Using your AR-15, a shotgun or any long gun for home defense requires some different techniques than those used with a pistol. If you have an AR platform rifle (or any other long gun) as your designated home defense weapon you need to be absolutely certain to use proper defensive ammo and pay close attention to Coopers 4th law. That is, always be certain of your target and what lies beyond it. Many of us have neighbors close enough to our homes–always remember that when a projectile leaves your gun you own it until it stops moving.
There are two weapon-ready carry techniques the US Army teaches for close-quarters combat: low ready and high ready. High ready looks like this:
- Butt stock under the armpit
- Front sights under direct line of sight but within peripheral vision
- Barrel pointed slightly upward
- Eyes forward- keep your visual focus downrange
Low ready rifle carry is nearly the opposite (hopefully that’s not a surprise) and looks like this:
- Butt stock resting firmly on shoulder
- Barrel pointing downward at about a 45-degree angle
- Eyes forward- keep your visual focus downrange
To engage a threat from this position: raise the front of the weapon to acquire a close quarters sight picture.
Low ready is the most commonly used carry method and is the safest way to carry a rifle while remaining ready to take a reflexive shot if a threat is encountered. There are a couple other notable advantages to low ready for home defense:
- You can fire as you bring the rifle up to your sight picture and get rounds on target
- The rifle is in a more stable position offering a greater level of control and stability
- Fewer steps required to get your rifle into the fight
- The muzzle is pointed in a safer direction for most situations (unless you have loved ones or neighbors below you)
Unload your rifle and remove any mags or ammo from the immediate area at home and double check the chamber to ensure it is clear. Practice both methods a few times and you will quickly realize which is more comfortable- at the -15 residence it’s low ready all the way.
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.
While polling some like-minded enthusiasts on how often they give their carbines a thorough cleaning, someone offered a different approach to maintenance intervals that’s worth sharing. Nobody mentioned procedures for clearing tank guns as pictured above, but the photo is pretty cool. OK, back on topic: according to my informal research, people typically use a round count to define the interval for cleaning, maintenance and inspection of their firearms. 1000 rounds is a popular number for pistols and rifles.
Some people prefer to clean their firearms after each use- there is nothing wrong with this but it’s not the most efficient use of cleaning supplies and time. The one exception to consider is using a BoreSnake after every use. It’s fast and in most cases doesn’t require any disassembly. A clear bore helps the next shot fly true – and we can all benefit from that.
One thing that may not be easy to keep track of is the round count on a given weapon since it’s last cleaning. It doesn’t matter if you caught the black rifle bug (where you end up owning several black rifles after becoming enamored with your first one) or not– most people have more important things to keep in mind than how many rounds have gone through your 10/22.
Why worry about the round count at all? The brilliant suggestion I heard was pick a regular time interval and clean your firearms- every 90 days, every 60 days or whatever time interval aligns with your usage. This way you can set a reminder on your phone calendar, wall calendar, sun dial or however else you track the things you need to do.
The AR platform has a reputation for not operating reliably without regular cleanings- every 1000 rounds is a common interval. While this can be true with off-the-shelf configurations, a few simple drop-in upgrades can strengthen the rifle to ensure reliable operation for at least 80 standard capacity mags (2400 rounds) running the rifle dry. With a modern lubricant that will run dirty you should be able to get closer to 3000 rounds or beyond. Let’s start with the explanation of the problem source…
The popular myth is that the direct gas impingement system causes AR platform rifles to foul up by leaving powder and gas residue in the action (take a look at how it works and you can see how that seems plausible). Over time this supposedly results in fouling of the bolt and bolt carrier which manifest as failures to eject or to go into battery. Installing a heavier buffer, stronger action spring and a stronger extractor spring will take care of these problems by keeping the action working properly even as fouling occurs. The cost of these upgraded items is under $30 (plus shipping) if you go with the Sprinco enhanced reliability kit and a cheap H2 buffer from Amazon.
An H2 buffer and the Sprinco blue spring from their enhanced reliability kit are what I used in my rifle. That part doesn’t really merit photos- press the plunger down to release the buffer and spring and replace in the opposite order. The extractor spring was more interesting photo material so here is what you need to do to install it.
Disassemble your bolt carrier group the same way you would for maintenance:
Disassemble the extractor from the bolt like you would for normal cleaning (ignore the cam pin or set it next to the bolt if you insist on following directions to the letter):
Use a pliers to remove the O Ring from the extractor:
Now carefully remove the extractor spring and insert by twisting it counter clockwise and pulling:
Set the old extractor insert, spring and O ring aside and insert the new extractor insert, wider side down, into the extractor. Place the spring on top of it and press both into place using a pliers (wrap the ends in electrical tape to soften the grip area- even though the photos tell a different story).
Now replace the O ring and reassemble your bolt and the BCG (Bolt Carrier group). You may need to use the pliers to hold the extractor down now to replace the extractor pin- and that’s good because you now have a stronger extractor spring working to eject empty cases from your rifle. Here is a side by side comparison of the springs (Sprinco on the left and standard on the right):
This upgrade and a high performance lube like Frog Lube should be all you need to keep your AR running reliably through any extended use period. If you need to run it for more rounds without maintenance then there are bigger problems underfoot than a dirty rifle.
Basic fire control systems in AR type rifles can be rough. Heavy, creepy pulls, spongy breaks, and plenty of shots that could have been much more accurate…but that’s what you get with the basic models. Lots of upgrades are out there- the Geissele fire control groups like the one shown in this video spans the $200-$300 range and they aren’t too hard to install. Allen Ladieri makes it look easy too- the fire control group helps but this isn’t the first time he ran the gun and the drill we see.
The sound of the steel ringing is nearly musical, isn’t it? Enjoy your weekend and stay safe.
Eugene Stoner is credited as the design engineer who created the modern day musket– the fascinating machine known as the AR-15. At the heart of Stoner’s design is the direct gas impingement mechanism. As a shot breaks this is what happens:
Gas is tapped from the barrel as the bullet moves past a gas port located above the rifle’s front sight base. The gas rushes into the port and down a gas tube, located above the barrel, which runs from the front sight base into the AR-15’s upper receiver. Here, the gas tube protrudes into a “gas key” (bolt carrier key) which accepts the gas and funnels it into the bolt carrier.
What you see in the image above is more than the bolt carrier group (the bolt, firing pin and bolt carrier)- the grey part in the middle of the diagram is the bolt carrier and the light blue portion is the bolt. The firing pin is shown in purple.
The gas pushes the bolt carrier group backwards like a piston. As the carrier is driven backward by the gas, the bolt is pushed forward by the gas- unlocking it from the lugs on the chamber. As the bolt carrier continues to travel backward, it rotates the bolt slightly. The fired (and contracted) cartridge case is pulled from the chamber. As the cartridge case reaches the ejection port, the case pivots on the extractor hook from pressure of the ejector until it is sent flying free of the rifle- ideally leaving a lovely brass mark on the shell deflector.
The bolt carrier continues backward into the buffer tube (compressing the buffer and operating spring) while re-cocking the hammer until operating spring pressure or the buffer stops it. The operating spring returns the bolt carrier forward where it strips another round from the magazine up the feed ramps and into the chamber.
As the cartridge stops in the chamber, the bolt continues forward, causing the extractor to snap over the rim of the cartridge case. The bolt finally stops against the case head, but the carrier continues forward- where the cam surfaces, rotating back into a locked position when it meets the lugs on the chamber (thanks to Randall_Rausch for helping with this description).
It’s interesting to note that the bolt rotation turns the locking lugs automatically, the same way the bolt handle is turned manually on most bolt-action rifles. The lugs ensure the cartridge’s position in the chamber is correct and that the pressure is sent down the barrel, pushing the bullet. What a magnificent design, Mr. Stoner!
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.
Take a look at the trajectory chart above – most trajectory graphs look something like this, albeit typically less busy. Have you ever wondered why every trajectory is an arc? Why does every round start its trajectory off zero when it leaves the barrel?
The answer has to do with our old pal Gravity. The diagram below is a great example of what happens but it incorrectly uses the term ‘bore axis’. Bore axis describes the relationship between a users hand and the height of the bore on a given handgun. A higher bore axis (ex. on a revolver) results in increased muzzle flip while a lower bore axis (ex. on a Glock) results in less muzzle flip.
Now that we have the terminology gaffe addressed look at the image below. It’s easy to assume that the sight plane we establish on a rifle is perfectly flat. That’s not the case though- gravity is working on the projectile as soon as it leaves the barrel. To compensate for the inevitable projectile drop all sight planes factor an arc to hit the target at the desired range – which is achieved by creating a relationship between front and rear sights like you can see in the top half of the image below.
This is the same reason that adjusting your rear sight changes your zero yardage on an AR pattern rifle- moving that rear aperture up or down changes the POI to cross zero at the desired yardage.
Tac-Con is a company with an interesting idea. The 3MR: a drop-in trigger that offers a third fire mode (if you count safe as one mode). This new mode basically cuts down on trigger reset by using the motion if the bolt to assist. If that doesn’t sound impressive check it out in action:
If you watch the video closely you will notice the guy is pressing the trigger for every shot- and the reason that they have an ATF approval letter confirming that the trigger system does not convert a rifle into a machinegun. Price-wise they run a little more than slide-fire type stocks. The third selector switch setting is intriguing- definitely more streamlined than a sliding stock.
I’m not convinced it will perform quite as speedy with an average user running the rifle. I’d like to see one of these up against a skeletonized 3lb Timney to know if the assisted reset really is a cut above a match trigger. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on as initial evaluation units make the rounds.
Recently I spent a couple days working at my local gun club’s deer sight-in event. I landed a cool job- working the running deer target. The skill level of participants varied over the course of the days but this clip is a good example of the typical pass- dirt was the biggest threat to the running target.
A day of watching this play out over and over inspired this article- a few tips on how to shoot moving targets. The basic concept is pretty simple- lead your target enough to ensure that your shot can arrive at the desired point of impact at the right time to score a hit.
There are two types of moving targets as defined by the heroes at Camp LeJune: steady moving targets and stop-and-go moving targets. Steady moving targets are like the trolly-laden running deer in the video above. Stop-and-go targets are more erratic because they tend to run to and from points of cover or concealment. Stop-and-go targets are easiest to hit as they leave cover because they require time to accelerate.
The lead is the distance ahead of your target that you aim a shot to ensure that the projectile does not fall short of the target since it will keep moving after your shot breaks. Lead is affected by range, angle and speed of movement. There are three types of leads:
1) Full Lead. The target is moving straight across your line of sight with only one arm and half the body visible. This target requires a full lead because it will move the greatest distance across your line of sight during the flight of the bullet.
2) Half Lead. The target is moving obliquely across your line of sight (at about a 45 degree angle). One arm and over half of the back or chest are visible. This target requires half of a full lead because it will move half as far as a target moving directly across your line of sight during the flight of the bullet.
3) No Lead. A target moving directly toward or away from you presents a full view of both arms and the entire back or chest. No lead is required. This target is engaged in the same manner as a stationary target because it is not moving across your line of sight.
The USMC uses a system for calculating lead amount in points of aim- it’s covered here if you’re interested. There are two methods used to engage moving targets: tracking and trapping (aka ambush method).
Tracking a moving target requires the user to match the movement of the target with the front sight and establish the proper amount of lead before breaking the shot:
1) Point the weapon downrange and disengage safety.
2) Take up trigger slack and track the muzzle of the weapon through the target to the desired point of aim (lead). The point of aim may be on the target or some point in front of the target depending upon the target’s range, speed, and angle of movement.
3) Track and maintain focus on the front sight while applying trigger pressure and acquiring sight alignment.
4) Continue tracking and applying trigger pressure and acquire sight picture. When sight picture is established, engage the target while maintaining the proper point of aim (lead).
5) Follow through so the lead is maintained as the bullet exits the muzzle. Continuing to track also enables a second shot to be fired on target, if necessary.
Follow through is very important when tracking a target- if you stop moving before the shot breaks it is easy to miss. Remember that the target is still moving. Also this keeps you in position for a follow up shot if required.
The Trapping method requires the user to pick a spot and wait for the target to cross that spot. This method is useful for start-and-stop targets since a pattern can fequently be discerned if you study the movement quickly (OODA Loop again? Yep).
1) Look for a pattern of exposure, such as every five seconds, etc.
2) Rifle pointed downrange, safety off, trained on a selected point of aim ahead of the target. Take up trigger slack.
3) While applying trigger pressure, obtain sight alignment in the aiming area.
4) While continuing trigger pressure, hold sight alignment until the target moves into the predetermined engagement point and the desired sight picture is established.
5) When sight picture is acquired, engage the target.
6) Follow through (hold steady) so the sights are not disturbed as the bullet exits the muzzle.
And there you have it – two tried and true methods of engaging moving targets- 2 legged, 4 legged and even rolling! Stay safe out there.