Sunday, June 16, 2019

Rasp Knife Project

A quick knife project I've been working on lately. I do believe there will be more of these because I have a couple more old US made files and rasps laying around. You can probably tell this thing was Esee inspired and it roughly the size of an Esee 6 - a bit shorter. Simple oak scales and corby bolts tie it all together. I mixed a dab of black paint into the epoxy to fill in the gaps made by the rasp and put cold blue around the edges just to help with corrosion. This is the real deal carbon steel and it'll rust with a dirty look.

outdoors handmade DIY
Finished product. Of course I wanted plenty of the rasp left intact.

handmade knife from old file heat treat
Heat treat on simple steels is not difficult to get right at all and this one took a razor edge.

Not the finest bevels ever, but this is totally freehand without a jig. Totally functional and simple to do. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Hornady Frontier Ammunition Pt2

In my last post I had just discovered the Hornady Frontier line pretty much by accident. A friend won a box at a local shooting match and after experiencing excellent results of his own he quickly came to me to try it out in my rifles. This lead me to further testing. Not everything shot as well as the 55 grain Spire Point, but others came real close. This post is going to be short and sweet, so let's just get to the point. I had good results from the 62 and 68 grain NATO marked match loads. This time on the range I had unfavorable conditions, in particular the wind, and I suspect that had some impact. But on top of that I was shooting the groups and the chronograph simultaneously. All I had time for was a quick measurement with the ole Leatherman and the 62 came in around that 5/8" mark again and the 68 something like 3/4". I am confident I can do better. However, what is very interesting about the 68 grain loading was the velocity. I got a five shot average of 3059 from my 18" barrel. That is pretty spectacular I think. For one of the higher BC bullets, a screaming velocity should give it just a little bit longer legs than your average higher weight load for the AR rifle. Even if it doesn't show the signs of laser accuracy that the lighter Spire Point did, it's still very good.

chrono testing, review, accuracy
The 68gr group - about 3/4" center-to-center. The 3 at the lower right are a different load and group.
chrohograph review, testing accuracy Hornady Frontier
And the 62gr group. Remarkably similar looking which probably says something about my shooting.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Project: True Precision on a Budget and No Handloading

The very first thing that needs to be said about accuracy in 2019 is; we are living in a golden age of barrels and AR components in general. The quality to cost ratio might be as good as it's ever been so when someone takes offense to the notion that real precision can be achieved for a lot less money than that person might have spent, you have to remember that it's not just possible, it's not really very difficult. That's just the nature of technology and the advancement of our understanding of anything, whether it's firearms or vehicle engines or cell phones.

It's also important to understand that the word "budget" is relative. My total for this rifle, including the optic, is $1100 in total parts costs (not necessarily what I spent, though I will provide that info as well). No doubt, it can be done for less and probably even as an off the shelf complete rifle, but the goal here wasn't to sort through a variety of rifles to discover which would shoot 1/2 MOA for the least amount of money. This project is for the builder who wants specific things and has tools, maybe trades and sells parts, and has spare parts lying around. In this case, I wanted a completely no frills rifle with a focus only on the parts important to the goal of accuracy. In my view those parts were the barrel as number one and the trigger as number two. Undoubtedly there are other ways to achieve total accuracy but they're going to increase the cost quite a bit.

But this is just a 50 yard, 3 shot group. Not exciting.
Up until yesterday, I could get one minute groups with this rifle shooting PPU match ammo at about fifty cents a round. It's pretty popular ammo in this space because it does shoot pretty well and at fifty cents, it's a good price for "match grade" ammo. This post's title says no handloading, but one minute groups aren't special today even with factory ammo, so my precision rifle was really just a scope at this point. Not good enough. Could it be that a better barrel or some other expensive component was needed to achieve true precision? Enter Hornady.

Hornady is an obvious choice when it comes to shooting tight groups but I thought the Frontier line was supposed to be "affordable" ammo, and therefore my automatic mental bias translates "affordable" as overpriced ammo that doesn't really shoot any better than anything else. Sorry Hornady, but when it comes to anything labeled affordable that actually costs more than truly affordable options, I am the world's biggest skeptic. And it looks like I was totally off base and just plain wrong in that assumption. More testing is going to be coming because of these spectacular initial results but at something like forty cents a round, this stuff is absolutely amazing. I'll soon be posting more groups with more loads from the massive Frontier line but for now all I have is the 55gr Spire Point.

5 shots, 100 yards, this IS exciting.
Keep in mind this is a FIVE shot group at 100 yards, from prone with a front and rear bag. It measures 9/16ths of an inch, center to center. I am far from a spectacular benchrest shooter. When I lay behind the scope my heart beat causes the reticle to bounce and I seem to never be able to break the shot at the bottom of a breath. It's just not the kind of shooting that trips my trigger, bad pun intended. I get impatient and I never feel totally relaxed or confident. My list of excuses is longer than anyone else's. However, I feel that this means there is a certain percentage that can be removed from any group I fire from any gun. In my mind, that's true of anyone. I'm saying, I don't think it is possible for me to prevent the barrel from moving enough to put holes any closer together than this. I was able to keep the reticle inside the one inch circle while I was shooting but all that means is the best I can hope for is shots within that one inch. It doesn't really mean the gun wouldn't just shoot all five bullets into the same hole if it were held in a machine. But what it does seem to indicate, with me as the shooter, in a practical shooting position, is this gun will reliably shoot this ammo very well by anyone's standards. What it absolutely indicates is the need for lots more shooting of Hornady's Frontier ammunition.

AR-15 rifle, SPR DMR, Exos Defense Ti-7 stock

You may have noticed that the parts pile at the top and the finished rifle aren't identical. The Strike Industries charging handle went to another gun and so did the Magpul Stock. I have plenty of mil-spec charging handles laying around and what I have found is that the Strike Industries latch for $9 is all I need. It goes on every rifle I assemble as a necessity. The Aero bolt went into a different gun. Things get switched around, you know how it is.

Based on reviews and forum chatter, I chose the Green Mountain Rifle barrel for this project. I don't feel there is any ballistic advantage to an 18" barrel and I usually try to steer people away from them if they think they are going to gain any meaningful velocity. However, 18 inches does get you a rifle length gas system and sometimes (and by sometimes I mean, this time) they are on sale for less than the 16" equivalent. And that matters. I partnered it with a gas block from SlipStream Precision because it had a nice finish that matched the barrel. The A2 flash hider came out of the parts box but I'd like to have a blasted finished one for matchy-matchy reasons.

The trigger and entire lower parts kit is from Del-Ton. At the time I just wanted an improved trigger without spending a fortune. Either I did a poor job of researching, or there weren't a lot of options but at the time it seemed that most of these traditional, 2-stage triggers were pretty much the same so I just got the one that was a good deal. I forget who makes this trigger but it's sold as an enhanced LPK by Del-Ton. Today, I would have went with the LaRue MBT-2S trigger for it. Why you ask? They are extremely similar in design and function. Well, this trigger has a sluggish reset. In fact, out of the box it would stick and not reset at all sometimes. All I had to do to remedy it was polish the snot out of the disconnector and it is working 100%. In the end though, the reset feel is not great. Is that important? Not really. It's not for shooting splits. I think it could be further improved as well.

My last grasp for precision was to lap the receiver. This inexpensive, and kinda roughly finished receiver was actually pretty much spot on square but I have the tool and it will probably be standard operating procedure for all AR projects so there it is. Take it or leave it.

Hornady Spire Point Frontier ammunition duracoat foliage aerosol

$101 Receivers. AR Stoner Upper and Anderson Ghost lower ($48/53).
$125 BCG. Aero. It now has a PSA which probably cost more like $80.
$185 Barrel. Green Mountain Rifle. 18" fluted stainless 1:8 Wylde.
$30 Gas Block. SlipStream Precision.
$20 Gas tube.
$9 Strike Latch. A Mil-Spec charging handle is probably $15.
$103 Ghost Firearms Rail.
$115 LPK w/2-stage trigger. Del-Ton.
$40 Buffer tube kit PSA. I think I had all this stuff so this is just what it costs from PSA.
$20 Magpul K2 grip. I'm sure I paid less than that.
$70 Exos Defense Stock.
$300 SWFA 10x fixed power optic.
$1118 total give or take. All of these numbers are what I paid shipped or what the thing costs listed today. There is a transfer fee to add and by the time you pay hazmat shipping on spray paint I spent $50 on Duracoat Aerosol for the paint job (which probably cut a 1/16th off the group size I'm sure). I also got the scope mount free from SWFA when I purchased a different scope from them.

So there it is. I'm not gonna say it's conclusive just yet, but we're verging on half-minute accuracy from a very affordable rifle, using very affordable off the shelf ammunition. Hopefully, I will have much more testing done soon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Tanfoglio Stock III Sniper Gray Cerakote and Lok Grips

uspsa tanfoglio, magazine extensions, review, multigun custom grips
I don't know when Tanfoglio released the Stock III pistol but for as long as I can remember knowing that it existed I have lusted for one. What I do know is that lust has been there for a long time. I could never justify the cost and found the CZ SP01 Shadow to be nearly, though not quite, as attractive at a lower price. Either way I never dropped the coin so which is the better looking pistol never really matter all that much. Options that were even cheaper than both of them got priority when practicality overruled beauty. That all changed about this time last year when I took one look at that tax return and I said, yeah I'm doing it. Like they say in the radio ads for a local car dealership, "Why the hell not? You're worth it!"

First thing was to order some mag extensions for it. Taylor Freelance had what I needed and even though I find the concept and associated price of these kinds of things really annoying, I pretty much need them for competitive shooting. A few companies have done it but I don't understand why it is not more common for firearm manufacturers producing a game oriented pistol to offer the exact same magazines in 141.25mm length. Even if they were a little more expensive, they would almost have to be cheaper than buying a magazine, then buying a base pad that costs as much or more than the magazine itself. If it required a simple plastic sleeve to prevent over insertion then fine. FN recently did this with their 509 Tactical but in their infinite wisdom the magazines are not USPSA 141.25mm legal. Ignore the fact that FN is involved in the shooting sports - apparently their tactical division doesn't speak to their gamer division. The base pads look cool I guess so that's that. Double your mag cost to look cool.

g10 grips iron cross, boondock saints, LOK Grips, Tanfoglio Stock III
Next, if I'm gonna have a dream pistol then it's gotta be all mine. In that vein I went to Lok Grips for some customization. They do spectacular work, and G10 offers excellent grip, plus I saw some awesome panels they did for another customer which included the cross and Veritas Aequitas text from Boondock Saints, one of my all time favorite movies. Needless to say, I had to have mine like that and the order was placed. The guys at Lok worked with me on color selection and the design. They went WAY above and beyond by sending me a set of test grips because these Tanfos can be a little wonky on fitment depending on the year of production. Of course they fit perfectly when it was all said and done. I got mine with a red accent because I seem to have a thing for gray and red. Even my home made holster carries on the theme.

I love the classic finish that comes on this pistol from the factory. The Stock series guns are made of steel, they're heavy and exude a level of traditional workmanship and elegance that modern plastic guns just cannot. So, all done up in blue, the flats came finished with a brushed shine and all the rounded sides with a satin blasted sheen. Make no mistake, it looked nice. However, my guns do work and nothing destroys a finish quite like the toxic grime excreted from my hands after a long day of multigun in hundred degree heat and equivalent Kansas humidity. It wasn't long and my shiny new Tanfo was developing rust spots. I wasn't sure what I was going to do about it but I knew something needed to happen eventually.

Taylor Freelance base pads magazine extensions +5
Sadly, the original beauty of this gun will have to be memorialized in photographs. As if it were ordained I won a Cerakote job at a local match late last year and I knew the obvious choice was my Tanfoglio. The real conundrum was, what color? In my mind there aren't a lot of color choices when refinishing a classy looking pistol. Even black wouldn't be good enough. Cerakote is a modern topical finish that doesn't exactly scream elegance for the most part. Rather than bringing out the beauty of steel the way bluing can, Cerakote is a candy shell that covers it up like the shell of an m&m covers up the chocolate. Luckily, there are exceptions and something modern finishes like Cerakote have managed to capture is a semblance of the color shift that gives it just a touch more character than a flat paint historically could. One such color is Sniper Gray. Is has a cool blue tone and such a smooth satin finish that in my mind it reaches sufficient elegance as to do justice to the gun.

The ubiquitous Dawson fiber optic front sight boosts up the sight picture speed to the levels necessary for fast shooting and the result is for me at least, a little bit of a grail gun. It's not wildly expensive but really just captures my personality and stands apart from every other gun on the range. Probably not many people run this gun in USPSA MultiGun and for sure no one who wants every advantage is running this in USPSA Pistol matches in Limited division. It's a 9mm so I'm shooting minor with no magwell in a DIY holster. Here's the thing. I'm never going to own a pistol in any caliber but 9mm unless someone else pays for it and pays me to shoot it. I think most gamer magwells are stupid looking and not really all that functional if you're practicing reloads like you should be. But that's me. I shoot stuff I like.

My Tanfoglio Stock III in its original finish and wood grips.

Pictured with my Zon Knives C-02 EDC.
A few shots of my homemade kydex gear.

Friday, February 1, 2019

It's Long Past Time for Tap-Rack-Bang to DIE!

Or more accurately, it's time for the use of tap-rack-bang as "immediate action" to die. We're going to call it TRB because it sounds stupid and stupid things deserve stupid acronyms. I gave up on the concept of using TRB for anything other than when it is absolutely appropriate a long time ago, in fact, I don't think I ever subscribed to it at all really.

Most people who shoot competitively - and I would think anyone who shoots a lot in general - do not use TRB to solve every malfunction a firearm can have. For one thing, it's a huge waste of time and it seems backwards to me that self defense and combat firearms instructors don't see time as a much more valuable thing when teaching life and death fighting techniques. In competitive shooting if the problem isn't solved in about a half second, the present magazine is completely abandoned, the gun is cleared and the shooter reloads. Anything else is time wasted and if you have spent any time on a range watching people use common "immediate action" drills during live fire (not this silly static, self-induced malfunction clearing exercise nonsense) you have seen how much time is lost performing actions that were never going to fix the problem to begin with.

The root issue is the concept that there are a number of "stoppages" and that they all need numbers and special terms and actions attached to them. Why are we memorizing a bunch of codes for the type of malfunction but we're beating the piss out of the magazine as step number one to fixing all of them? This is brain dead. There are only two things that will happen to your firearm; a dead trigger or a click. It makes absolutely no difference what "kind" of malfunction you just had, it's one of those two choices, forget the rest of the bullshit.

Problem number one; dead trigger. If the trigger is dead the gun did not function properly, period. Most of the time the magazine is just going to be in the way so get rid of it (I don't care what you do with it but use your brain), clear the shit that's stopping the gun from working, put the gun back into action and carry on. The only time a tap will help you here is if a round failed to fully strip from the magazine and enter the chamber. A tap MIGHT bump that round up, and allow the gun to go into battery. How interested are you in "might" and are you then going to rack that round out just because it's step number two? Moreover, this is assuming the empty case got out of the gun or there wasn't a secondary cause involved in stopping the round from getting out of the mag successfully. If there was, it's more likely than not you are wasting time tapping. Next, racking the slide might help, but most of the time it will not. If you take one look at the gun, see that it's simple to fix with a quick rack, do it. Use your brain, look at the gun, fix the problem. Last point here, TRB has as much chance of making the problem worse as it does better. Ask me if I think that's a good line of thinking. You tap the magazine, nothing changed because why would it? You then racked the slide, now you have a double feed or have nudged a round forward enough that it makes stripping the magazine difficult, why are you doing this? A more prudent question is; if you are receiving fire, is there time for any of this shit just standing around? The "immediate" solution to a gun that doesn't work should probably be to get somewhere you won't get shot while you fiddle around with your blaster.

Problem number two; click. If the trigger clicked the gun is working and is in battery. Let's get into that brain thing. If you just fired the first round out of a magazine and you get a click, take a wild guess what the problem is. Yeah, you failed to seat the magazine. So tell me, why do we go through a very specific administrative loading process only to have this happen? It will happen to you because you failed to properly prepare your weapon for shooting. It will never happen to you if you prepare your firearm correctly. Right now you are saying to yourself, yeah but magazine releases get bumped. You're right. And you're right if you think this is the part where I say TRB is the correct action to take. However, my point is, this type of "malfunction" should be extremely rare and certainly not grounds for a standard or "immediate" malfunction remediation action. You should be running a holster which minimizes the likelihood of this happening and you should be constantly aware of the condition of your rifle if you are wearing it as a large necklace.

BUT! You are the type of guy or bad ass chick who takes the preparation of the firearm very seriously and performs a standard and specific administrative loading procedure when preparing that firearm for action. You know that your magazine is ready to go. You also know that the click can be the result of faulty ammunition, or an empty magazine that for whatever reason failed to lock the bolt or slide open. Maybe you ride the slide release because you grip the pistol correctly (yes, I said correctly). You should be asking yourself, what is the real value of the tap? Have you been firing long enough to be empty? You know in your mind that you have fired many rounds, there is no reason to believe the magazine has been released during that time. Why tap it? You're right, you wouldn't and neither would I. I know faulty ammunition happens and my mag is seated. Rack that bitch and get back to work.

So in short for a wrap up; is there any real reason to tap your magazine when the gun doesn't go bang most of the time? No, not really. In fact, if you skip tap and go straight to rack and it doesn't work, have you wasted any more time than you would have had you tapped it first? Probably not in most cases. If you have a dead trigger is there really any value in even racking the gun? Probably not in most cases. So that's two out of three letters from the stupid acronym that aren't very useful, and only two of them have any real meaning anyway. If you change your "immediate" action for all malfunctions to strip mag, clear, reload, have you really lost anything over TRB for every malfunction? I doubt it.

Big take away; familiarize yourself with your firearm and perform specific and consistent administrative loading procedures every time you put that weapon into action. Do this far more often than you practice pointless self-induced malfunction drills. Second, ignore anyone who tells you that you should not examine malfunctions while on the practice range, and insists that they are only opportunities to practice clearing malfunctions. Malfunctions can be the result of many things, consistent and reoccurring malfunctions are the result of a gun that isn't working properly and the more you know about your gun and how it operates, the better shooter you will be and the fewer real life malfunctions you will encounter.

Examples! I felt kinda weird about embedding the video because it is not an example of things done incorrectly, it is just a video with examples of what I consider "evidence" within it. So I will just provide the link.
The video is from Carry Trainer. Their videos are awesome and I love them. You should watch this video and all of their others for the terrific content and learning opportunity that they contain. If you will skip to the 32:50 mark and the 36:05 mark (there might be more like at 37:10) you will witness induced rifle malfunctions. Before I give you the answer watch the video and tell me what else you see happen. In one you see a rack with no tap, in the other you see a tap and a rack. Now tell me in which instance the TRB immediate action worked?
The obvious answer? Neither instance. The real question is, why would it? To answer that we can say why it didn't. Tap didn't work because it wasn't a magazine issue. It was pointless to start with tap because that shooter experienced a dead trigger, not a click. He had been shooting and had no reason to suspect that he had dislodged his magazine. Rack didn't work because there was shit in the chamber, specifically an empty case free of the extractor's mighty grip. Racking relies entirely on the extractor to clear problems and it relies on the lower portion of the bolt to strip a cartridge off the magazine. Neither of these things are possible with something floating around in the gun. In fact, in both cases the end result was stripping the magazine and clearing the chamber of the offender(s) or lowering the gun in surrender. The second guy had no plan for ACTUALLY fixing the problem. The only tool he had was a stupid acronym. If he had simply pulled the mag, kept or abandoned it, cleared the rifle and reloaded, he would have spent a fraction of the time. We don't get to see how bad it ultimately was but it was bad. Worse still, yanking on the charging handle likely exacerbated the problem by moving a cartridge partially out of the magazine (or further out of the magazine), making stripping it that much more difficult. I'd be willing to bet the video cuts because that shooter never got back to business and had to move off to fix a serious problem that he had a hand in causing. All told, painful demonstrations of the enormous waste of time that is TRB.

As if the sea had parted, at the 38:30 mark TRB is abandoned for higher thinking and the problem is resolved instantly.