FN SCAR 17s Update

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My FN SCAR 17s. The crown jewel of my gun safe. The Burris MTAC 4.5×14 scope is attached with an American Defense-Delta mount.

What’s the big deal about FN’s SCAR? I wrote an earlier post on the 17s with several reasons why I think it is worth a premium price tag. After getting to know more about this battle rifle and having more time behind it, I’m even more convinced. Read on to find out why.

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A typical 3-shot, sub-MOA group at 100 yards with minimal effort from me with my FN SCAR 17s. I took about 3-seconds between shots for this group. With more concentration and effort, my SCAR is a 0.5″ rifle.

Here’s a list of upgrades I’ve made to my SCAR, and I’ve ranked them in order of impact on performance and utility. All are hyperlinked so you can easily find more information with C&L’s price.

  1. Geissele Super SCAR trigger: $325
  2. Primary Weapon Systems rail extension: $209
  3. Ergo grip: $25
  4. Parker Mountain Machine rear sling attachmentfactory direct only
  5. Magpul ladder covers: $10.99
  6. Magpul angled foregrip: $29.99
  7. Urban ERT sling with QD adaptors: factory direct only

I first learned about the Geissele trigger and PWS rail extension while watching Travis Haley’s YouTube video titled: Run a SCAR or MK16/17 Like a BOSS! It is a MUST WATCH for all SCAR owners. The Geissele trigger is simply the best SCAR trigger upgrade you can buy, period. I haven’t found a post recommending a different third-party trigger over the Geissele anywhere. The trigger basically cuts the pull weight in half from 8 lbs. to 4 lbs. and removes all creep. It’s also very easy to install.

The PWS rail extension is a great upgrade because it gives you the option of running the charging handle on your weak side. Again, the above video demonstrates why this is important. In summary, you can change mags and troubleshoot more quickly with a weak-side charging handle set-up. The extension comes with QD swivel points on both sides and lengthens your rail by 5″. On a side note…did you know that the muzzle brake on the SCAR is made by PWS? By the way, Cocked and Locked is an authorized Geissele Automatics and PWS dealer.

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FN SCAR with PWS Rail Extension installed. Note QD mount between screws on extension. Contrast with the picture of my SCAR at the top of the post showing the charging handle on the left side versus on the right side in this photo.

FN products typically run smoothly and shoot accurately, and the SCAR is no exception. Likewise, FN’s grips typically suck. I don’t like it, but it’s true. The Ergo 2 SCAR Grip is a must have accessory. It can be installed in a few minutes and makes a significant difference in comfort when shooting and carrying the SCAR due to the Ergo’s grippy, but non-sticky, rubber versus the OEM hard plastic. Also, the factory grip is hollow with no base while the Ergo model has a small storage compartment with an access panel on the bottom where you can stash a cloth for cleaning optics and a few small tools.

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The Ergo 2 SCAR Grip.

The Parker Mountain Machine rear QD mount is another great accessory if you are going to attach a sling. One of the other misses of the SCAR’s design is the pair of aluminum “ears” for rear sling attachment. If you use an HK mount or mash-hook, the ears will start showing wear and tear almost immediately as the steel sling attachments eat into the aluminum ears. I’ve tried wrapping mash hooks with mil-spec para-cord, but that quickly wears through. The PMM QD mount is also aluminum, but since it is a QD mount, it will not wear. Note that a similar ear is located at the front of the factory rail, and it has the same issues. However, the PWS Rail Extension takes care of that with its integral QD mount.

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QD Mount, mash hook, and HK hook. Steel hooks will eventually destroy the aluminum ears on the SCAR. QD mounts are the way to go.

Why do people buy rifles with quad rails only to cover them up with rubber? To protect the unused portion of the rails. Sharp aluminum corners are easily damaged, and if you want to preserve the rails on your SCAR, there are a myriad of options out there. Personally, I like the Magpul Ladder Rail Panels. You maintain the look of a picatinny rail while protecting it with minimal weight and adding a nice grip surface that protects your fingers from sharp edges.

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Magpul Ladder Rail Panel.

I’ve never been a fan of forward pistol grips on military rifles. While useful in some situations, I think they get in the way and are easily broken, even when made of high-strength polymer. Magpul’s Angled Foregrip is a nice compromise because it gives you increased grip on your rifle, is less likely to break compared to a pistol grip, and it won’t get caught up in your sling like a pistol grip can.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 10.43.09 PMMagpul’s Angeld Foregrip.

With hundreds of slings to choose from, you can get very personal with your carry apparatus. I was introduced to the Urban-ERT sling by some shooting buddies and prefer it for a number reasons. First, it is much wider than other slings which distributes the SCAR’s weight, and don’t kid yourself, the 17s isn’t light. The sling’s width and elastic shock-absorber made a big difference for me while deer hunting last year. The fat part of the Urban-ERT is equivalent to a car’s seat-belt. It’s also very modular and comes in multiple colors and patterns. You have every attachment choice possible as an option, and it can be configured in 2-point or single-point modes. I really like the emergency break-away, quick release, and smooth operation of the cinch strap for length adjustment. I do not recommend the Urban Sentry Sling Kit made for the SCAR because it uses mash hooks, and we’ve already discussed why that’s a bad idea. Instead, buy QD mounts by selecting Jumbo Buttons for the front and rear attachments of the Urban Sentry Two-Point/One-Point Hybrid Sling.

If you want to be able to quickly transition from 2-point to single-point configurations, I suggest you put an HK hook on the front and add the optional Magpul RSA sling attachment to your picatinny rail. I prefer the 2-point configuration and don’t switch back and forth.

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Urban-Sentry sling shown with mash hooks. Opt for the Jumbo Button, QD mounts instead for 2-point carry.

If you don’t already have a SCAR and want one, Cocked and Locked is your place to go! Our everyday price on the FN SCAR 17s in black or FDE is $2,749. If you prefer the SCAR 16s, the price for either color is $2,499.

Is Your Glock Shooting High and to the Left?

You’ll read it in online forums from time to time, “My Glock shoots high and to the left.” Is it fact or fiction? Well, truth is, it depends on you and your pistol. I have a G19 that was dead-on for me out of the box, but I also have a G30SF that shot high and left out of the box. I hold the sights exactly the same with both pistols. If your Glock isn’t dead-on, what are you to do?

I was watching a Larry Vickers pistol drill video on YouTube today, and for the first time, I heard a weapons expert say, “Some Glocks shoot to the left if you center up the rear sight.” You can see that here.

I wrote an earlier post on Glock sight installation and adjustment and want to reitereate that if you buy a Glock from Cocked and Locked, I will adjust your rear sight for FREE for as long as you own the pistol. IF you need to adjust the rear sight, you should only have to do it once, so don’t let the idea that you might need to adjust your rear sight bother you. After all, one reason manufacturers put adjustable sights on pistols is to compensate when the sight isn’t dead-on when centered in the slide.

Here are some pictures of my Glock 30SF, and you can see that my rear sight is pushed to the right.

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My Glock 30SF with Glock factory night sights. Note the rear sight is pushed to the right.

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Overhead view of my Glock 30SF. A few millimeters to the right equals dead-on for me. I also installed a lower sight, the 6.5mm version, compared to the factory original 6.9mm, which shot high for me.

If you’re shooting high or low, you can buy a shorter or taller rear sight to compensate for that. I sell the polymer sights for $5 and can change them out in a few minutes with my sight pusher tool shown below. Shooting high or low can be influenced by your personal sight picture, so if you want to keep your standard sight picture and your Glock isn’t dead-on, replace the rear sight.

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My sight pusher tool made exclusively for Glock pistols.

If your Glock isn’t shooting dead-on out of the box, does that mean you have a defective pistol or the manufacturer did not put as much TLC into your gun? Absolutely not. As I’ve said before, Glocks are a GREAT value. Great value at a lower price means you have to make a tweak every now and then. If you buy a Sig Sauer P226 with FIXED sights, on the other hand, it will be dead-on, period. What’s the difference? About $300. But, your Glock can be just as accurate with a small adjustment.

If you’re wondering how or why a Glock might shoot left or right when the rear sight is centered…well, I wonder the same thing. I have not seen a viable explanation. What’s important is the right/left thing does not affect reliability.

Glock’s are great all-around pistols for self-defense and the range. Don’t let the fact that you might need to adjust your rear sight keep you from owning one of the best pistols made today.

Don’t Get Screwed by Loose Screws!

Yep, loose screws will get you if you’re not careful.  When you buy a rifle, especially a rifle equipped with a scope, do you think all of the screws have been properly torqued at the factory or by the previous owner?  Don’t count on it.

I’ve worked on three rifles that came with scopes as a package during the last two years, and all three had very loose scope base and ring screws.  Those screws were so loose that I could easily turn them with a screwdriver bit between my thumb and forefinger. That level of looseness will absolutely affect accuracy. Would it surprise you that those rifles were a Remington 700, a Savage 110, and a Tikka T3? I also experienced it with a recently purchased Marlin 336 lever-acton on Gunbroker used for the pictures below.

I used to get worked up about rifles coming from the factory with loose screws but finally accepted the idea that it is my responsibility to ensure screws are properly torqued and my optic is mounted correctly. Besides, I like the idea of doing the job myself and knowing my rifle is in tip-top condition for hunting and target shooting. While you’re at it, do yourself a favor by turning your rifle upside-down and tightening the action screws, those larger screws that connect the stock to the receiver. You will find loose action screws are the second most common cause of poor accuracy next to loose screws around a scope. Here’s one example.

First, make sure you have the right tip on your screwdriver. It’s easy to slip and scratch your receiver or stock when using the wrong-sized screwdriver. Take out all screws and put them in a safe place as they are easily lost and difficult to find on the floor. Next, get some Q-tips and rubbing alcohol.  I use rubbing alcohol to degrease screws and tapped receiver holes because it won’t damage the finish on a rifle and dries very quickly. Dip a Q-tip into the alcohol and apply liberally to all threaded surfaces.

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Use rubbing alcohol and Q-tips to swab and degrease all threads.

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Oil and grease from tapped holes in the receiver. I bought this 1975 Marlin 336 from someone that had previously mounted a scope. I discovered lots of oil and grease on threads.

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When you remove rings and bases, you will commonly find gobs of oil and grease on
surfaces that are better left dry.

Get some cotton balls and soak them with alcohol. Wipe off all surfaces of your rings and receiver around holes. Also wipe off the scope tube. DO NOT apply oil or grease to your rings or scope tube! They won’t rust because they are probably made of aluminum and lubrication will only increase the likelihood of your scope slipping in the rings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a scope off to find significant oil in the rings and on the scope tube.

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You can find medium strength blue threadlocker at auto-parts stores and Walmart.

Grab some blue threadlocker and mount your scope base. I advise against using red threadlocker because it’s unnecessarily strong and makes removing screws in the future more difficult. Apply one drop of threadlocker to screw threads after degreasing. Again, be sure to use the correct screwdriver tip and tighten thoroughly. Mount your lower rings using the same method. Now it’s time to install your scope.

Use a bubble level to make sure your rifle is level. A gun vise of some type is very useful in this situation. Once your rifle is level, you can use the bubble level on your scope turret too. This makes it very easy to ensure your crosshairs are square with your rifle, an important part of making it easy to sight-in your rifle and make precise adjustments with tactical optics. Do not “eye ball” your cross-hairs to squareness with the rifle. You will undoubtedly have the scope and rifle out of square that way.

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Level your rifle first. A gun vise is a big help here.

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Mount your bottom rings, confirm the rifle is still level, then level your scope by using the top turret. Take off the cap which is often rounded on top and a poor surface for leveling.
(Don’t knock my vintage Tasco scope. That’s a 70s era Tasco made in Japan which is much better quality than today’s Tasco’s that are pure junk and made in China.)

Add threadlocker to your scope ring screws and tighten using a criss-cross pattern. Keep the bubble level on the top turret to ensure the scope does not twist while you are tightening screws. Try to maintain equal gaps between the bottom and top rings on both sides. Thoroughly tighten the screws, and that’s it!

While you’re at it, why not brighten up your front sight if you have see-through scope rings? Take some alcohol and swab the front sight post, then add a drop of nail polish to the bead or top of the blade. I typically use white, but you can use orange or any variety of neon. Don’t worry about messing up because you can use non-acetone based remover to take it off or touch up without harming your finish. Be careful to use non-acetone remover as acetone-based remover can damage your finish.

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Before.

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After.

Taking the time to ensure your scope is properly mounted will save you headaches down the road. Tight screws all around your rifle, especially the scope and action, will ensure you are set up for accuracy.

My Choice for Defense Ammo – Federal Premium HST

A while back, I posted about choosing the best personal defense ammunition and discussed my decision to use 230-grain FMJ .45ACP in my home defense, sometimes carry Glock 30SF because of it’s reliability. This round has never failed in my Glock, and to me, reliability is the most important thing when it comes to a round for personal defense. After doing some additional research on defense ammo, I decided to pursue a hollow-point round that is equally reliable to the FMJ ammo I’ve been using. To be fair, I couldn’t actually say any round is as reliable as the 230-grain FMJ unless I shot the same number of rounds in my Glock, and that is very unlikely considering defense ammo costs twice as much or more. However, I refuse to buy a box of 20 expensive cartridges, load up a magazine, and use them for defense without thoroughly testing them first.

So, I bit the bullet (pun intended) and decided to invest in expensive “personal defense” ammo to ensure functionality in my Glock. Until recently, I wasn’t willing to purchase a hundred rounds at $1 a pop. I’ll reiterate my opinion that you should only use ammo in a semi-auto pistol for defense that has proven itself as reliable in that pistol. In other words, you’ve shot a hundred rounds or more of your chosen defense ammo with no failures.  If you can’t afford to do that, stick with your range ammo. I’ll take reliability over expansion and penetration any day of the week!

On a side note, I have a Glock 19 that won’t feed Winchester 147-grain flat-nosed ammo worth a darn. Maybe yours will, but mine won’t. I found it at Walmart on the cheap and bought a few boxes. I love Glocks and think they are nearly perfect, but no pistol is 100% perfect. ALWAYS test ammo, a few boxes at least, before using it for defense. Someone else out there with a G19 probably loves the stuff. Pistols are like snowflakes…no two are exactly alike.

I decided to research Hornady’s Critical Defense and Critical Duty as well as Federal’s Hydra-Shok and HST before making my investment. There’s a myriad of defense loads out there, but these four hollow-points get the most press in addition to Speer’s Gold Dot and Winchester’s Ranger.

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147-grain 9mm rounds in Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST side-by-side.
Both are proven, well respected rounds in the law enforcement community.
The HST bullet typically expands to a larger diameter, but the Speer Gold Dot
remains a 
great option.

What’s the difference between Critical Defense and Critical Duty? Look no further than Hornady’s website for that answer. In a nutshell, Critical Defense is designed for shorter barreled pistols including snub-nose revolvers and 4″ and under semi-autos to provide expansion at lower velocities produced by shorter barreled pistols. Critical Defense rounds are also designed to recoil less. Critical Duty is loaded hotter, and the bullet is designed to penetrate through barriers, like drywall, glass, and sheet metal, while still providing moderate expansion. It was created with the FBI’s performance standards in mind.

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Images from Guns & Ammo Magazine’s article on Hornady’s Critical Duty load. Note the mushroom shape even when faced with hard barriers. What you will also notice is the diameter of the mushroom is not as large when compared to bullets like Federal’s HST and Speer’s Gold Dot. You must decide what is more important: expansion or penetration.

Some think Hornady’s Critical Duty penetrates too much for home defense. If your target is behind a wall, car door, or window, this round does a great job of getting through the obstacle to the target. That may be great for law enforcement, but when faced with a shooting situation in your house, over-penetration can be a negative. This video shows penetration in ballistic gelatin for the 220-grain +P .45ACP Critical Duty round. I encourage you to compare that with this video by the same person for Federal HST 230-grain .45ACP round.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 9.53.27 AM“Shooting Illustrated” compiled this table comparing Critical Defense loads shot into various mediums. Nice mushroom, but expansion diameter is smaller than Federal HST and Hydra-Shok. One plus of Critical Defense is reduced recoil, a great benefit for shooters using lighter pistols for concealed carry that tend to kick more.

Hornady Critical Defense sure sounds like a great defense round, but how does it actually perform? Overall reports are quite positive, especially for smaller pistols prone to heavy recoil. My J-frame .357 Magnum S&W is a lightweight 340PD model that’s prone to significant recoil with magnum loads. Like many people, the “bigger is better” mentality got the best of me while shopping for an everyday carry pistol a few years ago, and after deciding on a revolver because of its reliability (a good decision), I convinced myself that I needed a .357 Magnum (a bad decision). I read the reports about .38 Specials being “inadequate” or “not powerful enough” and that got the best of my judgement. Plus, I grew up shooting .357 Magnum revolvers, so I thought recoil would not be an issue for me. What I didn’t take into consideration was that I’d grown up shooting much heavier Ruger Blackhawk and S&W M27 pistols that weighed almost 3-times more.

Practice time at the range convinced me that “featherweight” revolvers are not meant for .357 Magnum rounds! Recoil is excessive, enough to bruise the web of my had after five rounds during my first shooting session. But that’s not the main reason I don’t like it. Big recoil means more time between shots and potentially the equivalent of a flash-bang going off next to you in a confined space, like your bedroom or hallway. When you think about it, is carrying .357 Magnum in a featherweight revolver smart? Opinions vary, but my opinion is absolutely not. I wish I’d saved some money and bought a less expensive .38 Special pistol. I load my revolver with .38 Special Hornady Critical Defense 110-gr. rounds and am very pleased with the pistol’s shootability. While Critical Defense is great for smaller revolvers, I’m not convinced it’s a great choice for semi-auto pistols that can shoot hotter loads with less recoil.

Federal Hydra-Shok has a wonderful reputation for accuracy and expansion and is a long-time favorite of law enforcement. It is available in “standard” and “reduced recoil” configurations. However, you will find reviewers stating hydra-shok bullets failed to expand in some cases because the hollow-point got “plugged” when shooting through cloth test mediums, normally multi-layered, heavy denim, placed in front of ballistic gelatin to simulate real-world conditions. I haven’t personally experienced this, but those reports are one reason I use Hornady Critical Defense over Hydra-Shok reduced recoil in my revolver. You will also find those who say the Hydra-Shok design is “old technology” and while its center post design was a step forward when introduced in the mid-80s, it’s out of date today, which basically means the HST is better.

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Normally reliable and used by law enforcement for over 20 years, Federal Hydra-Shok does have some short-comings. Failed expansions due to heavy clothing plugging the hollow point is one of them. To be fair, this is not typical, but do you want to risk it?

While any round mentioned in this post is a quality round, my goal is to find the best one. So far Critical Duty penetrates too much, Critical Defense is too light for my mid-sized semi-auto Glock, and Hydra-Shok may have expansion issues. Enter Federal HST. In all of my research, I haven’t found one negative review about Federal Premium HST. Not one. That might change when the next new and improved hollow-point comes out, but until then HST is regarded by many others as the best. Let’s take a deeper look as to why.

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Fully expanded Federal HST on the left and Hydra-Shok on the right. Both expand
very 
well, but the HST expands to a greater diameter while also penetrating deeper.

As you’ve seen in previous pictures, Federal HST’s expansion is unmatched. Also, HST’s “petals” are razor-like while other bullets have smoother, mushroom-like characteristics. Pistol bullets don’t create that shockwave of rifle bullets traveling at much higher velocities. Because of that, pistol bullets only damage tissue they touch while much faster rifle bullets can damage surrounding tissue inches away without even touching it. A larger wound channel is one key to a pistol bullet’s performance, and the sharp petals are more likely to cut tissue than rounded mushroom shapes.

How does the HST offer both greater expansion and penetration? The petals created by an expanded HST bullet actually have a slightly smaller frontal area compared to its Hydra-Shok cousin. Assuming two bullets weigh the same and have the same velocity, a smaller frontal area will result in greater penetration.

At approximately $25 for 20 rounds of Federal HST, my first trip to the range was with some trepidation. What if my investment didn’t work as planned? What if my Glock 30SF wouldn’t feed it reliably? I would be out of a considerable amount of money. Fortunately, Federal HST fed as well as FMJ ammo in my Glock. I loaded several mags with nothing but HST and even mixed it in randomly with FMJ rounds, and my Glock ate it up every time. Needless to say, I am confidently carrying HST rounds in my G30SF now.

Hopefully I’ll never need to use my Glock in a personal defense situation, but if I do, I’m convinced I have the best ammunition available in my pistol with Federal HST.

Update on the Military’s Quest for a New Pistol

 

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Businessweek reported that Glock and S&W are the front-runners for the next pistol contract with the U.S. Military.  Read more here.

December 2015 Update

Businessweek may have been premature. Lately, the Sig P320 has been touted as the leading candidate for the Modular Handgun System, although Glock and S&W are still in the race. FN Herstal is also planning to submit a contender.

U.S. Army to Retire 9mm NATO M9 and M11 Pistols

Fox News reported in this article that the U.S. Army will replace it’s Beretta M9 and Sig Sauer M11 pistols because they are “worn out” and troops need a cartridge with “better knockdown power.” The M9 was adopted by the U.S. Army almost 30 years ago, so it’s easy to understand why several “worn out” pistols are in the hands of our troops. (I previously wrote an article discussing the adoption of the M9 here.) Fox News also said, “The Army is seeking to replace the M9 and M11 pistols with a handgun that is more accurate, ergonomic, reliable and durable than the current pistol.”  Read more here and here for detailed spec requirements. The new pistol and its accessories are referred to as the Modular Handgun System or MHS.

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The venerable Beretta M9 has served as the official sidearm of the U.S. Army for 30 years.

Specific requirements of the MHS include: 35,000-round lifespan, 90% hit rate of a 4″ target at 50 yards (most people can’t do that shooting off-handed, but tests will likely be done with a mechanical rest), show higher lethality than the current M882 9mm NATO cartridge, 13-round or higher capacity, picatinny rail for accessories, suppressor capable, modular grip, and full ambidextrous controls. There is no mention of the need for an external safety. The Beretta M9 does not offer a picatinny rail or modular grip, and it’s external safety design is loathed by some. Also, just because the M882 9mm is being replaced doesn’t mean a 9mm +P+ cartridge is out of the question. There is no spec on bullet diameter.

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The SIG M11, or civilian P228, in 9mm NATO with 13+1 capacity is used by members of the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy who need a more compact sidearm than the M9.  The “A1” designation means the pistol has a short reset trigger or SRT, a milled slide, and special coating on carbon steel parts.  Read more here.

It’s interesting to me that most of these features are available on off-the-shelf, consumer pistols, like the Glock 21 which gets my vote for the MHS. Why spend money testing and creating new designs when existing models already qualify? H&K, SIG, FNH, Smith & Wesson, and Springfield all have potential contenders chambered in more potent calibers than 9mm NATO, but I have yet to see any manufacturer officially enter the race. Beretta will likely enter a different model in the trials as well.

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My choice for the MHS: the FDE Glock 21 in .45ACP with 13+1 capacity.

Certainly, ergonomics have advanced over the last 30 years as polymer grips have taken over their steel and aluminum alloy counterparts in volume. Adjustable back-straps are the norm for modern poly-pistols making grip modification easy for hands of all sizes. Will the military finally accept stronger-than-steel, lightweight polymer or continue with its antiquated theory that metal is better? I think yes because I’m not aware of metal-framed pistols with adjustable grip sizes, although I’m sure that problem could be easily solved.

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The probable caliber contenders side-by-side.

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Specs of probable top contenders. Bullet weights and velocities are typical. Note that Energy cannot be used alone to determine lethality. The U.S. Army will use ballistic gel to measure wound channel characteristics. Bullet diameter plays a significant role in wound channel creation.

Durability can be improved in many ways. Cartridge selection is the primary factor. The .45ACP results in less wear and tear on the frame and barrel than higher pressure, higher velocity rounds like the 9mm NATO, .357SIG, and .40S&W. (Sorry, Five-seveN fans, you don’t stand a chance.) Regardless, if you count out the 9x19mm, the .45ACP is the front-runner for durability as there are widespread reports of .40S&W pistols wearing out more quickly than the same model chambered in 9mm. One could beef-up the pistol to better handle the .40S&W, but that means more weight.

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Smith & Wesson’s M&P40 VTAC has 15+1 capacity in .40S&W. The M&P40 recently
bested the Glock 22 in an ATF competition by such a small margin that both were awarded contracts. You can read the juicy GAO report here that discusses why SIG failed the test and was excluded in addition to how the pistols ranked against each other.

A pistol’s design and materials also affect durability. The MHS must function in wet, dirty, sandy, and dusty environments. It will be interesting to see which tests are used during trials. One common complaint about the Beretta M9 is that the ejection port is a dirt-collector that leads to jams and malfunctions. No pistol is impervious to jamming when ultra-dirty, but a combat pistol should function normally immediately after it’s dropped in the mud or a body of water.

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FNH FNX Tactical in .45ACP boasts 15+1 capacity, rail, and threaded barrel, but it’s pricey at ~$1,000.

The raging debate over caliber is which one has the best knock-down power. Is it the .45ACP, the .40S&W, or the .357SIG? All have their proponents. One thing’s for sure, the .45ACP is proven in combat, and you rarely hear complaints about it’s knock-down power. Of course, the FBI adopted the .40S&W as did many police departments across the U.S., and you don’t hear complaints about its lethality either. The Army says terminal ballistics at 50 meters through 14 inches of ballistic gel will access lethality compared to the M882 9mm NATO round. Think about this…the most lethal round won’t necessarily be chosen. The chosen round only has to be more lethal than the current 9mm M882. Will a higher pressure, 9mm +P+ round be used in the tests? My guess is yes. The .357SIG has a followership for sure as it was designed to match .357 Magnum ballistics in a semi-auto design. While surely more lethal than the current M882, it is significantly more costly. Although it would not have the same recoil as a .357 Magnum due to the semi-auto action absorbing energy, felt recoil is significantly greater.

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Could Beretta stay on top with the Storm PX4 Full?

For shoot-ability, the .45ACP is hard to beat.  Match pistol shooters like the .45ACP for a number of reasons, including mild recoil and accuracy. The biggest problem with the .45ACP round is less capacity due to its larger bullet diameter. That’s a double-edged sword because that large diameter also contributes to the 45’s stopping power via larger wound channels.

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The Springfield XDM .40S&W with 16+1 capacity is one to watch. Could it withstand durability testing?

If you’ve shot a .40S&W, you’ve experienced muzzle flip first-hand, but some don’t mind the extra recoil, including many at the FBI and many police departments. However, increased muzzle flip and recoil are two common complaints about the cartridge. The .40S&W is actually a shorter version of the 10mm Auto, and part of why it was created was to reduce the massive felt recoil of the 10mm while maintaining a relatively large bullet diameter. Personally, I think the .40S&W will fail in the area of durability. It will probably outperform the .45ACP in the ballistic gelatin test, but as mentioned earlier, the .45ACP only needs to surpass the 9mm NATO in that test.

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The Sig P226 Tactical Operations model in .357SIG with 15+1 capacity. Not
the most popular cartridge, but performance is excellent and the SIG P226
has already proven itself in military testing.

If you’re a semi-auto pistol junkie like me, you are eagerly waiting to see which manufacturers join the MHS competitive process. The more the merrier because I would love see more data on various models and calibers. Be patient. The U.S. Government does not have a track record for moving quickly on these types of decisions, and it could be a few years before a winner is declared. More to come!

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The new HK VP9 is everything the MHS needs except it’s chambered in 9mm NATO.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it is available in .40S&W very soon.

My dark-horse candidate for the MHS is the Walther PPQ. You’ll notice that it is strikingly similar to the H&K, and it’s important to note that the PPQ came first. If you do some research and look at comparisons between the two pistols, you’ll find that opinions lean towards the PPQ having a better trigger. The M2 variant of the PPQ moves the magazine release from the trigger guard to a traditional push-button position that is reversible for left-handed shooters.

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The Walther PPQ M2 is very similar to the H&K above. It’s currently available in 9mm and .40 S&W. Another bonus is the adjustable rear sight for windage. Some believe it is a better pistol overall because of its excellent trigger. It’s also ~$150 less and weighs a few ounces less than the H&K.

The Physics of Blowback Pistol Design

I was recently Googling for information to help me better understand design principles of blowback pistols and found this article on the physics of blowback design.  For the most part, it’s a problem of balancing the linear momentum of the bullet and expanding gas with the linear momentum of the sliding part of the firearm.  The friction of the bullet going down the barrel is another significant factor.  For most pistols (Glock, 1911, SIG P226, Beretta M9, etc.), that’s the slide, but it can also be the bolt in some fixed barrel designs (Ruger Mark II).

Here are some things I learned:

The phrase “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” is basic physics and instrumental in semi-auto firearm design. Linear momentum can be used to calculate the required mass of the moving part of a semi-automatic. Linear Momentum is defined as: Linear Momentum = mass * velocity. Because a bullet has much less mass than the moving part of a semi-auto, it has a very different velocity.  Basically, you balance the linear momentum of the slide with the linear momentum of the bullet.  Example:

9mm 115-gr. bullet with a muzzle velocity of 1,225 fps
Conversion: 115-gr.=0.263 oz.
Typical slide velocity is 12 fps according the article above.
(0.263 oz.) * (1,225 fps) = (weight of slide, oz.) * (12 fps)
weight of slide = 26.9 oz. = 1.7 lb.

That’s somewhat heavier than actual, but close. Remember that the friction of the bullet moving down the barrel reduces the required slide weight in the total scheme of things.

Pure blowback, unlocked breech designs are normally limited to smaller calibers, like .22LR. Barrels are normally fixed in simple blowback designs. The Ruger Mark II and Mark III pistols are prime examples. This limitation is driven by the need for the breech to stay closed until the bullet leaves the barrel.  If the breech opens before the bullet leaves the barrel, the high pressure in the barrel can rupture the cartridge case causing a “Kaboom!” sending hot gases and/or metal parts towards the shooter’s face.  The cartridge case is not designed for high pressure. It relies on the barrel and bolt face to provide support while high pressure exists in the barrel.

Larger pistol cartridges, 9mm and above, typically used a “locked breech” design in addition to the fundamental blowback design because of higher working pressures. A locked breech forces the barrel to move a small distance, usually a few millimeters or less, in conjunction with the slide as the slide travels rearward.

Blowback design works best with straight-walled cartridges like .22LR, 9mm, and .45 ACP. Bottle-neck cartridges like .223, .30-06, and .50BMG have a significant bolt-thrust problem due to the difference in diameters of the bullet base and the metal cartridge base. Read the linked article above for more info on bolt thrust.

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 1.07.46 PMCase rupture due to lack of support. Very high pressure exists in the barrel prior to the bullet leaving. Once the bullet leaves, pressure in the barrel drops very quickly to atmospheric. The case must be properly supported while high pressure exists or the case will rupture.

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 1.08.16 PMResult of a Kaboom! in a Beretta 92. This pistol design is proven. Some Kabooms! are caused by high pressure rounds. I avoid +P+ rounds in semi-autos for that reason.

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Glock changed its barrel design when reports of Kabooms! occured in .40S&W and
.45ACP designs. Kabooms! have since been virtually eliminated. Note: LWD stands
for Lone Wolf Distributors which makes drop-in barrels for Glock pistols.

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Cutaway view of a M1911. The two notches on top of the barrel fit into the associated notches in the slide causing the barrel to move with the slide for a few millimeters prior to tilting down. Barrel tilt is caused be the rotating link, “A”. Since the barrel moves with the slide for a split-second, the bullet is mostly guaranteed to leave the barrel prior to the breech opening.

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X-ray view of a Sig 226 showing its locked breech design where the barrel lug at the ejection port causes the barrel to move with the slide for a few millimeters. Here is a great illustration of the Glock locked breech in action.

When a cartridge is fired, the bullet is driven forward and the breechblock is driven backward. In a fixed-breech firearm, like a revolver or a bolt-action rifle, the whole gun is driven backward.  Fixed-breech firearms have more recoil because most of the energy affecting the breechblock is absorbed by your shoulder or hand.  In a semi-auto, some of the energy is used to cycle the firearm which reduces the energy transfered to your shoulder or hand resulting in less recoil

For Unlocked Breech, Recoil Operated firearms, like the Ruger Mark II, the straight blowback slide moves a very, very short distance under pressure.  Slide movement is delayed enough because of the slide’s mass being significantly greater than the mass of the bullet (remember, think .22LR).  The breech movement is delayed enough to give the bullet time to exit and pressure to drop to or nearly atmospheric.  Once that happens, the breech can safely open. In much the same way as the Locked Breech, Recoil Operated design, the slide makes full travel on its momentum that was conserved during the brief instant that it was being accelerated backward by the force from the bullet.

The only real difference between locked and unlocked breech design is the method used to delay the slide and the opening of the breech. The blowback uses high slide mass and/or heavy action springs. The locked breech uses slide mass and the bullet’s drag on the barrel in conjunction with a design that causes the barrel to move slightly backward with the slide to delay opening the breech. The action spring has very little effect on delaying the breech from opening. This is why a locked breech pistol can usually be safely fired without a recoil/action spring but the unlocked breech design usually can’t.

Don’t you love physics!

Embellish Your Firearm!

I’ve always like the looks of white lettering on black metal and polymer.  I painted the letters and logos on my new Glock 30SF slide and magazines today and really like the result.  Check it out.

GlockMags
Painted numbers and logo on the left.  Original magazine on the right.

Glock30
Slide lettering painted white.  You can have your pistol embellished too!

If you buy a new pistol from Cocked and Locked, you can have your magazine lettering painted for $5 as long as the letters are stamped.  This process does not work on raised lettering.  You can have your slide lettering painted for $15.  If you don’t like white and want something else, just ask!

I can paint rifles too.  Price depends on the amount of lettering being painted but won’t be more than $20.

How to Buy on Gunbroker

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Most gun enthusiasts know about the firearm auction site Gunbroker.  It’s a great resource for buying new and used firearms and practically anything gun-related.  Gunbroker offers tutorials on how to use the site, but I receive questions almost weekly about the process of buying firearms.  Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Buying firearms online from legitimate websites, like Gunbroker, is completely legal!
  2. Create an account, search Gunbroker to find the firearm you’re looking for, and win the auction or Buy It Now.  You can look at a seller’s rating and read feedback to gain confidence in the seller.  Personally, I’ve never experienced any problems with Gunbroker transactions.
  3. Pay the seller after winning the auction or using Buy It Now.
  4. Use Gunbroker’s FFL finder to contact a local FFL that provides transfer services and background checks, like Cocked and Locked  Note: ALL FIREARMS PURCHASED ON GUN AUCTION WEBSITES MUST BE SHIPPED TO AN FFL. THE RECEIVING FFL DOES A NICS BACKGROUND CHECK ON THE BUYER.
  5. Contact the local FFL and ask if they will facilitate your transfer.  Provide the seller’s email and the auction reference number to the FFL.
  6. Your local FFL will email or fax a copy of their FFL license to the seller.  The license has a shipping address that must be used by the seller.
  7. Your local FFL receives the shipment from the seller, inspects the firearm, and updates their FFL logbook to reflect a firearm transfer into inventory.
  8. Your local FFL contacts you and lets you know that your firearm is available for pick-up.
  9. Go to your local FFL, fill out Form 4473, and undergo a NICS Background Check.
  10. Assuming you pass the background check, pay your local FFL ~$25 for providing the check and take your new gun home.

Thousands of transactions occur on Gunbroker every day.  It is a great resource for used firearms.  If you are willing to pay a premium, you can find items that are out of stock in most retail stores, but other times you will get lucky and find that elusive items for a steal.

One last note, if your item is not a firearm, you do not need to use an FFL.  You can pay for the item and have it shipped directly to your home.