Long Guns & Rifles

Earlier in the month I posted an article explaining why folks in the U.S. should consider an AK in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington.  Well, the Zastava Arms produced, Century Arms imported PAP M90NP could be the Best of All Worlds.  It’s basically an imported AK chambered in 5.56 NATO /.223 Remington, that accepts AR-15 mags, and has some SPR-spec features.  If you can find one, you’d be hard pressed to do better for the ~$800 price point.

PAPM90NP-1

First, what’s an SPR?

SPR is currently accepted to mean “Special Purpose Rifle“, and references the M16/A4 rifle platform modified at SOCOM’s request for vastly improved, longer range accuracy and terminal performance.  The latest incarnation, the MK12 Mod 0, is used by U.S. Army Special Forces / Rangers, U.S. Navy SEALs and U.S.M.C. Force Recon.  While the complete list of MK12 Mod 0 SPR specs is detailed, I’m only going to highlight the 18″, free-floated, heavy-contoured barrel, and 1:7 twist rate for purposes of this post.  Those traits reduce barrel harmonics and stabilize heavier, 69 – 77 grain bullets, enabling the rifle to meet its goals.  Civilian legal (semi-auto) SPR rifles, SPR uppers, and those with ‘SPR-like‘ features are available, but anything AR based with SPR features runs well over a thousand dollars, and goes up very quickly from there.  We’ll come back these specs in a bit, so keep ’em in mind.

 

The Zastava M90NP:  A high-quality AK, chambered in 5.56 NATO offers SPR-like features for a very reasonable price!

PAPM90NP-2

Aside from just being an AK chambered in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington, the M90NP provides a few SPR-spec features at fraction of the price. (I told you we’d come back to those specs.)  Zastava Arms has been producing firearms for 160 years, and currently produces a range of AK pattern, modern small arms for military, hunting and sporting purposes.  Not newcomers by any stretch, many of their offerings are a cut above, with a higher quality fit and finish and a better feature set than the competition.  The M90NP is no exception.  While the title of this post is admittedly a bit tongue-in-cheek (no mass produced AK is going to best a true mil-spec, hand-selected  SPR), the M90NP is loaded (pun intended) with great features, and ‘tics‘ quite a few SPR-spec boxes:

  • The M90NP has an 18.25”, cold hammer forged, heavy-contoured barrel, with a 1:7 twist.  By AK standards, the M90NP actually has a fairly thick barrel, a common trait of Zastava rifles.  That heavier, cold hammer forged, 18.25″ barrel, with a 1:7 twist provides improved longer range accuracy, and terminal ballistics, the same way that heavy, 18″ barrel and 1:7 twist do for an SPR.  Reduced barrel harmonics.  Longer powder burn.  Ability to stabilize heavier, more accurate, harder hitting bullets.  Those are great features for the money, certainly when you compare the M90NP to other 5.56 chambered AKs, and even when compared to entry level ARs in the ~$800 price range.  While AK isn’t traditionally known for match-grade accuracy, what are we really talking about, in practical terms?  Is it the difference between one-hole groups, and  2 – 5” groups at 100 yards?  That might not matter to the average, casual shooter.  It’s certainly not material for normal hunting, or defensive situations, where pie-plate and center of mass accuracy, respectively, are considered good enough.  Top the M90NP with a high-quality scope and, feed it match-grade, 69 – 77-grain ammo, and have the nut behind the trigger properly adjusted :-), and who knows how those groups might just tighten up quite nicely.  (We might just do that in the future.)
  • The M90NP takes ubiquitous, inexpensive M16/A4/AR-15 magazines.  That’s right.  Not only does the M90NP fire the most popular round in the U.S., but it also accepts all variants of the most popular magazine in the land, including GI issue mags and Magpul PMAG mags among others.  AK purists love to hate the polymer magazine adapter, and some have voiced concerns about its reliability, but polymer hasn’t been a problem for GLOCK.  It’s the same adapter used on the popular Zastava M85NP Pistol, and per all reports I’ve seen, it’s been proven rugged and reliable on both guns.  From a form over function perspective, this is actually a great, cost effective solution, especially when compared to other 5.56 AK variants that take proprietary, expensive magazines, which are sometimes as hard to find as the rifles themselves.
  • The M90NP is built like a tank because it’s based off a rifle designed with the ability to launch grenades.  The receiver is stamped from extra-thick, 1.5 mil steel, and it has the bugled front trunnion, so the M90NP is much stronger than the average AK.  While it certainly makes a great SHTF, camp or survival rifle, it’s no lightweight, and wouldn’t be my first if a lot of on-foot miles were on the agenda.  That said, the extra weight isn’t an issue for most recreational shooters or varmint / predator hunters.  If, God forbid, you need the M90NP in a defensive situation, I bet you won’t notice the 2 – 3 extra pounds, and I’m sure you’ll be thankful for the M90NP’s ruggedness and capability.

PAPM90NP-4

  • The M90NP has adjustable gas settings.  This is something you won’t even see on most AR’s, and it’s a nice feature.  Setting “1” allows the most amount of gas to escape, thereby driving the bolt rearward with the least amount of force, and having the least felt recoil.  Setting “2” is the middle setting, which is where most M90NP owners tend to leave it.  Setting “3” allows the least amount of gas to escape, thereby driving the bolt rearward with the most force.  I haven’t had the rifle long enough to really test this out, but in theory, setting “3” can come in handy if you’re shooting particularly light loads, or if your rifle is excessively dirty and having trouble cycling the bolt.  Just note setting “3” has the harshest felt recoil, and is harder on parts.

PAPM90NP5

  • The M90NP has a bolt hold open on the safety selector.  This is another nice trait of Zastava produced rifles, and actually a great overall safety feature.  Not only do many ranges require a bolt hold open of some kind, but being able to keep that bolt open can help you ensure your firearm is unloaded during cleaning and maintenance, or otherwise when working with your rifle.

PAPM90NP-3

So, who should consider the Zastava PAP M90NP?

Anyone looking for a cost effective, feature rich, modern sporting rifle based on arguably the most rugged, reliable platform in the World, that shoots the most popular round, and accepts the most popular magazines in the U.S.  Again, it’s the Best of All Worlds, with SPR-like features, from a company with a long history of producing high-quality, AK pattern rifles – and it’s relatively cheap.  

  • It’s an absolute blast (pun intended) at the range, and makes an outstanding ranch or truck gun – almost forgotten and basically neglected until needed.
  • If you’re heavily invested in the AR platform and ready for something new or different, the M90NP is a great, relatively low cost option.
  • If you’re AK-curious, the M90NP is the perfect option, without the need to commit to a new caliber, .  No new ammo, magazines or cleaning supplies.
  • If you’re an AK fan concerned about the future availability of cheap 7.62 x 39 ammo, the M90NP is an absolute no-brainer.
  • If you’re concerned about the future availability of such imported-based rifles, get an M90NP while you can.  

 

Competitive Options? How about, NONE!

Not only is the M90NP feature-wise the best 5.56 AK option available, but as of mid-2016, it’s the ONLY new production option readily available.  Arsenal discontinued their line of Bulgarian based SLR-106 5.56 chambered AK firearms in May 2013, making used SLR-106s very rare, and very expensive.  While supposedly new production, imported models exist, the Polish Beryl Archer is just as elusive, rare and expensive as the out of production SLR-106.  I couldn’t find a new Beryl Archer in-stock anywhere; not locally, nor online.  If you are lucky enough to find an SLR-106 or a Beryl Archer, expect to pay at least $1300, and that’s for a used rifle.

Hell, even if you could get a new SLR-106 or Beryl Archer, the M90NP has the better combination of features, for almost half the price, and may have a nicer fit and finish.  (I’ve not had a chance to get my hands on an SLR-106 or Beryl Archer for comparison purposes.)  The SLR-106 and Beryl Archer have 16.25″ barrels.  I’ll take the extra two inches.  (That’s what she said…)  The SLR-106 and Beryl Archer take proprietary, hard to find, imported, expensive magazines.  Neither has a selectable gas block.  Finally, the Polish Beryl Archer’s barrel has a 1:10 twist rate, which is a bit too restrictive for shooting heavier grain bullets.  So, unless you’re a collector who needs the Arsenal SLR-106 or the Polish Beryl Archer, I can’t think of one logical reason to pay over 50% more for arguably less rifle.  I’ll happily take the new-production, M90NP all day long, every day, with it’s heavier 18.25″, cold hammer forged, 1:7 twist barrel and AR magazines, and I’ll spend the leftover five-hundie on accessories, ammo and magazines.  Century Arms International has exclusive rights as the sole importer of M90NP rifles, and they are in-fact out of stock, with no plans that I’m aware of to get more anytime soon.  Get one SOON if you’re considering one of these fine, high-quality, feature-rich, imported rifles.    

 

Where to purchase the Zastava PAP M90NP.

If you’re in Northern NJ, you can find a great selection of Zastava PAP M90NP rifles, with all of the extremely important compliance work already done, as well as many other fantastic firearms and accessories, at RTSP in Randolph.  Of course, RTSP is an FFL, so even if you are not in NJ, they will be more than happy to ship an M90NP to your local FFL, and if you live in another ban state, RTSP is more than capable of completing any compliance work that needs to be done before shipping the rifle.  Just make sure you let them know exactly what needs to be done, since you are responsible for knowing your local laws!

I may do a future range review, but if you are not familiar with them, RTSP is Northern NJ’s premier indoor range, store and training facility.  They’ve earned a Nation Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) 5-Star range rating, which means RTSP demonstrates excellence in all aspects of management and operations, including appearance, customer service, amenities, customer development and community relations.  Their entire staff, including on-site gunsmiths, is extremely knowledgeable and friendly.  Their range facility is fantastic, with a huge selection of rental guns.  Their large retail space is fully stocked with handguns, rifles and shotguns, from the most high-end, semi-custom and custom works of art, to the more common, everyday guns, and they have plenty of popular accessories in stock.  Their state of the art training facility includes classroom, range, shoot house and digital simulation capabilities.

Check out this fantastic video for more info on RTSP:

 

When selecting the rifle for this review, the extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff at RTSP allowed me to examine their entire inventory of at least a half-dozen M90NP rifles, so I could hand-pick the best one – and they didn’t rush me at all!  Lest anyone think I got special treatment, this was during normal business hours, with plenty of other patrons around.  I almost couldn’t believe it.  That level of customer service is a stark contrast to other places I’ve shopped, where it took effort to get the owner to take even just one rifle down from the wall for me to examine, when I was the only person in the store.  Anyway, I ran down the usual, ‘imported AK QC checklist’ while looking over the M90NPs in RTSP’s inventory, checking for loose rivets on the receiver, canted front sights, canted gas selector hold-downs, or cycling issues.  Honestly, all of RTSP’s M90NPs were good.  Any one of them would have been acceptable.  In fact, I was surprised at how buttery smooth the M90NP’s action cycled, compared to some N-PAP M70 AK’s I’ve handled in the past.

Normally I would field strip, and thoroughly clean any new gun before taking it to the range.  I was already at the range, short on time, and as Brad and I joked, the M90NP is an AK…  So after Brad graciously allowed me perform a basic function check and run a bore snake down the barrel to ensure the rifle was safe to fire, I headed right to RTSP’s 25-yard rifle range…

How does it shoot?  What do I like, or not like?  What’s next?

You’ll just have to wait!  This post is already a monster.  Who knows, it might even be the start of a new series.  I have two different range reports and a bunch of changes in mind I may share in the future.  I mean, it’s already a bastardized, non-purist AK, so it’s the perfect platform to mod!

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

ak-47s

There are many who believe Mikhail Kalashnikov’s rifle design, itself heavily influenced by John Garand’s M1, is the most rugged and reliable rifle platform in the World.  Since being introduced in 1947, the AK-47 has been involved in every single, major world conflict, and while slightly refined over the last 69 years, the basic, fundamental, operating design remains unchanged.  If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.  The AK-47 has certainly endured the test of time, and proven itself reliable in some of the worst conditions imaginable.  Like it or hate it, you have to agree that even purely as a mechanical device, the AK-47 deserves serious respect!  It can be ridden hard, and put away wet, with minimal maintenance, and just keeps going.  (Not something I recommend you try with an AR.)

GoldenTiger762In case you haven’t noticed (2016 Firearms Industry Predictions & Why You Need to Consider the AK-47), the AK has become extremely popular in the United States over the last few years.  As of this writing, a variety of import based, and 100% U.S. made AK pattern rifles are available to civilians.  Big-name, major accessory manufactures, like Magpul and Geissele, have also started producing AK specific products, highlighting and increasing its continued popularity.  (If you build it, they will come…)  That said, most current AK offerings are chambered in traditional 7.62 x 39.  That’s understandable since 7.62 x 39 is easy to shoot, proven very effective, and for the moment…yes, for the moment…good, non-corrosive, imported ammo is both cheap, and plentiful.  Did I say for the moment?

The Case for an AK in 5.56 NATO!

556bullets

DCF 1.0

Different 5.56 NATO Rounds

We in the United States of America are a nation of AR-15 fans.  It’s estimated that throughout the U.S., there are between 1.5 – 3.2 million AR-15s owned by civilians, and the great majority of them are chambered in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington.  (As of mid-2016, that’s probably a low estimate, and doesn’t include all of the other semi-automatic and bolt action rifles also chambered for 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington, many of which accept AR-15 magazines.)  That means 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington and AR-15 magazines are ubiquitous.  I’m sure most of you have at least a few hundred rounds of 5.56 / .223 Remington, and at least a handful of AR-15 magazines in your house right now, not counting any secret stash.  Lucky for us, the 5.56 x 45 is a NATO cartridge, so chances are very good 5.56 / .223 ammunition will continue to be readily available and affordable, well into the foreseeable future.  

So 5.56 / .223 is plentiful, affordable, fun and easy to shoot all day long, without developing the dreaded flinch.  It’s a great round for general target shooting / paper punching, competition, varmint hunting, predator control and certainly home defense.  Hey, the 5.56 x 45 is still the intermediate cartridge of choice for all NATO countries.  The same cannot be said for 7.62 x 39.

What happens if the administration decides to ban the import of all 7.62 x 39 ammunition, which can happen in an instant, with the stroke of a pen?  How long would your current supply last?  How easy would it be to find more?  How much could you borrow or barter for from friends and neighbors?  Sure, a few big name U.S. ammo manufacturers have started producing 7.62 x 39, but have you checked prices?? I wouldn’t exactly call it cheap!!  Purists will have a hard time accepting an AK-47 chambered in anything that doesn’t begin with 7.62, and end with 39, but there’s definitely a lot more 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington than 7.62 x 39 out there, and the 5.56 / .223’s long-term future is definitely more secure.  If you live in the U.S., having the most rugged and reliable rifle in the world, chambered in the most common, readily available caliber in the country makes a lot of sense.

 

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was created with the purpose of safeguarding the freedom and security of its members, through political and military means.  As of mid-2016, there are 28 Member Countries across primarily North American and Europe, but also including Turkey, which straddles Europe and Western Asia.

…and Military Means”  NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes, but if diplomatic efforts fail, NATO has the military capacity needed to undertake crisis-management operations.  Such operations can be carried out under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, NATO’s founding treaty, or via UN mandate.  NATO countries may act alone, or in cooperation with other countries and international organizations.

As a result of the Treaty, NATO member countries have standardized use of certain ammunition for certain firearms:

  • 9×19 NATO is the sidearm, or handgun, cartridge of choice.
  • 5.56×45 NATO is the intermediate, or Assault Rifle, cartridge of choice.
  • 7.62×51 NATO is the longer-range rifle, sniper and medium machine gun cartridge of choice.  (Note that in some cases, other rounds are also used for long range sniping, such as the .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Lapua Magnum.)
NATO-Catridges

7.62×51, 5.56×45 & 9×19 NATO

 

The Benefits of Ammunition Standardization & Alignment for NATO Members.

Standardization and common use of ammunition provides the following, extremely important logistical benefits: 

  • Interoperability & Ammunition Sharing between NATO forces. 
  • Commonality of manufacturing, and reduced manufacturing costs. 
  • Widespread, Global availability, which greatly reduces delivery costs and complexities.

Knowing brave men and women from the United States proudly serve all over the globe, alongside militaries from other NATO member countries, standardization is a key strategy for ensuring ammo is always available, in large quantities, when and where needed, and doing so in a cost effective manner.

 

Why is this Important to Firearms Enthusiast?

Quite simply, NATO spec ammunition is effective, ubiquitous, and relatively cheap.  Despite what you read in some corners of the InterWeb, and while everything has limitations and tradeoffs, major NATO countries wouldn’t have standardized around these rounds.  Nor would these rounds continue to remain the standard if they weren’t effective.  And since they are the standards, 9×19, 5.56×45 and 7.62×51 can be found just about everywhere in the World; in large quantities, and generally at reasonable prices since “surplus” ammo is often made available to the public.  So, until something drastically changes (like the .300 Blackout supersedes 5.56 as the intermediate round of choice), NATO ammo will continue to be mass produced, and continue to be available at reasonable prices, long into the foreseeable future.  The same cannot necessarily be said for non-NATO imported ammo, and that’s without even getting into the doomsday, SHTF, prepper arguments, which we’ll leave to other corners of the InterWeb.   

Another benefit of guns designed to fire NATO rounds is that they can generally also safely fire the “civilian” version of the NATO round.  Depending upon the actual caliber you choose, this potentially gives you more options, and options are always good.  For example, guns chambered for 5.56 NATO can safely fire .223 Remington rounds, but the reverse is NOT true.  This is because per SAAMI specs, the 5.56 NATO round is loaded to a hire pressure than .223 Remington.  It’s a similar story for 9mm NATO ammo, where true mil-spec 9mm NATO is loaded to a higher pressure than standard 9×19 Luger.  9mm NATO is actually closer to “+P” SAAMI spec commercial ammo.  That said, since there is one in every bunch, it’s important to note that .308 Winchester is the outlier, where the opposite is true.  Civilian .308 ammunition, designed for long-range, big-game hunting, is actually hotter than standard mil-spec 7.62×51 ammo.  Just note that while these are generalities, it is up to YOU, in EACH and EVERY CASE, to ensure you use the proper ammunition for your firearm.  Not using the proper ammunition is dangerous, and could result in personal injury or death. 

So, if you live in a NATO Member country, you can’t go wrong choosing a gun that fires a standard NATO cartridge.

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

Wait, whaaaatt??!!  An AK-47?  Are you serious, Clark?! 

AK-47_type_II_Stamped

A Type 2 AK-47, the first machined receiver variation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Now listen, I’m as American as Apple Pie, and I truly love this great Country, but I’ve secretly had a thing for the AK-47 for a while.  Yet for a long time, I just couldn’t get past the AK’s traditional stigma.  You know, all the bad guys have one, and that’s what our enemies use.  Well, recently, a few things happened that changed my mind on the civilian version of the AK-47.  First, I heard reports of our guys, the good guys, using AK-47soverseas, and second, I’ve become adept at separating the gun itself from the person pulling the trigger.

In fact, just as I pointed out with the AR-15there are a number of great reasons for civilians to consider an AK-47 based variant, and judging by how popular the AK platform has become in the United States over the last two years or so here, I’m clearly not the only one who sees it.

But before we get to those reasons, let’s first all agree I’m talking about the semi-automatic, modern sporting, or civilian legal, version of the AK.  I’m NOT talking about a fully automatic, military weapon.  Second, and while there are some differences that would be important for other discussions, we’re not going to split hairs between AK variants let’s agree that for purposes of this article.  Whether it’s a Serbian produced Zastava, a Romanian WASR, a Bulgarian based Arsenal, a Chinese Norinco MAK 90 based import, or a 100% U.S. made Century Arms c39v2, DDI variant, or Kalashnikov-USA incarnation, if it’s based on Mikhail Kalashiknov’s long stroke, gas piston operated, rotating bolt design, and fires the 7.62×39, we’re gonna call it an AK, (even though it really might not be for true legalese purposes….)

N NPAP LO-Cap.jpg

A Century Arms imported, 100% new, low capacity N-PAP.

So, without further adieu, here are just a few GREAT Reasons to Consider a Civilian Legal AK-47:

  1. Home Defense / Protection, or “Without Rule of Law, (WROL)” Gun, a Nutnfancy term.  The AK-47 has a very well deserved, long running reputation for being easy to use, ultra reliable and “accurate enough” for conflict resolution.  Those key traits, combined with a large, .30 caliber bullet, make the AK-47, with it’s unmistakable profile, a very efficient, and effective home defense gun.  If you need something to defend your property, your house, campsite or your loved ones from critters, or bad guys, an AK-47 will certainly get the job done. With a roughly 16” barrel, an overall length of 36” and weighing-in around 7-8 lbs, the AK-47 is truly a carbine, making it easy to carry and quick handling.  These traits make it much more acceptable for CQB / home defense situations than a longer, potentially heavier, traditional hunting rifle or scatter gun.  Stand strong with an AK-47, instantly recognizable around the Globe, and everyone will know you mean business.

Wait, what’s “accurate enough” you ask?  The typical AK-47 should be able to produce 2 – 5” groups at 100 yards.  While that won’t win you any trophies, its more than adequate for hunting medium to large sized game, and for deterring bad guys, where anything in a 8-9”, pie-plate circle at 100 yards is considered good.  By way of contrast, a quality AR-15 in the right hands will produce groups you can cover with a quarter, if not same hole, or clover-leaf groups, at the same 100 yards.  (But is the AK’s perceived lack of inherent accuracy really the design of the gun itself, which may lend itself to deflection and springing?  Or is it poorly trained shooters?  What low quality ammo?  As a guy who punches paper and strives for tiny groups, I’d be very interested to see how much more accurate the AK-47 can be with high-quality, match grade ammo.)  Anyway, the AK-47 is generally considered “accurate enough” for serious work. 

2. Recreational Shooting. Thanks to what was a really great friend at the time, I shot my first AK-47 in 2003, and it was a blast!  pun intended.   There’s no denying the AK-47 is just plain FUN, and EASY TO SHOOT, and you know exactly what I mean if you’ve ever shot one.

Rock in the magazine. Slingshot bolt, which makes a ver distinctive sound, that is up there with racking a 12-gauge.  Shoulder the rifle. Pull the Trigger. BANG!

Each shot rewards you with a distinctive pop, but not the loud bark of an AR-15.  There’s enough of a kick to let you know you just shot a gun, but its neither unpleasant, nor painful, like some other .30 cal, and larger rifles. You can literally shoot an AK all day long and not develop the dreaded shooter’s flinch.  Want a really fun way to spend an afternoon in the back forty, or some time at the local range?  Well, the AK-47 is certainly fits the bill, very nicely.

3. Hunting Rifle.  If you like venison or bacon, an AK-47, chambered in the traditional 7.62 x 39 cartridge will certainly, legally, put food on the table, where your AR-15 may not.  As you may already know, there are many states where the AR-15’s standard 5.56 / .223 chambering is NOT legal for hunting deer sized game, because the .22 caliber bullet is just considered too small.  That’s one reason that despite their broader popularity, you don’t see many AR-15s in the deer woods.  Sure, you could easily swap-in an AR-15 upper chambered in 6.8SPC, .300 Blackout, 6.5 Grendel or something similar to get you there, but those uppers are expensive, and the ammo for them is really expensive. Enter the AK-47, which only costs a littler more than an low-end bolt gun, and aside from a 5 round magazine, is ready for the deer woods right out of the box.  Just make sure to wear your big boy pants and thick skin if you roll into hunt camp with an AK-47.  I can hear the comments now…

4. Pure Economics.  The AK-47’s Low Cost of Entry, Low Cost of Maintenance, and Low Cost to Shoot make it one of the BEST overall values in firearms today.  Look at the competitive options for a semi-automatic, modern sporting rifle, chambered for a centerfire cartridge.  You’ll see countless AR-15s, the least expensive from well known manufacturers like S&W and Rock River Arms will be ~$800.  (Though honestly, there are very good, less expensive options.)  You’ll also see Browning BARs, FN SCARs, IWI Tavors and Galil’s, Ruger Mini-14s, Sig 556Rs, Springfield M1s, M1As, and M1 Carbines, but almost all of those cost two, three, even FOUR TIMES the price of some, new manufactured AK-47 variant.  Plus, if you like to shoot a lot, and what firearms enthusiast doesn’t, you need to consider the cost of ammunition.  I advise against corrosive ammo, but you can generally be a lot less picky about what you feed your AK-47, than what you feed your AR-15.  So, I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot imported, steel or aluminum case, polymer coated ammo through an AK-47, and imported stuff can generally be found on the cheap.  (As of early 2016, you can get decent 7.62 x 39 ammo for ~$0.23 per round, as opposed to ~$0.35 – 0.40 per round for high quality, brass case 5.56 / .223.  It adds up if you shoot a lot.)  Finally, consider the long term cost of maintenance.  The AR-15 needs to be maintained diligently, likes to run wet, and was designed to have certain critical parts replaced after so many thousands of rounds, though most recreational shooters may never hit that threshold.  The AK-47, on the other hand, was made to be ridden hard and put away wet.  With fewer moving parts, looser overall tolerances, and generous areas for dirt and debris to hide before impeding the action, the AK-47 is much more forgiving if you don’t clean your firearms to pass U.S. Marine Corps inspection.  Since you can find good examples in $500 – $600 range, the AK-47 represents unmatched capability for the dollar, and that makes it extremely high value.

5. Historical Significance / Collector Item – While the M16 / M4 is the longest serving rifle in U.S. military history, and while the semi-automatic, civilian AR-15 version is by far the most popular rifle in America, the AK-47 is easily the most popular rifle in the World.  Consider that AK based firearms have been used in just about every military conflict outside of the U.S. over the last ~67 years, since roughly 1949.  The ease and low cost of manufacturing, ease of use / training, ease of maintenance, utter durability, and effectiveness continue to make the Kalashnikov family of firearms extremely popular.  The depth and breadth of just how widely used the AK-47 is, combined with just how long it’s been in service make it one of the most significant, and influential firearms of all time.  That makes it attractive as a collectible.  (If you’re looking for a collectible, I recommend an import, or import based AK-47 as opposed to a 100% U.S. made rifle.  To me, it just seems more authentic coming from a factory in Europe that has produced AK-47s for decades.) 

6. The Impending Ban – It’s no secret that despite actual crime statistics and despite logical reason, AR-15 and AK-47 firearms top every anti-gunner’s “ban” list.  In 2014, when President Obama banned the importation of Russian made Kalashnikov Concern rifles as part of sanctions against Russia, the price of Russian based Saiga’s  went through the roof, and supply dried up, almost overnight.  Well, look for that to possibly happen again, but this time to all other popular AK based imports, as 92 Democratic Senators have allegedly already requested that Obama extend his overreach, and ban the import of ALL AK-47 style rifles through additional Executive Action.  Finally, with a pivotal Presidential Election coming in November, I will tell you that if you’ve ever considered buying the semi-automatic, modern sporting version of the AK-47, you should do it NOW, while you still can.  This is especially true if you want an import based AK.

russian-saiga-7.62x39-ak47-iz132l

A Russian based Saiga.

Perhaps the Best Reason to Consider an AK is – ALL OF THEM.  The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts.  

As you can see, there are plenty of individual, legit reasons to own the semi-automatic, modern sporting version of the infamous AK-47, and you could easily justify the purchase with any one of the reasons above.

 

That said, the best reason, may just be… ALL OF THEM.  Things really come together when you take a step back, and consider the holistic view.  The AK-47 is really the proverbial Jack of All Trades, providing potentially unmatched reliability and capability for the dollar.  Just about any AK variant will be an extremely versatile rifle,  relatively inexpensive rifle to buy and inexpensive to shoot, while being easy learn & use, simple to maintain, forgiving if not kept meticulously clean, and something that can effectively flex into a multitude of useful roles.  If you’re on a tight budget and looking for one rifle that can do it all, you gotta consider the AK-47.  It might just be the perfect one-gun option, or ranch gun, or truck gun, or camp gun, or survival gun, or SHTF gun… 

72L_RI2245-N C39v2.jpg

Century Arms c39v2, with milled receiver. 

So, that’s it.  That’s why I think a civilian legal AK-47 based variant is actually a great, multi-use rifle, and why I think want to get one, sooner rather than later.  Let me know what you think?  Do you already have an AK?  Would you ever consider an AK?  Why or why not?

 

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

 

Earlier this month I was an official media guest of the NRA at the Great American Outdoor Show.  It’s  a big show, with plenty to see and do. The Great American Outdoor Show is open to the public, and open for business!  That’s right, in many cases, you can buy products and book trips right on the spot!

MediaCredentials

 

Direct form their site, The Great American Outdoor Show is a nine day event celebrating hunting, fishing and outdoor traditions that are treasured by millions of Americans and their families. The show features over 1,000 exhibitors ranging from shooting manufacturers to outfitters to fishing boats and RV’s, and archery to art covering 650,000 square feet of exhibit hall space! Not to mention a jam packed schedule including country concerts, fundraising dinners, speaking events, archery competitions, celebrity appearances, seminars, demonstrations and much more!”

A major highlight for me was ALL of the major firearms and accessory manufacturers in attendance, who brought plenty of guns and products for attendees to handle, and plenty of expert reps to happily answer your questions.

Another personal favorite were the many new, smaller, niche-market vendors I met, some with extremely innovative, exciting new products.  It’s the quintessential, grass-roots American Dream in action. 

I spent the better par of the day and evening at the show, but there were so many manufacturers and vendors to visit, products to see, demos to watch and seminars to attend, I wish I had at least two full days to cover everything!

 

Highlights, with Specials Thanks To…

Major Firearms & Accessory Manufacturers

Representatives from Mossberg, SIG Sauer, and Winchester Repeating Arms all spent a lot of time with me discussing their products, giving me detailed, hands-on demos, or even just finding product catalogs when they weren’t otherwise available.  I certainly appreciate their attention.

Geissele Automatics
Based in North Wales, PA, Geissele Automatics makes products for “the Competitor, the Warfighter and the Protector.”  In short, their triggers are the best you can put in your firearm!  This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the U.S. Government.  In fact, the DOD tapped Geissele for triggers for semi-automatic sniper rifles, and M4 carbines.  (Now you understand why a Geissele S3G found it’s way into my own AR.)  Geissele brought some great guns to the Great American Outdoor Show, all of which were, of course, fitted with Geissele triggers.  They also had a bunch of trick, innovative trigger housings that let attendees try out the triggers without having to install them in a firearm, and without damaging the trigger mechanism.  I spent a lot of time talking to James about their products, the guns they brought, and my own build.  The forest green AK they brought, with their new ALG AK-47 Trigger was lusted after by many!

Geissele2

Geissele

Up & Coming Firearms Manufacturers

Bond Arms, makers of the Derringer style Hand Cannon, and  IWI (Israel Weapon Industries), were on hand, and very happy to speak with me at length, about their products.

Since I had already highlighted Bond Arms in my 2015 SHOT Show coverage, it was great to get more hands-on with their product line, and to meet some of the key folks behind this innovative company, including President Gordon Bond.  As I examined all the different models of Hand Cannons, the interchangeable barrels, beautifully crafted grips, holsters and even Buck based knives, the words that kept coming to mind were, functional, overbuilt, high-class, and quality.  I can’t wait to spend some time at the range with a few of these models!

BondArms2  BondArms

 

IWI US, Inc. was also on-hand with an impressive selection of UZI PRO pistols, GALIL’s and TAVOR bullpups. In case your not familiar, IWI has an 80 year history, dating back to the (IMI) Israel Military Industries, of producing some of, “the most innovative, and legendary firearm brands used by militaries, law enforcement agencies and security personnel around the world.   IWI’s TAVOR SAR, launched in 2013, was the company’s first firearm squarely aimed (pun intended) at the US civilian / commercial market.  New 2015, after an almost 25 year hiatus, the AK-47 based GALIL ACE family of riles and pistols is coming back to the US civilian / commercial market. One of the IWI reps spent a lot of time with me reviewing their products – some of which I had never before seen up close, or wasn’t familiar with at all.  She even took the time to field-strip the TAVOR, right there, in mere seconds, with nothing more than a pen.  (The fact that she probably could have just as easily killed me with the same pen did not escape me…)  I can’t wait to get my hands on a GALIL for a detailed review!

IWIBooth

IWI_GALIL

 

 

Up and Coming Products

Viper Holsters, LLC.A good holster is like a comfortable pair of jeans.  If you don’t find a good, comfortable holster, you’ll likely start leaving your gun at home.  That’s not a good thing.  Unfortunately, you can’t test holsters until you buy them, and with an overwhelming array of choices out there – from super cheap to luxury items that are more fashion than function – most of us end up with a rather expensive box of “not quite right” holsters.  Well, Joe from Viper Holsters noticed this trend, and has created a line of Kydex and leather products to address the need for economical, high-quality, comfortable holsters.  Joe highlighted some of the product features that set his Viper Holsters apart from existing competitors, and it all makes perfect sense to me.  I did see both  quality and feature improvements in the samples Joe highlighted, when compared to commonly known competitors.  I’m hoping to get my hands on some of Joe’s Viper Holsters for a more in-depth review and  comparison.

TacticalWalls – This company’s “hidden in plain sight” idea is gonna make you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”  Let’s face it, if you have guns in the home, it’s a major responsibility to keep those guns out of the wrong hands.  At the same time, if you have guns in the home for protection, quick, easy access to your guns, and probably when you least expect it, is important for all the obvious reasons.  Made right here in the USA of high-quality (real wood), furniture grade components with high-end fit and finish, TacticalWalls has come up with a novel solution to both the security, and quick-access challenges.   I spent a lot of time speaking with Chris, and am really impressed by not only the basic idea, but how well it’s executed, the fit & finish, and the people behind TacticalWalls.  I’ll tell ya, even the Sig Sauer folks, who were right across the isle, couldn’t get enough, and helped make sure the TacticalWalls booth didn’t go unnoticed.  Look for an upcoming, detailed product review.

 TacticalWallsMirror TacticalWallsShelf

 

 

 

 

Knives, Holsters & Other Gear

Battle Horse Knives – Let’s face it, guns and knives go together like peanut butter and jelly!  If you’re into the shooting scene – be it for recreational, tactical, or hunting reasons –  you’re probably into the broader outdoor scene, to include fishing, camping, hiking and bushcraft.  This means, you’re probably  into knives.  WellBHK makes custom quality knives at production prices, so you won’t be afraid to actually take ’em out and use em in the woods!  Since I already have a couple of their knives and sheaths,  it was great to see them, and the rest of their product line in person, at the Great American Outdoor Show.  Look for some future in-depth reviews, and a special one-off project already in the works with BHK.   In the meantime, you gotta check ’em out: Battle Horse Knives


BHK_Booth

Ballistol – “The world’s most useful and environmentally friendly lubricant.”  I first learned of Ballistol from fellow firearms enthusiast and product reviewer Hickok45, and his Youtube channel.  (Hickok45 is on a very short-list of video bloggers, or vloggers, I find spot-on in terms of their logic & information, and first-rate in terms of quality.)  Supposedly good for firearms, knives, tools & hardware, leather, home & garden,  marine, road & trail, I’ve been seeking out Ballistol ever since.  I walked away from the Great American Outdoor Show with some product in hand, so look for an upcoming review.

Ballistol

Cold Steel – I’m a big fan of their products, which can easily be summed up as High-Value.  The Cold Steel Recon 1 and Voyager knives, both with the Tri-Ad lock, are regarded by many as two of the best hard-use folders on the market.  Cold Steel was in attendance with product on hand, and some phenominal pricing.  In fact, the Cold Steel Recon 4 and Lawman products I wanted were long gone.

OK Auto 4WD & Tire While guns, knives, related gear, fishing equipment, hunting guides, and taxidermy services dominated that show, there was a section dedicated to ATV’s, RV’s, 4×4’s and boats.  The guys from OK Auto 4WD & Tire spent a lot of time with me showing off tricked out vehicles from their shop and AEV.  If you’re not familiar with OK, click this link for a great, in-depth write-up.

 

Finally, I’d like to thank the NRA, America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen’s group, for not only such a great event, but also for being such gracious, easy to work with media & press hosts!  I’m certainly looking forward to the next large scale NRA event!

 

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.

Shot2015Logo

That’s right, this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show just wrapped-up.  I’ve scoured the Web, watched hours of videos, and checked out the latest posts from other blogs.  Here are the trends I noticed, and the products I’m excited about.

 

The AR-15 craze is slowing, but customizable offerings, 3-Gun ready models & AR-10s are still extremely popular.  

colt6920-oem1

Image courtesy of Looserounds.com

 

Don’t get me wrong, the AR-15 is still the most popular rifle in America, and for great reasons!  (Click here to understand why the AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America.)  Make no mistake, AR’s were still hot at SHOT, but they didn’t seem to dominate the show like in recent years.  Colt’s OEM1 & OEM2 bare bones offerings, the four new FN-15‘s and out of the box, 3-gun ready, affordable rifles, like those from Armalite all piqued my interest.  18″ barrels are again popular.  Makes sense to me!  AR-10s continue to gain popularity.  Same familiar, reliable, accurate, quick handling form factor and manageable recoil (at least in semi-auto), just delivering a bigger 7.62×51 payload?!  Yeah, I’m in.  Finally, just Right Carbines also has some cool looking pistol caliber AR based carbines.

 

AK-47’s – American Made AK-47’s!!

72L_RI2245-N C39v2.jpg

 

 

 

So, while the AR-15 continues to be the most popular rifle in America, the AK-47, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov is the most popular rifle in the World!  Why? They’re cheap and easy to produce.  They’re easy to use.  They’re effective.  Finally, they’re reliable.  Unbelievably reliable.  Loose tolerances that negatively impact accuracy, allow the AK to just keep running in the harshest, muddiest, dirtiest, dustiest, sandiest conditions.  Though traditionally seen by some as a “bad guy’s gun“, the AK-47 has always enjoyed some popularity in the United States.  This year the AK’s popularity has increased exponentially.  In part due to current Russian sanctions, which prevents importation, and in part due just to the increase in popularity of the platform, I’ve noted several “American Made” AK-47s, an AR-AK combination, and AK accessories from some of the best in the business.  Century ArmsPalmetto State Armory and former importer RWC Group all plan to produce American made AK-47’s.  Century Arms has incorporated a clever bolt hold-open into the safety selector.  Purely an admin feature, but helpful to those of us who like to comply with range safety practices.  Geissele’s got a new AK-47 trigger. Magpul’s got new AK furniture and magazines.  There’s even a mutant AR-AK combination; late 2014 CMMG released an AR-AK hybrid.  Mossberg also has a new .22 rimfire rifle, called the Blaze-47, styled after – you guessed it – the AK-47.  I shot a friends AK-47 back in 1994, and it was a blast!  (pun intended).  Such a fun gun to shoot, and I just had another friend, and fellow “good guy” pick one up.  Personally, I want one, but can I can get past the “bad guy gun” stigmatism??  (Does knowing some of our brave men and women in the armed forces have allegedly used AK’s as far back as Vietnam, and certainly in more recent conflicts help justify the decision?  Does buying an AK manufactured and assembled completely in the U.S. help?  I guess only time will tell.) 

 

Concealed Carry Handguns & Pocket Pistols Continue to Reign Supreme

the-all-new-taurus-curveNo surprises here.  People want personal protection.  Yes, even outside the home…  After all, isn’t that a basic right?!  There are still tons of great, and ever increasing options, but unlike the past few years, there was no specific, hotly anticipated new concealed carry gun.  Bond Arms has some new CA legal Hand Cannons amongst other things, S&W introduced ported variants of their very popular M&P line, Ruger increased the size of the LCP with various new offerings, and Taurus introduced the curve.  Still no return of the Remington R51, though I read on Guns, Holsters And Gear that it might be mid-summer.  Nor was there any sign of a single stack Glock 9mm. (Would a G42 in 9mm be any more concealable than the existing, and ever popular G26?  Is the striker fired, polymer framed, 9mm pocket pistol market too saturated?  Are they possibly working on it now?)

 

 

 

Colt Clearly Wants Consumer Business, Our Business!

ColtRailGun_BlackDespite history dating back to a manufacturing plant in Paterson, NJ in 1836, a long, successful history supplying firearms for the military & law enforcement, and one of the most iconic names in the business, I think it’s fair to say it’s been a while since Colt has been an “A” player in the consumer / civilian market.  Technically, they may have re-entered the civilian / off-duty concealed carry market back in 2007, but for the first time in a long while, at least in my opinion, Colt now clearly wants our consumer / civilian business, and this is a great thing!    Just look at their AR-15 and 1911 based product offerings, with features inspired by both the success of their USMC adopted CQBP (Close Quarters Battle Piston), and customer feedback.  Colt’s Rail Gun is 100-plus years of proven performance and historical significance, in the familiar 1911 battery of arms, combined with the modern convenience of a M1913 Picatinny Rail. I have to admit, I want one!

 

People Like to Customize Their Guns & The Manufacturers Have Noticed!

Ruger-LCP-Custom

Customized sights & trigger.

Let’s face it, people like to differentiate themselves from the crowd.  To make their things work better for them, based on their application and use.  To make things distinctly their own.  We do it to our houses, cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, computers and even our bodies.  Why not customize our guns, either with custom accessories, or even just custom colors & accents!  It’s a growing trend I don’t see slowing down anytime soon.  It’s also a trend that hasn’t been lost on the manufacturers.  While many mainstream firearms manufacturers have traditionally offered “custom shop” variants at significantly higher prices, some – Strum, Ruger & Co., Inc. in particular – now offer many more options than ever before for customizing production guns, either at time of order, or via owner / gunsmith installed accessories.

 

 

Double-Taps (aka quick-hit updates):

  • 1911’s, 1911’s & More 1911’s!  Still riding high from it’s 2011 Centennial, John Moses Browning’s timeless classic is as relevant and popular as ever.  Remington R1’s, Colt .45’s, Sig 1911’s, Ruger SR1911‘s, S&W 1911e’s and many, many more.  Though originally seen by die-hards as sacrilege, Full-size and Commander model 1911’s in calibers beyond just .45 ACP, particularly 9mm,  had a strong showing at SHOT 2015.  There was even a polymer 1911 from American Tactical Imports (ATI).  Personally, I’ll stick to classic .45 ACP, in some kind of metal based frame and slide.

 

  • 10mm Handguns.  Favored by handgun hunters and brown bear backcountry explorers, 10mm fans have two new options in the Glock 40 MOS and Sig 220.

 

  • Optics on handguns, and factory slides milled for them.  Putting red-dot style optics on handguns is becoming more and more popular.  So it seems natural that certain manufacturers are making this easier than ever, milling attachment points right into the factory slide, while retaining the traditional iron sights.  Glock’s MOS (Modular Optic System) is just one example.

 

  • Ruger 10/22 Takedown Bull Barrel & Stock Option.  Honestly, if you don’t have a Ruger 10/22, you need to get one!!  Ruger’s iconic, rotary-magazine-fed 10/22, introduced to the public in 1964, is one of the most popular, and customizable rifles of all time.  Since being announced in March 2012, the Ruger 10/22 takedown, like all other variants, has enjoyed tremendous popularity.  Well, the aftermarket is finally catching up with the takedown.  Popular 10/22 barrel & accessory manufacturer Tactical Solutions teamed up with famous grip and stock manufacturer Hogue to offer this new, very cool looking bull-barrel / stock combination.
TacSolHogueTakedown

Courtesy of Tactical Solutions

 

Knives & Flashlights… The future’s getting sharper, and looking brighter!

Knives – There are great new offerings from familiar names like Spyderco, Benchmade, Gerber, Kershaw / Zero ToleranceSOG, ESEEBuck, Condor Knife & Tool, CRKT, Emerson, Mora Kniv and Victorinox (Swiss Army).  Across the board, steels, handles, grinds, designs and features continue to get better.  (Honestly, I’m still enamored with some 2014 models; the proven Spyderco Manix 2 in CPM S110V with Dark Blue FRN handles, and Benchmade Hunt Series Grizzly Creek folder are prime examples.) There’s always a place for hard-use, no BS tactical / self defense blades.  They are, and will always be popular, especially with military and law enforcement personnel.  The same can be said for the never-ending need for good, high-quality EDC (Every Day Carry) blades, whether they be Chris Reeve Sabenza style ‘Gentleman’s Folders’ or more basic, utility type blades.  I couldn’t possibly cover all the new models here, but the good news is there’s really an overwhelming array of great choices available, so you almost can’t go wrong.  On the general public, mass-marketing end, focus seems to have shifted away from the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, Doomsday, Rambo Survival Knife, towards more practical, Outdoors, Bushcraft and Hunting knives. The Zombie Apocalypse phase was fun for a bit, but I think this new trend is a good thing.  While not exactly breaking news, ESEE’s Camp-Lore line is a prime example.  That RB3 is something I’m really hoping to get my hands on for a review.

 

Flashlights – By now, everyone knows LED’s are, no doubt, the way to go!  The lights keep getting smaller, lighter and brighter, while packing in more features.  There are handheld flashlights available today brighter than most automobile headlights.  Think about that… As if the ability to carry the sun in your pocket wasn’t enough, waterproof ratings & USB charging capabilities top the list of 2015 highlights.  Surefire and Streamlight have traditionally topped the list for Military, Law Enforcement and EMS professionals, for good reason, and of course they have new 2015 models.  In my own experience, and while there are some newer players to the game, I’ve found FOURSEVENS and Fenix Lighting to offer, high quality, competitive alternatives – sometimes even at a lower price point for more lumens.  While not exactly new for 2015, take the Fenix UC35; aircraft grade aluminum construction, waterproof, USB rechargeable, 960 lumensall for under $100?!! Seriously, how do you beat that?!!  There are also very interesting options, some at even lower price points, from EagleTac, ThruNite and Nitecore.  Though to-date I’ve no personal experience with those three brands.  (Look for that that to change in the very near future.)

 

That’s clearly not everything at SHOT 2015.  I didn’t even get into the many new, or improved more traditional, hunting / sporting and tactical marksmanship rifles.  Nor did I get into all the bags, packs, pouches or clothing.  There’s just not enough time in the day!  Anyway, that’s my initial take on this year’s SHOT Show, the products I’m looking for, and a bit on where I think the Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Industry is going.

 

What caught your eye?  What’s on your 2015 Guns, Knives, Flashlights & Gear Wishlist?  Let me know what you think!

 

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that over the last few years “high powered” pellet rifles have exploded in popularity.  And with good reason!  They offer a fantastic, low cost way to practice marksmanship and proper shooting technique, potentially without even leaving the yard.  They’re a good tool for introducing new folks to the shooting sports.  They’re a good, low noise option for dispatching nuisance critters of say the groundhog variety.  They’re a viable means for putting food on the table, and legal in many states for small game hunting.  Though I’m not sure I completely agree, some argue they’re also a great survival / SHTF option.  (Sure, I can absolutely see where it could have a role in such a situation, but it certainly won’t be the only thing I grab!  And I do have to admit it’s definitely better than nothing if it’s all you have, because it gives you options.  Like I always say, options are good!)  Finally, we should all agree pellet rifles are certainly an excellent way to kill an afternoon with an impromptu “shooting gallery” enjoyed by family and friends.

If you are new to the scene, a high-powered pellet rifle is one that can, generally speaking, send a .22 caliber pellet downrange at 800 fps or better, or a .177 caliber pellet downrange at 1,000 fps or better.  And these days, there are many options in the “or better” range, with the latest crop of break barrel inert gas technology (IGT) rifles boasting 1,000 fps and 1200 – 1400+ fps velocities for .22 and .177 caliber pellets respectively.

Pellet rifles today come in four popular calibers,  .177, .20, .22 and .25, but the .177 and .22 are without a doubt the two most popular.  Of those two champs, the .177 is most common.  With proper ammunition and shot placement, and assuming a reasonable shooting distance, both should do the job on anything you’d humanely target with a pellet rifle. Though I have heard of some tough groundhogs out there!  And yes, I’m assuming a great deal of common sense and good judgement on the part of my readers here.

Sandy: I want you to KILL every gopher on the course!

Carl Spackler: Correct me if I’m wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they’re gonna lock me up and throw away the key…

Sandy: Not golfers, you great fool! Gophers! The *little* *brown*, *furry* *rodents* -!

For you “Caddy Shack” fans…

Back to the topic at hand, the .22 will definitely give you better knock down power, courtesy of a bigger, slower projectile, when compared to the .177, and the ability to reach out a bit further, but at least at the time of this writing, .177 rifles and pellets will be easier to find, have more pellet design & weight options readily available, and will be slightly cheaper.  I doubt most chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels or crows will know the difference and it won’t matter a lick if you’re primarily punching paper.  However, if you plan on regularly going after bigger small game, like killing all the Gophers, *little* *brown*, *furry* *rodents*, or if you just want more effective range, then stepping up to a .22 is the right move for you.

While we’re on the subject, just because your new high power pellet rifle can theoretically (advertised speeds are seldom true to life) send a .177 caliber projectile into the atmosphere at 1200 – 1400+ fps, realize that such speeds often don’t result in the best accuracy.  You see, unlike a bullet fired from a rifle, which typically stays supersonic throughout its entire journey, (except for various .22lr loads intended to be subsonic), a light .177 pellet can be affected, sometimes dramatically, as it transitions from supersonic to subsonic.  This can result in the pellet tumbling, or yawing on its way to the target, and that will negatively affect accuracy.  One solution is to slowly increase pellet weight until you find a pellet that stays subsonic when shot from your rifle, but that also shoots accurately, reliably and safely.  Pellets in the 7.9 to 10 grain range work for me, but your mileage may vary.  It’s up to you to safely figure it out for your particular pellet rifle.

Either way, if we’re talking about break barrel rifles, inert gas technology / gas-piston designs are better than traditional spring powered rifles because, there is no spring to wear out, you can leave an IGT / GP pellet rifle cocked longer without fear of damaging the spring, recoil is generally less noticeable, and they’re generally quieter.

If there’s one thing in this article that might shock my readers, it’s likely the price of these modern, high powered air rifles.  While some can be had for less, the $180 – $280 spread takes you from the sweet spot to basically state of the art.  Again, I’m talking break barrels here.  Yup, all day long you can find Ruger 10/22’s and other great .22lr rifle options for the same, or less money.  But you can’t necessarily shoot those in your backyard!  Nor can you get 500 rounds of .22lr for ~$10 anymore. 

Stick with something from Benjamin, Gamo or RWS and you pretty much can’t go wrong.  

Now, before you run out to your local sporting goods store be sure to check your local and state laws!  Some states do consider bb-guns and pellet guns firearms.  It’s up to you to know, and follow the laws in your area.  Also, these high power pellet rifles are NOT TOYS, make NO mistake about it, so the safe handling rules you follow with firearms definitely apply:

1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in the safe direction.

2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

For decades, kids all across America have grown up with bb-guns, and probably have fond memories of plinking cans or pie plates in the backyard, and maybe even carrying trusty “OLD BLUE” on a first “hunting” trip with Dad.  So, if it’s been a few years (or decades) since you put away that Red Ryder or 10-Pump Crossman, it’s definitely time to check out thew new breed of high powered pellet guns.  This ain’t your Granddaddy’s Red Ryder…

 

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

 

© 2014 Inside The X Ring.

You guessed it.  I Built My Own!

SP223

Here’s the story.

By mid-November 2012, I vowed to make a purchase I had previously put off for far too long.  It would be similar to an AR, one of the most popular rifles in modern, U.S. History.  When you look at the service record and historical significance, plus the NRA Instructor training tool, recreational, competition, hunting and self / home defense applications of the rifle, I almost can’t believe I waited so long to pull the trigger. (pun intended)

Like most of my readers, I wanted one for a long time.  Also like most of my readers, I need to balance financial responsibilities and I take my gun purchases very seriously.  With the political landscape threatening the Constitutionally provided, Second Amendment American Right more than ever, I decided it was time.  (Isn’t it amazing how demand for an item dramatically increases when people fear they won’t be able to get that item in the future?)

While I really wanted to build one, I couldn’t build something similar to the Stag Arms Model 3G for less than what it cost at my LGS (Local Gun Store).  It was there.  Fully assembled.  Warrantied.  Immediately Good-to-Go.  That Stag 3G is a great gun, and represents tremendous value for the money.  So, after saving up the funds, the day finally came when I went to my LGS, cash in hand, to put my money down on a Stag Arms Model 3G.

I was a day late, and dollar short as they say.  Literally, just one day before, someone else had put a deposit down on the last 3G in stock.  Shortly after that, I committed to building my own.  I’d get exactly what I wanted, plus the skills, experience and sense of pride that comes with doing the work myself.

Decisions, Decisions: The Quest for Best of Breed Components

Some decisions were made long before I even decided to build my own.  I Chose Bravo Company USA for the complete Upper, BCG (Bolt Carrier Group) and Charging Handle.  It wasn’t even a question.  My Dad is a United States Marine.  My Father-In-Law is a United States Marine.  Some of my close friends are United States Marines.  BCM (Bravo Company Manufacturing) was founded in 2005 by a veteran United States Marine, recently back from the theater.  Headquartered in Hartland, Wisconsin, BCM products “are manufactured, reinforced and tested to meet the unforgiving needs of law enforcement, military, security and peace keeping professionals in some of the most high stress environments and situations in the world.

Travis Haley, a veteran Force Reconnaissance Marine with 15 years of dedicated real world experience, former CEO of Magpul Dynamics & Magpul Industries, and founder of Haley Strategic Partners chooses BCM rifles.

Pat Rogers, a retired Chief Warrant Officer Of Marines, and retired NYPD Sergeant, and founder of E.A.G. Tactical chooses BCM Rifles.  In fact, BCM built, now famous ‘Filthy 14‘ was one of the rifles used in Pat’s carbine classes.

See where I’m goin’ with all this?  You’d be hard pressed to find better company.  Sure, you can go elsewhere, and you can certainly spend more money, but I don’t think you’ll find a better product.  I also respect BCM for not gouging customers when market conditions allowed. On top of their outright qualifications, that’s a class act!

I covered it in my post on AR Trends, but again quickly, I’m not a fan of the currently ‘tacticool’ SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) for practical civilian purposes.  Nor am I a fan of the Quad Rail.  Ultimately, I decided on a BCM 16” Mid-Length Standard Upper, with a Free Floated 13” VTAC Alpha Rail.  The 16” barrel gives the relatively small, light.22 caliber projectile more velocity than an SBR, or rifle with a 14.5” barrel. The increased velocity results in better terminal ballistics and aids in longer range shooting.  Let’s be honest, the 16″ barrel is still short enough for, God Forbid, most Civilian CQB or Home Defense scenarios.  The Mid-length gas system is more reliable and easier shooting than shorter, 7″ Carbine length gas system.  The free floated 13” VTAC Rail aids accuracy two ways; first by free floating the barrel, and second by allowing me to put my front BUS (Back-Up Sight) as far forward as possible, extending the sight radius.

I Chose Seekins Precision  for the Lower Receiver.  While the Lower Receiver generally doesn’t get much love, it is the glue that holds everything else together.  It’s also the serialized component of the build, technically considered the firearm.  I spent an almost embarrassing amount of time looking at gun rags, combing through catalogs and scouring the Internet for purposes of this build.  The Seekins Precision SP223 GEN2 Billet Lower Receiver, made from 7075-T6 aluminum, just kept catching my eye, and coming in very high in the reviews.  Not only is this lower well built, but its got all kinds of well thought out, usable, extra features –  and it’s got nice curves in all the right places.  Honestly, I think it’s sexy.  This is another U.S. made product that functions as well as it looks, created by someone with a passion to improve the current state.  Done Deal!  When you click on the link above, I recommend you check out the ‘About‘ page.  Like Bravo Company Manufacturing and Magpul Industries, it’s an inspiring American Success Story.

I Chose Stag Arms for the LPK (Lower Parts Kit).  I provide a quick overview of Stag Arms in my previous post on Current AR Product Choices, but Stag was spawned from a company that has been supplying LPK’s to military since the 1970’s.  Stag also produces 80% of their parts in-house, again right here, in the U.S.A.

I Chose Giessele Automatics for the Trigger Group.  Any shooter worth their salt knows that accuracy comes from a combination of factors, but trigger squeeze is always near the top of that list.  One way to help improve trigger control is to ensure the trigger in your gun has a smooth, crisp, clean break, and reasonable pull weight for your application.  Since I originally honed-in on the Stag 3G, I went with an offering comparable to what Stag puts in that model.  Here again, it’s another U.S. company born from a passion.  Be sure to check out their ‘About‘ page.

I Chose Magpul Industries for the Furniture (Stock & Pistol Grip), the Back-Up Iron Sights (BUS) and Magazines.   Similar to BCM, Magpul was founded by a former United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Sergeant.  The company is well known for its almost indestructible, mostly polymer based, user-configurable modules that build upon existing firearms to improve the functionality, or operation of the firearm.  Honestly, this was another ‘no-brainer’.  After my choice for the Upper, BCG and Charging Handle, you can’t tell me your surprised?!  When you click on the link above to check out their vast array of products, including iPhone cases, and all made in the U.S.A.!  Be sure to read the INNOVATION page, which should be required reading for Business School!

 

From a Collection of Very Fancy Paperweights to a Functioning Work of Art!

Obviously, my build wasn’t guided strictly by cost.  I wasn’t trying to build a rifle as inexpensively as possible.  Instead, I was guided by passion, and a desire to build the Best rifle I could build, within my means.  When you take a step back, hopefully you see much more than just a list of parts.  You should see a collection of carefully selected, specifically chosen, highly specialized, Best of Breed components.

In much the same way that each of these companies was founded, embody the American Spirit, and manufacture their components, I made my choices based first and foremost on quality and performance.  I couldn’t be happier with my build.  In the end, I created one Hot, Bad-Ass looking piece of hardware.

Fine, you say, but beauty’s s only skin deep.  How does she function? How does she shoot?

…for that, you’ll have to wait for next time.

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

For the second time since July, a post from Inside The X Ring’s AR-15 Series has been featured on AmmoLand. Check it out! http://www.ammoland.com/2013/10/ar-15-rifle-choices/#axzz2iGDxbu00

AmmoLand ammoland_logo_1is one of THE most popular, most informative and best firearms / shooting sports news sites in the United States of America.  Covering a wide range of topics from antique guns to gun politics, with a long list of distinguished, qualified contributors from around the country, and with frequently updated content, AmmoLand should be near the top of your short-list for broader firearms & shooting sports news.  In fact, any way you slice it, AmmoLand consistently ranks in the Top 5 of the Top 25 Gun Blogs, frequently occupying those coveted Number 1, and 2 spots.

I consider it an honor for Inside The X Ring to be featured on AmmoLand.

 

Though, from there the post was picked up, and re-posted on some other great firearms sites, like Columbus Ohio Gunsmith (AH Gunsmithing) and Guns ‘N Gold.

Sincere Thanks for Your Support!

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

COLT LE901-16S: .308 & 5.56

The COLT LE901-16S: .308 & 5.56 Capable

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  The AR-15 market is on fire.  In my last post I talked about current AR-15 market trends.  This time I focus on points to help you make well informed product decisions.

Long gone are the days of only ABC AR-15 choices, for ARMALITE, Bushmaster or COLT.  As of autumn 2013, there are almost countless AR-15 product choices available on the market.  Even still, almost daily there seem to be new product offerings, and even new manufacturers popping up in the AR-15 market.  You should also notice that more and more, a plethora of AR style rifles are back in stock at your Local Gun Store (LGS).  So with such a dizzying array of options, how do you narrow down the field, and make a well informed choice?  (This one is short on pictures, but long on content and links.)

Ponder This…

As with any gun purchase, before you pull the trigger on that new AR-15, spend time answering the following four very important questions:

1. What is your Purpose, or Philosophy of Use (POU)? Why are you buying this AR-15?  How will you use the AR-15?  What realistically will you be doing with your AR-15 most of the time?

2. What is your current and future budget? My advice is to spend a little more upfront for better quality.  Sure, it’ll sting a little now, but you won’t regret it down the road.  Nor will you spend more money fixing or replacing it later.

3. How might your AR-15 evolve over time, and how might your overall collection of firearms evolve over time?  Is this your only rifle?  Will your A-15 have to flex into many different roles?  Might your POU change over time?  Is hunting in your future? Is competition in your future?  Is a Zombie Apocalypse in your future?  (Obviously, that’s a joke, but Zombies, and marketing to the Zombie Apocalypse are huge in the firearms and survival / prepper industries.  Hell, there’s even a zombie in one of the latest Sprint mobile phone commercials.)

4. What are the Federal, State and Local laws applicable to this purchase?  Though your vendor of choice, be it your LGS or an Internet site, should provide assistance here, it’s still your responsibility to know the laws that relate to your new purchase.

 

Don’t Sweat It.  You almost can’t go wrong…

Competition is generally a good thing.  The result of healthy competition is lots of product choice, better overall product quality, and better (lower) prices for the end consumer.  All of that is absolutely true in the AR-15 market.  As of fall 2013, many AR-15 manufacturers make high quality rifles, parts and accessories at very reasonable prices.  Generally speaking, and for most civilian POUs, if you stick with a well known manufacturer, with a good history of quality rifles, and a strong reputation for customer service, you almost can’t go wrong.

At a high level, AR-15 manufacturers fall into two categories:

  1. Manufacturers that focus on nothing but the M16 / M4 / AR-15 platform, and produce nothing but AR-15s, and related parts.
  2. More commonly known, traditional gun makers that make AR-15 style rifles.

 

The MIL-Spec Designation…

OK, what is the Military Specification for M16 and M4 rifles as it relates to the AR-15?  What does it mean?  Is it important?

Honestly, it’s surprisingly difficult to define the MIL-Spec definition as it relates to the AR-15.  Some argue if the gun hasn’t been handed out by one of the branches of the U.S. Military, complete with select / burst fire, and if you’re not carrying it for Uncle Sam, then it’s not MIL-Spec.  Others have written nauseatingly long (even for me) articles that discuss each and every individual component of the AR-15 relative to the M16 / M4 Military Specification.  Others say parts of the M16 / M4 MIL-Spec are still, well, classified…

For simplicity sake, so that you are generally aware of them, commonly agreed upon and highly favored features from the M16 / M4 Military Specification are listed below:

1. MPI (Magnetic Particle Inspected), pressure tested, shot peened bolt.  MPI and pressure testing help ensure parts are structurally sound, devoid of cracks and less likely to fail.  Shot peening is a metallurgical process that increases strength and useful life.  The rods in the engine of your car are also shot peened, for the very same reason.
2. Properly staked gas key on the bolt carrier.  ‘Properly staked’ speaks to how the gas key is attached to the bolt carrier so they don’t separate at the most inopportune time.
3. 4150 or CMV chrome lined pressure and MPI tested 1:7 twist barrel.  The chrome lining improves reliability, is less susceptible to fouling, reduces corrosion and enhances feeding & extraction.  The 1:7 twist is fast enough to spin heavier, longer bullets that provide better long range accuracy and stopping power.
4. 5.56 NATO chamber with M4 feed ramps.  The 5.56 NATO chamber allows you to safely fire both full-power NATO spec 5.56 and .223 Remington ammunition.  The M4 feed ramps ensure proper feeding of ammunition to help reduce malfunctions, especially at high rates of fire.
5. Forged FSB (Front Sight Block) (F marked if carbine) with parkerizing under it.  Forged for strength.  F marked for carbines with a flat top upper to properly align the height of the front sight with the height of the MIL-spec rear iron sight.
6. Tapered pins for the FSB.  Tapered pins only go in one way, and have a tighter fit than straight pins so they reduce the risk of working themselves out over time.
7. MIL-Spec size receiver extension (buffer tube), with staked castle nut.  Commercial tubes are smaller in diameter than MIL-Spec size tubes.  This is important if you plan to change stocks.

If you make a living with your AR-15, or are otherwise selecting something for work, then learning more about the M16 / M4 Military Specification, and trying to obtain an AR-15 as close to the M16 / M4 MIL-Spec as possible is well advised.  (Though, you may be better served with an actual select fire / burst capable M16 / M4 from FN or COLT, which as far as I know, can only be obtained the traditional way…)  In any event, God Speed, Good Luck, and I’m totally stoked you read my stuff!

For the rest of us, the average civilian buying an AR-15 for plinking, hunting, home defense and/or competition; don’t get wrapped around the axle about the MIL-Spec designation.  Sure, many of the seven MIL-Spec traits listed above are nice to have – some certainly more than others.  (MPI and pressure tested bolts and barrels are nice to have, especially if taking your AR-15 to carbine class, where you will fire thousands of rounds, potentially at a high rate of fire, in a short time period with little cleaning between firing.  Likewise, if using your AR-15 primarily for defense purposes, MPI and pressure tested bolts and barrels add confidence in your equipment. Is it needed for most casual plinkers who likely shoot less than 1,000 rounds all year??  Shooters focused on getting the best possible, hair splitting accuracy from their rifle may opt for non-chrome lined barrels, and accept the negative trade-offs.  Fine if going with a stainless steel barrel, but otherwise I like chrome lined barrels in the AR-15 platform for reliability and longevity.  I doubt most will notice any trade-off in accuracy.  That forged F marked FSB and the tapered FSB pins are only relevant if you’re building a flat top carbine with the traditional front sight.  Have an A2 style or other non-collapsible stock, or otherwise happy with the one you have with no plans to swap it out?  Then don’t even worry about the MIL-Spec sized receiver extension.)

The point is, there are plenty of excellent, high quality AR-15s put out by great manufacturers that lack more than a few of the MIL-Spec features listed above; some are even used by major US Law Enforcement agencies.  Focus more on overall AR-15 build quality and manufacturer reputation.

 

My ‘Two-Cents’ Worth “Who’s Who” List of AR-15 Manufacturers… (It’s actually worth thirty-seven dollars and change.)

most interesting man in the world

Knowing my audience is generally newer to guns, and possibly brand new to the AR-15 platform, the section below provides baseline info, some company history and my thoughts on a number of AR-15 manufacturers.  I also indicate whether or not the manufacturer made my ‘short-list’.   In many cases, what did NOT make my ‘short-list’ came down to very simple things like personal taste, cost or simply having to limit the number of choices to avoid the dreaded, never-ending analysis paralysis.  

Providing this list is a risky endeavor.  I’m sure to piss off more than a few since I could never cover all of the choices, nor do all of them justice.  Hey, I’m sharing what I know from personal research and experience.  Consider it a starting point for your own research, certainly not the “be all, end all,” answer.

 

Category 1: Manufacturers Who Focus Solely on the M16 / M4 / AR-15 Platform:

The names you are most likely see on the wall of your LGS, or at the local range, some history and my thoughts on each:

Bushmaster Bushmaster is one of the original names in civilian AR production, dating back to 1973.  However, circa 2010, Bushmaster was purchased by the Freedom Group, which also owns Remington Arms and Marlin. Honestly, I can’t say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  I have no personal experience with a Freedom Group Bushmaster.  I can tell you that my Remington 700 CDL is outstanding in fit and finish, and quite the tack driver.  Though I realize the Remington 700 is no AR-15.  When it was time for my decision, I feared company integration, retooling and retraining challenges, so Freedom Group owned Bushmaster didn’t make my short-list.  If buying today, I’d keep an open mind, do my research and check them out again.

DPMS, Defense Procurement Manufacturing Services Founded in 1985 as precision machine shop producing MIL-Spec parts for the Government.  DPMS eventually started producing complete rifles and expanded into the civilian market.  DPMS is a large supporter of 3-Gun sports.  Their TAC2 offering received was named Shooting Illustrated’s Rifle of the YearDPMS might have made my short list.  However, at decision time they didn’t have an offering I considered aesthetically pleasing.  For me that’s a factor.  Call it what you want; appeal, second kind of cool, pleasing to the eye, sexiness, whatever…  With so many other good choices available, I wasn’t willing to compromise.  Though I’ll say some of their newer stuff certainly has appeal, the ‘TAC2’ and ‘3G2’ being great examples.

Rock River Arms Founded circa 1997 by two brothers with gun building experience that includes serving as the head armorer at Springfield Armory, and custom pistol builder at Les Baer Customs.  RRA was founded from Day 1 with a focus on the AR-15 platform.   In 2003 RRA was awarded a contract with the DEA to provide 5,000 LAR-15s.  RRA was on my short-list.

STAG Arms “The oldest new name in ARs.”  Officially started as its own company in 2003, Stag Arms is an offshoot of CMT (Continental Machine & Tool) who has been a major producer of component parts for military and consumer AR-15s since the Vietnam War.  In 2003, they decided to produce their own, complete rifles for the civilian market, instead of just remaining a background, component part supplier for other, major name brands.  Stag is a supporter of 3-Gun sports and with their high-end 3G, was the first major AR manufacturer to offer a 3-Gun specific model.  Stag Arms was on my short-list.  In fact, the STAG 3G topped my list.

Windham Weaponry Started in 2011 by the former founder and owner of Bushmaster Arms.  The company was started after the Freedom Group purchased Bushmaster, moved operations out of the area and laid-off the original employees.  In many cases, Windham Weaponry employees have been making ARs for ~25 years or more.  Based on personal experience with what I’ll call a Windham Weaponry produced Bushmaster that’s been in the family for ~10 years, Windham Weaponry would definitely make my short-list.  However, as with DPMS, they didn’t have anything I considered visually appealing at decision time.  I do like some of their newer stuff, like their ‘Timber’ and ‘CDI’ offerings.

Additional names of other very popular AR-15 specific rifle and parts manufacturers you will hear as you dig deeper into the AR-15 platform are listed below.  They are considered by many to be higher-end, and/or more specialized than those listed above.  In most cases the price tag matches that reputation.  Depending on where you live and what your LGS carries, these are not as likely to be hanging on the wall or in the rack of your LGS, so trying to get your hands on one may be difficult.

SWATFilthy14BCM – Bravo Company USA. On my short-list, not only for parts like their BCG and uppers, but for complete rifles, and because of the company’s origins.  Click here to learn about Filthy 14.

CMMG. Based originally on making AR-15 parts and accessories, they now produce complete rifles.  Their AR-15 .22lr conversion kits are very popular and have a solid reputation for quality and performance.

Daniel DefenseOn my short-list.

LMT – Lewis Machine and Tool. On my short-list.

LaRue Tactical. On my short-list.

Noveske. On my short-list, at the time specifically for their barrels, which have a great reputation for accuracy.  Now they make other parts and even complete rifles too. 

Seekins Precision. On my short-list.

Spikes Tactical Their lowers are extremely popular and have a good reputation for quality with the build your own crowd.

It’s worth noting, and as you probably figured out from the history and my comments, almost all of AR specific manufacturers listed above offer not just complete rifles, but parts for those that want to build or upgrade their AR-15.

 

Category 2: Traditional Gun Makers with Strong AR-15 style offerings:

While ARMALITE and COLT have pretty much always had AR-15 offerings for the civilian market, it took a while for other, more traditional gun makers to get into the game.  With the AR-15 platform still popular as ever, many of those traditional gun makers are now in on the action.  Big names you’re sure to recognize:

ARMALITE

COLT

Heckler & Koch

Mossberg

Ruger

Sig Sauer

Smith & Wesson

It might be a surprising revelation, but not many offerings from the list above made my ‘short-list’ of AR-15 choices.  You’ll learn a bit more about why in my next post – hint, hint.  To be clear, they all make perfectly fine AR-15 style rifles.  COLT still makes M16s and M4s for military, which should tell you something, and let’s not forget it was an H&K416 in the hands of a NAVY SEAL that took down bin Laden.  If you’re in the AR-15 market, I’d put every single one on your ‘short-list’. 

As you might expect, and in contrast to the manufacturers that focus completely on the AR-15 platform, almost none of the traditional gun makers offer parts for those that want to build their own.  So, I don’t believe you can purchase a COLT or S&W upper to mate with your STAG lower, etc.  I’m sure it’s related to warranty and liability issues.

Finally, if nothing from the dizzying array of “factory” options excites you, and if you have the coin, you can always pony-up for an ultra high-end, hand fitted AR-15 from some of the best names in the custom gun making business, like Les Baer or Wilson Combat.

 

Summing It Up

The AR-15 market is so strong you can get just about anything you want.  You can get a new, good quality Plain Jane, entry level AR-15 from more than a few of the manufacturers I list for about $800 – 900, maybe less.  You can get a completely custom, high-end, hand built rifle from some of the best custom makers in the World.  (Just bring your wallet because you will easily spend well into the thousands.)  Of course, you can get anything in between, and you can even build your own.  No doubt it’s a great time to buy in on the AR platform.

For my money, I like manufactures with a strong pedigree of Military and/or Law Enforcement service.  Companies that supply the Military and LE community, and those that supply those that supply all rank very high on my list. (savy?)  I also favor products designed by, and manufactured by guys who have operated in the theater of war.  God willing, these guys come home with first hand knowledge of exactly what works, what doesn’t and how to improve the platform.  In all cases, what passes their testing and performs successfully in the field for them, will more than likely work just fine for me.

That said, my best advice is this:  Define your POU and your budget then hit every LGS in your area.  Handle as many AR-15 style rifles as you can.  Cycle the action.  After you’ve verified the gun is unloaded, and asked if it’s OK with the LGS owner or salesman, dry fire the rifle.  Better yet, get some real trigger time.  Hit the range with family and friends, or find a range that rents.  Shoot as many AR-15 style rifles, from as many different manufacturers as possible

The truth is, with so many manufacturers producing quality AR-15s in the $900 – $1500 range, and for all legal, civilian uses I can think of, what’s stamped on the parts matters less than getting a rifle that fits you properly, has a good trigger, is setup correctly for your POU, is within your budget, and that generally appeals to your liking.  After all, it’s your rifle, you should like it!

Anyway, that’s my “Thirty Seven dollars and change” worth of advice on the AR-15 Market.  Hope it helps.  Let me know what you decide and how it worked out.

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!