Glorious SHOT week. Every year the depth and breadth of new product announcements gets a little bit bigger. Drinking from the firehose of flagship product debuts can be nearly as overwhelming as walking the endless SHOT show floor. There are so many shiny things to catch your attention it’s easy to miss a few along the way. So here you go- the kR-15 list of notabke new products for SHOT 2014
ATN X-Sight Day/Night Riflescopes
This optic looks awesome- switch from daylight to infrared on the same scope. HD video out, smartphone remote viewing app and more- for less than $700 retail. They are offering 3-9 and 5-12 power models to start but these will be hot items.
Tri-Star Cobra Marine Shotgun
Stainless steel to repel corrosion, spring-loaded forearm that claims to speed cycling (I’d like to try head to head with a Remington 870 or Mossy 500 to validate this one-but it sounds good), picatinny rail and more for $360 retail .
TacSol 300 BLK upper receiver
Tactical Solutions makes some awesome kit. Their aluminum barrels and receivers are accurate, attractive and well designed. It’s about time they tossed their proverbial hat into the BLK caliber. At $1100 retail it’s pricy just like all their stuff but if it is intriguing- the upper is ready to rock, includes a BCG and features a free-float handguard, barrel shroud that covers either your own suppressor or the tacticool fake suppressor that comes with it. They hint that the fake suppressor is required to attain a 16″ barrel length– not a big deal but be advised.
Tac-Con 3MR Fire Control Group
I remain on the fence for this one but it’s getting lots of smiley reviews from initial testers. It is basically the bump-fire concept encapsulated into a drop-in fire control group that includes a giggle switch for the rapid fire mode. The thing I like most about this is the 3rd selector position. From initial reviews it seems that the rapid fire mode shrinks the trigger reset to about 1/16″ and has a 2.5lb pull. At the end of the day bump fire isn’t accurate so is it useful? Maybe not but full auto isn’t accurate either and people seem to enjoy it- try to find a video of someone using the giggle switch where they aren’t smiling if you don’t believe me.
If you read the headlines you may have seen the press this week on Kentucky State Representative Leslie Combs. Combs was responsible for a negligent discharge of her Ruger LCP pistol while in the Kentucky State Captiol Annex. She was unloading the pistol and did not follow the proper safety procedure – which is the typical procedure for any semi-auto handgun:
- Remove the magazine
- Rack the slide
- Verify that the chamber is clear
Instead of following those simple and repeatable safety protocols she chose to pull the trigger without clearing the chamber and the result was a negligent discharge. It didn’t take long for the #bullymoms to call for Combs’ resignation– it’s a bit surprising considering the fact that Combs is a Democrat, but this is a reminder of the endless determination that the Civilian Disarmament complex has to accomplish its goals. This is NOT a partisan issue. This incident is only one example of the risks of negligent handling of firearms.
It should be a sobering reminder to everyone who carries in today’s America: whether you like it or not you are an ambassador of the 2A every time you carry a gun. If you act in a negligent manner with a firearm you are helping the Antis build their narrative. After the past 12 months of mainstream media (journolist) propaganda there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that reporters will gleefully seize every opportunity they can to attack the 2A. Everyone who carries a firearm can do a few simple things to prevent negligent discharges and all the bad consequences that come with them:
- Always follow the proper safe handling and unloading protocols. This should be obvious but it’s so absolutely vital that it must be repeated. Follow Coopers Laws of firearm safety to the absolute letter
- Check for safety recalls on your firearms. Even the popular Ruger LCP had a problem where some models could discharge if dropped not too long ago
- Use high quality holsters and never carry without a proper holster that covers the trigger guard
- Inspect your carry holsters for wear and replace them as needed
- If you plan to drop the hammer or striker on a pistol when it’s unloaded, double-check the chamber before you press the trigger
These are simple steps we all need to take – for safety and for Liberty.
It seems logical that anyone who keeps a firearm handy for defensive use would practice with that weapon to ensure that if they have to use it there are no surprises. This means practicing at close range (3 yds or less)- not 7 yds, not 25 yds and certainly not 50 yds. If you have an AR platform rifle or pistol as your primary home defense weapon or even as a potential option for home defense you owe it to your loved ones and yourself to practice close quarters handling and firing.
Bullet trajectory is an interesting phenomenon. Some good background on trajectory is here. If you want to be good at using your rifle in places other than a square range with targets at fixed distances take a few minutes to learn about what happens when you press the trigger.
The photo above illustrates a traditional sight picture (what is used for a typical range shot at a target 25 or more yds downrange). The chart in the trajectory article referenced above illustrates where a close quarters shot will go with pretty much any zero – you’re going to hit high low (thanks to D. Russell for catching and pointing this out) if you aim the way the photo above depicts. In fact you may miss the target entriely or fail to neutralize the threat- and neither result is acceptable when the safety of you and your loved ones is at risk.
This problem has a pretty easy solution- one that is reliable and repeatable enough for a wide range of people that the US Army teaches it. The proper method of aiming close quarters shots is to maintain the typical rifle shooting position (cheek weld, nose touching the charging handle, etc.) but to look over the rear sight and use the front sight the same way you always do.
The photo above illustrates this close quarters sight picture. Basically you want to position the base of the front sight on top of the ghost ring. The technique is reliable up to about 13 yards (12 meters) and allows you to engage threats quickly with the sort of accuracy required for self defense. In other words this should cover most home defense situations.
Be sure to get out to a place you can practice this- that’s one key to deliberate action in a life threatening situation. Also be certain that you are using ammo that is safe for home defense- Range ammo (FMJs), Most frangible ammo and even Defensive ammo like Hornaday TAP can easily exit the walls of your home and keep traveling. Be responsible and stay safe out there.
Count IMR 4198 (as you can see in the photo it’s an extruded powder) among the options for powders that can be used for loading subsonic rounds that cycle in AR platform rifles. Recipe was created and tuned using a Lee Precision 4-hole Turret Press with double-disc powder throw and load both factory BLK brass and 5.56 brass trimmed to 300BLK specs.
Performance: This recipe successfully cycles both a carbine length upper (and gas system) with a 16″ barrel and also a 9″ pistol length upper, w/o suppressor. No bolt hold-open on either upper in my testing. No signs of overpressure or instability. The test cartridges sounded quieter than the LilGun loads I fired afterward. Chrony readings coming soon.
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Caliber: 300 AAC Blackout (300 BLK)
Projectile: 190gr Sierra Match King HPBT
Primer: Winchester Small Rifle Primers
Powder: IMR 4198
Lee Auto-Disc setting(double disc): Top Disc 0.43 | Bottom Disc 0.47
Min OAL: 2.222
Max OAL: see discussion below
Regarding OAL I had to experiment to find a length that fed well. Here is my thought process to arrive at the OAL I set my dies to:
- The standard AR-15 mag accepts cartridges up to 2.260 OAL
- The SAAMI Specs show an acceptable range of 1.78-2.260 OAL for the 300 BLK (although 190gr SMK is a long projectile and as such will require a longer min OAL than the range defined in the SAAMI spec)
- My personal Min OAL: 2.140 to accommodate projectile length
This seems like a pretty big tolerance but remember that the BLK supports a wide range of projectiles that are different lengths. Since the 190gr SMK is one of the longer BLK projectiles I set my seating die to give me the longest possible cartridge-about 2.220 and ranging up to 2.240.
The 300 Blackout (BLK) is a fun rifle to own and use. It has tremendous versatility since it supports such a wide range of ammo- more specifically projectiles- many more than its parent cartridge-5.56 NATO. One of the favorite flavors of ammo for the BLK is the 220gr HPBT- it’s subsonic, 4 times heavier than common 55gr 5.56 and has tremendous stability. For most users this equates to excellent accuracy. Remington green box is a common commercial version of this load and handloaders use the 220gr Sierra MatchKing (SMK)- which is damn close to Remington’s projectile if it isn’t identical.
With availability fluctuating and prices running high–over the past year we have seen prices ranging from $38-$50 per box of 100 SMKs–it can get pricy to roll your own. Not as pricy as factory BLK ammo runs these days but still expensive when you’re in the $0.40 range per round (and that’s assuming your brass was free). Surely there have to be other options, right? Here are the ones my research revealed:
Option 1: Hornady 178gr and 208 gr A-Max
The A-Max runs a few dollars cheaper per box – typically around $30 / box of 100. They are high quality, may expand a bit more than the SMK (but don’t expect major mushrooming) and reliable quality. My recipe for 178 A-Max subsonic loads works great. Once I get my hands on some 208s I will post a recipe for those. They get bonus points for the red tip because it makes the ammo look extra evil.
Option 2: Surplus SMK 220 pulls
They can be difficult to find nowadays but if you keep an eye out for pulled bullets on the cheap. For those who don’t remember President Clinton left gun owners a little goodbye gift with an executive order that prevented sale of surplus ammo as whole units- now all are disassembled and used as components if it isn’t destroyed. Some bullets will have marks on them from the extraction process (see photo above for example- 175gr match but all I could find a photo of) and being loaded once can diminish the integrity of the projectiles– this results in dismissed accuracy. For cheap plinking though they are a good bet.
Option 3: Make your own boolits
If you have extra time and a little desire it’s not too difficult to get started casting your own bullets. Powder coating is a growing practice for cast bullets (boolits as they are known among aficionados) and can result in some really sweet looking ammo as pictured above that doesn’t foul your bore like raw lead projectiles. The cost of making your own comes out to pennies per projectile – well worth the effort if you can spare the time. Powder coating gives you the ability to make funky looking ammo too– I’d really like to make some of these someday.
Look for a Lee casting kit- you can pick up a mold for 230gr .308 and be set for projectiles in a short period of time for less than the cost of 500 SMKs. It takes time though and a good place to melt down the lead and cool the boolits. Old wheel weights are an abundant source of material for casting.
One of the “under the radar” gun control activities the POTUS has been working on pertains to BATF. Along with getting a White House pick for Director of the agency a couple executive orders were issued for ATF rule changes. You see, the ATF can change many of its rules without having to pass laws through Congress.
41P proposes to make these changes to the National Firearms Act (NFA), which governs possession of items like the ones pictured above:
The Department of Justice is planning to finalize a proposed rule to amend the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) regarding the making or transferring of a firearm under the National Firearms Act. As proposed, the rule would (1) add a definition for the term “responsible person”; (2) require each responsible person of a corporation, trust or legal entity to complete a specified form, and to submit photographs and fingerprints; and (3) modify the requirements regarding the certificate of the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO).
The first two changes are annoying but not horrible. The requirements change to require a CLEO signoff for corporations and trusts, however, is a big change. People who qualify as CLEO are typically elected officials- and a large number of them choose not to sign on any NFA items- so people cannot obtain them. That’s called gun control, ladies and gentlemen. Which of course is exactly what the DOJ and White House want.
The strange thing is that initial speculation was that this rule change would be slammed through in record time- especially with the public comment period ending the week of the anniversarry of the tragedy in Newtown, CT. But the link above indicates that the rule change won’t take effect until June 2014. That leaves people who want to purchase NFA items time to get paperwork filed – GunTrustLawyer is a good place to read up on the process if you are interested.
And for a jaw-dropping rumor (and it’s only a rumor right now)–I ran a cross a claim that a Class 3 (NFA) firearms dealer says his ATF examiner said that the whole rule change is a “No go” and that “nothing has changed, or is expected to“. Wow- if that proves to be true it would be a collossal FAIL for the White House on expanding gun control. I’m tempering my hopes but it’s a very pleasant thought, isn’t it? If you can substantiate this rumor please leave a comment below citing the source.
One year after the tragedy at Newtown who hasn’t thought about the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary?
The thing that saddens me the most about the post-Newtown world is this: are schools any safer in America? Contrary to rants by the POTUS the majority of Americans agree that Civilan Disarmament is not going to prevent another Newtown. So what about taking steps to harden or replace plate glass windows and doors in schools?
What about the classrooms? There should be two points of egress for every classroom and every classroom with a window should be equipped to get children out of the room in an emergency via the window. Or add emergency exit doors. Hardening the buildings and optimizing eacape options are inexpensive and logical actions that everyone should be able to support. Not learning from this tragedy and taking steps to prevent a similar event seems negligent to me.
Who will make it a priority to harden schools?
Now that we know the difference between MOA and MILs for reticles, which is the better option for a caliber like the 300 BLK? Using both supersonic and subsonic ammo requires the user to manage the details of vastly different trajectories. Optics designed specifically for the BLK manage this by offering a dual reticle that has BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation) markings for subsonic on one side and supersonic on the other side. Here is an example of one:
This doesn’t fulfill my needs though- what if I want to move my optic to a different gun? What if I decide tomorrow that .308 is my new favorite round (unlikely but you never know)? I’m a big fan of items that can be used for more than one purpose- and if you read the fine print in the image above you will notice that the drop reticles are specific to an exact projectile weight, velocity and barrel length. So if you want to use a 208gr A-Max subsonic round the BDC reticle of no longer accurate and you need to start figuring out adjustments.
So back to MOA or MILs : which system will be more useful for the BLK and other rifles?
The MIL system has lots of appeal to it- once you become proficient with it you can enjoy many benefits like:
If math problems like this one are not easy for you to do in your head you can purchase a funky slide-rule called the Mil-Dot Master. Or make a cheat sheet card and carry it with you.
And that is where I have to draw the line… That’s too much extra effort to figure out a shot for me. I’m no math wizard and I can’t ever fathom using my trusty slide rule to figure out how many dots to use to lead or hold over a target. With all due respect to the system, which is used every day by many professionals around the world, it’s not for me.
Now look at the MOA reticle below. While you need to know some reference points on the trajectory of your ammo if you run both super and subsonic rounds in a BLK, those numbers are easier for me to memorize than doing a mils calculation when you are using the secondary ammo (you zero the optic for your primary ammo, right?) And no matter what, 1″ at 100 yds = 1 MOA, 2″ at 200 yds, 3″ at 300 yds, etc.
Recently I explained my new thinking on ranges to sight in my BLK. However targets can appear at many different ranges and this is not a new problem relegated to the 300 Blackout. While BLK- specific optics feature dual reticles to help range different shots with subsonic and supersonic ammo, other systems exist and have been used with great success for many years.
The three common methods to correct for trajectory and/or wind on a shot outside your zero range are adjusting in inches, Mils or MOA. Inches are a system used in countless other applications so we won’t cover that method any further. But how can we simply define the other methods?
MOA stands for Minute of Angle. Imagine you divided a circle into 60 equal parts- like minutes on a clock. Except 1MOA is 1/60th of a degree. While that may seem complex the units make the system extremely user-friendly because at 100 yds 1 MOA always = 1.047″. In practical use that equates to 1″ per 100yds no matter what caliber or what distance. Knowing how many MOA per click you have on an optic, along with range of target is pretty much all you need to know for MOA.
MILs are a little different. The name is short for mili-radians: one thousandth of the distance to an object. Simply put, Mils allow the user to estimate the range to a target based on the size of the object (height/width) in the reticle. A MIL reticle has many dots on each axis that are used to accomplish this – sometimes referred to as MIL-dots. As you can see from the picture below this method is really clever but also requires strong mathematics or use of a reference chart/tool.
To use a mil-dot reticle effectively, all one need remember is that the distance between dot centers is 36″ at 1000 yards. This lets you determine the range of a target of known size. At that point, you can dial the scope in for proper elevation OR use the dots to hold over the proper amount. The dots on the horizontal crosshair can be used to lead a target (if you know the range to the target, then you’ll know the distance between dots, and thus the distance to lead) or to compensate for deflection.
Converting between the two systems is not a very clean exercise- check out the conversions noted in this image:
For that reason I think each user can choose between one system or the other. Watch this space for more on choosing the right optics for this- especially as it pertains to the BLK.
Awhile back I thought I knew everything and decided to blog about it. Case in point: what distance to zero your 300 Blackout (BLK) rifle. Quite a bit of what is written there makes send and is pragmatic. However as I have grown into my kit and decided what works and doesn’t work well a new approach has taken shape- and it’s worth sharing.
Let’s refer back to this handy trajectory chart for common 300 BLK loads:
Although I enjoy shooting subsonic rounds out of my BLK it’s cheaper and more enjoyable to fire supersonics when you’re at a range and your buddy is firing his 5.56. So for a supersonic zero I have changed to a 25/150 yard – as illustrated by the red line above. This leaves me dead on at 25 yds, about 2″ high at both 50 and 100 yds, back on zero at 150 yds and 5″ low at 200 yds. That’s not too much to remember and even without doping shots hits will deviate by about 2″ or less at any range from 0-250 yds.
Now to compare the blue line to represent subsonic rounds to the red line- big trajectory difference as one would expect. Figuring out holdover on the fly (and without a dual-reticle optic) is a nonstarter in this case. For the subsonic zero range: 10/100 yard zero. That setting leaves me 2″ high at 25 yds, 3″high at 50 yds, back to 2″ at 75 yds and zero at 100 yds. Again this not much to remember and 2″-3″ is not a lot of deviation without doping.
The sighting system I’m using now is flip-up BUIS for supersonics and my Aimpoint T1 for subsonics. If you take that approach make sure to use a rear sight with a narrow aperture so you can see through the optic and stay on the sight plane. My Troy di-optic rear site proved to be too wide for that task so it has returned to the interwebs from whence it came and I replaced it with a KAC. If you ever switch to BUIS and don’t remove your optic be wary of that problem- It stumped me when I sabotaged a range outing that way.