Tag Archives: carbine

AR 15 Armoring. Replacing a bolt catch.

The AR Platform  is probably THE most modular of long gun’s out there. There seems to be no end of parts, upgrades and do-dads available for it.

While there are MANY people out there with the armoring know how to replace their own parts or upgrade/repair their AR’s, there are others who are a little hesitant to take punches to their “baby” and get to work.

This post is to show how easily one can replace the bolt catch on their AR…it’s nothing to be scared of.

Today my Seekins Precision Enhanced Bolt Catch arrived. It offers a larger “paddle” for bolt manipulations, has a textured pattern for positive control and…yes…I thought it looked cool. IMO, if it works as well (or better) than OEM then I have no problem with making a choice based on appearance.

Anyway. First thing you should do is get your work-space prepared.

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For this job all you need is two 3/32″ punches, a hammer and some tape.

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After securing your lower in whatever block/vice you have, I suggest a layer or two of non-marring tape around the area you are working on to protect the surface from any scratches.

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Using a 3/32″ punch and hammer, slowly tap the roll pin securing the bolt catch out.

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Since this is a replacement job I recommend not driving the roll pin all the way out. Just tap it till the old bolt catch can be removed. Be sure to retain the bolt catch spring and plunger for re-installation.

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Now it’s “in with the new”. Push the spring back into the receiver, followed by the plunger.

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Now, temporarily secure the new catch by pushing a second 3/32″ punch through the flange on the lower receiver and the hole in the catch.

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Then all you have to do is simply reverse the process by tapping the roll pin back into place.

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Viola! That’s all there is to it.

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let the hate flow through you

The Costa Hate.

Someone explain it to me. I don’t drink his kool-aid, but I don’t hate the guy’s stuff either. Is it jealousy of his success? Is this some sort of “sell-out” thing, like some folks point at musicians when they go commercial? Sure, this video is a tad loopy, but it’s Airsoft in Japan and they wanted him to do this for a photo-op.

I see a lot of OMG HE’S FLAGGING PEOPLE WITH A GUN!!! going around. But it really looks like he’s pointing over everyone’s head at the far wall. And correct me if I’m wrong, but people actually point and shoot Airsoft at each other all of the time don’t they?

What’s the story with the hate on this dude? He’s certainly bought the AR platform some attention.

the M4 unreliable….here we go again.

Carbine M4 1
Carbine M4 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article from the Washington Times has been making the rounds:

Troops left to fend for themselves after Army was warned of flaws in rifle

I won’t rehash the article and I won’t even type my response to it because THIS GUY has already said everything I would have to say.

The Flaws of the M4 Carbine

Three days ago an article was dropped onto the internets by the Washington Times that rippled through the time space continuum of internet commandos and pajama ninjas. The article was a series of interviews with former and active high ranking officials, as well as former service members regarding the reliability and efficacy of the longest serving weapon system (rifle or carbine) in US Military history. We do not need to address that storied history here, however we do need to address the concerns raised in the article and the already common ways they have been addressed and remedied.

Go Read It.

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twist and shoot

Deutsch: Züge einer 9mm Pistole (selbst aufgen...
Deutsch: Züge einer 9mm Pistole (selbst aufgenommen, FDL) (Original text : Züge eine 9 mm Pistole vom Patronenlager aus gesehen) Weitere Nutzung: WaffenWiki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rifling twist rates can be another head scratcher for the new AR owner. The internet is full of different opinions of what is “best”…often times based on what the writer has purchased and is now trying to justify. 🙂

Like any topic of a technical nature, “best” is a relative term. For the beginner, what you need to learn are some simple rules of thumb to help you base a decision on.

Gun makers realized rather quickly that the accuracy of a firearm improved when the projectile had a “pointy end” and was spun. The “point” gives the projectile a streamlined shape that slices through the atmosphere more efficiently and groves machined into the gun barrel impart spin. The spin keeps the bullet stable along its path of flight and prevents it from wobbling or tumbling end over end, both of which would be bad for accuracy. Anyone who has used a gyroscope in HS science class recalls that a spinning object likes to stay in one place and resists change. That’s what you want in a bullet.

The groves in the barrel, as we all know, are called “rifling”.

A rifle barrels rate of spin is expressed as 1:(X) with 1= “One full 360 degree rotation of the bullet” and X= Inches of barrel length.

The most common “Combat AR” twist rates you will find “off the shelf” these days are 1:7, 1:8, and 1:9. Some AR owners like 1:10 and 1:12 barrels and other variants, but in my experience you will find most guys who “run and gun” using one of these three.

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If you do the math of dividing barrel length by twist you see that in the common 16″ barrel length a 1:7 twist will spin a bullet twice with 2 inches of the barrel still to go. A 1:8 about twice even, and a 1:9 will spin it once with 7 inches of barrel to go…so “almost twice”. Based on manufacturing variations that’s all approximate but there you go.

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So “whats the point?” you are asking?

Well… bullets of any given caliber (AKA: diameter) come in various sizes. Differentiated by weight (measured in “grains”), there is an entire rainbow of  .223 caliber bullets ranging from tiny 40 grain bullets up to 80 grain whoppers. Because the diameter of the bullet is fixed, what you get are longer projectiles as the weight increases.

Rules of thumb regarding bullet weight:

  • Lighter bullets can achieve faster velocities and shoot with a flatter trajectory. Their lack of mass means they wont stay stable at longer ranges and wind has more effect on them at long range.
  • Heavier bullets will stay stable over longer distances but have a more “arched” trajectory. Wind has less effect on them at long range.
  • The terminal effect of a bullet, or its “striking” power, is due to a combination  of it’s mass and velocity.
  • Heavier bullets cost more.

Like barrels, for the purposes of discussion I will use the three most common (as I see it) bullet sizes; the highly common 55 gr, the “medium” 69 gr and the “large” 75 gr.

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Due to a lot of math/physics and stuff I can’t explain, it’s really the length of the projectile and it’s velocity that determine how much spin it will need to fly straight and stable, not the weight. However, we talk about bullets in “grains” so when pairing bullets to rifling twist you just have to consider two facts.

  • Lighter bullets need less spin to get them into a stable flight.
  • Heavier bullets need more spin to get them stable in flight.

So..1:7 is 2 full twists plus a little more out of a 16″ barrel which means MORE TWIST and a 1:9 is 1 full twist which means LESS TWIST. The 1:8 splits the difference.

You would think that “more is better” when it comes to twist, but what happens when small/light bullets are overspun is that they fly to pieces once they exit the barrel. Heavier bullets will “overstabilize” if spun too much. That means the point of the bullet wont come down on the decent end of it’s trajectory.

So which should you get? Well what do you want to do and what size bullet do you want to do it with?

The 1:9 is a common twist rate “off the shelf” when you buy an AR. It will work fine with the commonly found 55 grain bullet up to “medium” sized projectiles like 69 grain. Depending on your particular barrel it MAY even stabilize “heavy” bullets…or it may not. Even if it does, variations like temperature and air pressure MAY make it inconsistent with heavy rounds. So out to 300 yards or so 1:9 should be fine. 400-500 yd shots? Probably not so much.

The 1:7 is the current military standard on the M4/M16 and as such is also a commonly found option. It will throw the medium to heavy rounds out past 300 yards. It can also “sufficiently” stabilize 55 grain rounds. You wont get exceedingly small groups with 55gr, and while it MAY stabilize a lighter round for farther shots, you are also at the mercy of your individual barrel and environmental factors.

The 1:8 slides the options to the center. Some praise it as the best of both worlds while others deride it as the “Jack of all trades, master of none” option.

As you can see, in the end all of them can work fine as a general use option. It’s when you want to specialize in a specific range or hunting environment that a specific combination of bullet/twist becomes the optimum choice.

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when things go sideways

This post is going to try and explain one of the more difficult combat carbine concepts to comprehend (see what I did there ?).  That is the trajectory of a rifle round when firing from the “rollover” or “urban” prone position.

Before I try this, you need to review what the normal trajectory of a fired round is:

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While the common phrase used when talking about a bullets flight is that a round “rises to the line of sight” after it exits the muzzle, the fact is the law of physics cannot be denied. Like water from a hose, gravity takes hold of a bullet the moment it exits the barrel.

If the bore line and your line of sight were the same, a bullets trajectory would look something like this:

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So…your weapons sighting system is designed so that the barrel angles upwards in relation to your line of sight.

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When the round exits the barrel gravity still takes immediate effect, but because of the upward angle of the barrel the bullet follows a curved trajectory.

When the rifle is held in this upright position, bullets will impact a target in more or less a vertical string depending on the distance to the target. Wind can impact the strike laterally but that’s for another discussion. Within the average engagement envelope of a combat carbine wind is not typically a major concern.

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This whole relationship changes when the rifle is canted or held sideways.  One of the common positions in modern combat carbine application is the “rollover” or “urban” prone position.

To maximize cover and concealment, it may become necessary to hold your rifle on it’s side.

This is when trying to explain things becomes dicey, and if not explained well can leave the student scratching his/her head.

To start with remember these things.

  • The relationship of the boreline to the weapons sights remains the same. The barrel still angles “towards the sights”.
  • The bullets trajectory is no longer an arch. Because the barrel is no longer pointed “UP”, but to the left or right, the bullet exits the muzzle and starts to immediately drop.
  • There is no longer an “up and down” stringing of rounds on the target. Bullets will be low and to one side or the other dependent on which side the gun is on.

First. The angular relation between sight line and barrel is the same if it’s upright or sideways. What changes is the angular relationship between the barrel and the ground.

Normally the barrel points up and away from the ground:

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On it’s side the barrel is more or less parallel to the ground. Seen from above, an M4 with it’s ejection port up would have a sight/bore/trajectory relationship somewhat like this:

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Seen from the side the bullets drop would look more like this:

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Not an “arch” but an immediate pull to the ground by gravity.

With the velocities involved this pull isn’t extremely “drastic” at shorter ranges (and you are not a surgical sniper). A rifle with a 50/200 zero will be about .5 to .75 inches “low” at 50 yards… 2 to 2.5 inches low at 100. BUT the differences will be drastic the further out you go. 4-5 inches low at 150 yards and at 200 yards you are looking at being 8-9 inches low. Remember, on its side the bullet is constantly being pulled down…no “arch”.

Because the barrel is pointed left or right in relation to what side you are laying on, the bullet will continue in that direction till it strikes the ground. A stringing of strikes on target will be similar to this (not mathematically accurate…more as an example):

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Remember how at CQB ranges there can be a “sight over bore” issue? A head shot at room distance must be aimed at the hairline to strike in the “sunglasses zone”. This is due to the fact that the sights are above the barrel, and the angle of the barrel wont intersect the sight line till it reaches “close zero” which can be 50 yards away. In normal orientation, the rule of thumb is to aim about 2-2.5 inches high for surgical shots from 0-25 yards.

In sideways orientation, the round will NEVER be above your sight line, but left or right of it. The bullet will be striking on the “magazine side” of your weapon at short range by about the same distance as it would have been below your sights in upright orientation.

If you are in rollover prone, ejection port up, and trying to hit a BG between the eyes at 10 yards you will be 2-2.5 inches right (with a 50/200 zero).  So at CQB ranges at narrow targets like headshots or knees from under a vehicle it’s… “Aim AWAY from the magazine”.

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For more general combative applications however (read..COM hits under most circumstances), the rule of thumb to remember when shooting rollover is “Aim High and to the Magazine Side“.

From 0 to about 75 yards just hold high on the center of the torso.

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From 75 to about 150 hold high and to the magazine side around the targets pectoral.

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From 150 to 200 hold high and to the magazine side on the targets shoulder

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This will get you COM hits only needing to remember three holdovers; 0-75, over 75, and over 150.

There…that’s the best I can do. Please let me know if you are confused or if I can clarify anything for you.

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a guide to muzzle devices: guest post by John Lee

It used to be aftermarket stocks, angled foregrips, oversized selector switches, and pistol grips.  Now muzzle devices are the craze.  As with most things gun related, the sheer number of products on the market and all the marketing chatter makes it difficult for a consumer to make a proper, informed decision.  There are hundreds of muzzle devices on the market, so it can be a confusing world out there.  This is an informative post to help people understand what these devices do, and how to choose a good muzzle device.

Muzzle devices can be categorized into the following:

1. Flash-Suppressors (Flashhiders, will be referred to as FH)
2. Compensators (Comps)
3. Muzzle Brakes (MBs)
4. Suppressors (Silencers) I will not be covering suppressors because I do not have much knowledge on suppressors.

Products categorized within 1, 2 and 3, often share each other’s elements, but are usually dominantly one or the other.  Often times they are misnamed, or called by the wrong name, further adding to the confusion.


1. Flash Suppressors

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Flash suppressors are the most common muzzle devices. A FH is what typically comes standard on your AR-15… it’s known as the A2 “Birdcage” Flash Suppressor.

Despite what you may have read, a good FH really does suppress muzzle flash.  Their main function is to redirect, accelerate, or decelerate the exhaust gasses to reduce flash, or to redirect the amount of hot gasses that are visible.  I won’t go too much into the mechanics of it.

You are not going to completely eliminate flash at night, but you can certainly reduce it to a point where it is hardly visible.  The A2 ‘birdcage’ FH does work pretty well.  If you take it off and fire your rifle, you will know what I mean.  A lot of flashhiders have some compensating features built into them as well.  The A2 FH works well, and does provide a bit of compensation.

Some flash hiders work better than others. Its worth paying more for the good ones.  Some of my favorite aftermarket FH include the Vortex FH and our new VG6 Zeta flashhider that is still under development.  The Vortex is a bit of an industry standard right now, especially if you don’t mind the ringing noise it produces.  (I don’t mind it).  Another good option is the Phantom flashhider, which provides a little bit of improvement over the A2 FH.

2. Compensators

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Compensators redirect exhaust gasses to control muzzle movements that happen at the moment of firing. Primarily, they are tuned to a specific caliber, and sometimes for barrel length.

With a Compensator, concussion and noise levels are increased, sometimes to muzzle brake levels.  Although you’re still going to feel most of the recoil with a good comp, you’re gonna keep the muzzle right on target.  They help speed up your follow-up shots.

Compensators are popular with the tactical rifle crowd. The Battlecomp being extremely hot right now. Prices can range from 100-150 dollars.  I personally love muzzle brakes because a pure compensator will not produce the ‘wow’ factor of recoil reduction.

3. Brakes

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Muzzle brakes are probably one of the oldest muzzle devices around.  You see them on weapons from anti-material sniper rifle platforms to artillery pieces. On small arms, they help the shooter manage recoil better, or make it possible for a shooter to fire a firearm that would otherwise be impossible to shoot.  With a muzzle brake, the exhaust gasses hit a wall and push the barrel assembly forward, reducing actual recoil.  Although muzzle brakes have been around forever, it was not until recent years that they gained more mainstream popularity.

What does a muzzle brake do on our rifles?  It is all about recoil.  Most consumers who have not fired a rifle with a good brake do not realize how well good muzzle devices work.  Most muzzle devices on the market right now are competition oriented.

Competition brakes are popular (read necessary, if you want to compete with the best) with 3 gun and other competition shooters.  Look into likes of Mikulek Brakes, JP Brakes and such. These hard-core competition brakes virtually eliminate recoil to the point where muzzle climb is nil.  The downside is, you also get a lot of gas blow-back, i.e. gasses coming right back at you, increasing noise, increasing discomfort, and annoying the crap out of your friends around you. Muzzle flash is also a problem.

Other brakes are marketed more to general shooters.  However, there aren’t that many brakes out there that allow for practical use of your rifle.

One thing of note: competition brakes do not necessarily outperform brakes that are marketed as general use.


Note applicable to all muzzle devices: No muzzle device, especially compensators and brakes, are perfect.  This is because barrel length, ammo, fitment of the reciprocating elements of the rifle and other factors make differences in how the muzzle device is tuned.  Furthermore, stance, size and ability of the shooter makes a difference in subjective felt recoil and muzzle rise.  There is no way around it; lots and lots of R&D time should go in to best fit the targeted consumers.  Your brake might be one customer’s favorite accessory on his rifle.  Others may be unimpressed.  There is definitely a subjective element to it.  My recommendation is to read many reviews and decide for yourself before dropping 150 dollars on a muzzle device.

How to pick a muzzle device: Not all muzzle devices are created the same.  A 30 dollar muzzle device will not get you the results that say, a 100 dollar muzzle device would.  Here are some guidelines on how to pick a well performing muzzle device.  Specifically, the following guidelines are for those of you looking for a muzzle brake and comps for a general, practical rifle, or something that will go on your duty patrol rifle.  For non-tactical, competition specific applications, these guidelines are not as important.

  1. High quality materials: With all the high pressure and temperatures, you need good materials for longevity and sustained performance. Look for stainless steel or better.  Don’t fall for things like ‘mil-spec high strength steel’ or other ‘buzz’ words.  Lesser materials will wear out faster, unless it is a really big muzzle device. Related to this is surface finishing/hardness, as heat treatment or finishes that involve heat treatment will increase longevity in your muzzle device.
  2. Quality/Fit/Finish: Tolerances and precision matter when it comes to performance.  Long story short: get one that has been CNC’d.  Believe it or not, a lot of engineering goes into designing a good muzzle device.  Typical of a top-tier brake, the VG6 products use advanced computational methods and analysis, high speed cameras, and many many rounds of field testing.  To bring R&D results to a product a good device will have to have been CNC machined.
  3. Size and weight: Some customers care a lot about how big the muzzle device is.  For aesthetics, or to maintain a short barrel, or sometimes to pin/weld on 14.5-14.7″ builds.
  4. Looks: Don’t get a product that you aren’t going to love!
  5. Compatibility: Your job may require you to run a muzzle device that is compatible with suppressors and such.  Do the research to find out that your clamp-on suppressor will work with your muzzle device.

Factors 1 and 2 are probably most important indicators of a good, high performance muzzle brake.  I really recommend that you purchase a top-shelf muzzle device, even if it costs more (Except for a few underpriced, high value ones like ours).  It will be worth it.  A good muzzle brake will make a ‘night-and-day’ difference in your follow up shots.  A cheaper one can range from hardly noticeable to marginally noticeable.  Good luck shopping!

-John Lee

Jerry works for Precision Delivery Systems, an AR-15 accessories retail and wholesaler who is partnered up with VG6 Precision, a manufacturer of muzzle devices, mounts, other accessories.  Their most popular product has been the new VG6 Gamma 556 tactical brake.

Check it out: www.pdsrifles.com www.youtube.com/PDSrifles.


The Things Worth Believing In Addendum:

I previously did an evaluation on the VG6. You can read it HERE.

AND a little rule of thumb I always use to tell if a device is a Flash Hider, Comp or Brake is the following.

Flash Hiders typically are cone shaped on the interior with a large exit opening which allows the gasses to escape rapidly forward.

You will also note that the vent slots on this A2 are all on the top side of the device which vent some gasses upward, providing a bit of compensation.

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Comps and Brakes usually have a small exit opening. This forces the escaping gasses to strike the “Wall” at the end of the device and get funneled out of slots and ports along the sides. This is what lets then do what they do.

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For Brakes look for large ports…typically on the sides of the device. For Compensators look for slots/holes that would direct gasses is particular directions…often times UP in order to “compensate” for the tendency of a barrel to rise/jump under recoil by pushing gas upwards. Some devices on the market today are composites that provide the recoil reduction of a Brake and the muzzle control of a Compensator.

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Note that these are just “rules of thumb” and not hard and fast rules. Read any and all instructions and descriptions before purchasing your muzzle device.

-Tgace

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lean into it

I know, I know, the “C-Clamp” hold isn’t anything new and everyone seems to be doing it these days, but I’m going to talk about it anyway.

One of the most common rifle stances in circulation is the classic “shoulder pocket…upright…side onto target” rifleman’s stance. For long distance standing shots it actually has a lot going for it in terms of ability to hold steady on a distant target. The Marines routinely hit targets out to 500 yds using it…no badmouting here.

Puuloa Range Training Facility hosts Pacific D...

I hesitate to say “the problem with this stance is” because there isn’t really a problem with it as much as it can be the wrong tool for some applications. The fact of the matter is that the “rifleman’s stance” is not the ideal way to control a weapon in close quarters, rapid fire situations. Single, accurate, long range shots? Absolutely. Rapid shooting at multiple targets? IMO, not really.

The issue with rapid fire from the shoulder pocket/side on stance is that the mass of the body isn’t effectively behind the weapon to absorb the recoil; and yes…a long enough string of even .223 can push you far enough of target to make delivering shots on one spot difficult.

The “side on” stance also means that the recoil will be applying a “torque-like” force to the upper body, pushing the shoulder back and making recoil control difficult.

Many people have been adopting the “C-Clamp” hold these days, however (while I do use it) the way the support hand grasps the fore-end is really a side issue. To deal with rapid fire whats important is getting more body mass directly behind the gun.
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The way I have been taught is to square up a little more to the target, place the buttstock closer to the sternum than to the shoulder pocket, lean forward at the waist and roll the shoulders forward.stvsad1

From there, if you use the “C-Clamp” hold, grasp the vertical foregrip or use some other sort of hold is your business IMO. I like the “C-Clamp”.

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Critics talk about the armpit exposure, lack of muscle support etc.

In terms of muscle/bone support, this stance (IMO..YMMV) is about rapid firing at multiple targets at close to mid range while moving or in the open. This isn’t so much for single aimed shots at distant targets. Although I routinely ring steel at 100+ yds with it, I’d take up a supported position if one was available.

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A little video to illustrate the differences. Take a look at the start of this video and see how  even a large man firing from the shoulder pocket can get moved around a bit.

And here’s a couple of 10 round strings fired from the other stance. Granted .223 is different from 7.62X39 in terms of recoil but…

In the end…as I see things…a “stance” is not a hard and fast rule as much as it should be a position best adapted to the situation. “C-Clamping” while in a kneeling position ignores the advantage of stability by placing the elbow on the knee. Firing from behind cover or using a support for stability can all require a different method.

Rob Tackett wrote a good post over at his blog on this issue that’s worth a read.

Select the best “stance” for your situation.

gas key staking

In the AR operating system, the bolt; the part that makes contact with the round, locks it into the chamber and extracts the spent casing, is housed in a “carrier”. This carrier is operated by gas pressure that is created when a bullet is fired. The gas drives the carrier back…extracting the spent casing. A spring system pushes the carrier back forward, feeding a round for the next firing cycle.

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This video shows the process:

As you see, gas from the fired round is tapped from the barrel and fed down the gas tube and into the gas key. This drives the carrier and bolt rearward, cycling the weapon. This method of operation is called Direct Impingement.

The gas key is held to the carrier by two bolts. It is possible that after repeated firings that these bolts can loosen. This can allow gasses to escape from between the key and the carrier body. If this happens not enough gas pressure will be delivered to the carrier resulting in problems like failure to cycle,  short stroking, failure to extract and jamming of the weapon.

Loosening of the gas key is prevented by a handful of methods, but the most common method is achieved by applying the proper torque to the gas key bolts and then “staking” them into place. Staking is done by driving some metal from the gas key base onto the sides of the bolt heads…preventing movement.

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One of the signs of a quality bolt carrier is proper staking of the gas key. If you have to do it yourself, there are different methods ranging from using simple hand tools like punches and hammers to purchasing a purpose made tool like the MOACKS.

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product evaluation: VG6 Gamma 556 Tactical Muzzle Brake

An “internet friend of mine” who works for Precision Delivery Systems (Firearms parts and accessories) sent me the VG6 Gamma 556 Tactical Muzzle Brake for little “sneak preview” evaluation.

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The Brake came professionally packaged and included a crush washer. The machining and finish were all  top notch. Taking my first look at the device I identified it as a hybrid Brake/Comp affair with some fairly standard brake vents on the sides and compensator slots at 12 o’clock.

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Although the instructions suggest a gunsmith install, installation was fairly easy. I only had one snag and that was with the timing of the device with the crush washer supplied. After hand tightening to the washer I put 360 degrees of turn on it and the washer still wasn’t crushed entirely. Rather than pushing my luck (or eating time sanding down the washer), I backed off and tried a different crush washer I had laying about. With that washer a 360 degree turn resulted in full crush and 12 o’clock timing of the comp slots.

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I’ve had my rifle out with it a few times since I installed it, but it took me till today to finally got around to getting some film.

Don’t let my shooting ability be your gauge for this brakes effectiveness ;). I’m happy with my results at 10 yds on a 2″ target (those would all be head shots on a standard silhouette) but I’m wagering that a better shooter than me could really show some impressive results. The recoil and rise with this thing on are almost nill. While the angle isn’t the greatest for comparison, the following video was shot with a standard A2 birdcage. You can see a bit of difference in how the rifle handled between the two.

I know that the standard line regarding brakes is that the noise/blast to the sides can make you a bad neighbor on the firing line, and there is some additional blast compared to the A2. But from behind the gun I feel almost no difference at all.

If you are in the market for a brake/comp the VG6 is definitely worth your while taking a look at.

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