Sunday, April 18, 2010

Squirrel some spares away today : or : It's better to have it and need it than.....

Often times when you look at purchasing a new rifle or handgun you may factor the availability of spare parts, magazines and other accessories into your considerations of which type or brand to purchase. Purchasing spares and extra parts as well as magazines will keep the firearm running for many many years even perhaps decades after the factory has closed up or importation of more parts has been banned etc. Just about the only guns you may not have to worry about buying extra parts for I think would be the Mosin Nagant and the AK-47....but in reality you would do well to have a spare complete bolt and misc small parts etc.

If you buy a new factory firearm you most likely will get a magazine or two and maybe a multi tool to adjust sights and break down and possibly service the firearm. That is usually all you get when they box up your gun and head to the check out. You could opt to buy some of the magazines stocked at the shop but I've rarely seen affordable full capacity magazines at a gun shop.
Once you get your firearm and get to the range for zero's and familiarization I would suggest you start researching what parts are common to failure in the design. Though you should have done this step of researching design flaws and part failures ahead of time there are few designs that are flawless....if any. Once you identify prone to failure parts stock up on these parts in triplicate at least (remember one is none, and two is one). As well as a full spring kit i.e. mainsprings and the smaller springs that are easily damaged or lost if the weapon is broken down far enough. For pistol parts I would mostly just say extra extractor, complete spring set and firing pin as well as a spare barrel if able. Rifle parts like the AR-15 family, M1 Garand/M1A, M1 carbine etc I would suggest a complete bolt or two if you find them at a reasonable price. Extra gas rings (on top of the complete bolts) for the AR-15 as well as firing pins and the small parts you tend to loose when you take the thing apart too many times/too often (which happens if you are teaching a lot of people how to use it). Also parts that can be easily damaged like gas tube, op rod etc accidents do happen.

Spare parts should be obtained to insure your firearms will run at least until you run out of ammo.
The author recommends triplicates of some spare parts Some may be hard to find down the road like original M1 Garand and carbine bolts.

Revolvers? Don't worry about spare parts for these, maybe a extra spring kit but if you don't know your way around the inside of a revolver....stay out. If you know how to work on these then you know what rarely fails and what you need to fix it.

Springs, barrels, firing pins and ejectors should be set aside to keep your handguns running as well. I recommend the barrels only if you can find them cheap. I've put some spares away for my CZ-52 which I only have corrosive ammo for but at $10 a pop for stripped barrels its a investment that may prove wise if I forget to clean the barrel just once.
What about magazines? how many should you get? what kind/brand? If you have rifles/carbines like the mini-14, M1 Carbine, M1A, AR-15/M4, AK-47, CETME/G3/HK91, FAL or any other rifle commonly used by the military or police you are in luck. There is a good chance that magazines and parts will be more common for these as they are in wide use (duh) kinda like parts for the F150 and common Chevy trucks. There are so many brands of mags (most notably for the AR-15) out there these days and you can get some really cheap...but you really do get what you pay for unless your buying surplus in bulk. Stay away from anything that isn't military surplus or manufactured by a reputable company. Don't think I'm joking on this...I have a few steel magazines that have no markings on them whatsever (manufacture wasn't even proud enough to mark them) they were too wide to fit in my AR. For non military i.e. aftermarket mags for the AR-15's I go with C-Product for my 30 rounders*. They (C-products) are great mags at a reasonable price (About $8.00 each). Once in a while a "lot" of a dozen or so military issue mags will hit the forums for really cheap. These are usually military contracts that have had a lot of use. Not all have anti tilt followers but that's a $0.75 upgrade easily done. Last bunch I purchased was a "lot" of 13 @ $3.84 each shipped. Only 1 had a updated follower so I'll end up replacing the other 12 with new manufactured followers. Still 13 very usable mags for a good price ($50 total) after I proof them in the rifles that is. So how many mags should you have on hand for a rifle? You may not think that there will be another AWB or revolution or any such thing that requires you to have massive amounts of mags on hand but you should still have some common sense about you. If you have a military type semi auto rifle you will want at least 6 full capacity magazines and a few short capacity magazines (so long as they are physically different...if not don't bother). I like to have some 20 round mags for my AR on hand for shooting off the benches or shooting prone or offhand. But I've also needed to have full capacity magazines for matches like the NTIT or "rattle battle". If you are going to spend $700-$900 on a rifle don't short change yourself and get one extra 30 round mag to go with it.

During the last presidential election I got a group of people together and we went in on purchasing a large quantity of high quality AR-15 magazines. With new AR-15 in our collections and new AR owners we wanted them to get the good stuff for a good price just in case any new bans were put in place. These are C-product 30 round magazines had from copes dist who has them for a great price. Same price if you order 1 or 100, with flat rate shipping. I have no connection to the company other than being a satisfied customer.
Determine how many magazines you want to have on hand for your firearm. The authors general rule is to have minimum of 50 rounds of magazine capacity for pistol and 100 for rifle/carbines.

*P.S.   C-Products has been out of business for more than a year now as of this update (5/2012) 
If you are in the market  for 30 round magazines I would just stick with the military used magazines at this point but don't pay more than $10 for any 30 rounders, unless you require preban magazines.

Monday, February 8, 2010

M261 Military rimfire conversion for the M16

I purchased a Mosin Nagant while I was in high school and (engage old man voice) I can remember when ammo cost $105 for a case of Bulgarian light ball, 1200ish rounds to a case...if I wasn't making $50 a week I guarantee you I would have purchased more, though I think I was into my Mausers and 8mm a lot more than the 7.62x54R and the 91/30's at the time.

Today, we have seen prices fold a few times over and for a while there in 2009 .223 Rem, 9mm Luger, .380ACP and 45ACP could not be found without really REALLY paying for the privilege. Walmart was the center of the great ammo rush after the presidential election...everybody was either complaining they couldn't find ammo or that they had just scored 6 precious boxes of ammo (in most areas walmart limited 6 boxes per customer). Federal bulk pack rimfire 550 rounds went up only slightly in price (from $14 to $15ish). My hats off to Walmart for not taking advantage of the situation and charging $30+ for the bulk packs like most online stores were. So lets say during all these record braking months of gun sales you manage to secure one or two precious AR-15 type rifles for fear weapons ban might be coming and you could be grandfathered in. But now you can't find ammo for the rascally thing! what now? Perhaps you have a small stash of rimfire ammo on hand that you use for your 10/22 or S&W 17 or k22. If you still have some money left over after buying your AR-15, a few quality magazines (which shouldn't cost you more than $9 a pop for 30 rounders these days) and are waiting for your back-ordered .223 Rem/5.56 ammo to show up you may want to look into a conversion unit for your rifle for training purposes. I happened along a M261 military conversion unit online one day that someone from the castboolits forum was selling. I think I gave somewhere around $100 for it with two magazines.

Its just a simple bolt swap to change your center fire AR-15 or M4 into a rimfire plinker. Now there are some drawbacks to this conversion...accuracy for one can really lack as the twist rate on some rifles and carbines 1:7-1:9 can be more than twice as fast as what you usually find on a .22 rifle or pistol which is around 1:16. If you have a older A1 upper with the slower 1:12 twist rate this may work better for these rimfire conversions. Also the bullet to barrel fit is a little off, Rimfire bullets are around .221"-.223" and the bores are about .218". I have not confirmed this number in any of my guns however. Other than slightly sloppy accuracy you will have to worry a bit about what bullets you shoot, I've heard that just plain lead bullets can foul up the gas works, I use copper washed federal bulk pack in my AR (actually nearly all my guns)and have not experienced this problem with them. The rifle is touted as self cleaning but I run a bore snake down the tube about every 200 rounds of rim fire to keep things from building up.
Above -M261 conversion- Just swap out with your center fire bolt. I put a thin film of small arms weapons lube on the chamber insert so that clean up is a simple wipe down with a shop rag. And my AR chamber gets hit with a chamber mop.

Below- The M261 conversion uses special 10 round magazine inserts that can go into standard 20 or 30 round magazines. You simply push the follower down in the magazine and slide the magazine in place. The spring tension keeps the mag seated in place.

I've used two lesser quality 30 round magazines for dedicated M261 magazines and keep them marked as such so I know what I'm grabbing when I put stuff together for the range. These mag conversions have worked very well for me. I wouldn't eject them (the magazines) from the gun while standing though, That could be detrimental to their service life if done frequently I imagine. Keep this in mind if you're into tactical training.The only draw back is there is no bolt hold open so if I practice rapid fire strings I can't drop the bolt on the 8 round magazine, I have to charge it. Black dog machine makes aftermarket 10 round and high cap magazines which from the reports work very well. The black dog mags are also on sale on their website at the time of this writing (I have no affiliation with the company). Since I'm only using my M261 to teach AR-15 familiarization to my students (not sure what else to call them) and to work on my high power position and get some practice indoors I'll stick with the two steel mags I have. I feel one important role I have in the firearms culture is to familiarize people who are new and willing to learn with firearms they are most likely to come across or own. Above- Installed with magazine in place. The bolt hold open/release does work but the bolt will not lock back on the last shot. As you may be able to tell the bolt locked back is not far enough back to pick up a round upon its release, so the weapon must be charged prior to use.

Though there are other conversions units for the AR/M-16 family I'll stick with my M261 for several reasons. It's in use by the military so surplus parts will be available on the surplus market if I need them. And it is not a proprietary design with only one source of parts and service like you may get with some other units. Olympic arms commercially makes this unit and supplies parts at a very reasonable price (I've ordered a chamber insert from them as the first one I had was cracked which happens after so much ammo is sent down range). Sarco inc also has parts but they are priced more than Olympic arms which are new and from a known source. This unit has been out for a while and the military service manual is online in PDF for free which I downloaded and printed off. If you find any conversion unit for a song I would suggest getting it if you want cheap practice with your AR-15 type rifle. Its a great way to practice indoors with your AR-15, though if the lack of accuracy is going to bother you then I would recommend getting a dedicated upper which has an appropriate .22 RF chambered barrel and still uses the same basic bolt design you see in the M261 conversion. This option would be a good way to go if you planned on shooting it more often than not. If you are already happy with your 10/22 rifle or other rimfire rifle and are thinking about a conversion unit I would suggest spending the money on more ammo instead. The unit works well to get familiarization across to beginners in how to handle a magazine fed semi automatic rifle. It would work well for small game hunting but not to any great distances, it would behoove you to have a proper .22RF rifle for that. I do not have pictures of any targets shot for accuracy but I will post some at the end of the week when I get to the range again.