If for some reason, you no longer wish to receive these e-mails please accept our apologies and respond to this message with REMOVE in the subject line and we will remove your name from the mailing list.

Citizens Association for Responsible Gun Ownership = CARGO




Hello Fellow CARGO Members,


The next meeting will be held at Napoli’s on Thursday, January 15th


We have reserved the Napoli's meeting room for dinner:



701 N Highway 78 # A

Wylie, TX 75098


For the dinner portion of the meeting, we will be in the meeting room between 5:45 and 7:00 for food and fellowship. 


For the actual meeting, we are moving to a separate building, just down the road from Napoli’s.  Member Don Bridges has volunteered his shop for the meeting.  There are a very limited number of chairs at the shop, so please bring a camp chair for the meeting.  We will meet there from 7:00 (ish) until 9:00 (ish)


The address is


2274 EAST Brown Street in Wylie


While heading east on Brown Street, it is 1/2 mile past stop sign that's at the intersection of Brown Street and Kreymer Lane on the right hand side. 


The shop is behind a small white house with a picket fence around the front yard.




The Gun topics this Month: 

·         All Christmas presents.  Did you get a special shotgun, pistol, knife or rifle? Bring it along to share.

·         Have you ever inherited a special firearm?  If so, bring it to the next meeting and share the firearm and its story.

·         Bring out your most powerful firearm in your collection…  Got a .44 Magnum? .338 Lapua, 50 BMG, 45 90??? 


Additional discussion topics:

·         Terror attacks in Europe, can they happen here?

·         The BATFE issued a new letter regarding the popular SIG Brace, what does this mean to shooters with AR Pistols with the brace installed?


Do you have anything to sell or trade?  Several CARGO members are interested in selling or trading parts of their collections, ammo, magazines or parts.  If you have something to sell or trade bring it Thursday night.


If you have any suggestions for future speakers or topics please send your feedback to CARGO@att.net.


When was the last time you visited our web site?  Please take some time to go to the newly remodeled CARGO website at www.cargogunclub.org 





The End of the SIG Brace?!


by Dave Higginbotham   on November 20, 2014


Rumor on the web today is that there’s trouble in SBR paradise. Shouldering the arm brace (most notably the SIG-Tac SB15–the single most significant firearms invention of the young decade) may soon make that legal AR pistol an illegal short barreled rifle .


Let’s begin with the intended use of the brace. It is an arm brace. As such, the flappy wings envelope one’s forearm and it can be strapped in place. It works like this, but it isn’t much fun to use. The SIG Brace, when used as intended, makes AR pistols far more stable, but users have a harder time reaching the gun’s controls. The use of the brace, like this, isn’t in jeopardy.


But–and this is one of those huge buts–there’s more to the story. The brace is perfectly suitable as an improvised shoulder stock. Ok. Chill out. I guarantee someone has already hit the comment button to light my ass up over the fact that I’m calling attention to the fact that people are using the SIG Brace as a stock. That’s fine. You can go on commenting, and I hope the weather is nice in whatever La-La-land you live in.


The BATFE knows that folks are doing this. I’d even bet there are BATFE agents who own AR pistols with SIG Braces. They’re that popular. The BATFE even opined about the brace in question: “Accessories such as the Sig Stability Brace have not been classified…as shoulder stocks and, therefore, using the brace improperly does not constitute a design change.” Sounds logical to me. “We [the BATFE] do not classify weapons based on how an individual uses the weapon.”


The braces on the market now are designed as arm braces, but they’re used as improvised shoulder stocks. This makes the gun much more safe, much easier to control, much more effective, and much more realistic. But it means you don’t have to register what is functionally a short barreled rifle. And that’s the rub. Uncle Sam wants you to tell him about your SBR (the registration process), and pay him a token of gratitude ($200 for a tax stamp) for allowing you to own something you should damn-well be able to legally own, regardless.

But now, a new opinion from the ATF


Yesterday, news spread about a letter to Eric Lemoine, owner of Black Aces Tactical–a company who had designed a shotgun that used the arm brace concept. They asked the ATF to rule on the matter. And this is what Acting Chief of the BATF’s Firearms Technology Branch Max Kingery wrote in reply: “The submitted weapon, as described and depicted above … is not a ‘firearm’ as defined by the NFA provided the SigTac SB15 pistol stabilizing brace is used as originally designed and not used as a shoulder stock. […] However, should an individual utilize the SigTac SB15 pistol stabilizing brace on the submitted sample as a shoulder stock to fire the weapon from the shoulder, this firearm would then be classified as a ‘short-barreled shotgun.’ ”


If shouldering the brace on a short shotgun suddenly makes it an NFA regulated short barreled shotgun, then it stands to reason that shouldering the brace on an AR pistol might now be construed in the same way.


So–we wait. For now, anyhow, we are all still legal shouldering our pistols. But will it last?




Another take on the newest  BAFTE / Sig brace letter:




Black Aces, SIG braces and the ATF ruling gone wild


11/20/14 | by Max Slowik


Black Aces Tactical is custom shop that specializes in magazine-fed, pump-action Mossberg 500-pattern shotguns. Serving a niche market, it has suddenly found itself in the spotlight after publishing part of a letter from federal regulators that determined its firearm could not be shouldered without classifying it as a short-barreled shotgun.


People lashed out against Black Aces immediately for one reason and one reason alone. This ruling hinged on the use of a SIG SB 15 arm brace.


Originally designed for AR-15s, SIG’s arm brace looks a lot like a stock and thanks to an earlier ruling by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can be shouldered even though it’s not a stock, free and clear, as long as it’s not modified.


Since then the AR pistol market has exploded. People are falling in love with their 10.5-inch AR pistols, finding new, aggressive muzzle devices to tame — or enhance — their fireballs. The rifle-pattern pistol market in general has blossomed with AKs and other firearm patterns being designed as pistols for use with arm braces.


Black Aces didn’t expect the ruling it received. It’s not exactly in-line with previous pistol brace rulings.

black aces tactical atf ruling

The infamous letter. (Photo: Black Aces)

In the letter the ATF said “should an individual utilize the SigTac SB15 pistol stabilizing brace on the submitted sample as a shoulder stock to fire the weapon from the shoulder, this firearm would then be classified as a ‘short-barreled shotgun’ … because the subject brace has then been made or remade, designed or redesigned from its originally intended purpose.”


The reason for this classification may have to do with the length of the sample weapon. Unlike pistols, which have no minimum length requirements, shotguns may be classified as “any other weapons,” or under the National Firearms Act.


In fact, the singular reason Black Aces sent its product in for evaluation was to make sure that it wasn’t going to mistakenly sell NFA-regulated firearms as unregulated guns. While some people have criticized Black Aces for asking a question no one wanted an answer to in the first place, no firearm manufacturer in the country wants to illegally, if accidentally, sell NFA-regulated guns on the general market.


A Black Aces spokesman told Guns.com that the firearm without the stock was less than 26 inches in length.


It’s possible that because the stock brings the overall length of the shotgun over 26 inches, part of what classifies this gun as a generic ‘firearm’ as opposed to an NFA-regulated AOW, the ATF has determined that the brace, in this case, has been “remade, designed or redesigned from its originally intended purpose.”


Whatever the thought process that went into the decision was, it’s been made, and one thing’s clear: the ATF has ruled that in order to shoulder this specific shotgun it must first be registered as a short-barreled shotgun. That’s the core of the ruling and also the most misconstrued part of this letter.


The letter only applies to a single model of Black Aces Tactical firearm. It has nothing to do with the SIG SB 15 brace, AR-15 pistols and the larger world of rifle-pattern pistols and accessories that can be shouldered that aren’t stocks.


Because the ruling applies to the gun and not the brace, the world of SB-15-equipped AR pistols is still safe for another day, although we expect more than a few people to take this as a sign that it’s time to finally set up that NFA trust.


This is the original BATFE letter and direction:




ATF Response on Firing AR-15 Pistols from the Shoulder with SIG Sauer Pistol Brace


by G&A Online Editors   |  April 4th, 2014


The SIG Sauer SB15 Pistol Stabilizing Brace has become a popular accessory for AR-15 pistols in the past year. The removable buffer tube attachment was originally developed for a disabled veteran to improve the ergonomics of the AR-15 platform.

Since the introduction of the pistol brace, many folks have questioned the legality and advisability of shouldering an AR-15 pistol with the brace attached. A recent letter from the Firearms Technology Branch of the ATF dated Mar. 5, 2014, may answer some of the questions floating around the firearms community.

The letter (below) addresses specific reasons why “[the ATF] have determined that firing a pistol from the shoulder would not cause the pistol to be reclassified as an SBR”.

G&A wants to know from our readers: Does this letter give you the confidence to legally shoulder an AR-15 pistol?

G&A always emphasizes safe handling of firearms and advises that users follow federal, state and local laws and all manufacturer directions when using the pistol brace.



ATF Update on Sig Brace? SBR or SBR and Gun Trusts


November 19, 2014 

Posted In:  ATF / BATFE ,  FAQ's 


By  David M. Goldman on November 19, 2014 3:36 PM  | Permalink




In the last few days a letter has surfaced on the Internet reportedly written to a small shotgun maker, which states that shouldering a Sig Sauer SB 15 pistol stabilizing brace could change a firearms classification to a short barrel shotgun.


The letter was written in response to Black Aces Tactical's request related to a short-barreled shotgun that was designed to incorporate the SB 15 Brace. Black Aces Tactical submitted a sample which they say had an overall length of 27 inches. The sample had a SigTac SB15 arm brace attached as well as a vertical foregrip. The brace is intended to allow a shooter to fire and an AR pistol with one hand using a Velcro strap to attach to the arm.


The ATF letter addresses the use of the SB 15 with a shotgun instead of AR pistol. The ATF response states that the submitted weapon, as described above... Is not a"firearm" as defined by the National Firearms Act provided" that it is used as originally designed and not used as a shoulder stock. The letter goes on to state, that if the weapon is fired from the shoulder, the firearm within the class I had as a"short-barreled shotgun".


Without knowing more details, it is hard to understand how this could be an AOW or an SBS. The length at 27 inches appears to be longer than the requirement for an SBS and because the firearm is not concealable, the forward grip should not change the status to an AOW.


Earlier this year the ATF stated that the misuse of the SB15 pistol brace would not change the classification of the firearm. While this letter does not address the use of the SB 15 with an AR style pistol, there is an obvious concern that the ATF could change its position in regards to that we Galletti of the use of an SB 15 pistol brace when fired from the shoulder.


If a pistol or shotgun with a SB15 pistol brace ends up being classified as a firearm subject to the NFA, a Gun Trust may provide flexibility in the use and possession of the firearm that individual ownership could not provide.


UPDATE For an indepth review of why the ATF is wrong see the Prince Law blog on this topic.


If you have and use a SB15 pistol brace, you should watch for developments on this topic. Below is a copy of the page of the ATF response that addresses this issue in relation to a shotgun.






Suspect in store robbery fatally shot by Hurst resident




By Domingo Ramirez Jr. -


 01/09/2015 8:02 AM

  | Updated: 01/10/2015 8:01 PM



A Hurst resident who confronted a man in his back yard Thursday night was shot and then fired back, fatally wounding the first man and injuring a second man just minutes after a nearby convenience store was robbed, police said Friday.


The wounded men managed to drive to a Euless apartment complex, where they sought help. Someone there called 911, and police officers arrived to find one man dead and another wounded.


Investigators determined that the men in Euless were connected to the shooting in Hurst. And they began to untangle the story, Hurst Assistant Police Chief Richard Winstanley said Friday.


The Hurst resident was on his back porch with a friend when he saw a vehicle park at a dead-end street off the 100 block of Charlene Drive.


A man got out of the car.


“He saw the man walk through a dark open field,” Winstanley said.


The resident went to get a rifle because he had been the victim of thefts and burglaries, police said.


Later, the resident “saw the suspect walking through a dark open field back to a vehicle,” Winstanley said Friday.


“The homeowner said something like, ‘What are you doing?’ and the suspect fired.”


The resident was hit, retreated to his back porch and started shooting, Winstanley said.


The gunfight continued as the wounded man got into a vehicle where a driver was waiting, and they drove out of the neighborhood.


In the meantime, a 911 call was made about 8:15 p.m. about an armed robbery in the 200 block of Norwood Drive.


Detectives learned that a robber walked up to Norwood Quick Stop and pointed a gun at a customer who was standing outside. The robber herded the customer into the store and grabbed money, Winstanley said.


“As he exited, he pointed his gun at two customers and threatened them,” Winstanley said. “He then walked back to the vehicle.”



That’s when the resident saw him again, and the gun fight erupted.


Minutes later, Euless police responded to a call about a gunshot victim in the 3000 block of Sycamore Circle West in Euless.


Patrol officers found the dead man and the wounded driver. And they linked them to the shooting in Hurst.


The driver was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. After treatment he was released and was in the Hurst Jail on Friday, Winstanley said. He was identified only as a 22-year-old Fort Worth man.


He is a suspect in four holdups in Euless and now faces charges in the Hurst case, Hurst and Euless police said.


By late Friday, authorities had not identified the dead man, saying only that he was a 20-year-old Fort Worth man.


The 39-year-old resident was taken to a hospital by a friend and was released after treatment late Thursday. He could not be reached to comment Friday.


No charges were expected against the resident, but the case will be turned over to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office for consideration, Winstanley said.




An Interesting Experience at the Shooting Range… Written by Greg Ellifritz


Interesting experience at the shooting range this afternoon…. The range is packed. Everyone got new guns for X-mas and wants to shoot them. There was about an hour wait for a stall. I sit down and start reading as I wait my turn. In a few minutes, a young girl sits down to wait in the chair next to mine. She’s by herself and appears to be in her early 20s. She’s the only black person in the room and one of the only women. She seems nervous as she fiddles with the gun case in her lap. She’s obviously uncomfortable.


Uncomfortable people with guns in their hands shooting in the stall next to me isn’t what I like to see. I decide to talk to her. Keep in mind that no one at this range knows me or knows what I do for a living. That’s why I like shooting there; I have complete anonymity and can focus on my own training rather than teaching others. I rarely talk to anyone, but something told me that I needed to talk to this girl. “It’s a long wait, huh?”


“What kind of gun did you bring to shoot?” She smiles and seems visibly relieved that someone was being nice to her.


She says “It’s just a 9mm. Nothing special, but it’s the only thing I could afford.”


We keep talking. I find out she’s a single mom with two kids. Her house has been broken into three times in the last two months. The last burglary attempt occurred while she was in the house with her kids. She has never shot a gun, but she recognized that she had a duty to protect her family. She went to a gun show and bought a Jimenez Arms JA-9. She asked all her male friends and family members to go to the range with her, but all of them turned her down.


She tells me that she has a bad feeling that the robbers are coming back tonight to get the x-mas presents she bought for her kids. She doesn’t know anything about guns and doesn’t know anyone who can teach her. She’s signed up for a CCW class, but no one teaches classes on the week of Christmas and she can’t find an opening until January. The problem is that she thinks the robbers are coming TONIGHT.


A January class isn’t going to help. She told me that even though she didn’t know what she was going to do, she knew she better figure out how to shoot the gun before she has to shoot the robbers tonight. That’s why she was there by herself at the shooting range. It didn’t matter that she was by herself, that she was the only woman in the room, or that she knew nothing about guns. She had babies to protect and was going to figure out how to do it, come hell or high water. It got me thinking about the courage and commitment that this woman was displaying.


How many people would intentionally place themselves into a situation where they know they will be the outsider and probably look stupid and inept to all the other “experts” at the range? Not many. The woman had guts. “I think I can help you. Let’s share a stall. I’ll show you how to shoot your gun.” Helping her seemed like the right thing to do.


No problem there.


The problem was that the range was closing in an hour and she could only afford one box of bullets. How’s that for a dilemma for you instructors out there?


You have less than an hour and one box of bullets to take a woman who has never held a gun before and prepare her for a gunfight that she thinks will happen TONIGHT. Game on. Challenge accepted. Gun function, loading, stance and grip and sight alignment in 15 minutes. On to live fire. Slow fire two handed at first until she got used to the gun, then some faster shots, a few shots right hand only/left hand only so that she had the confidence she could do it if she had to.


Finished up with a few reps of malfunction drills. I’m pleased to say that she kept all of her shots in the chest area of a silhouette target at 10-15 feet. The gun puked a couple times, but it gave her a chance to practice her tap/rack. She sucked up the information I provided like a sponge.


She was a better student than any of the thousands of cops I’ve taught. The range closed. I wished her luck She packed up her new gun and left. I told her that I was a cop, but not that I teach people to shoot for a living. For all she knows, I’m just some friendly dude at the range. I like it that way.


The whole experience gives me pause. How many times have you been at the range and looked down your nose at somebody shooting a HiPoint or Jennings? How many times have you silently thought “idiot” when someone fumbles with their gun?


How many times have you looked askance at shooters using the “wrong” grip? I know I do all of those things almost every time I’m at a public shooting range…but I won’t do it anymore. What if those “idiots” are really just people like this woman…inexperienced, poor, and without anyone to teach them how to do things right?


By the luck of the draw, this woman pulled up a chair next to a professional firearms instructor at the range. She could have just as easily sat next to “Bubba” who will tell her that her gun is a piece of shit and that there’s no way she could ever learn to defend herself in an hour. We shooters need to do better. It doesn’t matter if someone has a shitty blaster or if they don’t know how to hold it correctly. They might be in a situation like this woman was in. We need to help these people the best that we can. Who knows what an impact we will have? Save a life or sneer at an “idiot.” It’s your choice.





FBI: 76 Law Enforcement Officers Killed in Line of Duty Last Year; 49,851 Assaulted




November 24, 2014 - 10:17 AM


(CNSNews.com) - The FBI on Monday said 76 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2013; and another 49,851 officers -- 136 a day -- were assaulted while performing their duties last year, down from 53,867 assaulted in 2012.


Of the 49,851 officers attacked last year, 14,565 -- or 29.2 percent -- were injured. And of those injured officers, the largest percentage -- 31.2 percent -- were assaulted while responding to disturbance calls, such as domestic disputes or bar fights.


The FBI says assailants used personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.) in 79.8 percent of the incidents; firearms in 4.5 percent of incidents; and knives or other cutting instruments in 1.8 percent of the incidents. (Other weapons were used in 13.9 percent of assaults.)


The report does not provide a racial breakdown of the assaulted officers or of the known suspects.


For the fifteenth consecutive year, the largest percentage of assaults on officers (15.1 percent) happened from 12:01 a.m. to 2 a.m. The smallest percentage of assaults on officers (2.5 percent) occurred between 6:01 a.m. and 8 a.m.


Of the 76 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2013, 27 died in "felonious acts," well below the 49 feloniously killed in 2012. Forty-nine died in accidents.


Of the 27 officers killed feloniously in 2013, all but one were shot. One was hit by a vehicle.


The average age of the officers killed in felonies was 39 years. Two were female. Twenty-five were white, and two were black.


Fifteen of the felonious deaths happened in the South, six in the West, four in the Midwest, and two in the Northeast.


Most of the officers killed accidentally in the line of duty were killed in car crashes.  All 49 of those officers were male. Forty-one were white, six were black, and race was not reported for two officers.


In 2013, the FBI collected assault data from 11,468 law enforcement agencies that employed 533,895 officers. These officers provided service to more than 247 million persons, or 78.2 percent of the nation’s population.





Colt Firearms: Is One of the Industry’s Oldest Gun Makers About to go Bust?


By Dave Dolbee published on November 17, 2014 in News          

Breaking News Update


Hip, hip Hooray and pass the M4s! Colt Defense LLC has received a stay of execution thanks to the deal it struck with Morgan Stanley. By doing so, Colt will be able to not only make its $10.9 million bond payment, there will be enough left over to pay off the existing $48.1 million loan due in December. This will give Colt the time it needs to restructure and rebuild before the loan matures in 2018.


This is good news for Colt fans and removes life support so the patient can breathe. Let’s hope for a full and robust recovery.


“God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal.”


Are we about to lose one of the industry’s oldest gun makers? There is little doubt about it, Colt is

on life support and the vital signs do not look good for one of the oldest and most revered names in the firearm industry. Today, November 17, marks the due date for Colt’s $10.9 million bond payment. There is a 30-day grace period, that would push the default date to December 15. However, even if it does make the payment, Colt owes another $48 million by the end of the year.


Colt claims that sales are down, which mirrors the sentiments Ruger acknowledged during its latest earnings call. Similar to Ruger’s woes, but much more severe, Colt is expected to report at least a 50-percent decline in income for the latest quarter. Colt blames its predicament on the steady decline in demand from the commercial market as well as delays in government sales. The company reported in June a $20.5 million loss for 2014, down from a $9.5 million profit for the period in 2013.


All of this points to one of a few different scenarios. First, Colt can claim bankruptcy. If Colt does not declare bankruptcy and defaults, creditors will likely force it into bankruptcy and liquidate the assets or the company will operate under the direction and protection of a court appointed bank, limiting major operational decisions. Of course, Colt is a union shop and falls under the United Auto Workers (UAW) so President Obama could step in and offer a government bailout. Yeah, I know; I could not resist.




AR-15 Barrel Basics, Part I


By Glen Zediker published on November 14, 2014 in Firearms    


The barrel is truly the make-or-break accuracy component in any rifle. There are contributing factors that also have to be correct, but the difference between a rifle that shoots well and one that shoots very well is in the barrel.


The standard for “shoot well” is ultimately subjective. The use a rifle is put to, and, mostly, the distance the bullet covers, helps each shooter set his own standards for accuracy. I expect my competition rifles to group no bigger than 4 inches at 600 yards, and that’s a 10-shot group fired prone with a scope. Half-inch 100-yard groups don’t impress me, and that’s because half-inch 100-yard groups are NOT 3-inch 600-yard groups. They’re bigger than that.


Rifle Barrel Blank by Glen Zediker

Here’s how I usually purchase barrels. This is a full-diameter (parallel) blank that has to be cut, turned, chambered, and gas port drilled. Anytime there is metal removed from the circumference of a barrel, the internal dimensions change. They get a little bigger. A little. To maintain uniformity, a button-rifled barrel needs to be of a consistent diameter for the rifling process. Some then provide additional contouring before shipment. It’s better then if you can get more “final” contouring done prior to delivery from the maker, but only if the barrel maker does the bore lapping after contouring. A cut-rifled barrel can actually be rifled and finished after full contouring, if the maker wishes to do this. It’s one reason cut rifling can be better. Can be…



If you want to get best accuracy, you really do get what you pay for in a true match-grade barrel. One reason is that there’s not really a definitive standard, beyond those established by the barrelmaker, for “match-grade.” I say a match barrel is one that wins matches. Experienced competitive shooters become aware of this because we will go through several barrels, and therefore see a performance pattern develop barrel to barrel. We want that pattern to be a flat line. All of them good, none of them bad. We also tend to get attached to different brands, and that’s from the old “If it ain’t broke…” way of thinking. Truth is that there are options in truly great barrels, they just each tend to have followings, so it depends on whom you ask.


As suggested, it’s distance that really shows differences in barrels. Take a rifle with a decent barrel and one with a great barrel to the firing line and then keep moving farther and farther from the target. There will be less notable differences in these barrels at 100 yards. There will be more at 200. More still at 300. Way more at 600. And night and day at 1,000. I’ve seen this too many times to respect it with a “may be.” It is also, therefore, why many people may be entirely happy, and for good reason, with a less expensive barrel.


AR-15 Stainless Chromoly Rifle Barrels by Glen Zediker

A truly good barrel is expensive. It also won’t last any longer than an equivalently constructed lower-cost barrel. But between barrels, you’ll be happy. Barrels are not a lifetime investment. To a competitive shooter, or anyone looking for the ultimate accuracy, barrels are a supply item. Because there are a few that are as good, I hate to mention names, but I will photograph them. This is my “go to” barrel maker.



It’s kind of hard to recommend the five bills or so (turned, outfitted, chambered, installed) that a barrel from the “top tier” will cost. There’s another step down from these that few people will find fault with. That is also not to say that a barrel that costs half that much won’t shoot as well as the very most expensive; it is to say, as already hit upon, that it’s the barrel-to-barrel-to-barrel consistent performance level that defines the “best” barrel makers.


If you are building up an AR-15 and want to see it shoot just as well as it can, you dramatically swing the odds in your favor by purchasing a Krieger, Lilja, Obermeyer, Schneider, Satern, Bartlein or other similar brands. Those barrels, as is true with many from custom barrelmakers, aren’t graded. There’s only one standard with these makers: it’s good enough to sell, or it goes in the trash.


The next tier are those that are graded, after manufacture, and segregated by their measured quality. Again, different standards apply and none are universally followed, but dimensional consistency and correctness and straightness are the leading indicators. Pac-Nor, Shilen, Wilson, and Douglass come to mind. The best of those are frequently as good as custom barrels.


Krieger Rifle Barrel by Glen Zediker

Stainless or chromoly? Stainless will not shoot one bit better than chromoly, but will shoot its best for a little longer. That’s usually to the tune of 10-15 percent longer razors-edge accuracy. The reason is the nature of the throat erosion. The throat is the portion of the chambered area that leads or funnels the bullet into the rifling. Throat erosion is from damage (cutting) by flame. Chromoly tends to get rough (like sandpaper), whereas stainless steel tends to form cracks with still-smooth areas between them (like a dry lake bed). But chromoly tends to shoot at a better level for a longer time. Stainless groups tend to open up abruptly when the barrel has hit the wall; chromoly group sizes cone outward more slowly.



What makes a good barrel good? As mentioned, straightness and end-to-end consistency of bore and land diameters are the main influences. Consistency of the twist rate from end-to-end and interior finish are also important. In a truly custom barrel, the maker takes steps to ensure all these elements are the best they can reasonably be.


There are differences in barrel manufacturing methods, and the leading one is how the lands are formed. They all start with a drilled piece of round steel, drilled to land diameter; it’s the grooves that are displaced in these processes. Most rifling is done via a button that’s pulled through the drilled blank. It’s a swaging process. This button turns as it goes, and the better makers use a controlled leade to bring it on. That helps improve twist rate consistency. Another style is cut rifling, and that is a machining operation whereby a single-point cutter is driven through the drilled blank, cutting one groove at a time. This can be precisely controlled, including profile contouring on each land.


Note: There are actually five different methods for introducing rifling to a bore, but these two are really the only means found in competition-use barrels.


There will always be arguments about which is best. As with any metalworking, finished quality ultimately comes down to tool precision and operator standards. Other perks in a custom barrel usually (and certainly should) include hand lapping and stress relieving. The lapping smoothes the interior surface and also improves dimensional consistency. The stress relieving helps ensure that the barrel “looks” in the same direction after it gets hot. That, by the way, is how we can get a barrel with a smaller outside diameter to shoot as well as one that looks like a Red Bull can.


The number of grooves is another point of difference not all agree on. An odd number of grooves is thought to reduce stress on the bullet because there are no opposing contact points. The fewer grooves, the more shallow the angle of engagement is, and that’s thought to be a good thing. Some think that the more grooves, the less contact, and the more balanced “support” the bullet has. There are 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-groove barrels that all shoot well! For what it’s worth, the barrel I tend to use has four grooves and is cut-rifled.


The Question of Hammer Forging


This is a process whereby the interior is formed by forging the barrel over a mandrel. Forging is essentially beating the fool out of the outside of the barrel until it conforms to the mandrel inside; the mandrel has a mirror image of the rifling. Barrels produced with this method are available for AR-15s. It’s not known as a viable means of attaining on-target greatness, despite some claims I’ve heard. Mass-produced and mil-spec barrel are routinely hammer forged. I personally don’t know of anyone who has won a tournament with a forged barrel, but I also cannot personally say you wouldn’t be thrilled with one.


What About Chrome-Lined barrels?


A lot of AR-15s have chrome-lined barrels. This is done to increase longevity. It also provides corrosion resistance. Chrome-lined barrels are dimensioned to allow for the application of the chrome layer. Thus, it’s very unlikely to maintain superior dimensional consistency, if you think about it. Now, that’s not to say it’s a bad barrel. I’ve had Colt HBAR barrels that shot as well as all, and I’ve also had them that shot minute-of-washtub. I will say it’s not a choice for anyone looking to build up a rifle he expects small groups from. It is a good choice for anyone else. They do, indeed, last a while.





AR-15 Barrel Basics, Part 2


By Glen Zediker published on November 20, 2014 in Firearms    



In Part I, I wrote about barrel essentials, mostly manufacturing methods and materials. This time I want to cover other considerations in choosing a barrel for your AR-15, including contours, length, life expectancy, crowns, cryo treatments, and chambering choices.


The first is contouring, and that means the barrel diameter at different points along the tube. If it’s a replacement barrel for an issue-style A2, the dimensions are pretty well set for us to fit the front sight housing, and the only optional point is the area under the handguard tube. Most competitive NRA High Power Rifle Service Rifle shooters want the rifle to be just as heavy as it can be, and that’s because the short barrel doesn’t provide the extended “leverage” to hang still when held from the standing position. For example, my Service Rifle weighs 13 pounds, with lead added in.


Competition NRA Rifle Barrel

If your rifle uses a custom barrel installation, you have options in contours and lengths; otherwise, the rifle fits the form of an “issue” style firearm. The only real option lies along the portion that resides under the handguard. This a barrel for a competition NRA Service Rifle, and we want these to be just as heavy as they can be. This barrel is almost a full inch in this area. The weight is all about holding it well, though. Thicker does not necessarily mean more accurate. Once again, big-diameter barrels are not nearly necessary for tiny groups. A good-quality barrel at a smaller diameter will shoot small groups, and it’s dang sure easier to shoulder.


Otherwise, and for different applications, especially if you’re using a stress-relieved barrel, it’s not necessary to go too heavy (thick). A very heavy barrel will not make your rifle shoot any better. Promise! Well, within reason. By that I mean maintaining 0.750- to 0.800-inch diameter will group just as well as anything that’s a full inch. A lot of the “varmint”-style barrels or the bull barrels (parallel all the way) are just too big. In my way of thinking, there’s no reason to carry a 12-pound rig around when a 9-pound rifle shoots just as well.


In choosing a carbine barrel style, keep in mind the hangers-on you might want to add. It’s popular to increase the barrel diameter under the hanguard to increase rifle weight. The addition does, indeed, make the short guns hang better. But, if you then add a few Picatinny-mounted utilities, your carbine can get heavy. I won’t make a recommendation, just this suggestion: total up the appliance weights before you decide on the barrel contour, and chances are you’ll keep it around 0.800 inch diameter.


Barrel Length


Barrel length is another question, when it’s an option. The .223 Remington round doesn’t benefit as much from longer and longer barrels as will a higher-volume cartridge case. There’s about 80 to 100 fps gain from the issue 20-inch compared to a 24. That’s a gain, no doubt, but there’s hardly any difference in anything longer. Unless necessary changes have been calculated and incorporated, a longer barrel will have a strong influence on cycling. I’ll talk about the operating system in a future piece, but the essence is that an issue-spec gas port size and location, in a longer barrel, will increase gas port pressure. Increased port pressure makes for more vicious cycling. The reason is simply because there’s more gas contained within the barrel for a longer time. If you are a handloader, you’re likely to get shorter life from cases because the increased port pressure will result in quicker unlocking. It can create other issues that have to be worked around, and we’ll get to those soon enough.


Rifle Barrel Port Hole by Glen Zediker

If your builder is starting from a blank, he’ll have to drill a gas-port hole. If he’s a good builder, he will also understand options in port-hole sizes and locations. A longer barrel can (and should) get the port located farther out, more toward the muzzle. An extra inch works wonders for, say, a 24-inch barrel. One tip is to drill the port hole with a bullet lodged inside the barrel at this location. That prevents a burr that is otherwise hard to remove after the fact. This photo shows a nicely done job.


Barrel Life


How long an AR-15 barrel lasts has to do with the load you shoot the most of. The life of a barrel is in the throat; there’s insignificant wear on down the length of the tube. If we plot out propellant gas pressure levels against the progression of bullet movement through the bore, we get a “pressure-time curve.” Pressure levels are associated with respective levels of flame cutting in the chamber throat area.


A steep p-t curve (slower moving bullet) means more cutting, or at least it’s more concentrated. It’s clear that lighter bullets will do less damage than heavier bullets, even though the lighter bullet loads contain more propellant. A steady diet of 77-grain bullets, for instance, will shorten barrel life compared to using mostly 55-grain bullets.


Fortunately, .223 Remington is one of the kindest to barrel steel of rounds in common use. I expect about 5,000 good rounds from a good barrel (about the same as .308 Winchester), and that is using primarily 77-grain bullets.


I’d add another 2,000 rounds to a barrel fed a varmint-type bullet diet (52 to 60 grains). In contrast, something like .243 Winchester provides about 1200 rounds of X-ring accuracy. There’s also little doubt that hold quality factors heavily. A High Master class competitor is going to think his barrel has gone bad sooner than a Marksman will. If you’re shooting targets at 100 to 150 yards, you will likely be able to shoot 12,000 or more rounds and still be well within a quarter-size group.


Fluted Rifle Barrel by Glen Zediker

Fluting a barrel is an option to avoid excessive weight, but the author doesn’t see it as needed, unless someone wants a very light barrel. A fluted barrel is one that’s had grooves milled along its length, usually either four or six. This is done to reduce weight. Fluting, in itself, does not make a barrel shoot better. The idea is to preserve the larger diameter, which increases stiffness. There is a tiny advantage in cooling, but .223s shot in semi-autos usually don’t get hot enough to matter. If the barrel has been stress relieved, it will keep “looking” in the same place no matter how hot (or cold) it gets. Fluting adds a bill (more or less) to the cost of a barrel.


Cures for Lack of Accuracy


Are there any cures for a barrel that’s not grouping up to your standards, or a way to improve a factory  barrel? Well, maybe, but not likely. The cause for the poor performance determines that answer, and sometimes that’s hard to know until any tricks have been tried.


One is a muzzle recrown. That’s not terribly expensive and, you bet, bad crowns are prevalent on factory barrels and fixing one can be like a miracle.


Next is trying some sort of bullet-lapping product and procedure, such as David Tubb’s FinalFinish. I have seen that work wonders, especially on a factory  barrel. It polishes the bore, and also the leade area.


I would not advise a cryogenic (deep freezing) treatment in hopes of seeing much influence. Those can sometimes make what’s there a little better, but it won’t fix anything that’s wrong.


Chamber Choice


I plan to do a complete piece on chambers and chambering, but for now I’ll recommend a NATO-spec chamber (5.56x45mm). The commercial .223 Remington chamber has too short a throat for use with mil-spec ammo (this is sometimes called a “Match” or “SAAMI Minimum” chamber in barrel ads). Just because it says “Match” doesn’t mean it’s good, it’s just short. NATO takes anything.


Of course, if you’re a competitive shooter, there are a few more options, but we tend to use something that’s between those two, leaning closer to NATO. The only group I could suggest a .223 Remington chamber to are varmint hunters who will NEVER attempt to fire surplus or mil-spec cartridges, but instead a steady diet of bullets under 62-grain weights loaded to commercial specs.





AR-15 Barrel-Twist Rates


By Glen Zediker published on December 3, 2014 in Competitive Shooting             



A barrel-twist rate is expressed in a chain of numbers that reflects on how far down the barrel a bullet must travel to make one full rotation. So, a 1-8 twist barrel is read as “one turn in eight inches,” and what will happen after 8 inches of its journey is a 360-degree bullet rotation.


The spin imparted to a bullet by the lands or rifling is necessary to stabilize the bullet in flight. What some shooters don’t understand is that it is bullet length, not weight, that determines the amount of rotation needed for stability, though almost always it’s a bullet weight that is associated with a particular twist. The weight/length distinction didn’t matter much until the advent of the “low-drag”–style bullets. These are long, or at least longer, than other bullets of equivalent weights. Longer bullets need more rotation (higher revolutions per minute) to “go to sleep” and fly wobble-free to the target.


52-grain Hornady Match .224-caliber bullet

This is a 52-grain Hornady Match .224-caliber bullet (the actual diameter used in .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO). I have shot a slew of perfect short-course targets with these through a 1-7 twist barrel.


When it comes to choosing a twist rate, I like to err on the quicker side. When it comes to twist rate, “adequate” is a word that makes me a little nervous. I prefer “certain.” I honestly can tell you that I have not seen the ill effects on target from twist rates that were slightly faster than “adequate.” I have, however, seen bullets that needed a little tighter spiral (faster spin) to group properly. Back in the day, which wasn’t really that long ago, there were different bullets appearing to bolster the longer-range potential of .223 Rem. Most decided that 1-8 was adequate to keep an 80-grain bullet flying flat. My experience with that was more nuanced: the Sierra design at that weight, yes; the JLK, maybe. Doing load work-ups on the JLK “VLD” (Very Low Drag) bullets, which are longer than the Sierra, I had a few hit sideways as I was determining the pressure ceiling. I do that by adding a tad more propellant, watching velocities and case condition to guide this little adventure to its end. Groups tightened only when I was close to what I considered a safe maximum charge. To maintain comfort in my world, I want to see stable bullet flights from at least one big step down from “max,” and let’s say that’s a full one grain of propellant.


All in, I think a 1-7 is a better choice than 1-8 for the longer-range shooter, unless that shooter wants to try some of the 90-grain bullets, then the twist rate can be 1-6.5. And, yes, there is a limit. 1-6 blows up bullets. By the way, when a bullet comes apart, it does so from the tail forward.


The point to the foregoing was, and is, not to rely on (high) velocity for bullet stability, just get a little faster barrel twist.


A twist rate that’s too fast for “some” bullet, mostly, may subvert velocity potentials, but it’s slight, in my experience. The reason is pretty simple, as just suggested: it’s more energy needed to push the bullet through extra resistance in the bore.


The original twist rate for the AR-15 was 1-12. That’s pretty slow. It’s good for 55-grain bullets. By the way, legend has it that intentionally unstabilized bullets were the goal and reason for the 1-12. You know, the “tumbling bullets.” Hmm. 1-14 will work for those also, and that’s the Benchrest twist standard for 52-grain .224s. Didn’t happen. Barrels with 1-12 twist rates launched 55-grain mil-spec bullets in balanced harmony.


Sierra 90-grain MatchKing .22 Cal .224 diameter hollowpoint bullets and box

These are big bullets, but mostly they are long bullets — Sierra 90-grain MatchKings loose and loaded in a case. As the box denotes, these need a 1-6.5 twist to stabilize. I have also shot good groups with lighter bullets (77s and 80s) from that twist barrel, but I consider the 1-6.5 twist a specialty choice. I also consider the 90-grain bullet to be a moot choice because it’s tough to get the velocity/ballistic-coefficient balance to favor it. In other words, the 90 has a higher ballistic coefficient, but the faster velocity possible with an 80-grain bullet makes them equal downrange, when fired from a 20-inch barrel. Thus, there’s no effective advantage to the longer bullet that warrants buying a new barrel with the specialty twist rate.


For a good while, 1-9 was the standard twist rate for most non-mil-spec barrels. Another more modern standard is 1-8. This is good for the 75- and 77-grain bullets that are commonly available in factory loads. The 1-9 hits the limit of its utility with a tangent-profile 70-grain-vicinity bullet, a 69-grain Sierra MatchKing for instance.


Some say the 1-7 twist that became standard for the A2 version of the AR-15/M16 is too fast. It’s overly fast. It’s not too fast. I’ve shot way on too many clean targets at reduced distance NRA High Power Rifle events with my 1-in-7s. For those I use either 52-grain (100 yards) or 62-grain (200 yards) bullets.


In Sum


For any available factory loading I know of, which covers me in case any manufacturer does something different later on, a 1-8 twist is fine and dandy. I would advise shooters buy a barrel with 1-8 twist over one with 1-9 twist or slower just in case the shooter wants to try anything up to and including something like the 75-grain Hornady A-Max.


For .308 Win., I like 1-10. That will deal well with anything up to and including a 190-grain tangent profile, which means anything from Sierra.





Inside the AR-15 Barrel: Twists and Chambers


By Glen Zediker published on November 7, 2014 in Firearms      



Barrel twist rates and chambering nomenclature confuse many AR-15 shooters, but understanding how different twist rates affect different bullets and how chambers differ can help you shoot much more accurately.


A barrel twist rate reflects the distance a bullet must travel through to make one complete revolution or “turn.” A 1-9 is read as “one-turn-in-9-inches.” The lands must apply enough spin to stabilize the bullet. Although it’s really the bullet length that determines the necessary twist, not its weight, minimum twist rates are usually associated with bullet weights. I’ll explain the reason for this.


Some bullet designs result in a longer length than others at the same grain weight. A 70-grain “VLD” (Very Low Drag) design is an example. This bullet configuration is considerably longer than, say, a 68-grain Hornady. The 1-9 will stabilize the Hornady but not always the VLD. VLD bullets are for competitive shooters who handload, pretty much, so you’re not likely to see them in use otherwise (no factory loadings).


Gamut of Available 224 Bullets

Shown here are the gamut of available .224 bullets, from a 35 grain on the left to a 90 grain on the right. There’s no compromise possible that accommodates them all. Go with 1-9 if you never use anything more than a 70 grain. Go with 1-8 or 1-7 if you want to try anything heavier. You will not see measurable differences in group sizes using anything from 52 to 82 grains. I’ve shot some tight targets on reduced courses with 52-grain match bullets through 1-7 twist barrels. The 90-grain bullet needs a custom 1-6.5 twist, by the way.


A 1-12, which is increasingly unusual (surprising because it was the “original” mil-spec twist), will adequately spin anything up to 60 grains. A 1-9 will stabilize all commercially-loaded bullets I know of up to 70 grains. Any bullet heavier than that needs the 1-7 (1-8 is fine too, and increasingly common in factory-made uppers). The most common need for a 1-8 or 1-7 is commercial ammo with 75- or 77-grain bullets. A 1-9 will not stabilize those.


Olympic Arms SUM Barrel

Be happy. Get a 1-8 twist. It will handle 80-grain competition bullets, also provide good perforation with any other reasonable lightweight bullet choice most operators might want to use, such as 52 grains. Notice the marking here. It’s an Olympic Arms barrel marked “SUM,” or Stainless Ultra Match, their own designation. In this case, it has a SAAMI minimum chamber. If this were a NATO-chambered barrel from the same maker, it would have been stamped “5.56.” You have to ask about these things.


Advice? When it’s a choice, choose a faster twist. A 1-7 provides enough flexibility to launch anything up to and including an 82-grain specialty bullet. Accuracy differences shooting lighter bullets through a faster twist won’t be noticed. It’s not Benchrest. Now, don’t fire very light bullets through a 1-7. I’m talking about the 35- to 45-grain kind. Too much rotation at high velocity can create jacket damage, which can lead to “blown up” bullets. (Bullets “blow up,” by the way, from the back forward. Won’t hurt your rifle; they just won’t make it to the target.)


That was easy enough. Now, another question is, “which chamber”? I tend to always risk being too simple to start, because it usually makes it easier to understand the overall better, so, a rifle chamber is a hole cut into the breech-end of a barrel so a cartridge will fit into it. It’s a lathe operation. A chamber “reamer” is the tool that cuts this hole and is shaped the same as a cartridge case with at least a little part of a bullet profile at its end. This tool is going to cut out the case body and shoulder silhouette, the case neck, and then extend into the bore to form a bullet-profile outline. It’s the bullet-profile area where we find reamer tooling differences. There a few different takes on reamers in use by custom builders (they like to tinker), but the two most common used for factory-done barrels are at polar extremes, the shortest, and the longest: .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO. The .223 Remington is sometimes called a “SAAMI” or “SAAMI Minimum.” It’s also commonly denoted as a “match” chamber in factory-built rifles.


DPMS Barrel 223 SAAMI Chamber

The designation on this DPMS barrel is easy to understand. It’s a “.223” SAAMI chamber, not a NATO chamber. Also, it has a 1-8 twist that will easily handle these Hornady 75-grain Match Bullets as well as any other reasonable bullet choice from 52 to 80 grains.


The “bullet profile area” I mentioned is rightly called a “leade,” and more commonly the “throat.” The space between the end of the case neck and the first point that coincides with land or rifling diameter (usually 0.219 inches in a .224 caliber) is the influential variable set by the reamer. The farther in this is, the “longer” the throat. Of course, the bullet won’t contact the lands until it reaches the point on the bullet that equals land diameter. The influence the location of this point has is simple: the greater space, the less pressure. And vice-versa. Also, of course, the greater the space, the greater the “jump” the bullet has to make to engage the rifling.


Chamber Leade Throat

The gray area denotes the leade, or throat, in a chamber. This is the distance, essentially, from the cartridge case mouth to the first point inside the bore where the bullet will contact the lands or rifling. Different chambering reamers make for different specifications, and the NATO and “.223 Remington” have the biggest “standard” difference I’ve encountered in any cartridge.



NATO has a whopping lot more space. The reason for the difference in the SAAMI and the NATO came long years ago. SAAMI set its standards for commercial .223 Remington based on bolt-actions configured for varminting. There was a military chamber, and round, in use since the .223 Remington commercial round was renamed from the 5.56x45mm (NATO-spec) cartridge. As civilian use of the AR-15 became more and more popular, commercially made barrels in AR-15s may have either chamber. That’s not a problem as long as you know which you have. To make things worse, some barrels are not marked and some are improperly marked. If you see a configuration advertised as having “match” barrel, it may very well have the SAAMI chamber. If you want to have an easy life with your rifle, get yourself a NATO chamber. You can shoot any commercially loaded ammo in that one, and also mil-spec, plus surplus. If you need to know, and you do need to know, you have to ask.


NATO Case-Fired SAAMI Chamber

This is a NATO case fired in a SAAMI chamber. Ouch. Notice the ejector and extractor marks left behind, and the swelled primer. The first were caused by the additional bolt thrust, and the other from more rapid bolt unlocking.


The short throat in a SAAMI .223 Remington means higher pressure. Combined with the fact that NATO-spec ammo is loaded to higher pressures than commercial .223, firing mil-spec ammo in a “minimum” chamber can increase pressure to the tune of 15,000 psi. That’s enough to have case failures, and conceivably receiver cracks. You have to know. If you don’t know, use only ammunition marked “.223 Remington.” Know also before trying any recipe found in a reloading manual. If the loads were tested through a NATO chamber (Colt HBAR, for instance), they will be over-pressure in a SAAMI. It’s also possible, due to differences in bullet profiles, for a NATO bullet to “stick” into the lands in a SAAMI-chambered barrel when the round is chambered; that causes even higher pressure.


Information in this article was adapted from “The Competitive AR15: The Ultimate Technical Guide,” published by Zediker Publishing.





Long-Range Shooting with the AR-15


By Glen Zediker published on August 23, 2014 in How To              



For the AR-15 shooter, what does “long range” mean? It’s subjective. For someone who is usually popping away at 100 yards, then 300 yards may seem distant. If a shooter is comfortable at 300 yards, then maybe 500 or 600 qualifies as far; an experienced NRA High Power Rifle competitor might set the cap at 1000, and there are a few who take it farther than that. In my way of looking at it, we hit the edge of the world when a bullet drops below supersonic velocity. Until then, it’s possible to keep shots on the intended target at any distance.


Realistically, a properly configured AR-15 is easily capable of good performance at 500+ yards. Good performance means it can hit a 1-foot-square target all the time. Competitive shooters can cut that standard in nearly half (the X-ring on an MR1 600-yard NRA High Power Rifle target is 6 inches, and high X-counts are commonplace among more skilled shooters).


Of course, it wasn’t always that way…


In the early 1970s, shooters figured out that the AR-15 rifle itself could be made to perforate targets accurately. The Rodman Laboratories (Rock Island Arsenal) rifle experiments paved the way for civilian intervention, and that was essentially custom rifle builders duplicating the free-floating forend tubes engineered to float true match-grade barrels.


Heavy Barrel AR-15

A properly outfitted AR-15 is capable of very good accuracy at distance. The key elements for success are barrel and bullets.


Early on, what stopped progress at extended ranges were bullets. At the time, bullet makers had yet to consider the .224-caliber bullet worthy of commercial refinement beyond 200 yards. About the best available projectile at the time was a Sierra 63-grain design. One of the Rodman Labs guns recorded a nice 4-by-5-inch 600-yard group from a handload using that bullet, spun through a Hart 1:9-twist barrel. Those guns also had the first (that I know of) flat-topped upper receivers, done so that match sights could be mounted.


DPMS AR-15 barrel with twist rate stamped into it.

When using heavier, longer bullets, make sure the barrel twist rate is at least this quick.


In the early 1950s, it was theorized that a smaller, higher-velocity projectile could be the hot ticket to the field hospital for our adversaries. In 1968, the Army’s SALVO project drew blueprints for a 68-grain .224-caliber bullet, which was essentially a proportionately miniaturized .308-caliber service bullet, to test the theory. Although this was not a match bullet, it was an effort to establish a .22 as a viable longer-range round. A (then) new company in California, Sierra Bullets, produced the prototype SALVOs.


So, some 40 years ago there was a sub-moa “sub-caliber” 600-yard rifle and a round to accompany it, more or less. I don’t know that a Rodman gun ever met a SALVO bullet; who knows, they may still be sitting on the same shelf together.


Genuine SALVOs produced by Sierra Bullets

Here are some prize possessions in the author’s AR-15 historical collection: Genuine SALVOs, produced in 1968 by Sierra Bullets. Sure enough, they don’t look like match bullets, and they aren’t; the idea came back to life many years later by the same company that manufactured these.


Nothing of note happened with the SALVO concept until 15 years later. Sierra released its 69-grain MatchKing™ .224 in 1984 and literally added length to the competitive potential of the AR-15. While not reliable for pinpoint gunning at 600 yards, two-thirds of a score was better than no score, but that’s about all that could be expected from an across-the-course trip with an AR-15. (By the way, that bullet still works well at 200 to 300 yards.)


Bill Davis came up with a new bullet configuration called a VLD, for “very low drag,” that was designed to give our boys a better chance in USSF 300-Meter competition. The original VLD was a .243, but the design, not the caliber, was what made it work. The result was an 80-grain .224 match bullet produced by Jimmy Knox and Carlene Lemmons of JLK from Davis-supplied blueprints. That was in 1990. This bullet, more than any other technical trickery, turned the AR-15 into a serious across-the-course tool.


6mm VLD Blueprint

The original blueprint supplied by Bill Davis to Jimmy Knox and Carlene Lemmons to produce the first true long-range .224 bullet: the JLK 80-grain VLD.


The VLDs look more like missiles than bullets, and accordingly, they drop and drift significantly less than conventional bullets of equivalent weights. They do this by virtue of a higher ballistic coefficient (or “BC,” which, mathematics aside, means less speed lost over distance). Sierra soon afterward released its own high-BC .224 profile in an 80-grain bullet. These bullets provided the .223 round cause for respect rather than ridicule. Compared to the commonplace 168-grain .308 Winchester load most service competitors were feeding their M1As, the 80-grain .224 bullet needed less wind correction. Of course, chamber specifications for VLD bullets need to be modified, and rifling twist rate, expressed as one turn in so-many inches (meaning how far the bullet travels before it makes a full rotation) needs to be a minimum of 1-in-8 twist for an 80-grain bullet.


Trio of Sierra bullets

Here’s a trio from Sierra that extends the length of the AR-15. From the left are bullets weighing 80, 77 and 69 grains, respectively. Unlike the relatively “spikey” VLDs—that tend to be sensitive to seating depths due to the extreme secant ogive configuration—the more gently tapered Sierras are an easier bet for improved long-range performance.


However, with the right configuration of barrel specs and bullet shape, the AR-15 is capable of enough accuracy to challenge the skills of nearly any shooter. We’ll cover more elements of setting up a successful long-range AR-15 in much more detail next time.






Handloading .223 for the AR


By CTD Blogger published on April 27, 2011 in Ammunition           



Military style rifles are not usually known for having match grade accuracy, but the AR-15 can be easily upgraded with just a few parts to be more than capable of shooting sub MOA groups out to distances exceeding 600 yards. Swap out the trigger for a Timney and replace the barrel with a heavy stainless steel varmint or match barrel and you’ll be surprised by the significant increase in accuracy. But the biggest improvement may not come from the rifle at all, but from the ammunition you use.


I got started shooting cheap military surplus 5.56mm NATO rounds in my AR, along with cheap Winchester white box and Remington .223 FMJ plinking rounds. These cartridges were usually 55 or 62 grain and had decent accuracy. I still use them for plinking and just having fun at the range. But when you want to get serious about target shooting, you need better ammo. The biggest differences between mass produced ammunition and match grade ammunition is the quality of the components and the attention to detail to ensure every round is exactly the same.


Getting Started

You can buy match grade ammunition from a number of manufacturers. Remington and Hornady both manufacture excellent match grade ammunition. Varmint ammo from Remington and Hornady is just as accurate as the match grade ammunition, but is loaded with lighter bullets weighing between 40 and 55 grains. This factory ammunition is easily capable of shooting half-MOA groups is an excellent place to start establishing a baseline for your own handloads. Shoot a variety of loads and bullet weights to find out which performs best in your rifle and start loading your own based off of this data.



When selecting the proper bullet, keep your barrel twist in mind. We’ve written in the past on the importance of barrel twist rate with regards to bullet weight or, more accurately, bullet length. For any given caliber of ammunition, the heaver the bullet is the longer it will generally be. Longer bullets require a faster twist rate to get them spinning at a high enough speed for effective stabilization in flight. If there is a specific load you just have to run, consider rebarreling your rifle with a barrel with a more appropriate twist rate.


The first barrels produced by Colt for the AR-15 had a slow 1:14 twist rate, which was adequate for 55 grain bullets under normal circumstances. However when air density increased due to lower temperatures, the 55 grain became unstable.  This prompted the Army to switch to a faster 1:12 rate barrel, and later an even faster 1:7 rate barrel to accommodate heavier 62 grain M855 bullets. Most modern rifles have a 1:9 twist rate, which has been found to be a healthy compromise that is able to stabilize bullets weighing from 50 grains on up to some 69 grain bullets.


Varminters often use very light weight bullets such as the 45 grain Sierra Hornet. Such bullets are exceptionally accurate in order to hit small targets, lightly constructed to provide explosive expansion while minimizing ricochets, and lightweight to obtain high velocities with flat trajectories. The extremely flat shooting varmint round is perfect for taking small game at unknown distances. Competitive shooters on the other hand tend to favor longer and heavier bullets with an aerodynamic boat tail design. These long bullets have a superior ballistic coefficient which allows them to maintain a high velocity for a longer distance, thus making them less prone to wind drift at extended ranges.


One concern when loading heavier longer bullets for your AR is the overall cartridge length. Heavier bullets are longer, and there is a limit to how far back they can be seated. Standard AR-15 magazines can hold cartridges up to 2.275 inches long. If you are loading rounds with heavy 79 grain or heavier bullets, such as 90 grain Sierra MatchKings favored by long range target shooters, the overall cartridge length will likely exceed 2.275 inches, requiring you to load and fire these handloads one at a time. If you are preparing a load that is over-length, it is important to make sure that your barrel is designed to handle it. A barrel with a 1:7 twist is generally not sufficient to stabilize bullets weighing over 77 grains (however some shooters claim to be able to stabilize 90 grain bullets in a 1:7 barrel), but more importantly, in longer handloaded cartridges the bullet could be swaged up against the lands of the rifling and cause overpressure in the case. Barrels for the longest of these loads will usually be custom made with a 1:6 or 1:6.5 twist rate and have a longer leade (the unrifled portion of the bore just past the chamber) to fit the longer bullet.



Depending on the weight of the bullet you are pushing, you will need different powders. Faster burning powders are more effective for propelling relatively light weight bullets. Slower burning powders in general should be used with heavier bullets. For our purposes here, powders such as Reloader 7, Reloader 10X, Accurate 2015, IMR4198 or Hodgdon H322 are excellent choices for accurate varmint loads topped with light 40 grain to 55 grain bullets.  Reloader 15, H4895, IMR4064 or Varget are all good choices used for accurate match loads that propel heavier bullets weighing 60 grains and more.


When developing a load, always start at 90% of the manual recommended max load and work your way up, checking for signs of overpressure as you gradually increase the powder charge. If you don’t have enough powder of one type or another, get more: never mix powders! Mixing powders can result in unpredictable burn rates and could cause a case rupture or detonation.



When choosing a primer for your match loads, stay away from hard military style primers. Most match triggers will not generate primer strikes hard enough to reliably shoot hard primers. Instead, stick with high quality standard small rifle primers such as CCI 400 or Winchester WSR primers for most loads, and Federal Gold Medal 205M for heavier match loads using slower powders.



Brass for match grade or varmint loads should always be cleaned and polished. This not only makes it chamber better, but it removes any carbon or debris from the case resulting in better more consistent powder burn. When resizing, don’t rely on just a neck resize. For the most accurate loads your brass should be fully resized to ensure a consistent case capacity. Fully resized cases also fit the chamber better. What brand of brass you use isn’t particularly important, but some shooters prefer Winchester or .223 Remington brass due to the consistent case weight and wall thickness.


When trying to wring every bit of accuracy from a handload, the devil is in the details. Turning the neck of your brass will help to ensure that your case mouth is perfectly round and concentric with the case body, giving you a consistent crimp and seal all the way around your bullet and positioning it perfectly concentric with the bore. RCBS makes a case neck turner and .223 pilot to help you turn the perfect case neck. Necks that are out-of-round can have gas escape around the bullet prior to the bullet entering the bore and result in an uneven bullet release. A perfectly even bullet release helps to ensure that it swages onto the rifling evenly.


Handloading Procedure

One of the primary reasons for handloading is that it gives you the ability to ensure absolute consistency among all of the rounds. Handloads that are quickly and carelessly assembled may be great for plinking and making a bunch of noise, but they are useless for precision shooting. Additionally, carelessly assembling your rounds can be dangerous! Double charged or poorly measured loads can destroy your expensive rifle and kill or seriously injure you. When sitting down to reload, get rid of all possible distractions. Never watch TV or have a conversation while reloading. Dividing your attention between the task at hand and something else can result in a mistake that could prove deadly. Remember that the more attention you give to the quality and consistency of your loads, the more accurate they will be.


See our article on reloading necked rifle ammunition for more details on the reloading process.

Example Loads


Bullet Weight



Overall Length

Charge (grains)

Velocity (FPS)

Hornady V-Max

35 gr

Accurate 5744

CCI 400




Speer SP

40 gr

Reloder 7

CCI 400




Speer SP

40 gr

Reloder 10X

CCI 400




Nosler BT

40 gr

Accurate 2015

CCI 400




Speer SP

45 gr

Reloder 7

CCI 400




Speer SP

45 gr

Reloder 10X

CCI 400




Nosler BT

50 gr

Reloder 10X





Nosler BT

50 gr

Reloder 15





Speer HP

52 gr

Reloder 7

CCI 400




Speer HP

52 gr

Reloder 10X

CCI 400




Nosler BT

55 gr

Accurate 2015

CCI 400




Speer SP

55 gr

Reloder 10X

CCI 400




Hornady V-Max

55 gr






Speer FMJ

62 gr

Reloder 15

CCI 400




Sierra HPBT

69 gr

Reloder 15

Fed 205M




Hornady A-Max

75 gr


Fed 205M




Swift Scirocco

75 gr


Fed 205M




Sierra HPBT

77 gr

Reloder 15

Fed 205M




Sierra MatchKing

90 gr


Fed 205M




Sierra MatchKing

90 gr


Fed 205M




All load data presented here should be used with caution. Consult a reloading manual and always begin with a reduced load to ensure that they are safe in your particular rifle before proceeding to full power loads. Cheaper Than Dirt! has no control over the quality of the components that you choose, the condition of your rifle, or the actual loadings you use, and therefore assumes no responsibility for your use of data presented here.





Reloading – A Beginner’s Guide – Part 1


By CTD Blogger published on December 17, 2010 in How To         



Ammunition prices continued to rise and show no sign of falling anytime soon. Even prices for primers, brass and bullets have gone up significantly. So, what’s a shooter to do? For myself and others, reloading is one solution.


Reloading involves recycling spent brass and prepping it to reload with new primers, powder, and bullets. But where do you begin?


The Lee Anniversary Reloading Kit is one of the most popular kits for the beginner. It includes almost everything you could need for reloading a single caliber of ammunition for a low entry level price of $89.99. Lee Anniversary kits include powder measure, powder funnel, case prep tools, priming tool, scale, breech lock press, and a reloading manual. In addition to the reloading kit, you will need dies in your caliber, calipers, primers and powder. All told, you can get started with this basic press, new brass, bullets, dies, powders and primers for around $500 shipped (depending on caliber).


When your new reloading gear arrives, try to restrain yourself from diving right in and starting to throw things together. Stop! Find your instruction manual and reloading manual, and sit down with a nice cup of tea and READ IT. I can’t emphasize this enough – reloading involves working with smokeless powder and primers, both of which have the ability to severely injure you if you don’t respect them. Be patient, turn off the TV, and read your instruction manual front to back before doing anything else with your kit.


After you are done reading the manual, begin to unpack your kit and parts and familiarize yourself with them. Make sure that you can positively identify each and every part of your kit. Next, find a clean safe area you can work in and find a solid base that you can mount your press to (hint: if you’re married, the kitchen table is not a good choice!) and a separate place to set your scale that is sturdy and level.


Now, let’s get started reloading. First of all, this information should be considered ancillary to the instructions that came with your reloading press and in your reloading manual and in should no way be construed as overriding or replacing the instructions for your particular press. That being said, let’s get started.


.38 Caliber Resizing Die


I want to address straight-walled cartridges first, as these are the easiest to reload. Straight-walled brass does not need resizing lube when it is used with a carbide die. Ensure that your brass is clean. Grit and particles on the brass can damage a resizing ring, so your brass needs to be spotless. There are a number of brass cleaning systems out on the market. If you are polishing your brass (as you should) make sure that all of the polishing media is thoroughly removed from the brass. You can use brass that hasn’t been polished, but make doubly sure that all powder particles, dirt and grit have been cleaned away.


Take the appropriate shell holder for your brass and install it on the ram of the press. With the ram raised up, screw your resizing die in until it only barely touches the shell holder. With the ram lowered, move the sizing die in by turning it one full turn. Raise the ram up again and the shell holder should press up against the die. Now tighten the locking ring of the die tightly so that it can’t back out. Adjust the deprimer pin on the resizing die so that it sticks out enough to push the primer out of the case, and lock it down securely.


Now, take your clean brass and insert one case into the shell holder. While raising the ram, the case will begin to encounter resistance as it enters the die. If it feels like it is stopping or jamming completely, DON’T FORCE IT! Lower the ram and make sure that the case is well seated in the shell holder. If it is not, the die can crush the mouth of the case and ruin it for reloading. Once you’ve verified that the shell is properly seated in the shell holder, operate the ram lever to the full extent of its stroke. The primer of the case should pop out. If it does not pop out, or if you are unable to operate the lever all the way, check that the rod carrying the deprimer is not screwed in too deep. Adjust the decapping rod and try again.


Inspect your deprimed and resized case. Make sure the metal is uncreased and undamaged. Ensure that there are no cracks or shiny rings around the case rim. Check that the case properly chambers in your firearm and that the bolt will close and chamber properly (or for revolvers, that the cylinder will close and operate properly). This is how we will verify that the case is resized correctly. Once verified, you can proceed to resize the rest of your cases. After resizing and depriming all of your brass, inspect all of the brass, looking for the same flaws we mentioned above. Clean out the primer pocket with a cleaning tool, making sure that all soot, dirt, and grit is cleaned out. If you are reloading rifle ammunition, at this point you should chamfer and deburr the case mouth.


Now remove the resizing die from your press and install the expander die. We will use the expander die to slightly widen the mouth of the case in order to allow us to easily seat a bullet. The process for installing and adjusting a case expander vary, so follow the manufacturers instructions precisely. Make adjustments to the case expander slowly and incrementally to avoid damaging a case. Damaged cases will not be able to be used or repaired and should be discarded. When you have the case mouth flared just enough to begin seating a bullet without having to struggle to get it positioned properly, stop. There is no reason to expand the case mouth too much, and in fact over expanding the case mouth can impede your ability to properly crimp the bullet in position.


Once all of the brass has been flared, it’s time to prime them. I can’t emphasize safety here enough: primers are essentially small self-contained and impact-sensitive explosives. Proper eye protection is a MUST when you are priming your brass. Make sure that you have the proper sized primer for your cartridge – pay close attention, because rifle and large pistol primers appear to be the same size, but they are markedly different in their performance.


RCBS Priming Tool


There are a number of priming tools available on the market, and most of them work in similar fashion using a lever to gently press the primer into the primer pocket of a case held in a shell holder. Follow the manufacturers instructions for your particular priming tool. When checking the primed brass, make sure that the primer is firmly set so that the cup of the primer is set just below the head of the case. It should not stick out at all. If it does, place it back in your priming tool and press it in a little farther until it is just below flush.


Finally it’s time to charge your case and seat a bullet. Again, since we are working with dangerous materials, make sure that your work area is clean and that you are free of distractions. Reloading is not something you can do while watching TV or carrying on a conversation – all of your attention needs to be focused on the task at hand. As always when working with potentially explosive materials, always wear safety glasses!


There are a number of ways to properly measure a powder charge. Many of the budget model presses include pre-measured scoops or dippers that are marked with a grain measurement. These will work, but they are not as accurate as a powder measure and scale. But before doing ANYTHING with powder, grab your reloading manual and check the proper load for the caliber you are loading. Make sure that you have the right powder and bullet weight. Check your load data. Check it AGAIN. Cross reference it with a second reloading manual. Now is not the time to mess around or experiment, make absolutely sure that the load you are using is safe and within spec according to your reloading manuals!


Once you’ve confirmed the proper powder charge, set up your scale on a stable and level surface and place your powder pan on the scale. Zero (tare) the weight on your scale so that you are only measuring the contents of your powder pan. Dial your powder measure back to its smallest setting and fill the hopper with powder. Dispense a charge of powder into your powder pan and measure it on your scale. Slowly increase the setting on your powder measure until it dispenses the correct amount of powder into your pan. Repeat this charge two or three times to ensure it is consistent.


You can pour your charge directly into the case, use a funnel, or if you have a deluxe press, use the supplied charging system. Make a note of how full the case is. With come calibers, it’s possible to double or even triple charge a case! Use this mental note of how full a properly charged case is to keep an eye on your charges and ensure that you don’t overcharge any. Also, make sure to stop every 10th round or so and weigh your charge to make sure that the powder measure has not changed.


With your cases all charged, it’s time to break out the bullet seating die. For bullets with a cannelure, seating is a fairly straight forward process. For bullets without a cannelure, it’s slightly more difficult. First, you need to know what your overall cartridge length is. Dial calipers are extremely useful here to measure the finished cartridge as the seating die is adjusted. Using an empty (uncharged) primed and expanded case, raise the ram to full height. Unscrew the seating stem of the seating die out almost all the way. Now screw the die back into the press until you can just feel it touching the case, and then back it out a half turn and lock it in place. Take the case back out of the press, charge it, and start a bullet. Place it back into the press and slowly raise the ram. The ram should go almost all the way up before the seating stem touches the bullet. If you are able to raise the ram all the way up, hold it up while screwing the seating stem down until it makes contact with the bullet. Lower the ram and screw the seating stem down a little bit more. Raise the ram back up and the bullet should be fully seated into the case. Using your dial calipers, measure the overall cartridge length to make sure that it is within spec. Continue this process while adjusting the seating stem until it is within spec, and then lock down your seating stem. Proceed to seat bullets in the rest of your charged cases.


We’re almost done, but there’s one more step we need to take. Unless your manufacturer includes a crimp in the seating die, you will still need to crimp the bullet securely in the case using a factory crimp die. Follow the manufacturers instructions for your factory crimp die, and you’ll be done!


That’s all there is to reloading straight-walled ammunition. In our next installment, we’ll discuss loading necked-down cartridges.









Reloading, A Beginner’s Guide Part II


By CTD Blogger published on December 17, 2010 in General        



In the first installment of our series on reloading, we discussed the methods and procedures for cleaning, depriming, and reloading straight walled cases. In this article, we will discuss reloading bottle necked cartridges. Most necked down cartridges are rifle calibers, but there are a few notable exceptions, notably .357 Sig and Tokarev. The FN 5.7mm cartridge is bottle necked as well, but it is a proprietary round and is very difficult to properly (and safely) reload.



Lyman Classic Tumbler


As with straight walled brass, make sure that your bottle necked brass is clean and free from debris. With bottle necked rifle brass, it’s generally a good idea to run your brass through a polisher. This cleans off powder residue as well as any dirt or corrosion from the brass. Make sure that once you are done polishing and cleaning your brass that there is no polishing media left on the outside or inside of the brass. Polishing and cleaning the brass helps make resizing much easier. Dirt, grit, or corrosion on your brass can scratch or damage your steel dies. Carbide dies don’t have this problem, but having nicely lubed clean brass means that you don’t have to pull so hard on the press lever when resizing.


Reloading bottle necked cartridges is actually fairly easy compared to reloading straight walled brass, but you do have to take the additional step of utilizing case lube. The primary difference between reloading straight walled cases and bottle neck cases is the resizing process. Bottle neck dies perform a lot of work with a single pull of the press lever. When resizing brass, the die not only resizes the case and deprimes the brass, it also has an expander ball that is plunged down the neck of the case so that new bullets can be seated.



Hornaday One-Shot Case Lube


When lubing your rifle brass, it is critically important to spray your case lube all around the outside as well as down the case mouth. This lubes the inside of the case for the expander ball. To properly lube the cases, set them all in a loading block with the mouth of the case up. Spray the cases on one side and from above at an angle so that the lubricant not only goes on the outside but also sprays down inside the neck. Turn the loading block so that all 360 degrees of the cases get lubed. Don’t be afraid of over lubricating the cases. You CAN spray too much (though it’s difficult), but it’s far better to use too much lube than not enough lube. Failure to use enough case lube will result in your case becoming stuck in the die. Getting a case stuck in a die is a nightmare scenario, so don’t do it! If you think you’ve got enough lube, go ahead and give the cases one more spray, just for good measure.


Once your brass is cleaned and lubed and you’ve got your resizing die properly adjusted and locked down as we discussed in our previous article, place your brass on the shell holder and lower the ram. You’ll begin to feel resistance as the expander ball is plunged through the neck of the case. One of the reasons that reloading necked brass is a bit easier than straight walled brass is that the dies for your necked down brass perform more operations with a single pull of the lever. The resizing die decaps the primer, resizes the brass, and expands the case neck to receive a new bullet, all in a single stroke.


Now that your brass has been resized, clean off the lubricant and inspect the brass for any cracks, creases, or bright spots near the head. A bright ring around the head at the base of the cartridge indicates stressed brass that will result in a case head separation. You may notice little dimples on your brass: this is not a big deal, and it occurs from using too much case lube. Large dimples occur when you have managed to use far too much lubricant. Brass with large dimples should be discarded.


In my experience, it is not usually necessary to measure and trim pistol brass after resizing. The same cannot be said about rifle cases. Use a dial caliper to ensure that all of your brass is the same correct length. You can also load the resized brass into your firearm to make sure it will chamber. Use a case trimmer to trim off any excess length.


Priming your rifle brass is the same procedure as priming your pistol brass. First, make sure that your primer pocket is cleaned out. Make sure that you have the correct size primer – large pistol and rifle primers can appear to be the same size, but they are not! Using the correct size tools and primers, prime all of your brass and make sure that the primers are seated to the proper depth. Primers that are set too high can be slam-fired in semiautomatic rifles.



Hornaday Seating Die


When loading your powder, make sure that you have the right kind of powder. Using pistol powders in a rifle case can result in over-pressure and detonation, potentially destroying your rifle and injuring or killing you. It is very difficult (though not impossible) to double charge a rifle case if you are using the correct powders. Still, pay close attention. When developing a load, always double check your loads against a current reloading manual. Start at 50% of the manual’s recommended load and work up from there. Once you have a load developed, make sure to periodically check your powder measure against a scale to ensure that it remains consistent and accurate.


The final process in reloading rifle ammunition is seating and crimping the bullet. Since rifle cases are not flared, it can be more difficult to seat a flat based bullet. Boat tail bullets are much easier to seat. If you are loading flat based bullets, it helps to have a bevel cut in the case mouth using a chamfer or deburring tool. While crimping is not necessarily required for rifle rounds, it definitely helps when you are loading large caliber or magnum rounds. Crimping is definitely necessary if you are loading for a tube magazine fed rifle, as it will keep the bullets from being set back. Some bullet seating dies also crimp at the same time. Seat the first bullet, then measure your overall case length. Once you are certain the length is in spec, lock down your bullet seating die and proceed to seat bullets in the rest of your cartridges.


As always, observe proper safety procedures when reloading ammunition. Make sure that you have a clean and organized work area that is free from distractions. Never try to watch TV or listen to the radio while reloading – you’re working with potentially dangerous explosives that require 100% of your attention. Always wear proper eye protection when reloading. Remember that lead and primers are toxic and wash your hands every time after reloading.




Guncrafter Industries 9mm CCO–Review


by Dave Higginbotham   on November 23, 2014


Guncrafter Industries is hardly a household name. In the wide wide world of guns, the brand is known more for its audacious .50 G.I. rounds than their exquisite level of custom craftsmanship, but that’s the way things go. The .50 G.I. round (more on that below) is something you have to experience. Guncrafter’s custom line of 1911s, though, are revered by their owners, shooters who seem content to keep the secret to themselves.


Not me. When I see a gun that runs like this, I feel the need to stand up and crow about it. I’m here today to preach the Guncrafter faith, and I’m offering as an example this Concealed Carry Officer 1911 in 9mm–easily the best 9mm 1911 I’ve ever fired.


The Guncrafter Industries CCO in 9mm


This is a review, after-all, so let’s get on with it. This process began after SHOT last year. Guncrafter agreed to send us a review gun. At the time, I’d had little experience with the brand, and had never even handled a Guncrafter. For me, the conversation was like one of many I have after SHOT show every year. A few weeks later, we spoke again. This time I was down in central Florida, massacring swine. I barely had any cell reception, and I wasn’t familiar enough with the Guncrafter nomenclature (not that it’s that complicated) to understand the questions I was being asked. So when the CCO arrived a few weeks later, I was just as surprised as anyone.


First impressions are important. The unboxing was a strange experience for me. I’ve seen more than my fair share of expensive 1911s, and most justify their price points by making the guns look like show ponies. Their grips are made of this or that fossilized prehistoric unicorn horn, or their Damascus slides have been etched with the tears of fallen angles.

Not so with the CCO. Every aspect of the gun is meant for service and durability. The Melonite finish is a flat eggshell black. The sights are actually built for concealed carry. The grips are thin. The checkering is aggressive. In all aspects the CCO is a gun that’s meant to be carried. In fact, I’d call its looks modest. Unassuming.


Fit and Finish


So how do you justify the price of a Guncrafter pistol? The first thing you must know is that this isn’t a safe-queen. These guns are meant to be carried, everyday. If you spend this much on a gun, would you carry it? This is a philosophical question. Only you know the answer. My guess is that if you can buy a 1911 in this class on a whim, and do not have to justify it to your wife or husband, then you’d be likely to carry it. If, like me, you spent less buying your latest car than you would buying a Guncrafter, than you may have second thoughts about taking it out in the real world.

Yet that’s what this gun is meant for. It doesn’t need to stay behind to protect the safe. You have plenty of heirlooms to do that. This is meant to be on your hip. The CCO is a gun that is easy to carry. It functions flawlessly. Every aspect of the build is designed for hard, unfailing use. Even then magazines have been tuned to the specific gun.


Pull the slide back, and you’ll begin to see what I mean. It glides with no hitches. There’s no grit in the trigger. It has a clean break right above 3 pounds. The reset is short and crisp. The magazines slide in and out like they’ve been greased, but don’t have any rattle or play. The slide stop is easy to thumb up and down. Even the mag drop button is perfect. It extends a fraction of an inch farther than is typical, which gives you a lever that is easy to find and easy to depress.


The deeper into the gun I got, the more impressed I became. All of the controls are perfect. The function in harmony. And the tolerances are very tight, but so well tuned that the gun (even after hundreds of rounds with no cleaning) can still be disassembled by hand. And the internals are just as well finished as the exterior. I kept looking for something, anything, I could point to as a flaw or a blemish. Nothing. Not one thing. The slide, frame and barrel are milled from forgings. The fire control group is cut from tool steel, and even then most basic controls are milled from bar stock. Nothing is overlooked, and they take no material shortcuts.



So how does a gun like this run? Quite well. I’ve known some whack-jobs who will try to convince you that a gun needs a break in period, or that a gun will wear into a groove that will increase reliability. I’m more accepting of this when low-priced guns are rolling off of assembly lines, but I refuse to accept that a quality firearm needs to be broken in. If it does, it damn-well better get broken in at the factory, before they sell it.


The CCO ran perfectly. The unassuming exterior and flawless interior combine to make a gun that shoots exactly to point of aim. The flat black rear sight has enough real estate to be used for accurate, well aimed shots. Yet it is rounded over for snag-free carry. The front edge of the rear sight has a shelf for one handed manipulation. The front sight is also black, but has a small brass bead. It is this tiny bead that makes the combination good for extraordinary accuracy and fast target acquisition. The bead is small, which makes precise shots easy. It is also brass, and it reflects light. Against the black of the CCO, it is easy to pick up–even in low light.


I’ve been carrying the gun now for three months, and I have no complaints. I’ve put more than 1,000 rounds through it. I’ve tried to induce failure. Steel cased Tula? No problem. Hot +P loads? Check. Heavy subsonics? Yes. I couldn’t find an ammo that it wouldn’t run. I couldn’t find a case material it didn’t eject. I shot the gun on multiple range trips, and at a recent training class. I shot it in the rain, wet. I still haven’t cleaned it. It is as accurate today as it was the day I got it, and just as likely to work.


This is what you pay for. The gun works, it is accurate, and every piece of the build is as solid as it can be. It is a finely tuned machine, perfect for those who want single-action concealed carry.


How much does this perfection cost? It varies by the options, obviously. The CCO starts around three grand. Buying a Guncrafter is easy enough. There are a very select few dealers who stock the occasional pistol, but most are ordered directly from Guncrafter. As of the writing of this review, there is one for sale on GunsAmerica (link at top of the review).


There are many more pictures of this gun below, after the next two sections, so keep on scrolling down.


Inside Guncrafter Industries


When I began this review, I was in Virginia. Now I live about two hours from Guncrafter’s shop, which is tucked up in the hills east of Fayetteville, Arkansas. When I say tucked in, I’m not exaggerating. I don’t know what preconceived notions you may have about the Diamond State, but this will probably cement stereotypes. I turned off of a paved road an drove down into a densely wooded gulley and forded a creek. Upstream from the makeshift bridge, a log jam in the creek had been set on fire in an attempt to get it clear. I instantly began a chorus of Smoke on the Water.


As I wound my way out of the bottom land, I found a small collection of buildings parked precariously on a hill side. There were no signs to let me know I was where I needed to be. I drove well past it and turned back around. I rolled down the window and asked a motley assortment of ruffians who were perched up on the porch if they knew where Guncrafter was. Turns out this group of ruffians was also one of the finest collection of gunsmiths I’d ever had the pleasure of watching work. And this humble compound was the Guncrafter shop. Inside, there were guns in various stages of completion, and it all seemed surprisingly relaxed and informal.


While we were there, we got to see a wide variety of models moving through the various stages of production. This is almost always my favorite part of any shop tour, as I can see behind the scenes. I pick up on corners that are being cut, and ways some try to work around production difficulties. It isn’t always good for the manufacturers who invite me in.


But not here. This trip left me wanting to put down my pen and pick up my file. If I can go off on a tangent for a minute–this is what I miss about what I do for a living. When you watch someone file off a thin ribbon of steel, then fit a slide back on, then pull it off and remove an even smaller sliver, then put the slide back on–over and over until it is perfect…. It makes me want to build something. I get that itch. I want to be a part of it. There’s that feeling here, in the Guncrafter shop, that this team is building something that matters. They’re not building ornamental guns that are meant for shelf displays in ornate man caves. They’re building guns that are going to ride on their owner’s hips and defend life and liberty and loved ones. It’s damn inspiring, honestly, and you can see that the people building these guns believe in what they’re doing.


The .50 G.I.


While we’re on it, let’s talk a bit about the elephant in the room. Guncrafter made news with the .50 G.I. This is a big round. The numbers on the .50 GI are interesting. It was designed by Vic Tibbets and Alex Zimmermann, founder and head honcho of Guncrafter Industries, to provide better terminal ballistics while offering felt recoil similar to the .45 ACP. It isn’t supposed to compete with the biggest, fastest magnum loads. In fact, shooters shouldn’t even notice much of a difference.


On the receiving end, though…. Bullet weights range from 300 grains down to 185 grains. And speeds vary accordingly from 700 FPS up to 1,200 FPS. That’s a decent spread. The round hasn’t caught on like some of us would like, though, so finding ammo can be difficult. A box of 20 185 grain solid copper hollow points runs $50.70–which is more a reflection of the price of copper.






Florida Aims to Lift Ban on Hunting with Suppressors


by Marion Hammer   |  November 19th, 2014


This week, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is expected to lift a 57-year-old ban on using silencers/suppressors on rifles and pistols for the hunting of deer, gray squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, quail and crows.


A proposed amendment to 68A-12.002 General Methods of Taking Game; Prohibitions would remove specific hunting-specific suppressor prohibitions currently on the books.


Getting lost in shill hum of the anti-gun/anti-sportsmen group, is the fact that the existing ban is very limited. It is nothing more than a small carve-out prohibition. It is already legal to hunt on private land with suppressed rifles and pistols when hunting hogs, furbearers (coyotes, bobcats, otters, raccoons, opossums, beavers, skunks and nutrias) and armadillos. Further, it is legal to hunt furbearers and armadillos on public land with suppressor-equipped rifles and pistols. Additionally, it is legal in Florida to use suppressor-equipped shotguns for all hunting.


So why all the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth by anti-gunners?


Florida’s current ban on the use of “silencers” on pistols and rifles while hunting deer, gray squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, quail and crows was added to hunting regulations in August 1957, with no apparent justification. At the time, Hollywood movies made suppressors, also called “silencers,” synonymous with “machine guns” and assassins during alcohol prohibition.


Contrary to the common view of suppressors, they do not eliminate or completely silence the sound of a firearm. Suppressors only reduce the report of a gunshot in the same way that a muffler reduces exhaust noise and emissions from a vehicle.


There are numerous benefits associated with the use of suppressors, including reduced noise pollution, increased accuracy and protection from hearing damage.


Thirty-two states currently allow all hunting with suppressors. There are no known poaching incidents using a firearm suppressor that is registered under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934.


Increased use of suppressors will help to eliminate noise complaints, which have been used more frequently as an excuse to close shooting ranges, public shooting areas and hunting lands throughout the country.


It’s time for Florida’s ban to be lifted and to spread awareness to the rest of the country.






“Gentle Ben” Carson Strikes Out On Guns and Self-Defense, Again


Posted by Bob Owens on November 25, 2014 at 11:18 pm


In an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday Dr. Ben Carson took on the subject of Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, and promptly ticked off Second Amendment supporters for a third time (my bold below).



HH: Dr. Carson, was justice done to Michael Brown yesterday?


BC: Well, you know, there are a lot of different ways to look at it. The way I’d prefer to look at it is, is there anything good that can come out of such a tragic situation. And I think there is. First of all, I don’t think that the police officer did anything wrong. Nevertheless, there probably are additional techniques and knowledge that he could have been given. So all along, we probably need to beef up the instructions for police officers in general so that they don’t place themselves in such dangerous situations. And then as far as the community is concerned, I suspect a lot of people woke up today and said what did we just do? We burnt down establishment from people in our own community, people who have worked hard to do that, because we let a bunch of outside agitators come in here and get us riled up. And you know, I hope people will think back to the days of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was faced with a bunch of people who thought violence was the way, and somehow he convinced them that peaceful demonstrations and conversation and demonstrating to people what was going on would have a better effect. And in fact, it did. It had a profound effect on our nation. But violence is never going to help anything. And the people who came in and agitated are probably sitting up in their hotel rooms sipping wine and eating steak.


HH: Now you say I don’t think that the police officer did anything wrong. So you have reviewed and have come to the conclusion that the officer in fact should not have been charged with anything?


BC: Yeah, he had every right to protect his life. But I do think that there are probably other techniques that could have been used.


HH: All right, now if there were other techniques that could have been used, doesn’t that suggest he did something wrong?


BC: No, that suggests that he perhaps has not had the maximum training.


HH: Okay.


BC: You know, for instance, in a lot of places, police officers aren’t even allowed to go into the more dangerous areas by themselves. They’re always paired. Or you know, people use tasers, people learn how to shoot people in the legs to stop them from charging, things of that nature. And I seriously doubt that he’d been given that information.


Carson asserts that Wilson was not properly trained, and that there is some “secret knowledge” that Mr. Miyagi could have passed along to “Darren-san.” This is both arrogant, and ignorant.


The evidence from the grand jury investigation shows that Darren Wilson was a fully-accredited officer who was up to date on his training. This includes training on what force you may legally use, and in which situations you may use force.


We covered in detail the tools that Officer Wilson had at his disposal as 6’3″, 292 lbs Michael Brown struck him in the head with full-power blows as Wilson was trapped in the driver’s seat of his police SUV.


Pepper spray is not viable inside a vehicle, as it would incapacitate the Wilson. He could not reach his ASP baton, and even if Wilson could reach it, it could not be deployed effectively in the close confines of the car. Wilson did not have a taser.


Michael Brown was attempting to beat him unconscious, or even kill him as he was trapped in his vehicle. Officer Wilson’s only viable tool for self defense was his firearm. He fired it twice, striking Brown with a contact wound to his hand. Brown then momentarily fled, before turning on Wilson, and then charging him, according to mutiple eyewitnesses.


Carson them absurdly suggests that Wilson should have attempted to shoot the charging Brown—who only seconds before had tried to shoot Officer Wilson with his own gun—in the legs. This goes against not only against a basic self-defense training, but is also potentially illegal, as “shooting to wound” suggests that an officer is using deadly force (a firearm) in a situation where life isn’t in imminent danger.


I think Dr. Carson is a wonderful human being. I think he might make a wonderful statesman.


But for all his conservative-populist appeal, Carson has now shown for the third time that he does not—on a very basic and foundational level—understand the principles of armed self-defense, nor apparently have any real appreciation for the Second Amendment.


Dr. Carson was a long-shot for the Republican nomination. I think that this latest error might have extinguished any hope he has of winning the support of a majority of American gun owners.



Thomas Jefferson wrote that "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse." 


Thank you,

Paul Curtis

President - CARGO


"If you can read this, thank a teacher. For the fact that it is in English, thank a Soldier."


If for some reason, you no longer wish to receive these e-mails please accept our apologies and respond to this message with REMOVE in the subject line and we will remove your name from the mailing list.