Monday, May 2, 2011

Bottom Metal

I really need to finish the post I started a while ago about my Penrod build. My bottom metal for the build just came in today along with a ten round Accuracy International mag. I am still waiting for McMillan to finish my stock and Krieger to finish my barrel. It all takes time I guess but I don't like to wait. I have never been good at waiting. That is all, I need to spend some more time on here. My thoughts tend to get scattered.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

S&W Model 40 Centennial Part 3, Gemini

  Even though I am writing about this last the first trip this little guy went on was to Gemini Customs. The purpose was function and reliability. The first step was the action, from the factory a stock J-frame has a pretty hefty pull. Marc took it down to 11 pounds, replacing the springs and installing an extended firing pin. He straightened the crane to 0.0005, straightened the ejection rod to 0.003 and polished the indent, throated the barrel and set cylinder to barrel gap at 0.005, and lastly he did a test fire to proof the grip safety. He then cleaned and lubed the gun before sending it back. This was a pretty straight forward and fast post but to the point and I believe I have included all the necessary information. I might take some more pictures if someone wants, otherwise that is it on the Model 40.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How gucci is your gun?

  I get a good laugh every time I pickup a gun magazine or see certain peoples weapons. Specifically their M4 variants. I love seeing some base level AR with a cheap rail, light and laser combo, a grip with a bi-pod falling out of it's bottom and some scope with 20 sun shades stuck on the end. Really? What are you going to do with that thing? Duct tape it the top of some half track and invade Poland? Both make about the same amount of since. People throw so much junk on their guns they almost become crew served weapons, you need a whole fire team just to help haul the darn thing around.

  Every once in a while some gun writer will might mention this but for the most part their job is to sell product. The magazine is not paid for off the shelf of some store or by your subscription, it is the marketing that pays the wages and for the production. You can't turn a page without seeing two pages worth of adds. When it comes down to it and you ask any operator that has some common sense (not all do) be it law enforcement or military they will tell you less is more. If you don't use it take it off. METT-TC will determine what you want to have with you.  Basically, if you are not clearing dark rooms in buildings you probably don't need that two pound 500 lumen disco ball hanging on your gun. I am not saying don't have a flash light, just don't keep it on your gun.

  I come from the military point of view and have seen people in the military do some really stupid stuff. I saw one fellow while going through some training in Iraq constantly hold his mag well no matter what shooting position he was in. This is not a bad thing to do, use what works for you. The problem is when you have a fore grip on your gun like he did and he never used it. The instructors thought the same thing and several days into training he get chewed out because they repeatedly told him to use it or take it off.

  Optics. Those wonderful little buggers we can't get enough of. Too much is not a good thing on an AR when it comes to optics. Most engagements happen within 300 meters, more like 100 meters (in war that is). You don't need some 10X optic to shoot 100, 200, 300 or even 500 meters. With a properly sighted in Aimpoint I can consistently drop all the targets on a pop up range out to the 300 meter mark and farther. That is without any sort of magnification. Again I am not saying having something like a 4x ACOG wouldn't be useful, I really like them, but why stick a huge spotting scope on a gun that doesn't need it. Do I even need to go into the logic behind having a light on your gun for building clearing when you have a 10+ power scope on your gun? All I have to say is I wont be in that building with you.

  When we deploy everyone is issued several items for their weapon. I will not go to great detail but most has to do with night vision and infrared lasers. I personally never had a use for them. Night vision yes, but never mounted on my gun, it comes with a mount but is not meant to be used that way. The M68 is a both eyes open sight. You have your night vision on your left eye (or your non-dominant eye) and you look through your sight with your right eye. Both pictures come together and guess what, that little red dot is right on your target. You maintain the ability to look around without your weapon shoved in your face all the time and you can still fire accurately if the need arises.

  War and armed confrontations have changed a lot in the last 30 years so have our tactics. Our biggest worry in America right now is the active shooter scenario. These require fast response often with little or possibly no backup near by. You have to get to the shooter and stop the action. You and hopefully a small team will need to be highly maneuverable and fast. The last thing you want is cumbersome gear and extra junk to slow you down. Grab your rifle and get in the fight. I just hope it is equipped for the job at hand.

  The best illustration of the point I am trying to make came from some cartoonist for the military.
There are two soldiers in the drawing. One is holding his M4 with more gadgets than you ever knew existed on it. The other soldier sees him and says, "wow that is sweet, where do you work?" The one holding the gun replies "I work in supply"

I will look for this cartoon and add it to this post if I find it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quote of The Week

"There are no half measures when one sells one's soul."

-Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
  On Killing 

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Kids are Nuts

Does he look sane to you?
  I try to keep from being an abusive parent, it is hard sometimes. Kasey is still in Florida so the little ones get locked up while I'm at work for 9 hours. I get home and they go crazy for about 2 hours before I lock them back up to for bed. They have spent a lot of time in their cages so I tried leaving them out one night. To my surprise they didn't make any noise till about 0930. I let them out to terrorize the squirrels and walked into the kitchen to make my coffee. Yup there it was, the larger of the fur bellies had left a steaming earth loaf on the kitchen floor. Seems he knew just how to send my morning to the crapper.

  The kitchen is clean, less half a roll of paper towels.
The guilty parties, Matt Lauer and Prudence

  Matt Lauer has decided he likes to dig. The vines in the concrete pots did not survive the devastation that is Matt Lauer. He also decided he likes the taste of roots and that he should dig to find the choicest ones.
Matt Lauers handy work

 The albino looking child likes to eat trees and bushes. She has taught or possibly just reenforced Matts natural tendency to do the same. All I have to say about this is the Rhododendron does not look as healthy as it use to. Poor thing probably wont last out the year.
Prudence Chewing on Rhododendron apendage 

 Aside from that they have been great and I do love them. The best part is I will never have to put them through college. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Boredom, Draco Time

  My wife is in florida getting a tan without me. The bad part of this is she keeps texting me pictures of beautiful weather, I like the ones with her in them (she's a hotty). With her gone I am stuck with the kids, Matt Lauer and Prudence. They take up a lot of time with Matt crying to go out side and Prudence always wanting to be in my lap. I usually end up yelling at them a little then kicking them outside. They are dogs after all.
  I picked up a Draco AK47 pistol a little while back and have a couple things I want to change on it. The barrel nut was spot welded so I used a dremel to free it up. An RPK flash hider will be going on it in a couple days. I will be changing the sights and furniture at a later time.
  I usually have some regular FMJ 7.62x39 sitting around but picked up four boxes of hollow points because it is illegal to hunt with FMJ in my state. I wanted to make sure they would function, loaded up a mag and tried chambering a round. CHUNK, right into the base of the barrel it went. It really isn't too uncommon for this to happen with AKs I guess. If you run a search pages of posts on forums addressing this will pop up.
  I am sure most of you know why this happens but I will touch on it real quick for those that do not. Hollow points are cut down slightly and then recessed in the center. This creates a flat nose on a shorter bullet causing the tip of the bullet to hit the barrel throat at lower point. On most weapons this is not a problem but on an AK the feed ramp is a metal piece that sits right in front for the mag well extending out from under the barrel. There is also a small ramp ground into the bottom of the barrel. The hollow points make contact right below the small ramped area in the barrel causing the stoppage.

  My first thought was to just widen and lower the ramped area on the barrel a little. So I did. This helped some but I still had failure to feed every once in a while with the tip hitting low and to the left. AK mags are double stack feeding from the left and right side. All the failures were coming from the right side. I was a little confused at this point so I pulled out another AK I knew fed HPs fine for a reference. I was looking at the actual feed ramp and comparing the two. The one that worked was shorter and the total distance the hight from the ramp to the bottom of the chamber in the barrel was less. It was at this point I realized the feed ramp on the Draco was not straight across, it was canted slightly, the right side sat closer to the mag than the left. This caused the rounds to angle left and down. Simple fix, I filed the feed ramp on the right side making it flat across. So far it has cycled fine by hand all the way to the last round. I hope to get out to the range soon to test it once more.

As an added note everything I ground or filed I finished with 600 grit sandpaper to give it a more polished end product. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What I like and why: Plain Edge Blades

Spyderco Folders
  You send the little noisy food dumpsters to go grab the mail saying " there might be something in it for you". Good job, you got them to go outside at least once today. When they come back with all your bills and that rebate from your lawnmower purchase you whip out that trusty little pocket shank to start opening. The only problem is you bought a serrated knife that is now dull, it only tears the envelopes, no longer cutting.
  Yes we all like to think that our pocket/EDC knives save the world and protect us from unseen dangers but in reality they are just opening letters most of the time. I guess serrations have their place somewhere but when asked most people state that it is good for cutting rope. The only problem is that serrations don't cut as much as they do tear/saw. When was the last time you cut a rope? How often do you do this? To be more precise what percent of your cutting is comprised of rope? I am going to guesstimate less than 5%, and that is being generous. Here is a visual.
Cutting Pie
  Yes you can add more things to cut but why complicate it any more. Most of your actual cutting power comes from lowest part of your blade near the choil or handle. This, the most used part of the blade, becomes useless for normal cutting when serrations are added. Yes there is more blade that can be used but the leverage is lost and cutting surface is decreased. This really hurts the knife if you plan on using it to baton larger pieces of wood, if it is a fixed blade. I would never recommend doing so with a folder, not to say you can't. Lastly, have you ever tried sharpening them in the field with a stone? Not fun and doesn't work so well.

 So, in my wonderfully opinionated view, serrations are more of a fad item that people want because it is an added option and sometimes looks cool. I do own several knives with them but they sit in my safe nowadays. You will only find me carrying a plain edge, sharp enough to cut rope.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

S&W Model 40 Centennial Part 2, Grips

  FINALLY!!! My little bundle of joy is back. Several days ago it came in at my friends house, he didn't directly tell me but may have mentioned something about having a grenade in his truck. I figured my S&W had to be back.  It had been sent to Patrick Grashorn of Grashorn's Gunworks to have custom Elk grips fitted. Check out his website he has a lot to offer and will custom build your grips to your liking. If you want more of the butterscotch look go with the elk if you want a darker look you can opt for moose. I like having options. Another plus, if you are military or law enforcement he might hook you up. Most grips can just be ordered but for some models like my Model 40 he will need the gun to fit them. The reason for this is the Model 40 Centennial is a "Lemon Squeezer" as it has grip safety. The grips have to be fitted then safety tested for reliability. Personally I like my gun to go boom when the trigger is pulled so I didn't mind sending it out. Grashorn fitted two sets of grips (one set for my gun and one for my buddies) with a turn around time less than a week.
  There were several reasons for the changing out and ordering of custom grips. The first was purely aesthetic, a more classic custom look was desired and the most logical option in mind was stag grips. The second is part of the first, what is a custom gun without custom grips? Thirdly is function, if you have ever handled a classic J-frame with the wood grips you may remember them being on the smaller side. This becomes and issue for some people when trying to engage the grip safety. If you have large hands it becomes even more of a problem and may even turn you off to the gun. I have two possible fixes, first buy grips from Grashorn, they are much larger than the originals adding girth to the handle. Then get yourself a Tyler T-grip. I had a T-grip on mine before sending it to Grashorn and left it on for the fitting of the new grips. The T-grip does not only help with the safety function but also helps with ergonomics and trigger control.
  I probably should touch on the internals and the great work that Marc Morganti does at his shop Gemini Customs. I will talk about that next time.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Custom Damascus 1911 The Saga Part 2

  I started out last time talking about the manner in which I decided to try building a custom 1911. The decision to build something that would fit my likes and be something other than the norm came while I was deployed to Iraq. If you have been or know someone that has deployed in the past you know there really is not a whole lot to do. There are many long days with nothing to do after work and on days off. I spend a lot of my time reading magazines my wife, family and friends sent me as well as those I was able to get from the BX/PX on the FOB (forward operating base). Articles written about guns customized specifically for what the author wanted stood out the most and were far more entertaining than those written about normal run of the mill straight from the factory guns. When I realized this I decided I needed to join the masses (or few) and build a custom gun. After all you aren’t a real gun nut till you start having them build for you right? 
  The internet is a great horrid beast. Not the best place to get information from but if you are discerning you can find a great deal of useful knowledge. My first suggestion would be to verify anything you find with a reliable source such as a gun smith before making your decisions. I on the other had did not do this. I was in Iraq, that’s my excuse not that I need one. I already had a base knowledge on 1911s having and currently owning several. So I decided to take what I knew and what I could find and jump right into the wood chipper.
  I have always been a fan of Wilson Combat as far as high end manufacturers goes and currently use one as my EDC (every day carry). Knowing and liking Wilson Combat I decided to go through them to acquire most of the small parts for the build. They also provide a military discount and I am always a fan of discounts. There are several other manufactures such as Les Baer, Ed Brown, EGW, Caspian and more that all provide quality parts. The more people you talk to the more answers you will get on what parts you should use, most are quality. Just remember, if it is cheap it’s probably not worth buying.

  Like the title hints I contacted Caspian Arms for the slide and receiver. This process can take a while due to all the options you can choose directly from Caspian. I placed my order over the phone while in Iraq, after talking over each other for a little while due to the delay we got the whole say a little wait then talk again system worked out. The people at Caspian are great and their customer service is way up on my list. They sent me a confirmation email with a copy of the work order, everything was correct even with the bad phone connection. Six months later my order is ready to be shipped. My order took longer because the damascus they use comes from spain and has to be imported. If you order standard stainless or carbon steel it will only take a month or two. 

  I already addressed most of the small parts the slide and receiver. The last parts I ordered where the barrel and action components. These I ordered directly from Nowlin. This is the part I might have done differently. A lot of gunsmiths recommend using Kart barrels they are cheaper than Nowlin products but I don’t really know how much better they are. I should not have any problems with accuracy and reliability as long as everything is installed correctly. I believe it will be as I have great faith in Neil. 
  I have included pictures of my parts order forms. You will notice I did not buy a barrel bushing, barrel link, or grip and screws. I somehow skipped the barrel bushing in my initial order and just decided to let Neil provide one. You don’t really know what barrel link is needed until installing the barrel so I leave that to the professionals. Lastly I have yet to find the grips I really want for the gun. I will probably order a set of cocobolo grips to use temporarily till the time that I find what I am looking for. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Strider SMF

  Lets talk knives. Knives are fun, they cut stuff (I have some nasty scars from unfortunate accidents, not so fun). I like knives because they are an every day tool for anyone willing to think outside the box. Well, with a knife you can cut your way out of that box. *Insert some rant about crazy tree huggers that don't think you should even carry a pocket knife here* Back to the useful knife thing. You can cut open letters, chop veggies, stir your coffee and gut a deer all before noon and with the same knife if you wish. I was recently told I should get an executive job because I have expensive taste, I am not quite sure what that means but I do like nice toys or um, tools.
  I was browsing through gunbroker one day and decided to see what sort of Strider knives people had up for sale. It so happens a new SMF was listed so I started watching it. The auction ended with no bids, the knife was then re-listed the next day. I took this as a sign from G*d that I was meant to own this beautiful Strider SMF with a digital blade. It became mine.
  These blades retail for right around $500 new. They have an S30V blade with a titanium handle with black G10 scales. As you can see this one also had the digital color on the blade, I believe it a $25 option. These are some of the sturdiest folding knives I have seen. It had great lock up with the blade and there was no wiggle room where the blade attached to the handle. These knives are shipped from the factory with an edge you could shave with, be it your arm, face or legs. Whatever you don't mind loosing if you slip. (Don't shave with knives kids, it is a fun way to demonstrate just how sharp your knife is but its dangerous)
  Now the first picture really does not depict this knife too well. I had never held one before I bought it so I did't know what to expect. I knew the dimensions and specs on the knife but that can be deceiving. Here is a picture to give a better understanding.

  As you can see this is no slouch. That does lead to some problems if you want an EDC knife. I found that for myself the knife was just too large to carry comfortably in a pocket every day. As a tactical, hiking, camping or utility knife it would be great. If you can stick it in a pack or on a vest it shouldn't be too hinder-some and should come in very useful. I love Strider and they make a great knife but I would recommend going for one of their smaller models such as the SNG if you want a knife to carry in a pocket all day long.
  Well, I traded the SMF for another knife, a fixed blade. I figure if you are going to carry something that size you might as well be carrying a fixed blade. For a pocket knife though I down sized to another great brand, a Spiderco Paramilitary plain edge. It also has an S30V blade and a black G10 handle. It seems just as sharp and retails around $120. The best part is it fits in my pocket and I wont feel bad if I scratch it or dull the blade.

Custom Damascus 1911 The Saga Part 1

  This is a story about a boy and his toys... well, something like that. I love the 1911, enough said? Not quite, most "enthusiasts" will probably say no collection is complete without a 1911. Is any collection ever complete? There are several way to approach a complete custom build on a handgun, I probably took the least advised route. The easiest route would be to find a custom shop with pre-built "custom" guns already sitting in their inventory. There are plenty of custom/semi-custom production manufactures around for the choosing, I think it is a good idea to do some research before making a decision of course. The next would be to call up one of these shops and do a ground up consultation. This will cost you more money and result in a longer wait for the final product. Some times you can wait on a list for more than a year before they even get to your build or your will call and the company you wanted to build your gun isn't even taking orders because they are so backed up.
  Now the route I took was this, buy all the parts I would like to build a gun with then start calling people only to find out they will not build a gun with my supplied parts. This leads into my first warning, do not start buying parts unless you have already found someone to build your gun and they have cleared you to purchase parts on your own. I had no idea this was the case when I started purchasing parts. I had gotten this idea that I could save a lot of money by buying parts with a military discount and then have one of the bigger names in custom hand guns build it for me. I was a little more than disappointed when I started calling people, getting turned down then being referred to another only to get turned down again. Now I didn't just get the idea that I would be able to take this route for no good reason. I have spent many hours reading hundreds of magazines and books all focused on firearms and their customization. The authors of many great articles have done what I was trying to do with great success, the thing I failed to realize is I am not an author that is going to provide such companies with thousands of dollars worth of free advertising. I was not worth their time and my money was no good. Some of you may be thinking that I just didn't get the right parts or quality parts something along that line. To the contrary I bought great parts and did not "cheapen" anything when it came to that. This is not to say that I wouldn't swap some parts out if I were to build another. Most of this is just based on personal preferences and biases not that one part is better than the other.
  I have finally found the man to build my gun. Neil Keller, owner operator of Kustom Ballistics currently has my project and will be doing the complete build. I believe I will be much happier with this experience now going through Neil than if I had been able to get one of the bigger names to build my gun.

Next: Parts used and technical specs on slide and receiver

S&W Model 40 Centennial Part 1

 As of right now my Model 40 is not complete and I don't even have most of the gun on hand. All I have is a lonely cylinder sitting forlorn on my desk next to a cut down Galco and a hand full of Buffalo Bore 38 special +P rounds. This little project started when a good friend of mine and I decided we wanted matching 38s that we could customize side by side. We started out looking at some of the older case hardened Model 40s. That idea was rapidly scrapped when we started thinking about what kind of ammo we wanted to use and with the advances in modern ammunition we decided the current +P rounds would put more stress than desired on an original. So we started researching newer models designed to handle more powerful loads. The idea was again to find case hardened new manufacture Model 40s. Apparently we were about a year late and Smith and Wesson had stopped producing the case hardened models. As is goes in the gun world what you want is not all ways what you can get. We started browsing through and called several gun shops we deal with but to no avail. We came across several used but none that were new and in the price range we wanted. This problem was not to hard to overcome, we settled with what was available. Two brand new blued Model 40s. Price wise the pair was right in the range we wanted and we were able to get an even better price because we bought two. Luckily S&W was also giving a $50 mail in rebate at the time. Bonus!

To be continued...