Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Range time... and the first shots fired.

I practice regularly off the range with our firearms. Dry-fire, target acquisition, reloads, malfunctions, assembly, dis-assembly, drawing from concealment, movement, seeking and taking cover, working with my gals (the team), running through scenarios, visualizing all of the previous in my mind... it's something I do continually. I'd recommend you do it too, but when it's all said and done... ultimately, in my opinion, you can't beat actual range time with your firearms... with actual ammunition that is what you carry or use every day... or at least very close to it.

My good friend Matt, over at Jerking the Trigger, joined me this past Saturday for some time on the range and conversation among men. I've known Matt for some years now and while he's my junior in years, he's definitely my senior in many gun-related matters, particularly with the ARs and AKs. Among the many moderm muskets he brought along, he had his trusty Smith & Wesson M&P15-22.  With ammo costs continually going up even without the mass shortages and hoarding going on all over... practicing with a .22 that completely matches the SOPs of your regular defensive rifle... makes good sense... except when you can't find any .22s.

Even so, dry-fire and .22s aside... I'm becoming more and more of the belief that ultimately, you can't replace practice with regular ammo in your regular firearm. Yeah, my groups and target transitions are amazing with the .22 during practice, but it can lead to a false sense of confidence and security in your abilities... just like dry-fire practice can.

That doesn't mean that practice and conditioning off the range or with lesser, cheaper ammunition in a similar gun isn't valuable, but if you haven't been on the range regularly... you may just be fooling yourself.  The gals and I are fortunate to have a shooting range out back we can use as often as we like, but we've also budgeted and planned for many years to maintain our shooting practice and skills.

Also, when I'm on the range, I'm concerned with the reality of my skills. It doesn't mean that I don't want to have fun and beat the clock, but the most important time on the Pact Club Shot Timer 3 is the first shots I fire on the range.  See, often when I go out back to the range, I'll set up my targets and other items... but then I walk over to a spot somewhere between five and fifty feet from the target... hit the timer button for a random delay... then draw and fire my gun from complete concealment... just as I carried it all day long.  THAT is the time most important to me... the first shots I fire... the shots fired cold... the shots that hit the target before I've warmed up and started to "game" my practice by re-trying and over-thinking my scenarios and set-ups.

Give it a try. Tracking your time for making good shots is an excellent indicator of how you're doing... but try tracking your times of your first shots fire each time you hit the range... not the best time you achieved on the range that day.  It might surprise you.

My pastor often says you can tell where most folks' priorities are by their check-books and day-planners. I hope your check-books and day-planners show that those of you who use and carry firearms for self-defense... are concerned with... Range time... and the first shots fired.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Magpul MagLink Magazine Coupler: More KISS

There are a lot of ways to carry spare magazine's for your AR. Some folks have chest rigs and belts and outfits that would intimidate a Navy SEAL or even the most over-equipped mall-ninja. There's nothing wrong with getting good equipment and practical ways to carry it, but sometimes more is actually less.

The gals and I often keep a rifle handy at night in addition to our other self and home defense firearms. When something goes bump in the night or the wiley coyote ventures too close to the house or barn... some folks gear-up, but we usually just grab the rifle. Having an extra mag for the rifle is always a good idea. The Magpul MagLink Magazine Couple allows you to do this by keeping the spare mag right on the rifle.

The coupler is made to work with both Gen2 and Gen3 PMAG magazines. It locks them securely together and you have some positioning options with the coupler and the magazines. Reloads are quick to index with two PMAGs perfectly spaced apart for fast insertion in the mag-well.

Yeah... two fully-loaded mags add weight to your gun, but when you grab your rifle in the middle of the night, you don't have to slow your self down grabbing and extra mag and stuffing it in your pocket or take the time to "kit-up" with a full chest rig.  Not this set-up will limit you to about sixty rounds, but at least you're not bumping around in the dark looking for your extra mag or chest rig.

I'm not saying that other "kits", chest-rigs, and gear don't have their place, but this is a good way to Keep It Simple, Stupid with rifle...  So if you want to keep it simple and straight forward, go with the Magpul MagLink Magazine Coupler: More KISS

Monday, August 5, 2013

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport: KISS Rifle

I've often jokingly said, "How much can you hang on to a gun before you can't hang on to a gun?" The idea of a KISS rifle... a Keep It Simple, Stupid rifle... has been around for a long time. While different folks with far more knowledge than I have have weighed in on this matter... My gal and I thought we'd share ours with you.

Some are primarily concerned about weight, some about cost, some about purpose (or mission for you tacticool folks), and some are worried about all three or other concerns. Phil Morden took the approach of looking at weight, while some want no electronics or batteries which Andrew discussed over at the Vuurwapen Blog a few years back. My friend Matt over at Jerking the Trigger even has some excellent digression about the Cult of KISS and why maybe what one thinks is simple may not be.

My gal and I decided to set-up a KISS AR15 rifle a little over a year ago.  We already have a number of KISS rifles in the form of Ruger Mini-14s... stainless steel with a sling and iron sights, an Aimpoint 9000L mounted in the rock-solid Ruger stainless steel 30mm scope rings, or the latest with an Aimpoint H1, but I'm not debating the Mini-14 verses AR15 platform as both have done what we've needed them to do over the years.

While I have had the opportunity to fire both full-auto M16s and a lot of AR15s over the years, I'm still newer to owning the AR15 platform as a primary rifle system for home and self-defense, but having owned and extensively used an AR for some time now, we have researched and developed our own criteria for a KISS AR15 rifle.  I'll try to lay out our needs and thought process on a KISS AR15 and why we chose our rifle and accessories.

We tried to balance cost, weight, and technology with our multi-purpose needs and some reality thrown in for good measure. We wanted a KISS rifle for home and self-defense, plinking and fun, and maybe some three-gun competition... plus it is not our only AR15 rifle. While our Ruger SR-556 is a piston-driven AR, we didn't feel that was the best for a KISS rifle. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport rifle is a solid platform with a good reputation of reliability to build on that is reasonably priced.

While the M&P15 Sport lacks a dust cover over the ejection port or a forward assist for the bolt... ninety-nine percent of the time, we are not crawling around in three-feet of muck and mud or diggin' in the dry sands of Afghan foot-hills. It has proven to have solid accuracy and reliability at a reasonable cost for us in fairly substantial usage under a variety of conditions including cold, heat, rain, etc. and we have yet to need the forward assist button to keep it up and running.

The A2-style front sight and the Magpul MBUS folding rear sight are factory standard and work very well, but we added the Aimpoint PRO red dot optic since for us, it helps greatly with speed of target acquisition and aiming.  You can still use the iron sights co-witnessing through the Aimpoint PRO optic or the Aimpoint and be quickly removed without tools if needed thanks to the large, torquing knob on the rail mount.  I know some don't think a battery operated device should be used on a KISS rifle, but we think it's worth it for quick aiming and the we've had years of experience with Aimpoint products and the PRO is an outstanding, reliable set-up... you can even just turn it on and leave it on 24/7 with it's three-plus year battery-life.

We decided to use the Streamlight TLR-S1 Weapon Light since we already have several, they are very reliable, and reasonably priced.  Unlike our other AR weapon light set-up, we didn't go with a remote pressure switch.

We mounted the light in the left side of the A2-style front sight with a rock-solid Midwest Industries MCTAR-01G2 Tactical Light Mount which allows mounting on either side and has quick-detach sling mount sockets if you want to connect a two-point sling of that far.

The mount positions the light for easy momentary-on using the shooter's left-hand thumb while keeping the grip and fingers and/or thumb off the A2-style front sight and barrel, which can get pretty hot... although I should note that the gals and I are all right-handed so it may not be ideal for a south-paw shooter.

Since most of our use of this rifle is for home and self-defense, plinking, fun, training, and maybe some three-gun... a single-point sling suits us just fine. We've had good luck and reliability with the well-made, single-point Troy Battle Sling with quick-detach swivel.  We connect it to a Troy Professional Grade Rifle Receiver Sling Adapter which offers both a left or right side quick-detach socket.

If you're really concerned about costs, there isn't much more we'd spend money on in setting up this rifle, but we did add a B5 Systems Bravo adjustable stock. The standard M4-style adjustable stock provided by Smith & Wesson appears to be as good a stock as any, but it does wobble a bit much like many do. We did add the Bravo stock which fits a little more snuggly and has a rubber butt-plate that is angled better for myself and my gal's mounting position.

The B5 Bravo also adds two more quick-detach sling mounts giving our rifle six total quick-detach sling mounts (although one is covered by the weapon light) to allow for many quickly changeable and detachable sling configurations. We also like the cheek weld we have with mounting the Bravo better than the standard M4-style stock.

I know some will be wondering specifically about the weight, so weighing the gun unloaded... and it comes in right at 7.6 pounds on a digital scale. As far as how much it will hit your bank account... the approximate consumer prices for the rifle ($700), optic ($400), light and mount ($140), sling and mount ($90)... so you're at right about $1,300 to $1,400 with tax and or shipping for most folks. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport had a barrel spec change in 2012 moving to the current six-land-groove configuration, but either way it is hard to beat this KISS AR15 rifle set-up or something similar for a good balance between cost, weight, purpose, reliability, and quality.

We have quite a few rounds through this set-up over the last few months in all kinds of weather... and it is holding up well without and functioning or reliability problems... and the Aimpoint Pro has been left on continually now for several months. Sure, you can add more to it, change something out, or take some away in your own set-up, but if nothing else... you now have something to think about and compare to and this set-up may even be a cost-effective tool for law enforcement folks on a budget.

Not a single modification on this rifle required more than an simple allen wrench/hex-head wrench to accomplish, so anyone can do it.  Maybe you'd swap out for a better muzzle device if you feel the cost is worth it, maybe an ambidextrous safety, or a different charging handle... it's all personal preference. The AR is truly the Lego's version of rifles and this rifle works for me and my gals despite our variances in size, weight, arm-length, and hand-size.

Everyone has their own preferences... so what do you think... when you have a look at our... Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport: KISS Rifle

So, what kind of KISS rifle have you set-up? What are your requirements?