Friday, July 18, 2008

Choosing an AR-15

The following query was posted to a mailing list I'm on:

Am thinking about purchasing an AR15 but there are many different
models. Which do you recommend for both home protection and emergency
hunting? I would definitely want one that chambered both .223 and

Also what is the best scope for both quick target aquisition and very
precise (1 or 2 inches) shots out to say 150 yards? Would a zoom be
best? Also do they make a good scope that is also night vision?

And this is what I posted in reply:

I recommend going over to and perusing the technical forums,
along with the various tech manuals they have onsite.

In general, when looking for an AR15 to be used for defense I regard
the following features as requirements:

1. 5.56mm chamber. This improves reliability and allows you to shoot .
223 or 5.56 spec loads safely.
2. Chrome lined bore and chamber. Improves reliability and makes it
easier to clean.
3. Flat top upper receiver, which greatly simplifies adding optics.
4. Properly staked bolt carrier. Loose carrier keys contribute to
functioning problems.
5. Barrel twist of 1:9 is fine but 1:7 is better, because it will
handle heavier bullets.
6. A lightweight or M4 profile barrel is better than a heavy barrel on
a defensive rifle. HBARs are fine for target shooting but slow you
down for defensive work.
7. No match triggers on serious rifles. They aren't rugged enough.
8. Avoid the temptation to hang all sorts of tacticrap off your rifle.
9. I like having a telescoping stock. Aside from making the rifle
more compact for storage, it enables me to adjust length of pull for
different clothing (e.g., t-shirt vs. winter coat) or different

My rifle is a Colt AR-15A3 Tactical Carbine. The one feature I may
change on it is the barrel, it's a 1:9 twist HBAR. I'd prefer a
lightweight 1:7 twist barrel. Based on what I've read by instructors
who see lots of ammo go downrange, Colts tend to be the most reliable
of the major manufacturers. You pay a premium but on a defensive
rifle reliability is the single most important factor.

I've added a DPMS ambidextrous safety because I am left handed.

Unless you are running a suppressor or a short barreled rifle, a gas
piston upper is unnecessary. Learn to properly clean and lube your
rifle and it'll be reliable. (Hint: run it wet.)

For civilian defensive use the best choice for an optic is probably an
Aimpoint, non-magnified red dot. The Aimpoints offer very long
battery life, are very rugged, and fast. I have an IOR Valdada 3x25mm
CQB scope, which offers low magnification (important for me because if
I lose my glasses I'll at least have the scope) and is built like a
tank. I bought the IOR as a less expensive alternative to a Trijicon

I would avoid a zoom optic on a defensive carbine unless the highest
power is 4x. Murphy's Law dictates that when you need to use the
rifle up close the scope will be zoomed to the highest magnification,
which will slow you down. Illuminated reticles are a good, so you can
see them in poor light.

Stick with USGI milspec aluminum magazines or Magpul P-Mags. The
British and Singaporean steel mags are good, too, but may benefit from
replacement springs and/or followrs. HK mags are good but grossly
overpriced. Avoid no-name or USA-brand magazines, which are junk.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Site to Check Your Bank's Health

I ran across this today and thought it was worth passing on. This site will let you check on the health of your bank, something important in today's financial climate.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Potential Bio-Weapons Lab in Iran?

From Foxnews:

Hundreds of African monkeys are being taken from their natural habitat and sold for scientific experiments, as well to a "secretive" biological laboratory in Iran, London's Sunday Times reported.

In an undercover investigation by the Times, Tanzanian animal trader Nazir Manji said he sells some 4,000 vervet monkeys a year to laboratories all around the world for about $100 each


The biological research institute, which has headquarters near Tehran, has been accused in the past by an Iranian opposition group of conducting biological weapons testing, it is reported, further fueling suspicions that the monkeys are being used for nefarious purposes.

Full story.

Well, that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Picked up a Remington 870

I bought a Mossberg Mariner a couple of weeks ago, and earlier this week I got a LE trade-in Remington 870. I think I got shotgunitis. :-)

I traded off a Mini-14GB which didn't meet my reliability requirements, and got the 870 (plus some store credit). It has a 20" barrel, wood butt with recoil pad, wood corn cob forend, and a 20" barrel with rifle sights. It has the regular 4 round mag, no extension.

The bluing has some dings and marks. There are a few dings on the wood but not too much. I field stripped tonight and it was very clean on the inside with only a few wear marks.

According to Remington it was made around 1951, based on the serial number. This is a very early 870. I don't believe that 20" rifle sighted barrels were available then, so it's probably not the original barrel.

There are a couple of pics of the gun here.

Today, I installed a Fortman's left handed safety conversion. This took about 10 minutes, including getting out my set of gunsmith's punches. I still prefer my Mossberg's tang safety but this makes the Remington a lot more user friendly for me. The only other accessories I'm planning are a butt cuff or side saddle for extra ammo, and a sling. I considering maybe getting a magazine extension, since the gun hold only 4 rounds in the magazine. I may hold off on that and get a longer sporting barrel instead. In any event, I'm going to shoot it before I add anything else.

Along with the LH safety from MidwayUSA, I got a five boxes of Federal 2-3/4" low recoil 00 buckshot, and two boxes of the low recoil Tru-Ball slugs. The latter worked very well in my Mossberg Mariner, and I expect even better results in the Remington, with its rifle sights.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Mossberg Loc-Box Review

I recently decided to switch to a shotgun for my primary home defense piece. To that end, I picked up a Mossberg 500A Mariner in 12 gauge. Once the gun was proven at the range, I needed a way to secure it from curious kids.

I ordered a Loc-Box directly from Mossberg. It consists of two primary parts: the Loc-Box itself and a hook that goes into the muzzle of the gun.

Here's a pic of the main unit, with my shotgun in it:

The main reason for the hook is to stabilize the gun. The locking part of the unit is what secures it. Here's a pic of the muzzle:

Per the instructions, you are supposed to mount both parts to the wall by screwing them into a stud. Mossberg supplies three long wood screws for doing so. I did it slightly differently, attaching them to pieces of wood which are attached to the wall; one piece of wood was already in my closet, while the one for the muzzle hook is a scrap I attached to the sheetrock using Gorilla Glue and 8 drywall screws.

To use the Loc-Box, you unlock and open it. Then, slide the gun's muzzle up onto the hook, and then hang it on the hook through the open ejection port (the gun's action has to be open to put it in the Loc-Box). Then close and lock the unit. Here is a pic of the unit unlocked and open. You can see the hanging hook in the middle.

By hanging the gun on a hook through the open ejection port, there is no way to bring the gun into battery with the gun in the lock. Also, nothing goes inside the trigger guard. I specifically did not want a trigger lock because they can cause accidental discharges with loaded firearms.

As you may be able to tell, the hook that you hang the gun upon, and also the muzzle hook, are vinyl coated to protect your gun from scratches. The inside of the Loc-Box is padded, but the inside lip on the right is not. I covered the lip with electrical tape to prevent my shotgun from getting scratched.

The Loc-Box comes with two keys. I have one on a keychain on a hook hidden in the closet, with the other on the keychain I keep in my pocket. I can see fumbling for the keys in an emergency, especially in the dark, so I'll probably unlock the unit at night, then lock it in the morning. As shown in the picture, the Mossberg Mariner has the safety on, action open, one round of Remington OO buckshot on the carrier, and four in the magazine. A full reload rides in an Allen butt cuff.

Cost with shipping from Mossberg was around $40, which I consider reasonable. I do not believe that this will stop a determined thief. However, for those of you who need a device to secure a shotgun against curious children*, this is a good option. Aside from Mossberg's own shotguns, it will fit a Remington 870, and probably most other slide action gun, and many autos as well.

* I have two small children. I am firm believer in gun-proofing kids, rather than trying to child-proof guns. They know to not touch my guns without me there. But until they are older I wanted a second line of defense against curious hands.

Mossberg 500 Mariner Range Report

Back on June 24th I bought a new Mossberg 500 Mariner 12 gauge pump shotgun, to be used as a home defense gun. I got it to the range for the first time on July 3rd.

The gun has an 18.5" cylinder bore barrel and a capacity of 5+1. It's bone stock except for a Limbsaver recoil pad, a sling in QD Uncle Mike's swivels, and an Allen elastic butt cuff for spare ammo. The sling will be coming off once it's put into the Mossberg Loc-Box that I bought for keeping the gun in my closet; I don't want it hanging up on anything in the house.

I shot it at ~10 yards and 25 yards with three kinds of ammo, all 12 gauge 2-3/4" shells:

- Remington Express OO buck
- Winchester Ranger low recoil OO buck
- Federal low recoil Tru-Ball slugs

At 10 yards, the Remington buck stayed on a 9" paper plate. At 25 yards the pattern opened up significantly, but enough to put most of the load into an aggressor's chest. The Winchester Ranger buckshot did not pattern as well as the Remington. It would be interesting to see how each load would do through a choked barrel.

I had wanted to try Federal low recoil OO buck with Flite-Control wads, but the online vendors I checked with were all out of stock. I hope to pick up some and give them a try in the future. Another buckshot load that I think will be worth trying will be Remington's reduced recoil OO buck loaded with 8 pellets, vs. the standard 9 pellet loading.

I was very impressed with the Tru-Ball slugs. They recoiled noticeably less than even the Winchester low recoil buckshot, and seemed pretty accurate. My Mossberg has only a bead front sight but it was easy to keep all my shots on a paper plate at 25 yards with the slugs. I have no doubt that they would group much better if the gun had rifle sights. However, since my intended use for it is home defense at across-the-room range, I am planning to keep the factory bead sight.

The Mossberg had no malfunctions. The first round of Winchester buckshot which I fired required an extra strong tug on the forearm to eject it, but that's an ammo issue, not a gun issue, IMO. Follow rounds of Winchester also exhibited sticky extraction, though not quite as bad. Aside from that, the gun ran well and has a smooth action. I was able to rapidly put lead on target out at 25 yards, which serves my purpose and then some. I would not hesitate to grab it if I needed to go into harm's way.

The Limbsaver recoil pad works well. Compared with other 12 bore guns with recoil pads that I've fired, the Limbsaver is much more effective in taking the sting out. That is not to say the gun is a powder puff. About 30 rounds was all I could comfortably handle before the recoil started bothering me. Between my friends and I, we put about 60 rounds through the gun today.

In summary:

I'm dissappointed with the Winchester Ranger low recoil buck, so I'm glad I bought only 25 rounds of it. The 3 remaining boxes of Winchester buckshot will be used for practice only. (Note that this load may run fine and pattern well in your gun. Try it in your gun before writing it off.)

I am very pleased with the Mossberg 500 Mariner shotgun, the Limbsaver recoil pad, Remington buckshot and Federal Tru-Ball low recoil slugs. I'm looking forward to more trigger time with the Mossberg.