We are already half-way through the NRA High Power National Championship and SSG Shane Barnhart of the USAMU remains atop the leaderboard, with a score of 1193-64X out of a possible 1200 points. Barnhart shot a 595-28X during Sunday’s Navy Cup, Coast Guard Trophy, and Army Cup matches. Barnhart currently holds a three-point lead over second place SSG Brandon Green (1190-58X), the defending High Power National Champion. Like Barnhart, Green shoots for the USAMU. Kenneth Lankford leads the “any sight” (scopes allowed) division with 1191-54X.
High Power Hardware: The Guns of Perry
We thought our readers would like to see some of the ultra-accurate rifles campaigned by High Power competitors at Camp Perry. Both bolt-action and self-loading rifles are popular. Among bolt guns, Tubb 2000s and Eliseo tubeguns are popular. Semi-auto AR platform “Space Guns” offer some advantages (particularly during rapid-fire and for standing position), and are favored by many of the top marksmen. Many Camp Perry High Power competitors are also shooting less exotic AR service rifles.
Here is your current leader, SSG Shane Barnhart, with an AR Space Gun. Note the side charging handle and tall iron sight set-up.
Tubb 2000 with a shortened handguard, and custom hand support bracket forward of mag well.
The modern AR Space Gun, scoped version. Note the side charging handle, and absence of forward assist. A block fitted under the handguard helps with the standing position. The scope is mounted on a “piggy-back” rail that extends forward of upper receiver’s built-in rail.
Tubb 2000 rifle, left-hand version. Note how the butt-plate is adjusted for cant, angle, and drop.
Look carefully — it appears that a separate fore-arm section is duct-taped to the red free-floated handguard. Perhaps this AR owner experienced some wiggle, and that’s why he seems puzzled?
A countdown timer is attached directly to this shooter’s Tubb 2000 rifle.
This Service Rifle competitor shows how to get some “R & R” between relays.
Hate chasing brass ejected from your AR platform rifle? Well here’s a clever new accessory — a brass catcher that mounts easily to the Picatinny rail on top of your upper receiver. There are other types of brass-catching rigs on the market, but this is one of the best products we’ve seen for ARs with Picatinny rails. Caldwell’s AR Pic Rail Brass Catcher mounts easily with a quick-detach aluminum clamp. Both the clamp and wire frame are adjustable so they won’t interfere with your scope or scope mounts.
We like the quick-detach feature. This lets you quickly check and/or clear your chamber, or inspect the bolt. The bag itself, made from heat-resistant mesh fabric, will hold approximately one hundred .223 Rem cartridge cases. And here’s another nice feature — the bag has a zipper on the bottom so you can quickly dump your spent brass without having to remove the brass-catcher from your rifle.
Brass Catcher Features:
- Captures fired casings before they hit the ground.
- Quick-detach system mounts securely — no fumbling with straps.
- Compatible with most Picatinny rail-equipped AR-10s as well.
- Heat-resistant mesh bag holds 100 pieces of brass.
- Fully adjustable — can be placed at any point on Picatinny rail.
If you shoot an AR and reload your own ammo, you should get some kind of brass-catching device. With a $39.19 “street price” ($49.99 MSRP), this is one of the more affordable options. Once you use a rig like this and no longer have to pick up brass from the ground, you may get spoiled. Moreover, a brass-catcher like this will earn you “Brownie Points” with other shooters at your range who no longer have to dodge your hot brass.
Product Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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Commentary by Robert Whitley
In recent years several major firearms component suppliers have promoted the idea of the “do-it-yourself” AR-15 build up. In one sense this is a good thing because it promotes peoples’ education and understanding of firearms, but the down side of this is some folks are assembling and modifying AR-15s without an understanding of the rifle and without the necessary skills and tools to do things properly. The net result of this “do-it-yourself” work can be an AR-15 that is non-functional, problematic or dangerous. Here are two examples of common issues with “do-it-yourself” modifications.
Opening Up the Ejection Port
One common modification for AR-15′s is the opening up of the ejection port. This is typically done to permit more room for ejection or loading of the rifle, and it is also typically done in conjunction with a side charging handle modification.
A common issue I have seen with this modification is that the person opening up the port removes the upper right hand carrier support and riding surface. The net result of this is that the carrier sits loose in the upper receiver when the bolt is in lock-up and this can have very detrimental effects on the function and accuracy of the AR-15. Below are more pictures of one that I saw recently.
Wrong Buffer Installed
Another common mistake is the use of an improper buffer with the rifle (i.e. like using a carbine buffer in a standard rifle length buffer tube). There are many after market buffers being sold out there, but if the wrong buffer is used with the rifle, it can allow the bolt carrier to cycle too far back so that the rear of the carrier gas key becomes the stop for the carrier (i.e. when it smashes into the upper part of the lower receiver – OUCH!).
We have even seen situations where the gas key is snapped right off the carrier from this, and it completely disables the rifle and can also cause extensive damage to the firearm as well. Unfortunately we have seen this situation far too often and it is clear that a person needs to fully understand how the buffer assembly works if “do-it-yourself” work is going to be done to the buffer assembly, since everything done to the buffer assembly has an effect on the rifle, its function and accuracy.
While I applaud the person who is self-reliant and has a “can do” attitude, the other side of this is when it comes to a firearm, “do-it-yourself” work should only be done when and if one fully understands the rifle and how it functions and how the work will affect the rifle.
AR-X Enterprises, LLC
199 North Broad Street
Doylestown, PA 18901
(215) 348-8789 www.6mmAR.com
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Do you like black rifles? Do you suffer from an irrepressible desire to modify, tweak, and upgrade every little component on your ARs? Then check out “Everything AR” in the GUNS Magazine Combat Special Edition. From upgrades and accessories to brand reviews and insight into AR operating systems, the Fall/Winter 2014 GUNS Magazine Combat Special Edition is a cover-to-cover AR love-fest.
This 194-page Special Edition includes a helpful review of direct gas versus piston operating systems by Richard Mann. Another article by this same writer, “Pistol Caliber Carbine Perfection”, explores the evolution of pistol-caliber AR carbines, discussing pros and cons of several pistol calibers. Publisher/editor Roy Huntington contributes a story on Black Rain Ordnance, a company known for its high-quality AR-platform rifles, and lifetime warranty.
Want gadgets for your AR? In “Ten Got-To-Have Accessories For Your MSR,” contributing editor Dave Douglas spotlights some of the best bolt-ons for “Modern Sporting Rifles”, from sling mounts and LED lasers to sights and rubber grips.
The Fall/Winter 2014 issue of GUNS Combat includes the all-new 2015 Buyer’s Guide. This 128-page, comprehensive catalog features hundreds of products ranging from all types of handguns and long guns, to knives, lights and lasers
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Who is buying ARs and AKs, and in what quantities? Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s Director of Industry Research, answers those questions in the May 2014 Issue of AR Guns & Hunting. In this interesting article about “Modern Sporting Rifles” (MSRs), Curcuruto provides answers to questions such as “How many Americans own an MSR?”, “Why are they being purchased?”, and “Who is buying them?”.
What the Heck is a ‘Modern Sporting Rifle’?
The term “Modern Sporting Rifles” is used to describe “AR- and AK-Platform rifles” — semi-automatic rifles with detachable box magazines. These are generally derivative of the original AR15/M16 or AK47 designs, although Modern Sporting Rifles may have different furniture, modular components, and scope rails in place of iron sights. Note: The “AR” in “AR-15″ rifle stands for ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s. “AR” does NOT stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”
MSR Questions and Answers
Q: How may AR-type and AK-type rifles have been sold in recent years?
We don’t have an exact sales number. However, since 1990, over 8,200,000 MSRs have been “brought to market” in the USA. This is based on manufacturing stats, ATF sales records, as well as International Trade Commission (ITC) import numbers.
Q: How Many Americans Own MSRs?
A: 4.8 million American have an AR-type or AK-type rifle, according to a consumer survey and ATF and ITC statistics.
Q: What Kind of People Purchase MSRs?
A: MSRs are purchased by successful, educated people: “The average MSR owner is 35+ years old, married and has at least some college education. 54% of MSR owners have a household income of more than $75,000 and they are spending approximately $1,060 on each MSR[.]” Roughly one-third of MSR owners are active or former law enforcement or military personnel.
Q: Why Do People Purchase ARs and AKs?
A: The main reason Americans purchase MSRs is for “recreational target shooting”. The second most important reason is for home defense.
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Whidden Gunworks offers a nicely-engineered “bolt-on” front plate that will enhance the bench-rested accuracy of any rifle with an accessory rail on the forearm.
The Whidden Track Plate fits securely in the forearm accessory rail on prone, cross-the-course, and Palma rifles. These guns typically have a narrow and/or rounded fore-end so they rock and wobble when used with a front pedestal rest. The TrackPlate cures that. Once installed it provides a rock-solid, 2.9″-wide platform that mates perfectly with a benchrest-type front sandbag. This gives sling-shooters maximum stability when testing loads or zeroing their sights or scope. Plus you can now shoot F-Class competitively with a prone gun.
The Track Plate is light-weight, has catamaran-style runners to aid tracking and prevent rocking, and can be easily stowed in a range bag. The machined aluminum Track Plate fits BOTH Anschutz-style and American-style recessed forearm rails.
The Track Plate is available from Whidden Gunworks for $40.99 or from Champion’s Choice for $40.00 (item W29P). Plate designer (and National LR Rifle Champion) John Whidden says: “The Plate is great for any rifle with a rail whether it ís smallbore, centerfire, or an air gun. Now you can try F-Class with your favorite prone rifle: the Plate has a perfect low-drag finish for riding a rest or sandbags and is competition legal in all dimensions.”
Front Bag-Rider for AR-15s from EGW
Similar to the Whidden Track Plate is a 3″-wide Delrin bag-rider from Evolution Gun Works (EGW). This was developed expressly to fit the fore-ends of AR15-type rifles with round float tubes. The EGW front bag-rider attaches to a front sling swivel stud anchor. That allows it to mount as easily as a Harris bipod — no rail needed! Just unscrew the swivel stud, put the front bag-rider in place and attach one hex-head machine screw. The front bag-rider is contoured to match the handguard profile so it fits securely with no wobble. Overall, it is a slick system. Front and rear bag-riders can be attached in a couple of minutes. The Delrin blocks slide easily in the bags and make the gun ultra-stable. The gun tracks straight back. The front bag-rider comes in two (2) variants, a $39.99 radiused version (item 32141) that attaches via swivel stud, and a $49.99 version (item 32143) that mounts via a Picatinny-style rail.
EGW AR Front Bag-Rider System
EGW Picatinny Rail-Attached Front Bag-Rider
EGW Rear Bag-Rider for AR Buttstocks
EGW also offers a REAR bag-rider that attaches via the sling swivel anchor. The EGW AR Rear Bag-Rider accessory (item 32142), designed to work with A2-style buttstocks, sells separately for $39.99. This rear bag-rider provides a longer, straight “keel” that works very well in rear sandbags, giving the rifle more stability, and improving the tracking.
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What happens when a round goes off unsafely in an AR? Watch this video and see. At about the 00:40 time-mark the shooter has a malfunction (click no bang), with a round. He then removes the magazine, and clears the chamber (we think). On the next round, at 00:53 you hear a “Bang” and see a big puff of smoke coming out of the upper receiver (see photo at right). This has been called a “detonation” by the video-maker, but we’re not 100% sure what happened. What do you guys think? Watch the video carefully, and state your conclusions in the comment section if you wish.
What Caused this Malfunction? Watch Video…
In any event, the shooter is fortunate his upper did not completely fracture, launching shrapnel into his face or other body parts. This could have turned out much worse. Here are screen-shots from the video, showing details of the gun after the accident, along with the recovered brass case, which separated near the case-head.
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AR-platform rifles can be maintenance-intensive beasts. But some AR owners make the situation worse by not regularly cleaning important small parts, or by using too much oily/greasy lubricants in the wrong places. A properly maintained and lubricated AR15 can shoot hundreds of rounds (between cleanings) without a problem. If you learn where (and where not) to apply lubricant, you’ll find that your AR will run more reliably and the task of cleaning the bolt and bolt carrier will be less of a burden.
Here is a good video that explains AR-15 Cleaning and Maintenance. In this 30-minute NSSF video, Gunsite Academy instructor and gunsmith Cory Trapp discusses the proper way to clean and maintain the AR-15 carbine. Very knowledgeable, Trapp provides rock-solid advice for AR owners. Along with cleaning producedures, this video explains how to inspect key components and how to function-test your AR before each shooting session.
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Gun Digest will be producing a new quarterly print magazine, called Modern Shooter. It appears that the magazine focuses mostly on AR-platform rifles, AR accessories, and defensive shooting. The new magazine parallels the new Modern Shooter television show, which debuts on the Sportsman Channel next January. Look for Modern Shooter magazine on newsstands in April. The new magazine will also be available in digital format at www.gundigeststore.com.
Each issue of Modern Shooter will focus on a popular firearms category. For example, the premier issue explains how to maintain an AR rifle, and how to “Defend Your Castle” with an AR. This first issue features Richard Mann’s 12 training drills for AR-platform rifles, plus reviews of AR accessories: optics, sights, rails, and adjustable stocks. The premiere edition of Modern Shooter profiles Colt manufacturing, discussing the history of the company. Colt’s new LE6920MP-USA and AR15A4 rifles will be reviewed.
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Now that Lapua is making very high-quality .221 Fireball brass, those of you who own an AR may be considering a 300 AAC Blackout project. For AR shooters, the 300 Blackout (300 BLK) offers the ability to fire a heavy-weight bullet from standard AR15 magazines. When loaded to supersonic velocities with heavy bullets, this little cartridge packs more punch than a 30-30 round. Alternatively, when loaded to sub-sonic velocities, the 300 Blackout is ultra-quiet when used with a suppressor.
Writing for the CTD Shooter’s Log, CTD Mike has authored a good Beginners’ Guide to the 300 AAC Blackout. This explains the basics of this interesting cartridge, which is a .30-caliber round that works with existing AR15 magazines and upper. You can purchase 300 Blackout factory ammunition or you can load your own. The easiest way to make 300 Blackout cartridges is to neck-up Lapua .221 Fireball brass. But if you have hordes of .223 Rem brass, you can also cut those cases down and reform them into 300 Blackout. But that is much more work. With Lapua .221 Fireball brass, you lube the inside of the necks, expand, and you’re good to go.
300 Blackout vs. 6.8 SPC
AR owners who have considered a dedicated upper in 6.8 SPC, should give serious consideration to 300 Blackout instead. First, with so much .223 Rem available, you have a virtually infinite supply of parent brass. 6.8 SPC brass is not so easy to find. Second, to function optimally, the 6.8 SPC requires dedicated magazines. CTD Mike says: “6.8 SPC II and 6.5 Grendel both require specific magazines [that are] different from the Standard NATO Agreement (STANAG) AR-15 magazine. These magazines are not nearly as common … and of course cost a bit more. On top of that, you lose capacity in those calibers, down to 25 rounds instead of 30, because their casings are fatter and take up more space[.]”
The Sound of Silence — Suppressed 300 Blackout Properties
The 300 AAC Blackout is a great option if you live in a jurisdiction that allows suppressor ownership. A suppressed 300 Blackout is ultra-quiet and very reliable. CTD Mike explains: “Unlike 5.56, subsonic [1000 FPS] loadings that still cycle the AR-15 action reliably are easy to make [with] a 220 grain .308 bullet. At close range, these 220 grain rounds really thump, and the real kicker is that using an AAC suppressor with them in a 9-inch barrel brings the sound level to only 125 decibels. That’s quieter than an MP5SD shooting 9mm rounds, and much quieter than a MK23 pistol shooting .45acp rounds. You have to be there and shoot one of these rifles with a ‘can’ attached to realize that this 220 grain bullet is nearly as quiet as a silenced .22 pistol.”
AR15 Podcast Talks about 300 Blackout
If you are intrigued by the 300 AAC Blackout, you should consider listening to an hour-long AR15Podcast hosted by Reed Snyder and co-Host Anthony Hardy. In this Podcast, Reed explains how to re-barrel an AR15 for the 300 Blackout. Step by step, he explains how to remove your .223-caliber barrel and install a .30-caliber barrel chambered for the 300 Blackout. Reed lists the tools you’ll need and he also explains how to tune adjustable gas blocks for best performance with a 300 Blackout upper.
For those who are undecided about adapting their AR15s for the 300 Blackout, Reed weighs the pros and cons of having a dedicated .30 caliber in your AR arsenal. Here are some of the strong points of this interesting cartridge:
300 Blackout cartridges fit and feed in standard AR magazines.
300 Blackout rivals 7.62x39mm performance.
Brass and Bullets are readily available.
Barrel is only part that needs to be modified.
Excellent Subsonic Performance — very quiet.
.30 Caliber suppressors can be used with smaller calibers as well.
About the 300 AAC Blackout (300 BLK)
The 300 AAC Blackout cartridge shares case-head dimensions and body taper with the .223 Remington. Not only does this allow for compatibility with existing magazines and bolts, but it allows reloaders to form their own brass from cut-down 5.56×45 mm or .223 Rem cases. You can also form 300 Blackout cases by necking-up .221 Fireball brass. Take Note: Lapua has started producing .221 Fireball brass — this should be available in the USA by the end of April.
The 300 AAC Blackout is a similar concept to previous wildcats, such as the 30-221 and 300 Fireball, as well as the proprietary 300 Whisper®, except that 300 BLK was the first to be a SAAMI-approved cartridge and any company is free to make firearms or ammunition.
300 AAC Blackout is also finding use with hunters, who may not have been able to legally hunt with .223 in their state, and who prefer .30 caliber bullets for medium-sized game. It provides similar effectiveness to the 7.62×39 or the slightly more powerful .30-30 cartridges except works in the more up-to-date AR-platform rifles. Effective hunting range is about 150 yards. Some innovators, such as Dave Whitford, have also experimented with the 300 BLK for Across-the-Course competition. READ Whitford story in Rifleman’s Journal..
We’ve always liked the capacious, durable range boxes from MTM-Casegard. And now there’s a special “Tactical” version for AR shooters. This detachable-lid Tactical Range Box features a magwell-filling “action block insert” to support your AR securely during cleaning. Magwell posts like this have been used for years by AR gunsmiths. It’s a fast and convenient way to secure an AR.
The Tactical Range Box also comes with two adjustable cradles that will support most conventional bolt-action rifles and lever guns. These plastic cradles are gentle on fancy stocks, and they can be removed and stowed in the bottom of the box during transport.
The Tactical Range Box uses a two-piece design. The removable top storage compartment holds oils, solvents, brushes, patches, and small accessories. Unlatch the top box to reveal a large, deep storage area that will hold tools, earmuffs, ammo boxes and other larger items. MTM Range Boxes are big enough to hold pretty much everything you need at the range, except your front rest and rear sandbag. Midsouth Shooters Supply offers the MTM Tactical Range Box (item 008-TRB40) for just $39.85. Like MTM’s standard Shooting Range Box, the Tactical Range Box is well-built and much less flexy than generic plastic tool-boxes. Check out the features of this range box in the video below.
For more info, contact MTM® Molded Products at (937) 890-7461 or visit MTMCase-gard.com.
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Accurate, modular, and supremely versatile, the AR15 is America’s favorite semi-auto rifle. But let’s face it, the AR is a maintenance hog. The AR’s gas tube blows carbon and soot right into the middle of the bolt assembly where it cakes on to the metal. The AR bolt also has many tiny parts, and small recesses, which must be cleaned regularly. This author has seen numerous ARs fail simply because there was gunk (dried lube, carbon, brass shavings) in the ejector slot or extractor spring recess.
A Clean AR is a Happy AR — Whether You Run ‘Wet’ or ‘Dry’
There are various schools of thought when it comes to maintaining an AR. Some folks prefer to run their AR “dry” with minimal lube on the lugs and friction surfaces. Other shooters prefer to run their ARs “wet”, with lots of lube. But whatever your preference, you need to clean your AR regularly. And nothing is more important than the AR’s bolt/carrier assembly. Because it is involved in feeding, firing, and extracting, the AR-15 bolt/carrier assembly can be considered the most critical portion of the AR-15 from a maintenance standpoint.
Bolt Take-Down Guide on Top Quark Blog
The editor of the Top Quark Blog has created an excellent illustrated AR15 Bolt Take-Down Guide that shows how to disassemble an AR15 bolt and carrier for regular cleaning. Even if you’re an experienced AR15 shooter, you can learn something from this page (sample at right), and you may want to bookmark it for future reference. The photos are large and clear and there are helpful hints for each step of the process.
The author knows his stuff and offers some important insights. For example, he notes that “Extractor springs in most AR15 bolt assemblies are fairly weak, and this can lead to various extraction-related failures. One of the few high points about Colt assemblies is their usage of higher-strength extractor springs. You can tell the difference by looking at the inner plastic insert. ‘Normal’ springs feature a blue plastic insert, Colt strong springs have a black insert.”
There is one notable oversight on this page — the author doesn’t cover disassembly and cleaning of the ejector assembly. This is actually quite important. A few small brass shavings, combined with carbon and lube in the ejector slot, WILL cause malfunctions. In fact, when this editor is called to diagnose problem ARs, the first things I look at (after swapping magazines) are the ejector recess and the slot for the extractor. Clogged ejectors are responsible for fail-to-ejects and other jams. It is essential that you keep the ejector hole clean. Old, gooey lube residues mixed with carbon and tiny brass shavings in the ejector recess will create all sorts of problems. As shown in the diagram below, it is simple to remove the ejector (#6) and ejector spring (#5), by drifting the ejector retaining pin (#4).
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