Tag Archives: equipment

Tanks on American Streets

One of the “Police Militarization” tropes circulating around is the “OMG! LOOK! Cops are using TANKS on American streets!”. Some of the more militarily knowledgeable people may couch it as “Police are using weapons of war/military equipment/etc…” but the implications are the same.

What I think… is many folks are ignorant about what these vehicles are and what they are used for. Either that, or they are willfully ignoring what these trucks truly are.

First of all, lets be clear that American Law Enforcement has been using “military style weapons” and armored vehicles for YEARS.

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armored_car

coptank

bikegun

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Just like back in the Prohibition days, when the “Mob” was running the streets with Tommy Guns, your Police Officers are expected to deal with situations like this:

All an Armored Truck does is protect people from bullets.

That being said. There seems to be a lot of confusion between MRAPS and other Armored Vehicles.

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An MRAP is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. Used by the military, its really just a large truck with armor plating. It’s not a “Tank”, it isn’t built with any integral weapons. Weapons can be mounted on it, but weapons can be mounted on a pick-up truck too.

When the military decides it doesn’t need them any longer it has been offering them to LE vs scrapping them or putting them in a field somewhere to rust.

Another vehicle commonly used by American LE is the “Bearcat”, made by Lenco Armored Vehicles. The Bearcat is specifically made for LE and is purchased by an Agency outright or with the assistance of grant funds.

Nash_Bearcat

They are not the same vehicles, but I see Bearcats called “military vehicles” or MRAP’s all the time. IMO, the current “issue” with armored vehicles appears to be more about MRAPS being former “military Vehicles” than it is about what they are in essence, a vehicle that allows police to drive up to or through an area they know or suspect will have a high probability of weapons fire.

The appeal of the MRAP to LE is that, unlike having to come up with the 200+K for a BEARCAT, the government provides an armored vehicle, free of charge, to the municipality receiving it.

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Armored cars routinely travel our roads to protect cash. Police armored vehicles protect people. My personal opinion is that the MRAP issue is more about how the vehicle “looks”…combined with peoples political leanings…I think that if we drove around in a Brinks Truck nobody would complain.

I even recently read some articles stating that “being a cop is dangerous…you are expected to accept risk to your life”…the implication being “we don’t think you should have armored vehicles so just accept the risk of getting shot”.

Just this year some officers near me had their squad cars shot up by rifle fire responding to a domestic. One was injured by glass. The SWAT Team that responded to the resulting armed barricade was also shot up. But because they were in a BEARCAT they were able to operate in the area and apprehend the guy.

So they should just accept the risk of having been shot there because some folks think having an armored vehicle is “militarization”? To be blunt…go @#$% yourself if that’s your opinion.

Yes, as a Cop, yes… I accept risking my life to protect others. I don’t accept risking my life over your politics or your tin hat fears that we are going to use these trucks to take your weapons and round you up for some FEMA camp.

If the real issue is that your local cops are using their equipment when it’s not necessary, you should be dealing with the decision makers at you local PD. Don’t put people at risk over hyped up fears about equipment.

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weapons

took this image using my mobile on 20 Septembe...
Image via Wikipedia

There is an entry in the Bushidoshoshinshu titled “Weapons”:

Every samurai who is in service must have a supply of weapons suitable to his means. Every feudal house has its military regulations, and the proper banners and flags and helmet insignia, spear mounts, sleeve crests, and marks on the baggage animals as ordered by the lord must be carefully provided in a uniform manner. For if they have to be improvised in a hurry it will be an obvious sign of carelessness and will provoke contempt. Men who from neglect of these insignia have been attacked by their own side and killed and suffered loss are not unknown in military history, so there must be no want of precaution in these things. And some may think that their servants are not likely to have to cut anybody down and so may replace the blades of their swords with wood or bamboo, and neglect to provide them with a loincloth because they think they will not need to gird up their clothes, and find themselves in difficulties owing to their want of foresight. And a samurai who is a cavalier and who receives a considerable stipend and who does not know when he may have to take the field, however peaceful the time may appear to be, is a hundred percent more culpable if he does not provide himself with the proper weapons than the young serving man with a wooden sword or no loincloth. So from fear of being put to public shame he ought to equip himself properly. And here is a piece of advice on the subject. When a small retainer wishes to fit himself out with armor and has, let us say, three pieces of gold to get a suit, the best thing he can do will be to spend two-thirds of it on the body armor and helmet, leaving the remainder to provide all the other things he will need such as underclothes, breeches, coat, under-hakama, upper girdle, surcoat, whip, fan, wallet, cloak, water-bottle, cup, etc., so that he will have every accessory he needs as well as his suit of armor. Then, though he may be young and very strong, it is better to avoid heavy suits of thick iron armor and weighty banners and standards, for the very good reason that, though they may be tolerable while he is young and vigorous, as he grows older they will become too much for him. And even a young man may fall ill or be wounded, and then the lightest iron armor will be a heavy burden and a hindrance. And if a young man gets known for the weight of his banners and standards he will find it difficult to give them up when he becomes older and less able to support them.

I find it an interesting parallel to modern soldiers and law enforcement officers who will spend tons of money on the latest flat-screen or video console but will scrimp on buying a quality holster or flashlight.

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Occam’s Razor for shooters….

The Ockraz Logo
The Ockraz Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

William of Ockham was an influential medieval philosopher who is recalled chiefly for the maxim attributed to him known as Ockham’s razor. Also spelled “Occam’s Razor”. The words attributed to him are, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem…or “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”.

I bring this up because I have just read a quote from the Dokkodo, the “The Solitary Path”, which is a short piece written by Miyamoto Musashi shortly before his death:

Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what can be of use to you.

I see a link between the philosophies of these two men and an application to weapon training. I will attempt to explain.

These philosophical issues come to mind because I was recently involved in a friendly conversation debating that “Less Filling. Tastes Great” topic of using the slide release vs “power stroking” the slide on a handgun during an emergency reload.

I have a post here regarding this very issue BTW.

Debate points that always seem to come up when discussing emergency reloads are:

“I use the power stroke because I may be using a weapon I am unfamiliar with and running the slide is fairly universal for all pistols while slide releases may vary.”

and

“I use the power stroke because the actions are similar to the manual of arms for clearing malfunctions.”

Being a fairly recent convert to the slide release method, Occam’s and Musashi’s quotes kind of cut me both ways.

I argue that the “It’s universal for all pistols” point either means you own too many pistols or you are saying you are going to be doing a combat pick up of a pistol…or a disarm.

Per Occam/Musashi…if you have so many different pistols that you may/may not be carrying at any one time, you are violating their precepts. I’m not against collecting guns, I’m not against having different pistols/rifles for different applications, but if you worry that you may not be able to “auto pilot” your weapon because you may be carrying something different on any given day, that’s a problem IMO. Pick one and make it a part of your hand.

The combat pick-up/disarm argument doesn’t hold much water for me either. I’m probably not going to disarm an attacker of his weapon and magazines and have to do an emergency reload with them. And the combat pick-up is such a statistically rare issue that I don’t see it as a valid point. Either way, if they worry you then do the power stroke method if that ever happens.

The second point…”I use the power stroke because the actions are similar to the manual of arms for clearing malfunctions.” Is a more valid argument when applying Occam (Musashi doesn’t really apply here). Having one way of operating the pistol regardless of reason (malfunction or running dry) is a stronger point IMO and I have much to agree with.

However I would counter that Occam said “…must not be multiplied beyond necessity” he didn’t say “never multiply”. The slide stop method has some things going for it; speed, efficiency, the weapon/hands stay more oriented to the threat, etc. The necessity of multiplying your manual of arms to gain those advantages may be debatable, but I would debate it.

Either way you choose I find Occam and Musashi’s points as interesting ways to analyze our choices when it comes to weaponcraft. What do you think?

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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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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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my sort of recycling

In this time of financial hard times it’s only logical to try and save money where you can. When I started to see that I was putting large sheets of cardboard out on the curb on a frequent basis It dawned on me that IPSC targets were going for over a dollar apiece.

While it was always possible to simply draw out the dimensions on the board and cut them out, my drive for efficiency (ie laziness) made me think of what easier options there could be.

The solution I came up with was to swipe a piece of foam core board from my wife’s crafting horde and cook up a template.

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I cut out windows for the head and COM zones and punched holes (with a .40 S&W case :) ) for the B Zone area.

Now, whenever I have a large piece of cardboard laying around I grab whatever dwindling can of spray paint I can find in my garage…there’s always one somewhere…and get to work.

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While they may not be as professional in appearance as a store purchased pack, I have a somewhat constant supply of targets at a fraction of the cost.

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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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AR buffers and what they mean to you

Another interesting topic for the AR-phile is that of buffer weight. The buffer is a counterweight that works with the buffer spring to absorb the recoiling bolt assembly and then push it back into battery. It can be seen in this video in the area of the guns stock:

The buffer comes in different weight classifications and lengths. The buffer for a carbine is shorter than that of a full sized rifle. Buffers typically come in CARBINE/H/H2 and RIFLE sizes from lightest to heaviest.

Why should I care about buffer weights? Well… hotter loads and shorter barrels with shorter gas tubes result in greater operating pressures. This means that the bolt assembly is cycled faster. Sometimes it can cycle so fast that the bolt out-speeds the spring in the magazine that is trying to push the next bullet up into the chamber. This can be a big problem in automatic fire. The result is mis-feeds (or no feed at all) and more wear and tear on the guns parts.

A heaver buffer slows the system down and increases “lock time”, which is the amount of time between when the round is fired and when the bolt begins to move rearward. This aids in extraction of the spent case and the heavier counterweight can reduce felt recoil. The following vid is for comparison:


One has to be careful that he/she doesn’t go too heavy though, because then the bolt carrier may not move back far enough to strip the next round from the magazine. It may also not lock back on empty or cause other timing issues.

DIY Glock Stipple Job

While the Glock Company likes to use the word “Perfection” when it refers to its product, the one criticism many make about their pistols is the fact that the grips can get a bit slick/slippery with sweaty (or God forbid bloody) hands.

A small cottage industry has sprung up selling tapes and coatings  to address this issue. Another option is a DIY Stippling Job you can do yourself if you have the nerve. All you need is a soldering iron (got mine from Radio Shack for $8) and a marker.

Use the marker to draw out the areas you want to add texture to and then start stippling with the iron. There are different textures you can create with different soldering iron tips. I used a simple point tip to make a “cats tongue” type texture.

All you need is some patience and a steady hand.

Granted, it’s not the perfect “look” you would get with a commercial job, but it works and it’s cheap. Besides, there’s something “mean and functional” to the DIY look anyways.