Thursday, October 20, 2011


I went with three other members of the soon-to-be debuted webzine Shooting Reviews to Gunsite at the end of last month. Gunsite is one of the premier shooting schools in the U.S. Gunsite was founded by the late Colonel Jeff Cooper, who is known as one of the most influential voices of the acolytes of the single-action .45 automatic. 250 Handgun is described by Gunsite as their flagship course, and in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Model 1911 handgun, Gunsite offered a 1911-focused version of the class. It seemed like a good time to go for 1911 instruction!

I did learn a couple new techniques, but probably the most useful part of the course was just the experience of firing over 1000 rounds through 1911s in less than a week, often under pressure, and sometimes in unconventional firing positions. I finally learned the real importance of thing like large sights- and it's not accuracy! I also learned to really appreciate the difference between a $550 1911, and an $1100 one.

Gunsite focuses on what they (perhaps anachronistically now) call "The Modern Technique of the Pistol". Gunsite instructors say they're a fighting school, not a shooting school, and as a fighting school, I'd say they succeed quite well. Focus on combat awareness, proper reloads, and cover is excellent. One of my companions claimed that there are newer, better, (more evolved?) handgun techniques available now. Perhaps he's right, but I believe the "Gunsite Experience" will be a positive one for anyone who can afford the time and cost to attend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Little Soviet

I am not a huge fan of the M16 family, and its civilian AR-15 counterparts. I think that it's a dirty system, and the locking lugs (the infamous "star chamber") are annoyingly hard to clean. On the positive side, ergonomics are superb, accuracy is usually very good to excellent, and perhaps best of all, the system is modular. Modular usually means it's easy to exchange one part for a somewhat different part- say, a longer barrel for a shorter one- but in the case of the AR-15, this goes even further. These rifles are separated into upper and lower receiver assemblies.

This becomes especially useful when changing calibers. If you want to switch to another caliber (which has the correct dimensions to fit inside your existing receiver, obviously), it's as simple as purchasing the upper receiver of your choice, pushing out a couple of pins with your finger or a writing pen, dropping the new receiver on, and (if necessary) using a different magazine. A literal minute of time is required to change. Once the lower receiver or receiver is purchased (the piece that the ATF defines as the firearm), the upper receiver assembly can be purchased directly, in person, or through an online retailer. So, if you have an AR-15-type rifle, to switch calibers, you just need the purchase another upper receiver, and possibly, a different caliber magazine.

The price of metals has gone up dramatically in the past few years. This, along with U.S. inflation in general, has led to substantial increases in the cost of ammunition. The least expensive centerfire ammunition now available is surplus imported ammunition, and the least expensive rifle ammunition is 5.45x39mm, available from companies such as Aim Surplus, JG Sales, and Ammoman at no more than $.15/rd, delivered. The 5.45x39mm was the Soviet attempt to duplicate the U.S. 5.56x45mm, and the Soviet round is just slightly less powerful than the .223, with the 7N6 cartridge firing a 53-grain bullet at about 3000 feet per second.

5.56x45mm, 5.45x39mm, 7.62x39mm

I have long been of the opinion that any centerfire cartridge more powerful than .22 Magnum is sufficient for military use. Smaller rounds mean more ammunition can be carried. More ammunition equals more potential threats addressed. Putting a hole through a hostile target is more important than the size of the hole. If the threat is at closer ranges, put more holes in the target. Simple. In any case, I personally believe that 5.45x39mm is just fine for defending your home or your homeland. (Though if you're defending your home, I believe in using good expanding rounds.)

Smith and Wesson now make AR-15s. They made a 5.45x39mm AR-15 upper receiver and rifle, for a while, to capitalize on the cheap ammunition available for the cartridge. CDNN has the upper receiver assemblies available for $500,

with one magazine included. Additional 5.45mm-specific magazines from CDNN are $15, though standard AR-15/M16 magazines seem to work fine for folks who've tried them. This is an extremely good deal on a complete upper receiver assembly, with cartridge ballistics very close to standard 5.56mm rifles, and the cheapest rifle ammunition you can find. I suggest you get one while you can.