small and slick. After market charging handles can offer distinct advantages over the mil-spec charging handle, particularly in three respects: you can get a textured handle to prevent your fingers slipping off the handle, you can get extended handles to make it easier to get a good grip on the handle (something particularly important if you mount a scope on the rifle), and you can find handles that are ambidextrous, which is great if you are a lefty or need to charge the rifle with your right hand. Unfortunately, ambidextrous charging handles are expensive--generally at least $80 to $90 dollars for a good brand. But for good weapons manipulation, it may be worth it. On that note, I've used the Raptor ambidextrous charging handle, and have really liked it.

                                                                                                                              Ambidextrous Controls

                                                                                                                                     The mil-spec AR has its controls--safety/selector, bolt release, and magazine release, set up for a right-hand shooter. The safety/selector lever is only on the left hand side of the weapon (so it can be manipulated with the shooter's thumb), the bolt release is on the left side as well (so it can be manipulated by the shooter's off hand), and the magazine release is on the right side (so it can be pressed in using the shooter's forefinger). Obviously, if you are right handed, this will probably work for you. However, to make the weapon usable by left-handers, or to make some weapon manipulations easier, people like to try and add ambidextrous controls.

                                                                                                                                     The easiest and most common change is to add an ambidextrous safety/selector. Since the selector pin actually extends through both sides of the receiver, no modification to the receiver is needed. Simply remove the old selector, insert the new selector pin, and then attach the levers to both ends.

                                                                                                                                     Another change to the safety/selector is that various manufacturers offer "short-throw" selectors. The standard selector requires the selector lever be moved through a 90 degree arc to switch between safety and fire. However, by reshaping the selector pin, it is possible to have shorter throws, with 60 and 45 degrees being popular. I'm not convinced that the shorter throw holds an advantage for most shooters, but it probably doesn't hurt, either.

                                                                                                                                    Competitive shooters like to have the option to operate the bolt release with their shooting hand. There are a couple basic replacement parts for this. One, which does not require any modification to the receiver, is Magpul's BAD (battery assist device) lever or similar devices from other manufacturers. These run a lever from the bolt release down and through the trigger guard so it can be actuated by the shooter's forefinger. However, I've heard of complaints with these devices breaking or getting caught up. Certainly, they crowd up the trigger guard area, which is undesirable. Thus, whatever their benefit for competition shooting, I don't believe they have a place on a survival rifle.

                                                                                                                                    Another option is to install a device such as Aeroprecision's PDQ ambidextrous bolt release, although this will require cutting a small slot into the lower receiver.

                                                                                                                                    Another modification is the ambidextrous magazine release, such as this product from Norgon or a similar product from Arms Unlimited.

                                                                                                                                    I will note that although I've replaced the standard mil-spec bolt release with a slightly larger lever, I have not used ambidextrous magazine releases or bolt releases, so I don't have any personal experience to share with these products. But I could see these as being a definite advantage for the left-handed shooter.

                                                                                                                              Buffers

                                                                                                                                     One of the methods used in the AR system to manage the speed of the BCG for reliable running is the buffer. There are four standard weights of buffers:
                                                                                                                              • The rifle buffer (used only with a rifle buffer tube and rifle stock) weighing 5.2 ounces.
                                                                                                                              • The standard carbine buffer (for use with a carbine length system in a carbine length buffer tube) weighting 3 ounces. 
                                                                                                                              • The H or H1 buffer for carbine tubes weighing in a 3.8 ounces.
                                                                                                                              • The H2 buffer for carbine tubes weighing 4.7 ounces.
                                                                                                                              • The H3 buffer for carbine tubes weighting 5.6 ounces.
                                                                                                                              The heavier buffers are intended for different length gas systems. For instance, the Canadian military uses an AR rifle that has a 20-inch barrel, with a rifle length gas system, but a carbine buffer spring and tube. They use the H2 buffer.

                                                                                                                                     This will probably be considered additional heresy on my part, but if your rifle can be tuned using a different weight buffer rather than installing an adjustable gas block, so much the better. Adjustable gas blocks add yet another mechanical system that could fail, are more expensive than a buffer, and may require the removal of the handguard in order to reach the adjustment screws.

                                                                                                                              Notes:

                                                                                                                              * Although there are sources that indicate that this report was from the late 1950's or even the early 1960's, the face of the report indicates that it was published in 1952.

                                                                                                                              ** While the Army would greatly reduce their marksmanship standards as a result of Marshall's work, the Marine Corps generally continued to emphasize individual marksmanship.


                                                                                                                              Selected Sources and Additional Reading:

                                                                                                                              ".223 Remington," Terminal Ballistics Research.

                                                                                                                              "4150 Carbon Steel vs 416-R Stainless – Which is Right for Me?" Faxon Firearms.

                                                                                                                              Adelmann, Steve, "AR Gas-System Lengths Explained," Shooting Illustrated (Sept. 2014).

                                                                                                                              Adelmann, Steve, "The Pros and Cons of Nitride Barrel Finishes," Shooting Illustrated (Dec. 2017).

                                                                                                                              Anderson, Wayne, "AR15 Barrels: Profiles, Fluting, and Dimpling," AT3 Tactical.

                                                                                                                              "AR-15 Bolt Carrier Groups – Features, Coatings, & Recommendations," AT3 Tactical.

                                                                                                                              "Barrel Length Studies in 5.56mm NATO Weapons," Small Arms Defense Journal (Feb. 8, 2012).

                                                                                                                              "Barrel Length vs. Velocity," Guns & Ammo (Oct. 2017).

                                                                                                                              "Carbine, Mid, or Rifle? A Beginner’s Guide to AR15 Gas Systems," AT3 Tactical.

                                                                                                                              Dean, Glenn and David LaFontaine, "Small Caliber Lethality: 5.56mm
                                                                                                                              Performance in Close Quarters Battle" (PDF), WSTIAC Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Jan. 2008).

                                                                                                                              "Hard Steel: The AR15 Barrel Buyer’s Guide… Turbo edition," The New Rifleman.

                                                                                                                              "How Barrel Twist Rate Affects Ammunition Choice," Stag Arms.

                                                                                                                              Jeremy S., "The AR-15 Drop-In Trigger Roundup," The Truth About Guns (April 14, 2016).

                                                                                                                              Jeremy S., "AR-15 Muzzle Brake Shootout #3," The Truth About Guns (Oct. 25, 2016).

                                                                                                                              Lamb, Kyle E., Green Eyes & Black Rifles: Warriors Guide to the Combat Carbine (3rd Ed. Rev., 2008).

                                                                                                                              "M16A4 Assault Rifle," Military-Today.com.

                                                                                                                              McHale, Tom, "AR 15 Rifle – A Brief History & Historical Time Line," Ammo Land (April 15, 2016).

                                                                                                                              Morgan, Martin K.A., "U.S. M16: A Half-Century of America’s Combat Rifle," American Rifleman (Sept. 2017).

                                                                                                                              Mullin, Timothy J., Testing the War Weapons: Rifles and Light Machine Guns from Around the World (Paladin Press 1997).

                                                                                                                              Pannone, Mike, "The Big M4 Myth: ‘Fouling caused by the direct impingement gas system makes the M4/M4A1 Carbine unreliable.’" Defense Review (March 19, 2010).

                                                                                                                              Plaster, John, "Testing The Army’s M855A1 Standard Ball Cartridge," American Rifleman (May 2014).

                                                                                                                              "Reduced effectiveness of the 5.56 NATO due to shorter barrels" (PDF), CBJ Tech.

                                                                                                                              Rose, Alexander, American Rifle: A Biography (Delacorte Press: 2008).

                                                                                                                              Sweeney, Patrick, "Guide to Gunmetal," Rifle Shooter (Dec. 2011).

                                                                                                                              "Terminal Ballistic Performance of the 5.56mm Cartridge" (PDF) Tactical Briefs (Volume 2, Number 6 (June 1999)).

                                                                                                                              "The Data Driven AR15: Or Why the Best AR15’s are Data Driven," The New Rifleman (Feb. 14, 2017).

                                                                                                                              Trevithick, Joseph. "Gunmakers Have Sold AR-15s to Civilians for More Than 50 Years," Motherboard (June 16, 2016).

                                                                                                                              "What Type of Barrel Should I Choose?" Ballistic Advantage (July 19, 2016).

                                                                                                                              "Why are Colt 14.5 Socom Barrels So Accurate?" The New Rifleman (Dec. 1, 2017).

                                                                                                                              Zediker, Glen, "Buffer Stuff: Keep The AR Cycling Happily," Guns Magazine (July 2012).

                                                                                                                              Updated (4/16/2018): corrected a couple of typos; (4/20/2018): corrected a mistake as to bullet weights for a given twist.