Pavlov’s Nut

I love guns.

This, of course, will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever read more than a page of posts on this website, or has been on this back porch of mine for longer than a couple of months.

There are many like me, of course, but to a lot of men, guns are tools (for hunting or pest control) or hobby implements (such as for competition shooting).

I’m not in that category.  I’m not a very competitive person, and frankly, I lack the dedication to want to put in hours of practice to become really skilled — and by the way, I was precisely the same way when it came to playing guitar:  I got good enough to make a living by playing bass in a band, but was too lazy to practice hard enough to become really good, like Chris Squire or Paul McCartney (never mind the gods like Mark King or Billy Sheehan).

Back to guns.

What brought all this to mind was when I re-watched the Forgotten Guns episode with Ian McCollum talking to Ken Hackathorn about the M1 Carbine.  McCollum is, as we all know, one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet when it comes to guns, and Hackathorn is one of the most accomplished shooters (and cognoscenti ) likewise.

However, when you watch the show, I want you to pay attention to Hackathorn when the two of them start talking about the M1 Carbine.  McCollum is holding the carbine and basically just… holding it.  Then he hands the thing over and you can tell by Hack’s every action that he truly loves the damn thing, and can’t stop playing with it, holding, stroking and patting it like a grandchild or a beloved dog.

I feel the same way about guns, especially guns of a previous generation.  In fact, about halfway through the video, I had to pause it while fetching my own M1 Carbine, and the rest of the time I spent basically mimicking Ken Hackathorn.

I have to tell you that while I agree pretty much with everything that was said on the video, I think Hack missed a key part of the attraction of the M1 Carbine.  He talked about how the men who actually had to use the thing liked it, despite all the gun’s perceived (and actual) shortcomings — but both he and Ian put it down to the carbine’s light weight and other physical characteristics.  They both missed an important point:  people love the little gun, love it beyond reason.

Like I do.

I’ll go as far as to say this:  every man who has any pretensions at all to being a shooter should own one of these wonderful guns.


Generational Mistakes

What is it about the .dotmil that it hasn’t been able to field a proper battle rifle since 1942?  (In case anyone’s missing my point, that would have been the M1 Garand.)

Now I’m not going to fall into that “they could still use that today without too much problem” trope (although they could, in a pinch);  getting the best-available rifle for whatever the technology can produce at the time is a laudable goal.

But right out of the gate, the U.S. Army has fucked it up since WWII.  Yes, soldiers needed to be able to carry more ammo — but did anyone of sound mind think the best plan for that goal would be in reducing the weight of the ammo by shifting to a .22-caliber bullet?

What gets up my nose is that the answer, even back then, was quite clear:  drop from a .30 bullet to, say, a .275-grain bullet — lighter than a .30, not as light as a .223, but still wonderfully effective against human targets.  Flat-shooting cartridges had been achieved before, when armies moved from the ~11mm- or .4x bullet to a 7mm/.30 bullet.  (Even that was not far enough;  back then the .dotmil wanted maximum punch from their bullets and the 7mm/.30 certainly did that.)

Funnily enough, the Brits came closest when they suggested a .276-caliber bullet, after the Great War, but the U.S. was still wedded to the .30, so thence to the .308/7.62mm which was shorter and lighter than the .30-06, but not enough.  With the .22 bullet, though, not only would the ammo be lighter but the “platform” (what used to be less-pretentiously called the “rifle”) could also be much lighter than the weighty Garand and M-14, and hence the Mattel plastic M-16 / M4 / M-whatever they call it now.

Leaving the cartridge aside for the moment, the next wave was the fascination with geegaws that would supposedly make infantrymen more effective: red-dot scopes instead of iron sights, flashlights and so one.

I have no quibbles with this development, mind you.  Modern dot-scopes are far better than iron sights, as long as battery life is not an issue.

The issue with these new mil-specs for the battle rifle is that the things become more complicated both to operate and to manufacture.  No problem with the latter, of course, because we’re Americans, and with proper equipment training (at which our .dotmil excels, by the way), the first issue becomes likewise moot.

No;  the real problem comes when the people who are drawing up the mil-spec requirements get carried away, and start adding features to both cartridge and rifle of ever-increasing ambition and scope.

Which is what we face today with the latest “generation” of battle rifles, which quite frankly has become a cluster-fuck of absolutely epic proportions, where ambition and wishful thinking have combined to grind the gears to a complete halt.

On all key technical measures, the Next Generation Squad Weapons program is imploding before Army’s very eyes. The program is on mechanical life support, with its progenitors at the Joint Chiefs obstinately now ramming the program through despite spectacularly failing multiple civilian-sector peer reviews almost immediately upon commercial release. 

Civilian testing problems have, or should have, sunk the program already. The XM-5/7 as it turns out fails a single round into a mud test. Given the platform is a piston-driven rifle it now lacks gas, as the M-16 was originally designed, to blow away debris from the eject port. Possibly aiming to avoid long-term health and safety issues associated with rifle gas, Army has selected an operating system less hardy in battlefield environments. A choice understandable in certain respects, however, in the larger scheme the decision presents potentially war-losing cost/benefit analysis. 

The new bullet is a waste of time:

The slight increase in ballistic coefficiency between the 6.8x51mm and 7.62x51mm cartridges neither justified the money pumped into the program nor does the slight increase in kinetic energy dumped on target. Itself a simple function of case pressurization within the bastardized 7.62mm case. Thus the net mechanical results of the program design-wise is a rifle still chambered in a 7.62×51 mm NATO base case (as the M-14), enjoying now two ways to charge the weapon and a folding stock.

…and we’re not even going to talk about the scope:

Another problem is the weapon sight. The Vortex XM-157, which may have critical components made in China, is most definitely not an ‘auto-aiming’ sight. For guaranteed hits, the shooter still must manually ‘ping’ the target. This takes back usable seconds and makes shooting 100% accurately on the fly, as envisioned under the program to justify the reduced available round count, an utter pipe dream. The scope is otherwise a normal scope.

And the conclusion:

Starting from a highly dubious intellectual, strategic and tactical baseline, the NGSW program is now failing mechanically and ballistically at once. Army came out hard with the program’s aims and expectations, unreasonably so, practically declaring a War on Physics from the outset. Unfortunately, like so many other antecedent programs Army has lost the war again, badly. In terms of weight, recoil, durability and ballistics, expectations vs reality are crashing down on Army right now, hard.

I don’t claim to be a military firearms expert,  but even I can tell a horrowshow fuckup when I see one.

What I can see is that the answer to the cartridge issue is simple:  6.5×40-something mm, e.g. the 6.5 Creedmoor.  (As a traditionalist, I’d say the 6.5x55mm Swede is superior in every respect to the Creedmoor except length — but action length is a big deal, so the Creed is a better option.)  What I haven’t seen is a rationale for why the U.S. Army hasn’t adopted a 6.5mm bullet, and is now pushing for a 6.8mm one (almost, once again, something akin to a .30 bullet, long since discarded).  Why?

Here’s what I do know.  The current procurement cock-up is going to end with our kids using a next-generation junk rifle (just like they had to do with the original Armalite, and the Brits had to endure with their first-generation SA-80).  We’re better than that, and our kids deserve better than that.

As for the Army procurement staff, they deserve a collective kick in the ass.

We Have A Winner

Reader Tom McH, call your office send me your details (your full name and address, and the name, address and phone # of your local Merchant Of Death).  Please include as well either the date of the Zelle transfer or (if you still have it) the confirmation code.  (For future reference, this is why paper checks make things a little easier… for the entrants as well as for me.)

Tom’s new gun:



I’m told that there are ways to improve one’s AK-47 (quit that sniggering, there), and said improvements come in these options:

Here are my thoughts.

I’ve never cared for the AK’s trigger, and as far as I’m concerned it’s the only change I’d do immediately — if, that is, I actually owned an AK.

There is one good reason to dump the old wooden fore-grip, and replace it with item A:  when you plan to fire 700 rounds on the trot through an AK.

Watch till the end to see how he extinguishes the fire.  Try doing that with your Mattell poodleshooter.

Boomershoot ULD Rifle – 2023

So after much anguished soul-searching, research and contemplation, here’s what I came up with (and all pics can be right-clicked to embiggen):

Rifle:  Savage 12 Long Range Precision (6.5mm Creedmoor)

Man, this is a bench rifle like few others.  Don’t even think of humping this puppy out in the field because you’ll break bones (collar-, leg-, back etc.), not to mention getting a thrombosis.

I didn’t like the Accu-Trigger.  I used them before and had no problems, but I do believe I’ve become spoiled by last year’s Howa 1500.  When I voiced my dissatisfaction with the Accu-Trigger, Dave The Gunsmith (henceforth known as Evil Dave) said, “You know, I have a Rifle Basix trigger group sitting in the back.  For an extra hundred, I’ll swap them out and set the pull to whatever you want.”

Holy crap.  “12oz?”  And it was done.

Scope:  Meopta Optika6:  5-30×56 Illuminated Mil-Dot 3 34mm FFP

Why did I go with the bigger (56mm bell and 34mm tube) scope than the normal 50mm/30mm specs?

Because the Merchant Of Death had it on sale, that’s why.

And whoa… what a difference.   I also popped for some Talley rings because they’re excellent.

Here’s what the setup looks like:

I dunno if it qualifies as an Evil Black Rifle, but it sure looks like it means business, dunnit?

“Yes, yes Kim, very nice… but how does it shoot?”

So I took it down to the 100-yard indoor range,and set about grappling with the gun.  Savage rifles are renowned for their budget price, reliability, ruggedness and accuracy.  They are not renowned for the silkiness of their operation.  The magazine release action nearly gave me a heart attack, and you have to slam the mag up into the well really hard, or else it doesn’t snap closed, but by the end of the session I’d worked it all out and it didn’t bother me too much.  The bolt, however, was silky smooth and we’ve already discussed the trigger.  Recoil was light because the gun’s weight soaked it up like a sponge.  Add a muzzle brake (which is not really necessary), and it would be akin to firing a .243 Win.

I fired off a few warm-up shots to foul the barrel and get used to the trigger.  Which almost worked, because when I got serious, I still managed to touch the damn trigger once by accident.  So I ended up with a 6-shot group that looked like this:

This will be our “Find The Called Flyer” Competition…

What this tells me is that if the shooter does his part and does not touch the trigger until he’s absolutely ready to fire, this Savage / Meopta combination will perform as advertised.  And that Hornady ammo is outstanding.

Cost for the whole rig came to a hair over $2,100 before sales tax.  If you want to emulate this rig for yourself, you could do a lot worse and not much better (without blowing stupid money).

Guys, I have always enjoyed shooting the Boomershoot ULD rigs — but this is the first time that I have been seriously reluctant to send it off to the winner (who will be announced tomorrow Wednesday March 8).  I would take it to any bench competition with the certain knowledge that I would not make a fool of myself (always allowing for my barely-adequate skill, of course).  I love the rifle, love the trigger and love the scope.

Game, set and flipping match.

Adequate Sufficiency

Today I’m going to talk about ammo — specifically, looking at ammo purchases realistically, and tailoring your ammo buys to fit your needs.  (Do not fall out of your chair;  yes, this is Kim and I haven’t been kidnapped.)  Let’s look at the thing via ammo type and likely need.

Rimfire:  As all my Readers should know by now, I consider the .22 to be a household commodity.  Everyone should have at least one (pistol and rifle), and ammo supplies should be gauged in terms of how much you’re likely to use over the next couple of years as a baseline.  If you think about .22 ammo as salt, you’ll see what I mean.  Pretty much everyone has at least 2lbs of salt in their pantry — even though your use thereof is measured in sprinkles — and realistically, that’s probably well over a year’s supply.  Ditto .22 ammo.  I’d consider 10 bricks (5,000 rounds) to be the absolute minimum you should have on hand.  You may not go plinking that often, but when you do, you’re going to dump at least a brick in a single session — I know I do — and the most embarrassing situation I can imagine is turning to your fellow-plinker and saying, “I’m sorry but I’ve run out of ammo;  we should probably go home now” when there’s at least a couple hours of daylight left.  (I get chills of shortage fear just thinking about it.)  The terms “running out” and “.22 ammo” should never occur together in a sentence.

Subset:  .22 Mag — I happen to love this (far too) expensive rimfire ammo, but I will confess that I only shoot enough to keep my eye in.  I have a couple-three thousand rounds on hand, just in the event I’m invited to go groundhog shooting in the woods, or something.

Hunting:  This can cover all kinds of hunting, and all sorts of cartridges.  What this means is that you don’t have to have 10,000 rounds of .30-30 or .30-06 on hand (unless you’re a handloader, in which case go nuts, with my blessing).  Let’s be honest for a moment, and suggest that you’re not going to go hunting every other day for a year with your Marlin lever rifle or Remington 700.  So how much ammo is “enough”?  Here I think that five years’ worth of ammo — call it 10 boxes (200 rounds) — is a decent minimum: your baseline, as it were.  I have about four hunting rifles in different chamberings, and I think I have just over 300 rounds for each one.  Frankly, that’s not going to be exhausted anytime soon.

Subset:  “Hobby” rifles (in my case, mil-surps, but for others, it may be bench / competition rifles).  Mil-surps don’t require a massive stockpile because you don’t shoot them that often.  I think I have about 200 rounds each of the various chamberings I own, and I think that’s sufficient given how seldom I shoot them.
Competition rifles are another story.  Not only do you need lots of ammo, but you’ll be tinkering with loads, bullet type and what have you.  Be they bench rifles, cowboy action or 3-gun sets, you’re going to need a ton of ammo — at least enough to cover a couple years’ worth of competition at your current rate of involvement.  Figure 300 rounds of 5.56 for your AR-15, times (say) twenty competitions per year, times two… I think you get my point.  Twenty-five or even fifty thousand rounds in your ammo locker is not an excessive stash — if one can call any ammo stash “excessive” (I don’t).
Shotgunning (clays or birds) is another activity that requires an awful lot of ammo if one competes or hunts extensively.  (Mr. Free Market has been known to buy shotgun ammo by the pallet before the bird season begins Over There, because his trigger pull count is prodigious.  When he goes on safari in Africa, however, he seldom takes — or needs — more than a couple boxes of .375 H&H.)

SHTF:  This is the thorniest question of all:  how much AR, AK or FN ammo (5.56x45mm, 7.62x39mm Commie or 7.62x51mm NATO) is “enough”?  Forget all that Red Dawn and “zombie invasion” bullshit.  What we’re talking about is a time when law and order breaks down or disappears completely, and you’re forced to be completely self-reliant in terms of self- and home defense.  Worst of all, in such a situation, is that you have no idea of its likely duration — a week?  a month? a year?  I’ll be completely honest:  I have about 5,000 rounds of “39” on hand, even though I know that I’m never likely to need anything like that much in the above scenario.  But I’ll also admit that I’d be much more comfortable with 20,000 rounds (or even more), if for no other reason than that I don’t trust our beloved government not to attempt to ban “military” calibers (as various governments have done all over the world since the early 1900s).  Which is why I continue to add to that amount, buying more when I have the funds, and being a little less profligate at my range sessions.  (It sucks, but as I’ve repeatedly said, I’m being realistic.)

I’m really helped by the fact that I bought a ton of ammo during the Good Times (early GWB years) when ammo was both cheap and readily available, which is why I don’t have to worry too much now.  I’ve pretty much settled into a “shoot 100, buy 150” pattern, unless one of the ammo outlets has a really good deal going.

To no small degree, the cost of ammo today has made it really difficult to amass a decent sufficiency — I’d hate to be a young man starting out from zero — which is why I’m building things up.  We should all be doing it For The Children© (in my case the Son&Heir) so that it won’t be too difficult for them.

Some may argue that the numbers I’ve listed (using the “likely need” and “historical use” criteria to set those levels) are completely inadequate, and that’s fine.  What I don’t want to do is shame anyone for having less, or make them feel overwhelmed by the amount of ammo needed for that adequate sufficiency.  But you know, nothing makes you feel more secure than a full ammo locker…