January 21st, 2018

The Clean AR-15 — How to Maintain Your Modern Sporting Rifle

Barrel cleaning AR15 bolt carrier carbon Jerry Miculek gas key direct impingement

Let’s face it, AR-platform rifles run dirty, at least compared to typical bolt-action rifles. The AR15 works by piping gas from the barrel back into the bolt carrier, causing the bolt to unlock and the carrier to move the bolt backward. The “exhaust gas” from the barrel contains soot and carbon. The carbon will form hard deposits on the bolt. In addition, the carbon can combine with lube on the bolt carrier to make a nasty, paste-like sludge. This can be particularly problematic when the black paste pollutes the ejector and extractor recess.

This Editor has inspected dozens of ARs over the years. Other than mag-related malfunctions, the most common cause of AR cycling problems I found was oily gunk in the extractor and ejector areas. Many AR owners overlook these critical areas. Look at an AR that hasn’t been cleaned properly and you’ll probably find black gunk (and small brass shavings) in the ejector and extractor recesses.

If you want to keep your black rifle running smoothly and reliably, you must clean it regularly and follow the correct maintenance procedures. Here are three videos that explain how to properly disassemble and clean AR-platform rifles.

Take-Down and Full Cleaning of AR15 by Jerry Miculek

Here ace shooter Jerry Miculek takes down and cleans an AR-platform rifle belonging to his daughter Lena. This is a good video because Lena’s rifle was “run hard and packed up dirty” so you can see where carbon and grease build up. This 35-minute video is very thorough. Jerry is one of the nation’s top action carbine shooters, so listen carefully to his advice on cleaning and lubrication.

How to Clean Your AR-Platform Rifle

This is a good basic video that shows the take-down and cleaning procedure for a typical AR15. It uses some fast-motion sequences to speed up the story. Check out this video if you don’t have the time to sit through the Miculek video above.

Cleaning and Lubricating AR15 Bolt Carrier Group

This video offers very specific advice on the bolt carrier group, which receives the dirty gas directly from the barrel. Be sure to check the extractor and ejector recesses. That’s where old lube, brass shavings, and carbon accumulate. Follow the directions in this video for lubrication, and don’t over-lubricate the bolt carrier — that will only capture more carbon.

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January 19th, 2018

JP MicroFit Takedown Pins for AR15s and AR10s

JP Enterprises MicroFit Pins AR15 takedown pin

Does your Black Rifle have a sloppy upper/lower fit? That can be annoying; what’s more, loose fit can limit accuracy potential. Here’s a clever solution for poor-fitting AR-15 and AR-10 upper and lower receivers. The new JP MicroFit takedown pins can improve even the sloppiest ARs, providing a rock-solid upper/lower receiver fit.

MicroFit pins come in three sizes and two types: standard (“mean”), oversized, and undersized, with types for both front and rear of the receivers. The mean pins match standard takedown pin sizes while the over- and under-sized vary by slightly more than .001″ (+/-) from the standard diameter. NOTE: Although most poor-fitting receivers are loose, some are too tight. Very tight receivers, such as post-Cerakote, can be remedied with the undersized pins.

JP Enterprises MicroFit Pins AR15 takedown pin
Shown is JP Enterprises’ PSC-12™ upper assembly with LRP-07™ lower assembly.

“An AR with a loose upper/lower receiver… will not reach its accuracy potential. That was the goal with our original JP Tension Pin, but MicroFit™ pins provide the same result without tool-assisted takedown. The MicroFit pins require no modification to the receiver. They simply replace your current pins”, stated JP Enterprises founder John Paul.

JP’s MicroFit pins feature a polished black finish with a hard, durable QPQ coating. This provides smooth insertion/removal plus excellent corrosion resistance. All pins feature a two-faceted punch or bullet capturing recess. This allows the user to apply force to the pins safely without risking scratching the receiver. JP’s MicroFit pins are sold as both as individual pins and as replacement sets.

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December 26th, 2017

Hand-Loading for Semi-Auto Service Rifles — Six Key Rules

Reloading for Service Rifles
SFC Lance Dement as featured in CMP’s First Shot Online.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a great series of reloading “how-to” articles on its Facebook Page. This post covers key factors to consider when loading ammunition for Match Rifles and Service Rifles, with a particular focus on self-loading “gas guns”. Visit the USAMU Facebook Page each Wednesday for other, helpful “Handloading Hump-Day” tips.

We offer some “cardinal rules” to help new gas-gun handloaders with safety and efficiency. These address both Match Rifle and Service Rifle versions of the AR15, M1 Garand, M1A, and M110. However, they can also improve safe reloading for many other auto-loaders such as M1 Carbines, FALs, SIGs, etc. The author distilled these principles many years ago to help focus on the essential aspects of these rifles.

RULE ONE: Service Rifles Are Not Benchrest Rifles
Gas-guns require a relatively loose fit between ammunition and chamber (vs. bolt actions) for safe, smooth operation. Many techniques, such as neck sizing and keeping cartridge headspace quite tight, are popular in the extreme bolt gun accuracy realm. However, they are of little value with Service Rifles, and some could even be hazardous. Before adopting a specialized technique, seriously consider whether it is appropriate and beneficial in a gas-gun.

RULE TWO: Never Compromise Safety to Obtain Accuracy
Example: If choosing a brand of great, but ultra-sensitive match primers offers possibly better accuracy at the risk of slam-fires in your design of rifle, don’t do it! You are issued exactly two eyes and ten fingers (best-case scenario). Risking them trying to squeeze 0.25 MOA better accuracy out of an M1A, etc. simply isn’t worth it.

Reloading for Service Rifles

RULE THREE: Tailor the Precision to Your Individual Skill and Your Rifle’s Potential
This has been addressed here before, but bears repeating for newcomers. If you are struggling to break out of the Marksman Class, or using a CMP M1 “As-Issued,” then laboriously turning the necks of your 600-yard brass is a waste of time. Your scores will improve much faster by practicing or dry-firing. On the other hand, if the reigning champions anxiously check your scores each time you fire an event, a little neck-turning might not be so far-fetched.

Verifying Load Improvements — Accuracy hand-loading involves a wide variety of techniques, ranging from basic to rather precise. Carefully select those which offer a good return on investment for your time and labor. In doubt? Do a classic pilot study. Prepare ammo for at least three or four ten-shot groups with your new technique, vs. the same with your standard ammo. Then, pick a calm day and test the ammo as carefully as possible at its full distance (e.g. 200, 300, or 600 yards) to verify a significant improvement. A little testing can save much labor!

RULE FOUR: Be Your Own Efficiency Expert
Serious Service Rifle shooters generally think of ammunition in terms of thousands of rounds, not “boxes”, or even “hundreds”. Analyze, and WRITE DOWN each step in your reloading process. Count the number of times each case is handled. Then, see if any operations can be dropped or changed without reducing safety or accuracy. Eliminating just two operations saves 2000 steps per 1000 rounds loaded. Conversely, carefully consider any measurable benefits before adding a step to your routine.

RULE FIVE: In Searching for Greater Accuracy with Efficiency, Look for System Changes
For example, instead of marking your 300-yard rounds individually to differentiate them from your 200-yard ammo, would a simple change in primers work? If accuracy is maintained, using brass-colored primers for 200 and silver for 300 provides an indelible indicator and eliminates a step! Similarly, rather than spending hours selecting GI surplus brass for weight and neck uniformity, consider splurging on some known, high-quality imported match brass for your 600-yard loads. Results should be excellent, time is saved, and given limited shooting at 600 yards, brass life should be long.

RULE SIX: Check All Your Primers Before Packaging Your Loaded Ammo
This seems simple and even intuitive. However, many slam-fires (which were much more common when M1s and M1As were the standard) are due, at least in part, to “high” primers. Primers should be seated below flush with the case head. The USAMU has addressed this at length in a previous column, but each round should be checked for properly-seated primers before they are packaged for use.

Reloading for Service Rifles

Permalink Competition, Reloading 3 Comments »
December 7th, 2017

Hardware and Rules for PRS Gas Gun Series

PRS Gas Gun AR15 AR10 Series Semi-auto tactical

Ask most gun guys about the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), and they’ll tell you it’s a discipline for bolt-action “tactical” rifles. Yes that’s true, but PRS now has a “Gas Gun” series as well, and many local PRS-style matches also allow gas guns to compete in their own division.

Capitalizing on the success of the bolt-gun competitions, this year the PRS approved a new Gas Gun series for semi-auto rifles such as AR15s and AR10s. The inaugural 2017 PRS Gas Gun Series competition took place February 17-19, 2017 at the CORE Shooting Solutions range in Baker, Florida. This article explains the basics of the Gas Gun Series and offers some factory hardware options.

PRS Director Shawn Wiseman Explains New Gas Gun Series in this Video:

Gas Gun Series Basics — Interview with PRS President
Shooting Sports USA interviewed PRS President Shawn Wiseman.

SSUSA: What will be the format of the 2017 PRS Gas Gun Series matches?
Wiseman: The matches will be a two day format with 8 to 10 stages per day. There are three Divisions; Tactical Light for 5.56x45mm NATO/.223 Rem. rifles, Tactical Heavy for 7.62x51mm NATO/.308 Win., and Open for everything else up to .30 cal. The maximum distance will be 800 yards.

SSUSA: What guns do you expect to be popular?
Wiseman: In the Open Division, I expect to see a lot of 6.5 Creedmoors for two main reasons; it’s an inherently accurate cartridge and Hornady makes great ammo for the folks that aren’t into reloading. I think the Tactical Light Division will probably be the most popular. It is hard to say specifically what rifles will be the most popular but there are a few AR companies that are known for the accuracy. Armalite, GA Precision, LaRue and Seekins will all be very popular rifles in this Series. I think we will continue to see high-end optics with 5X to 6X zoom range on the rifles. Bushnell, Kahles, Leupold, Nightforce and Vortex will continue to be the most popular.

PRS Gas Gun Series Factory Firearm Options

While you can compete in the Gas Gun Series with an AR15, many Open Division competitors are favoring the larger AR10-platform rifles that can shoot the 6.5 Creedmoor and 6mm Creedmoor cartridges. Both Savage and Smith & Wesson offer AR10-type rifles optimized for this competition.

Smith and Wesson M&P 10, 6.5 Creedmoor

gas gun series PRS

S&W’s AR10-platform rifle is a leading choice for the PRS Gas Gun Division. The M&P 10 in 6.5 Creedmoor shows good build quality and good accuracy with factory 6.5 Creedmoor ammo. If you’re a fan of the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge, the M&P 10 is a smart gas gun option. S&W offers good customer service and a rock-solid warranty. This rifle features a 2-Stage Match Trigger, Magpul MOE Stock, 15″ M-LOK handguard, and a 20″ barrel with 1:8″-twist 5R Rifling. MSRP is $2035.00.

Savage MSR-10 Long Range, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win

gas gun series PRS

The updated Savage MSR-10 Long Range is available now in .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor. Next month (January 2018), Savage will also release a 6mm Creedmoor version. This rifle features a Magpul PRS Gen3 Stock, Blackhawk 2-stage trigger, non-reciprocating side charging handle, and QPQ-treated heavy barrel (1:8″ twist for 6.5 Creedmoor; 1:10″ for .308 Win). MSRP for all chamberings is $2284.00.

New .224 Valkyrie for AR15 Platform
Another option would be the smaller AR15 chambered for the new .224 Valkyrie cartridge. This brand new offering from Federal is basically a 6.8 SPC necked down to .224 caliber. With the 90gr Sierra MatchKing, it offers ballistics comparable to a 6.5 Creedmoor, with less recoil.

PRS Gas Gun Series Rules

For the new PRS Gas Gun Series, a committee of top PRS shooters, Multi-Gun shooters, and Match Directors developed the PRS Gas Gun Series Rule Book. Highlights of the Rules are listed below.

PRS Gas Gun AR15 AR10 Series Semi-auto tactical

For the new PRS “Gasser” Competition, the PRS developed rules on gun types, scoring, match timing, penalties, safety and other key topics. CLICK HERE for Full PRS Gas Gun Series Rules.

Open Division: The Open Division rifles will not exceed a caliber of .30 or a velocity of 3,200 fps. A match DQ will result any rounds over the speed limit of 3,200 fps (+/- 32 fps for environmental factors and equipment discrepancies). Match Officials may request at any point during a match that a competitor fire their rifle through chronograph. If the bullet exceeds the 3,200 fps speed limit, the shooter will receive an automatic match DQ.

Tactical Light Division: Intended to allow competitors the opportunity to compete using traditional military and law enforcement caliber (.223/5.56). This promotes Active Duty military and law enforcement competitors use of their Service and Department-issued rifles. Tactical Light Division rifles are restricted to 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington chamberings only. Bullet weight cannot exceed 77 grains and muzzle velocity cannot exceed 3,000 fps.

Tactical Heavy Division: Intended to allow competitors the opportunity to compete using traditional military and law enforcement caliber. This promotes Active Duty military and law enforcement competitors’ use of their Service and Department issued rifles. Tactical Heavy Division rifles are restricted to 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester calibers only. Bullet weight cannot exceed 178 grains and muzzle velocity cannot exceed 2,800 fps. No modified wildcat rounds permitted to shoot in the Tactical Divisions Anyone discovered violating this rule will receive an automatic Match DQ. Tactical Division shooters will shoot the exact same COF as Open Division shooters.

Permalink News 1 Comment »
March 10th, 2017

Black Rifle Maintenance — AR15 Cleaning How-To Videos

Barrel cleaning AR15 bolt carrier carbon Jerry Miculek gas key direct impingement

Let’s face it, AR-platform rifles run dirty, at least compared to typical bolt-action rifles. The AR15 works by piping gas from the barrel back into the bolt carrier, causing the bolt to unlock and the carrier to move the bolt backward. The “exhaust gas” from the barrel contains soot and carbon. The carbon will form hard deposits on the bolt. In addition, the carbon can combine with lube on the bolt carrier to make a nasty, paste-like sludge. This can be particularly problematic when the black paste pollutes the ejector and extractor recess.

This Editor has inspected dozens of ARs over the years. Other than mag-related malfunctions, the most common cause of AR cycling problems I found was oily gunk in the extractor and ejector areas. Many AR owners overlook these critical areas. Look at an AR that hasn’t been cleaned properly and you’ll probably find black gunk (and small brass shavings) in the ejector and extractor recesses.

If you want to keep your black rifle running smoothly and reliably, you must clean it regularly and follow the correct maintenance procedures. Here are three videos that explain how to properly disassemble and clean AR-platform rifles.

Take-Down and Full Cleaning of AR15 by Jerry Miculek

Here ace shooter Jerry Miculek takes down and cleans an AR-platform rifle belonging to his daughter Lena. This is a good video because Lena’s rifle was “run hard and packed up dirty” so you can see where carbon and grease build up. This 35-minute video is very thorough. Jerry is one of the nation’s top action carbine shooters, so listen carefully to his advice on cleaning and lubrication.

How to Clean Your AR-Platform Rifle

This is a good basic video that shows the take-down and cleaning procedure for a typical AR15. It uses some fast-motion sequences to speed up the story. Check out this video if you don’t have the time to sit through the Miculek video above.

Cleaning and Lubricating AR15 Bolt Carrier Group

This video offers very specific advice on the bolt carrier group, which receives the dirty gas directly from the barrel. Be sure to check the extractor and ejector recesses. That’s where old lube, brass shavings, and carbon accumulate. Follow the directions in this video for lubrication, and don’t over-lubricate the bolt carrier — that will only capture more carbon.

Permalink - Videos, Tactical, Tech Tip No Comments »
February 14th, 2017

PRS Gas Gun Series Kicks Off This Weekend in Florida

PRS Gas Gun AR15 AR10 Series Semi-auto tactical

The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) for tactical bolt guns has become hugely popular. Capitalizing on that success, the PRS has approved a new Gas Gun series for semi-auto rifles such as AR15s and AR10s. Since the launch of the PRS a few seasons back, Gas Gun shooters have wanted to play. Recognizing the interest among semi-auto shooters, the PRS ran two “prototype” Gas Gun matches last year.

PRS Director Shawn Wiseman Explains New Gas Gun Series in this Video:

Based on positive feedback from the 2016 test matches, PRS founders approved a full 2017 Gas Gun series which kicks off this week. The 2017 PRS Gas Gun Series opener will be held February 17-19, 2017 at the CORE Shooting Solutions range in Baker, Florida. Here’s a video showing CORE’s facility:

For the new PRS Gas Gun Series, rules and scoring procedures needed to be developed. Accordingly, a committee of top PRS shooters, Multi-Gun shooters, and Match Directors was assembled to develop the PRS Gas Gun Series Rule Book. Highlights of the Rules are listed below.

Last month, Shooting Sports USA interviewed PRS President Shawn Wiseman. In a Question and Answer session, Wiseman outlined key elements of the new “Gasser” PRS series. Here are samples from that interview:

SSUSA: What will be the format of the 2017 PRS Gas Gun Series matches?
Wiseman: The matches will be a two day format with 8 to 10 stages per day. No more than 50 percent of the stages can be unlimited round count and 25 percent of the targets must be 2 MOA or smaller. The scoring will be overall time plus penalties with the winner being the shooter with the fastest time including all penalties. There are three Divisions; Tactical Light for 5.56x45mm NATO/.223 Rem. rifles, Tactical Heavy for 7.62x51mm NATO/.308 Win., and Open for everything else up to .30 cal. The maximum distance will be 800 yards.

SSUSA: What guns do you expect to be popular?
Wiseman: In the Open Division, I expect to see a lot of 6.5 Creedmoors for two main reasons; it’s an inherently accurate cartridge and Hornady makes great ammo for the folks that aren’t into reloading. I think the Tactical Light Division will probably be the most popular. It is hard to say specifically what rifles will be the most popular but there are a few AR companies that are known for the accuracy. Armalite, GA Precision, LaRue and Seekins will all be very popular rifles in this Series. I think we will continue to see high-end optics with 5 to 6X zoom range on the rifles. Bushnell, Kahles, Leupold, Nightforce and Vortex will continue to be the most popular.

PRS Gas Gun AR15 AR10 Series Semi-auto tactical

PRS Gas Gun Series Rules

For the new PRS “Gasser” Competition, the PRS developed rules on gun types, scoring, match timing, penalties, safety and other key topics. CLICK HERE for Full PRS Gas Gun Series Rules.

Scoring and Penalties
The Gas Gun Series utilizes a time plus penalty-based scoring system for all match scoring. This means the score is the shooter’s total combined time on all stages plus any penalties accrued.

Penalties are as follows:
30 seconds for any rifle targets not engaged or neutralized.
15 seconds for any pistol targets not engaged or neutralized.
15 seconds for hitting a “No Shoot” target.
No more than 50% of the stages at a match can utilize an unlimited round count. At least 25% of the targets in Gas Gun Series match must be 2 MOA or smaller. Maximum distance is 800 yards.

Open Division: The Open Division rifles will not exceed a caliber of .30 or a velocity of 3,200 fps. A match DQ will result any rounds over the speed limit of 3,200 fps (+/- 32 fps for environmental factors and equipment discrepancies). Match Officials may request at any point during a match that a competitor fire their rifle through chronograph. If the bullet exceeds the 3,200 fps speed limit, the shooter will receive an automatic match DQ.

Tactical Light Division: Intended to allow competitors the opportunity tocompete using traditional military and law enforcement caliber. This promotes Active Duty military and law enforcement competitors use of their Service and Department-issued rifles. Tactical Light Division rifles are restricted to 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington calibers only. Bullet weight cannot exceed 77 grains and muzzle velocity cannot exceed 3,000 fps.

Tactical Heavy Division: Intended to allow competitors the opportunity to compete using traditional military and law enforcement caliber. This promotes Active Duty military and law enforcement competitors use of their Service and Department issued rifles. Tactical Heavy Division rifles are restricted to 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester calibers only. Bullet weight cannot exceed 178 grains and muzzle velocity cannot exceed 2,800 fps. No modified wildcat rounds permitted to shoot in the Tactical Divisions Anyone discovered violating this rule will receive an automatic Match DQ. Tactical Division shooters will shoot the exact same COF as Open Division shooters.

Permalink Competition, News, Tactical 1 Comment »
May 8th, 2010

Tech Tip: Fit One-Piece McFarland™ Gas Rings in Your AR

If you use an AR-platform rifle for varminting, multi-gun matches, or Service Rifle competition, one simple upgrade you can make to enhance reliability is to replace the mil-spec gas rings with a one-piece McFarland™ bolt gas ring. The McFarland ring is a single spiral of spring steel that loops around the bolt three times and leaves no path for gas leakage. With conventional gas rings, you need to correctly rotate each ring so the “gap” does not line up, thereby allowing gas blow-by that can cause cycling problems. The one-piece ring is an inexpensive, “set and forget” solution that eliminates the need to monitor your ring position on the bolt body.

McFarland 1-piece AR15 bolt gas ring

The one-piece McFarland gas ring is recommended by Fulton Armory and other AR experts. Installation is simple and the one-piece rings last a very long time. One AR user comments: “Ever since I tried single rings I would never change back to mil-spec rings. I’ve experienced more consistent recoils and cyclic rates of fire. And, as to wear — I haven’t worn one out yet.” On Brownells.com, two gunsmiths offered these reviews:

“Easy install, zero chance of a gap, one less thing to worry about in the bolt carrier group. This item should greatly improve gas pressure consistency. This is a ‘must have’ item.” — Jake, SC

“The concept is simple and sound. The one-piece gas ring removes the possibility of gaps lining up. It installs easily, holds great tension, and is cheap. Doesn’t get much better.” — Lane, TN

The McFarland™ one-piece bolt gas ring can be purchased from Brownells for $3.99 (item 100-001-257) or from Fulton Armory for $2.99 (item FA-AR-300-109). Purchase three or four at once to save on shipping costs — that should be enough for a decade of AR shooting.

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 12 Comments »