Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine

[I should mention that we filmed heavily with many of the products Ive been talking about, and those videos will appear on SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE over the next couple of months!]

This was, as I predicted, the Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine. They were all over the place on the SHOT floor, and I don't think we were able to even scratch the surface. While there were a lot of "Me toos!," with many AR manufacturers rushing to get a pistol caliber product out the door, there were some interesting new products as well as substantial evolution from dedicated pistol caliber companies.

Let me start with the one pictured above, the new FightLite PCC, an extension of their subgun project for an overseas client. FightLite was originally known as Ares Defense, and they are responsible for a couple of really cool innovations, including the first (and I think only) successful belt-fed upper (and complete guns) for ARs. Gary Paul Johnson, the author of the standard reference text on assault rifles and a contributor to both DOWN RANGE and GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA, has waxed poetic about this conversion. Another significant contribution from Ares was the SCR rifle, which we featured on DOWN RANGE last year. It brought the AR platform to a more standard rifle configuration for those benighted locations with ridiculous laws on "assault weapons."

I talked to Geoffrey Herring, the CEO of FightLite, about the new pistol caliber gun. The one FightLite had at the SHOW was a 9mm version feeding from Glock magazines. Note that this is NOT an AR platform gun  — upper and lower are proprietary, designed from the ground up for modularity in caliber conversions and different magazine wells. Initial focus will be on .22LR and 9mm, with maybe a .40 S&W (but with that cartridge down for the count, I doubt that it's much of a priority). Geoff said that a 10mm and .45 ACP versions were a little farther out. Magazine offerings will include Glock, Beretta, CZ, S&W, Sig and Springfield. Geoff noted that because this was based on their SMG design for LEO/Military, they wanted to create a gun that was easily modified to fit whatever pistol magazines.

It's a side charger with the handle on the right, and, boy, is this thing light! They didn't have the exact weight, but it'll come in low. This is definitely one to watch. Geoff said both pistols and carbines will eventually be available, and the price he hinted at was sub-$1000.

While we're talking about modularity, I shot video with Nordic Components and their new modular AR-based PCC (that's the 8.5-inch pistol version above). If you shoot competition, of course you're familiar with Nordic Components — shotgun magazine extension tubes, custom competition .22 rifles, AR parts and accessories.  The magazine well is replaceable ($149 for each different magazine well) and right now offers Glock and M&P magwells, with more on the way.

These are relatively higher priced guns, in the $1500 range, and given Nordic's solid footing in the competition world I would expect to see their carbines on the line in USPSA PCC matches.

And speaking of competition-oriented PCCs, I spent some time with my good friend John Paul at JP Rifles going over the upgrades in the GMR-15 9mm PCC. As you know, I've had a GMR-13 for years, and it is a superbly accurate carbine — 1.5 MOA @ 100 yards with Wilson Combat Match 125-gr. The upgrades will definitely catch the attention of the competitor looking to give the Sig MPXs, which currently dominate the fledgling PCC division, a run for their money; they include a flared magazine well for easier reloading, an improved magazine release, bolt lock back on last round (more important to competitors than in the Real World, I would contend) and JP's excellent trigger.

John told me how he fought producing a 9mm carbine until he finally threw up his hands and told his talented staff to "go build one if you want to." The GMR has now become one of their best-selling products. I can't recommend this carbine enough. At $1700 it's not cheap, but JP has proven itself to be one of the great master riflemakers in the country. The GMR is available for either Glock or the plentiful Colt-style magazines.

You probably know War Sport from their top-of-the-line LVOA carbine and SBR, with their distinctive shock cord bungee wrapped handguard that extends to the front of the barrel with cutaways on the side for the BattleComp muzzle brake. This year they're rolling out a 9mm WS-9 pistol and a Honey Badger-styled collapsable stocked version of the SPR, both running off Glock magazines.

I wanted to visit War Sport because they represent the high end of the AR-based pistols.SBRs — enhanced triggers, superior finished, their own muzzle device, short throw safety lever Nitrided bolt, and their own barrels. No word on pricing yet.

You already know I'm a big fan of Angstadt Arms and their UDP pistol and carbine. After last year's SHOT Show I ordered a UDP-9 pistol with a Shockwave Brace from KAK (above photo), and I've been very happy with it. My plan is to SBR it later this year.

For this year Angstadt upped the ante by partnering with KGmade suppressors to produce an integrally suppressed 9mm carbine. They had a prototype at the show and think the MSRP is going to land in the $1600 range. A 9mm from a 16-inch barrel is already quiet, and an integrated suppressor should get it down into the "Pufft" range.

Everything about the Angstadt Arms pistols and carbines scream quality. I've only shot my pistol out to 25 yards with ARSCOR ball,  but it grouped very well. Once I get it SBR'ed and have a proper stock, I'll run it out to 50 and 100 with match ammo and see what we get. I think this is a company at the right place at the right time!

As you know, my last build (for this season's SHOOTING GALLERY) was built off Quarter Circle 10 components (including an upper with a 5.5-inch barrel) along with the Dead Foot Arms folding system, shown above with my IWI X95 in 9mm for comparison. This one is going to stay a pistol, and I've been happy with the results. On SG, you'll see how the folded package fits easily in a 5.11 Covert Messenger Bag with room left over for a G26.

(Photo from

Obviously, if you're doing a PCC build, QC10 is the place to go for quality components. When I stopped by the boot they showed me the newest project, a 9mm lower for MP-5 magazines. You have to admit that the MP-5 lower looks darn cool, although the MP-5 magazines will put a dent in your wallet for sure!

I also got by TNW, largely by accident to se their Aero Survival pistols and carbines. As I mentioned before SHOT, these little pistol caliber carbines have garnered some excellent reviews (and here), and I wanted to see and handle them myself. 

One thing that caught my attention is that the Aero Survival guns are available immediately in powerful 10mm…although there are many announced 10mm carbines/pistols, there are only a few on the market. I believe Olympic Arms has had 10mm as an option pretty much forever. A 10mm carbine makes an outstanding home defense carbine.

The Aero Survival carbine easily changes calibers by switching barrels, bolt heads and magazines. In fact, TNW offers multi-caliber packs in both the pistol and the rifle. From a prepper standpoint, the Aero Survival rifle (especially in the muti-caliber packs) would make an excellent secondary rifle — your primary being an AR platform gun, natch. Keep it it in your EDC pistol caliber with caliber change kits in the other common calibers. BTW, the backpack for the breakdown rifles is designed to carry plate armor sold separately, of course.

I'm thinking I may get one of these in 10mm and put it through its paces for SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE.

That only scratches the surface, of course. Some things haven't changed — the Sig MPX absolutely rules the roost. The venerable Kel-Tec SUB-2000, available in 9mm or .40 S&W with magazines for multiple platforms and a low-ball price of $500, remains the first choice for a first pistol caliber carbine — if you can find one! GunBroker is your best bet. MP-5 clones are coming on hard…I did an earlier post that covered MP-5 clones, including the HK SP5K. I'll cover the RONI instant-SBR concepts in a different post (and I've talked about them on the podcast).

Here's the link on my parts list for my QC-10 build.

Here's my post on the advantages of a pistol caliber carbine for self-defense.

Couple of additional points, sort of related. I can't remember who I was talking to (sorry!), but he postulated that part of the rise of the 9mm carbine was that Gun Culture Ver. 2.0 essentially "came of age" in a period when .22 LR simply wasn't available. The vast majority of the new shooters came in through concealed carry, then purchased ARs during the Obama Nightmare Years. Sooner or later those shooters were looking to get more our of their carbines. If it had been a few years earlier, they might have gone to .22 ARs and near ARs (for example, the Ruger SR-22 that runs off 10/22 magazines). But with .22 not on the shelves (and the carbines being hellishly finicky on ammunition…the SPIKE'S/JP carbine we built up for SHOOTING GALLERY will run on one, count em, one type of ammo, CCI Tactical), the obvious choice was the 9mm carbines since Eastern European 9mm ammo never fully vanished from the market. As the price of .22 rose, 9mm became even more attractive. Makes sense to me.

Also sorta related, with M1 Carbines from both Auto Ordnance/Kahr and Inland Manufacturing now coming on line in big numbers, the fun-to-shoot M1 Carbine could be called a pistol caliber carbine. The .30 Carbine cartridge was aways a better cartridge than people gave it credit for, with a 110-gr bullet approaching 2000 fps, which easily tops the pistol caliber ballistics even out of the longer barrel of a carbine (Cor-Bon 115-gr +P is running a little more than 1500 fps from a 16-inch barrel, for instance; .357 Sig 110-gr @ 1768). The late Jim Cirillo and I talked a lot about the .30 Carbine, as he used a cut-down version while he was in the NYPD stake-out squad. It worked for him. I shot the new Inland "sniper" T-30 M1 Carbine at Media Day, and with the "vintage" 2.5X Hilux scope I was happily ringing 50 and 100 yard steel as fast as I could pull the trigger. Shooting an M1 Carbine is like eating popcorn…it's hard to stop!
I would love to shoot an M1 Carbine in USPSA's PCC division, but that's not to be (yet). I talked to USPSA President Mike Foley about this very issue the last day of SHOT, and he told me the .30 Carbine had been considered as a pistol caliber cartridge for the division (there have been .30 Carbine revolvers and semiauto pistols, after all), but the issue was that many USPSA clubs have what, by modern standards, less than optimal steel targets. Modern steel (AR-500 and above) targets like those from MGM and Action should handle .30 Carbine with no problem, but on some older steel targets the 200fps extra velocity of a .30 Carbine over a .357 Sig is enough to dimple.

BTW, SHOOTING GALLERY is thinking of sponsoring a WW2 3-Gun match to film for the show! What do you think?

Wow! I'm sure I forgot something! But I'll be writing more about SHOT 2017 over the next few days.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

SHOT's Greatest Hits*

[*…as seen through the filter of known curmudgeon and all-around pissy person Michael Bane]

 Well, I thought I at least owed you the disclaimer!

This wasn't a huge new product SHOT Show…it's too close to the election, and everyone was pretty much holding their breath (and hedging their bets). I suspect that next year will be a flood of new products, as manufacturers strive to keep the increasingly larger market buying. Still, there were four products that impressed me YUUUUGELY, and each for a different reason.

TACTICAL SOLUTIONS TLP-22 .22 LR pistol — My good friends at Tac-Sol, long known for their superb .22 barrels and their own .22 semiauto rifle, has created what I suspect will the one of the best .22 pistols ever made. Yeah yeah…big words. But the design team at Tc-Sol is one of the best in the world, and they are astute in receiving constant feedback from their cadre of sponsored shooters. In short, they know who to listen to, and they know what they're doing [And no, they are not currently a show or personal sponsor]. I will happily pay MSRP for this gun! In talking to Chet Alvord, the top guy at Tac-Sol, he pointed out that they were able to mate their proven Trail-Lite barrel with a billet aluminum lower. In my hands, the lower combined the best features of the Ruger Mark series and the Buckmark, with a just hint of Colt Woodsman (still one of my all-time favorite guns). You might think the gun is pricey at $1150, but I've built up .22 pistols for the NSSF Rimfire Challenge. This pistol is a screaming home run! I look forward to shooting the Rimfire Challenge with this gun. Oh, and BTW, we may see some interesting changes in the NSSF Rimfire Challenge in the upcoming year…I'll keep you all in the loop.

HUDSON H9 striker-fired pistol — This thing positively reeks of potential! A 15+1 9mm striker-fired all-steel pistol with 1911 ergonomics. I didn't get a chance to shoot this gun at Media Day, but I am assured I'll have a T&E sample. The trigger is listed at 4.5-5 pounds with a really short reset, but my pal Iain Harrison, who along with fellow TOP SHOT alumnae Chris Cerino had design input into the gun, says that lighter trigger pulls are easily possible. The gun does feel great in the hand, and at 34 ounces unloaded weight recoil certainly isn't an issue. For once I'll agree with the press releases — the H9 has an elegance that we usually don't see in prosaic striker-fired guns. There is a high price point — $1147, which moves it out of the polymer service pistol category and into 1911 territory — but with its unique features it might be able to make that leap.

Q's "THE FIX" bolt action rifle — Kevin Brittingham has written his name in great big letters across the firearms industry, first with AAC — the only company in the gun industry who's conference room was designed to look like the Starship Enterprise — then with Sig Sauer and now with his independent "skunk works," Q. After rolling out the El Camino .22 suppressor and the revised Honey Badger 2.0, Kevin turned his sights on completely disrupting the centuries-old bolt action rifle world. Considering his team includes Robby Johnson, a combat vet from the Army Marksmanship Unit and one of the finest long-distance shooters in the world, and Ethan Lessard, hands down the best weapons designer working today, we knew going in that the results would be spectacular. The Fix is all that and more, a sub-5 pound "unibody" bolt action rifle that quite literally redefines the bolt action market. "I wanted a gun that I could shoot in a Precision Rifle Series match on Saturday, then take deer hunting on Sunday," Robby told me. It is a brilliant rifle, and I can't wait to take it through the hoops. Here's the RECOIL magazine report (that's where we cribbed the picture)…later this year we'll be taking to the SHOOTING GALLERY crew to Kevin's farm in Georgia to meet up with the Q crew and run The Fix for SHOOTING GALLERY…that's an episode you WILL NOT want to miss!

B&T's UNIVERSAL SERVICE WEAPON 9mm SBR — Okay, maybe it's just me, but I can't wait to get my hands on the pistol version of this gun, which should be coming into the U.S. by mid-year. B&T, Brugger and Thomet, is a Swiss company that specializes in high end military weaponry, including submachineguns. The USW is sort of a classic European pistol/carbine:

The design, while pretty old in itself, is based on the emerging threat. Law enforcement equipped with a USW can use it as a pistol or, if they need a long shot, can pop out the stock and shoulder it…Europe doesn't have the same looney tunes regulations on short barreled rifles or pistols with stocks that infect the the U.S. The gun itself is your basic Swiss watch. There have been media reports that it incorporates parts from the Sphinx 3000 9mm Swiss pistols, acquired by B&T as assets of that company were sold off, and my sources gave me a nod on that. The Sphinxes always had a reputation as superb pistols...I recall lusting after the only one I ever shot. The plan is to bring the DA/SA pistol into the U.S. as a pistol, then offer the shoulder stock and nifty spring-loaded forward release for the stock for buyers after they obtain their $200 tax stamp. a striker-fired version will follow later. One neat feature is the sight, a prototype Aimpoint Nano, essentially an Aimpoint to compete with RMRs/Delta Points. Right now, the only Nanos are on USWs, but my little cherubs and seraphim tell me to expect a version of the Aimpoint Nano at NRA or soon after. I fell in love with the stocked machinepistol concept the last time I was in eastern Europe. I had a chance to put a lot of rounds through the Polish PM-63, the RAK, with its folding stock:

Note the family resemblance. I badly wanted a semi version of the RAK, but even the few parts kits had dried up. I'm perfectly happy to pay the $200 tax to come as close as I can.

Okay, those are my four home runs. I have plans to acquire all these guns for both SHOOTING GALLERY and SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE. I'll let you know as the time frames firm up.

You're probably wondering what I bought. Well, expect to be surprised. I ordered 2 guns, a handgun and a rifle. From my friend Ronnie Barrett I ordered his first hunting rifle, the Fieldcraft in 6.5 Creedmoor, introduced last year. I was blown away by the rifle. It is built to Ronnie Barrett's standards, which are indeed high. I talked to Chris and Ronnie Barrett about the new rifle, and they were effusive. With the carbon fiber stock, stainless steel action, barrel and bolt and Timney trigger, I was sold.

The other gun I ordered is an oldie but a goodie, a target model Sig Sauer P210. It's not polymer, striker-fired or even particularly practical, but it is a pistol I have always wanted. The P210 rolled out in 1949, the year before I was born, as the Swiss army pistol. It's a single action, single stack 9mm pistol, arguably the most accurate 9mm ever made. For years the German guns were like unicorns, much discussed, seldom seen in the United States. The few that I was able to shoot certainly lived up to their reputations, but the price was staggering…hell, the P210 reference book is $350! Last year Sig began producing P210s in the United States. We all held our breaths…would the American guns match the flawless quality of the legendary German guns. Sig answered that question on Media Day this year. Magnificent! Still pricey, but now within reach.

We Return Now to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming!

Well, it appears I have survived another SHOT Show, not to mention a week in the Belly of the Beast, Las Vegas! My Sweetie has been smitten with the SHOT Blight, which, unless I am willing to go into a complete isolation chamber, will undoubtably spread to me later in the week.

Of course, the news of the Big Army's choice of the Sig Sauer 320 as the replacement for the aging Beretta M9s overshadowed pretty much everything at SHOT…it's not every day a company picks up a $580-some-odd million (over 10 years) contract.

I must say I was pretty surprised at the announcement. Not that the Sig 320 isn't a great gun — it is all that and more — but most of us figured that the Modular Handgun System program would crash upon some unseen shoals, as those programs have in the past, or that the Army would suck it up like the SOCOM boys and the FBI and take the easy path of the proven Glock 17/19. That's certainly what Glock thought!

The implications are pretty obvious. As with the Beretta M9, the Big Army contract, the most coveted handgun contract in the world, will launch the already successful 320 into the stratosphere. Validation by the U.S. military makes the gun an easy chose for a potential flood of other agencies. Over the years I have seen estimates of at least the same amount of sales to other Federal agencies, law enforcement and civilians clamoring to own the same gun the military uses. While the caliber was not announced, let me go out on a limb here and suggest that it will be 9mm. Why? I would say logistics…the huge military pipeline is already set up to provide 9mm ammunition worldwide, and changing to a different caliber would be a nightmare. I once had a very long and fruitful conversation on military logistics by one of the most knowledgeable men in the industry — Ron Cohen, the head of Sig Sauer. Funny, that.

The military contract will also open the floodgates of aftermarket parts to support the gun. That aftermarket will be increasingly driven by civilian and LEO acceptance of the 320 as a platform. Obviously, this is already underway with the relationship between Sig and GrayGuns. Bruce Gray, one of the greatest minds in the firearms world, has hammered out the 320 trigger, working essentially as an in-house R&D guy, and has a huge head start on aftermarket 320 parts. There will be lots of others!

Part of Ron Cohen's particular genius is platform expansion, figuring out ways to expand from a single gun into as many niches as possible. Being modular — the gun part of the gun is the stainless steel frame fire control unit — changing the polymer grip frame to different sizes is a snap. But Sig has already gone beyond that. Sig brought former USPSA President Phil Strader on board and charged him with building a competition version of the 320.

I talked to Phil last year, and he outlined to me a very aggressive plan to create an out-of-the-box competitive 320. This year, a justifiably proud papa showed me the 320 X-Five, a full-sized 5-inch 320 with their top-end competition trigger (amazing, but they way), a full profile bull barrel, an internal weight in the grip frame to balance the gun, removable flared magazine well and fiber optic front sight. The rear sight is a neat trick…Phil worked with Dawson Precision, a longtime supplier of competition guns and accessories, to create a removable plate to carry the fully adjustable Dawson-designed rear sight. The plate can be removed so the gun can be fitted with a ROMEO3 red dot optic. The package in 9mm will be delivered with 4 21-round magazines.

A year ago Phil told me his goal was the ultimate competition pistol, and I'll be damned if he didn't hit that goal. The 320 X-5 out of the box can be used in USPSA Limited, Production and with the ROMEO3 Carry Optics division, IDPA SSP (we think) and ESP divisions, 3-Gun and specialty matches like Bianchi. With the included 4 mags, add a holster, mag pouches and ammo, and you're pretty much good to go…all for roughly a grand, MSRP!

There are 2 other guns in the X-Series, including an X-Carry with a 3.9-inch barrel, and a VTAC version as spec'ed by VIKING CHRONICLE's Kyle Lamb. The VTAC is striking gun in FDE with lightening cuts on the slide.

I gotta say the competition X-5 p320 shot irrationally well. I've shot a bunch of 320s, including Bruce Gray's personal competition pistol, and I have to agree that the X-5 is competition-ready out of the box. I stand in awe of a striker-fired pistol with a trigger as good as the trick p320s. Not surprisingly for a champion of Phil's stature, the gun is perfectly balanced, which shaves off critical seconds on stages of fire.

The competition component is important because it will provide a billboard for the p320 platform (it doesn't hurt that Sig has Phil, legendary competitor Max Michel, IDPA champion Tom Yost and…oh yeah…Lena Miculek on board). Combine that with the sheer weight of the Army contract, and the p320 will be a freight train, running over the other "Glock-ish" pistols in the market.

I have said before that the problem other polymer-framed striker-fired manufacturers have is they have to make the "value proposition" of why to choose their products over the the Glock 17/19. That is a lot harder than it sounds. You can talk function and features, but on examination there aren't any huge differences (I might exclude a manual safety from that list). Gaston Glock's evolutionary strategy and the Glock's "long tail" of aftermarket parts, ease of modification and performance enhancements have made making that value proposition a pretty high hurdle. I'd say the p320 just vaulted over that hurdle, and then some.

Friday, January 13, 2017

My Pre-SHOT Predications — The Year of the PCC

Sig MPX, the uber-9

With just a few days to go until SHOT, I think we can see a little more through the glass darkly. Here are some random thoughts:

2017 is the Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine.

In the last few days I've been flooded with news releases on PCCs. There are a lot of "dedicated" units out there, plus most of the big AR makers have already, or are planning to, push PCCs to market. We've covered this topic extensively here on the blog/podcast, on Facebook on and on SHOOTING GALLERY. In fact, this season on SHOOTING GALLERY we will feature 9mm carbines and pistols and discuss their rise. So remember, you heard it here first!

Several sub-points on this one:

-- Companies who got in early stand to reap big rewards. Kel-Tec with their Sub 2000 comes to mind immediately, We used Sub 2000s in the AMERICAN MARKSMAN finals, and they were a huge success…not to mention workhorses.

-- In the AR arena, CMMGJP Rifles and Rock River are all veterans in the market with solid products. JP has an upgraded version of their GMR-13, the GMR-15. I have a lot of experience with the JP GMR-13, and I would unequivocally say it is the top of the heap in 9mm carbines. But JP now has a lot of competition. Billy Wilson jumped into the fray last year with the Wilson Combat AR-9…I own Wilson Combat rifles and I've had a few minutes with Mike Seeklander's AR-9. It is a superb carbine, which is what I would expect from Wilson Combat.

--Sig Sauer has a MASSIVE hit with their MPX carbine (and the pistol version, for that matter), as does CZ with their relatively inexpensive Scorpion EVO carbines and pistols. The MPX has dropped neatly into the "MP-5 Oh My God I Have to Have One of Those!!!" category…I suspect if Sig could 3X their output, they could sell every one tomorrow afternoon. Sig's MPX (and CZ EVO carbine) sales will be driven even more by the next point…

-- USPSA has a huge home run on their hands with the Pistol Caliber Carbine division. New USPSA President Mike Foley took a big swing and hit this one out of the park. The first PCC Nationals will be held later this year, and the Sig MPX has — initially — emerged as the go-to gun for the division. I could go into a lot of blatherings about why PCC is the right division at the right time, but let me just throw some things out there…pent-up demand generated by 3-Gun, which is constrained by it high barriers-to-entry, ability to run PCC matches or ranges with only pistol bays, and ammo costs. Watch this one!

-- PCC-oriented companies like Quarter Circle 10 and Angstadt Arms stand on the verge of big growth, if they can keep from being run over by the big boys. Both of these companies build superb products. The "My Little Friend" pistol project for SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE is based on QC10 products, and the Angstadt Arms pistol I have is destined to become an SBR. ARES Defense (now doing business as FightLite), the innovative AR-based company that pioneered the belt-fed AR and the traditionally styled AR-based SCR rifle, is going whole hog into the PCC market, with carbines/pistols based on their submachine gun platform, that features the ability to convert to a number of different pistol magazines. I note there's even a Nigerian company, BNTI Arms, with U.S. headquarters in Jacksonville, rolling out a 9mm into the U.S. market.

-- The rise of PCC also breathes life into a couple of other areas. For example, IWI, whose Tavor bullpup was the best-selling 5.56 carbine in the U.S. last year, offers 9mm conversion units and full 9mm carbines, using Colt-style mags. I will be running an IWI X95 9mm in USPSA PCC division later this year. Beretta's CX4 Storm carbine should also see abig boost. One other area to watch is the RONI pistol carbine conversion units. Having worked with SBR versions of this platform, it has a lot of potential. If you're willing to pony up the $200 and hang around for 6 or 7 months for the SBR paperwork (there is a carbine version), it's a neat idea to be able to ratchet your pistol into the RONI and have a carbine. If you don't want to go the SBR route, Mech-Tech has had their CCU pistol conversion system around for years…I think I still have a 1911 version from 15 years ago in my safe.

-- Other companies that stand to benefit from this trend are makers of 9mm carbines like TNW Firearms and their multicolored Aero Survival Rifles, which recently got an excellent review from AMERICAN RIFLEMAN. Other dedicated 9mm carbine companies like Just Right and Thureon Defense stand to benefit as well.

-- I think part of the PCC explosion on the AR platform is due to the debugging of the Glock magazine platform. Carbines/pistols using Glock mags are an easy step for not just Glock pistol owners, but because of their easy availability and larger capacity (30+ round mags from Glock, ETS and the Koreans) are a good choice for everyone. However, the venerable Colt magazines are far from dead. The original 9mm AR submachine gun, the Colt 635 from the early 1980s, used magazines based on the Uzi (and Uzi mags could be adapted to fit), and that magazine quickly became the standard for 9mm AR platform carbines and pistols. There are a LOT of Colt pattern mags out there, and since many many companies are committed to the Colt mags, there is a lot of development… Stag and IWI-branded mags are a definite step up, available in 10, 20 and 30 round versions.

-- The growth in the AR platform PCCs is being helped by the widespread availability of dedicated AR lowers for Colt or Glock magazines, as opposed to the magazines spacer blocks used originally by Colt and most of the AR pistol manufacturers for the last couple of decades. Well made spacers were no problemo (my Spike's Tactical pistol, for example) but there were some really crappy example out there that caused no end to problems.

-- A couple of more platforms to watch…with this renewed interest in 9m carbines and carbine-based pistols, the venerable HK MP-5 is staging a major clone comeback. HK is offering, essentially, their own MP-5 clone, the SP5K in pistol version (although I have been told a carbine version is in the works). It uses the classic HK roller delayed blowback system, is crazy accurate and costs a lot, in the $2700 range, a grand more than the Sig MPX — although, to be honest, all the MP-5 clones will set you back more than any of the guns we've talked about. I've run the Brethern Arms clones — probably my choice if I was buying — and they were super, being, in effect, semi-custom guns. THE FIREARM BLOG recently did a list of the other MP-5 clones out there. Realistically, if you want to go full John McClane and, in your dreams, launch Hans Gruber off Nakatomi Plaza, this is the way you've got to go.

-- Finally, and a readily admit this is an outlier, you can get an M1 Carbine in 9mm from Chiappa Firearms. I love M1 Carbines and am at a loss to understand why I don't have one. The Chiappa runs off Beretta 9mm magazines and has a somewhat sketchy reputation for reliability. Both Inland Manufacturing and Auto-Ordnance make well-thought-of M1 Carbine clones (I've got a lot of rounds through the Auto-Ordnance version), and the guys at A-O even built a few M1 Carbines for 3-Gun competition in jurisdictions where the AR was banned/restricted. Be fun to shoot these in a PCC match (although by USPSA rules the .30 Carbine is not a pistol cartridge).

-- I haven't mentioned Hi-Point Firearms here because I have no experience with them. Hi-Point has taken a lot of flack over the years from snippy gun nerds (hmmmm..I wonder if I know any of those?!?!), but they've been around a long time and are dirt cheap.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Years Day, 2017

"There is always hope..."
-- Aragon, son of Arathorn
"The Two Towers"

"By the rivers of Babylon
Where he sat down
And there he wept
When he remembered Zion

Oh, the wicked carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha's song
In a strange land?

Oh, the wicked carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha's song
In a strange land?

So let the words of our mouth
And the meditation of our heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight
Oh, verai!"

Rivers of Babylon

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve…and Counting Down the Hours!

A "murder" of 9mms, including from the top the Angstadt Arms/Shockwave Brace pistol (Glock mags), IWI X95 bullpup in 9mm (Colt mags), "ole reliable" Spike's Tactical 9mm (Colt mags) and the newest, QC10/Dead Foot Arms (Glock mags). Note that, realistically, an X95 is not appreciably larger than an SBR'd AR pistol, and much less of a pain in the butt.

Ha! The miserable abortion of 2016 has one lousy day to go! Been a long time since I so passionately wanted a year to end!

Going to post more later, but I wanted to answer some comment/email questions. I also want to thank Greg Ellifritz for including me in his Weekend Knowledge Dump, a weekly must-read, for 30 Dec…and yes, I've asked Greg onto the shows, but no dice!

Build for the 9mm folding stock pistol was pretty straight-forward:

Upper: Quarter Circle 10 complete upper, 5.5-inch barrel
Lower: Quarter Circle 10 stripped lower, Glock mags, with mag release installed
Folding Stock: Dead Foot Arms Modified Cycle System; includes folding system, short buffer tube, proprietary bolt and dual spring system
Trigger: Timney, Targa 2-stage
Lower Parts Kit: Seekins Precision Build Kit, which includes a Seekins Enhanced ambi safety and enhanced bolt release. I opted to install the safety with a 60-degree, rather than a 90-degree throw.
Pistol Buffer Tube: Phase 5 Hex-2 hexagonal pistol buffer tube
Pistol Grip: Tyrant Designs; looks absolutely cool, but I am not necessarily sold on it yet. I must say that TriTech Tactical's pending pistol grip that holds a Glock magazine has some appeal. Use, they look wonky as all get-out (especially compared to the too-cool-for-skol Tyrant), but working with the RONI Glock SBR conversions, which carries a spare Glock mag in its vertical foregrip, proved to me how handy it is to have a spare magazine at hand. I've reached out to them, and will probably meet them at SHOT.
Sight: Aimpoint Micro H-1
Sight Mount: Daniel Defense Absolute Co-Witness
BUIS: TBD, probably Troy flip-ups
Magazines: Obviously Glock; I have noticed that the factory Glocks activate the QC10 bolt hold-open while the Magpuls do not. I have not tried any ETS mags yet.

Couple of points on the build:

• The MCS from Dead Foot changes the operating system for the AR, something you won't notice until you try to take the gun down. Instead of just popping the pins to pul the upper receiver, the MCS has a different sequence! You must first remove the dual springs from the shortened buffer — no big deal…you just unscrew the knurled back-end of the buffer tube. Then it's business as usual.

• Regarding the bolt hold-open, this has never been a huge deal for me. I've run AK, H-K and Israeli weapons without bolt hold-opens. I believe it's more of a training issue than anything else. I recall that Gabe Suarez wrote on this years ago (found it). In short, I won't go into conniption fits if the bolt hold-open doesn't, but that's just me.

Note that with the full-sized pistol buffer folded out, the QC10 is pretty close to the size of the X95. What can we learn from this? If you want an SBR-sized gun to use and shooting off your shoulder is important, go with the bullpup. If you can handle the "cheeking," go with the AR pistol…in both cases, lots less paperwork…as stated by my commenters, much better as an actual "using" guns.

• Two other components for the build are not listed, because I don't have them in place yet. I think a 5.5 inch-barrelled upper MUST have a hand stop, so Mr. Hand doesn't interface with Mr. Flash Hider, or, worse yet, Mr. Bullet. I've typically used Magpul here, but I think I'm going with the Troy Industries stop because it is small and light, more in keeping with the build. Not to mention, cheap. Given the length of the barrel, I've gone back to gripping with my week hand on the magazine well instead for the forward rail, which works fine (you're not slinging a lot of mass around with a 5.5-inch barrel). Accordingly, I've ordered some skaeboard grip tape to cut and fit to the forward and side parts of the magazine well on the receiver. Yes, you can get a grip on the foreend, but I'm not sure it buys you anything over a magazine well grip.

• I have no idea what to tell you about shouldering a buffer tube, except not to do it in front of an ATF agent. There are earlier episodes of SHOOTING GALLERY that show me running the Spike's Tactical 9mm pistol shouldered (shot great that way). This was well before the ATF began their yes-it-is no-it-isn't dueling letters on what constitutes a Short-Barrelled Rifle. I've actually been fiddling around with some old silhouette stances (quartered onto the target, weak arm folded in front of the strong hand and arm, with weak hand gripping the foam rubber part of the tube. The tube never touches the shoulder, and it is dead steady. I'll keep you informed. Once again, check out my earlier post one this whole mess.

On another topic, yes, I finally made a decision on the optic for my Galil ACE 7.62 Nato. After agonizing a bunch over scopes, I decided to keep it simple, stupid, and go with a Lucid P7 4X combat optic.

I like the reticle, and it is available in the STRELOK ballistics app on my iPhone. The Lucid HD-7 red dot has been a workhorse on my Tavor, and I totally support Lucid's mission to provide high qaulity optics at a price that require you to sell your car. The ACE will be fun to shoot 3-Gun Heavy Metal in matches where the long shots don't reach out to the stratosphere. You need to Galil clip-on cheekpiece (provided with the ACE) to get a good cheek weld, BTW.

Okay…gonna stop now and take some pictures, which I'll use to update this post…

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Runs Like a Scalded Dog!

I need to get the Aimpoint on it, sight it in, and start putting rounds through it. It also needs BUIS, as light as possible.

What do you think? Should I SBR it????

The Future, Sort Of

So the big news going into SHOT is that Colt is…finally…resurrecting the Colt Cobra, truly one of the great snubbies of all time. Smith and Wesson is rolling out a 6.5 Creedmoor MP-10. Ruger has ditched the .243 in the superb Ruger Precision Rifle in favor of the new hottness, the 6mm Creedmoor (this is outside my pay grade…I'm very familiar with the 6.5 Creedmoor both for long distance shooting and hunting; zero experience with its 6mm cousin…read this from the Precision Rifle Blog, which will give you the facts from an expert). Plus the Ruger American Compact in .45 ACP; the military Glocks 17 and 19 on the near horizon; "boutique" manufacturers spinning out new 1911s, M1 Carbines, little tiny concealed carry pistols, fill in the blanks.

I think what is happening is that as the market moves toward normal times, manufacturers are going to be filling every conceivable niche…think of it as throwing "stuff" on the wall to see what sticks. To be sure, we all benefit from that. I've said before that we live in the "golden years" for firearms…if you want it, somebody is making it, from the very highest end (a nice, heavily engraved Wesley Richards 4-Bore to go with your Cabot Arms meteorite-made 1911) to the very lowest (concealed carry pistols in the sub-$300, even sub-$200 range that actually work).

You want retro? Pick your time period, from Kentucky long rifles to AVATAR-styled guns. FN's "military collector's series" is selling like crazy, especially their semiauto version of the SAW, which (according to my little cherubs, is selling at an incredible level); Inland Manufacturing is cranking out M1 Carbines at a level not seen since WWII. Concealed carry pistols? Take your pick from hundreds. Tactical rifles? Duh! Hunting rifles? An amazing assortment.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Grinding Long March to 2017

With Santa in the rear view mirror, I'm spending most of this week doing a whole lot of nothing, which means finishing up a couple of projects that have cluttered my desk for months. Yesterday I worked toward finishing off the Dead Foot Arms/Quarter Circle 10 9mm/Glock magazines AR project. I'll finish it off this morning and put some rounds through it this afternoon. To be fair to me, this gun will be featured on the last SHOOTING GALLERY episode, which I cleverly put off until after the SHOT Show…I simply ran out of hours. Our 9mm AR show will feature this build, the super Angstadt Arms pistol (Glock mags) with the Shockwave Brace, the CMMG 9mm carbine (Colt mags), which has been built into a 3-Gun "trainer," my super accurate JP 9mm rifle (Glock mags) and my current fav favorite X95 in 9mm (Colt mags).

The reason I decided to dedicate an entire episode to the 9mm ARs is that I see this as an important rising niche for a bunch of reasons:

• Easy of shooting…like running a stapler
• Ammo costs
• Ability to train on pistol ranges

These 3 points taken together make the 9mm carbine/pistol a powerful tool for training, whether your "mission" for your primary AR(s) is self-defense or competition. I think the training aspect is very important…it seems that everyone has an AR, and I think the more training the better. Most of the high-end trainers I deal with welcome pistol caliber carbines in their classes. I fully expect to see pistol caliber carbine-specific classes, say for indoor or caliber-restrained ranges.

But wait! There's more!

• As a self-defense tool…the 9mm carbines and even the pistols are extremely easy to shoot, moreso than a handgun. Given the tremendous improvement in 9mm ammo, the reason the FBI and a flood of police agencies have gone back to the 9, a light, easy-to-shoot carbine/pistol without the ear-shattering noise and blast of the 5.56, loaded with 30+ rounds of, say, Corbon DPX, Hornady Critical Duty/Defense, or the new FBI load, the Speer Gold Dot G2s…tell me that's not effective for home defense.
• Competition…USPSA's Pistol Caliber Carbine class is a huge success, and I'm seeing carbine-style matches popping up all over. At the NRA Show, I reached out to Project Appleseed and urged them to change their national rules to allow 9mm carbines (right now, the rule is that rifles must be .22-8mm, .32, caliber; the last Appleseed I attended, I asked that since I already has a "Rifleman" patch, could I use my 9mm carbine? They said, "Of course." I shot the 3 highest scores of the day with the JP).

I haven't yet waded into the whole SBR issue. You can ready my (apparently endless) comments on the subject here. There additional issues in the comments, too.

I originally planned to include the other 9mm carbine platforms — the Sig Sauer MPX, the newest MP-5 clones, the CZ EVO, etc., but, as usual, I ran out of room. Maybe in a later episode, or on SGO. I got my first 9mm pistol I think a decade ago as a gift from Spike's Tactical. That gun has hundreds of rounds through it, is accurate and has never failed! I wish I could say that about all my guns!

On a totally different note, CJ wrote this comment on my last post on the Ruger Predator 6.5 Creedmoor:
Isn't the Predator a "hunting rifle"? One and a half inch groups at 100 yards with a hunting rifle seems perfectly adequate. No reason not to attempt better results, just as long as you understand you're trying to get Mclaren performance from a standard Ford motor.
 CJ, of course you're right. An inch-and-a-half at 100 yards is perfectly acceptable for hunting purposes. An inch is even better. If I got 2 inches at 100 off my pre-'64 Winchester 30-30, I would jump up and bark like a seal. I tend to bring high standards to a gun, especially a gun that I am going to use "in the field," either for hunting or self-defense. I believe we are in a golden age of firearms…modern firearms are just DAMN GOOD. I remember my father bragging to everyone that he finally created a reload that got him 1-inch groups at 100 yards from his Sako .264 Winchester Magnum, a round so hot that it would actually cook the little Tennessee whitetails as well as kill them. Nowadays, the idea of an MOA at 100 is the ante.

So I apologize…I believe I can get down to 3/4-inch at 100, and with a little luck down to the half-inch I want to see. But the rifle is fine as it is.