Friday, December 19, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

AR-15 follow-up #4: Sights


This is the fourth update on my request for information w.r.t. refurbishing AR-15 rifles for disabled and handicapped shooters.  The original post is here;  the first update is here;  the second update is here;  and the third update is here.  In separate articles I've also covered the importance of magazines and the selection of an AR-15 and accessories to meet your needs.

I've been very surprised to learn (while reading and researching sights and options) that some writers now suggest that it's no longer necessary to put conventional 'iron sights' on your rifle.  They believe that red dot and telescopic sights have become so reliable that they're trustworthy on their own.  I'm afraid I can't agree with them.  I accept that Aimpoint stands alone at the pinnacle of red dot sight development, and has established a soaring reputation for being as reliable as a sight can get.  However, anything not wearing an Aimpoint label - even Eotech, rated as second only to Aimpoint - can't make that claim.  Furthermore, even Aimpoints aren't immune to natural perversity.


Corollaries:
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage is the one that will go wrong.
  • Everything will go wrong sooner or later - usually when you least expect it.
  • If nothing can go wrong, something will.
  • Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

Batteries can fail;  sights can be damaged when a rifle is dropped;  I've even known three cases where incoming enemy fire hit a sight.  (In one of them it didn't do the person behind the sight much good, either.)  You need a backup sighting system, just in case.  Iron sights provide that backup.

There are two types of iron sights on AR-15's:  fixed and folding.  The fixed sights are tougher and stronger, in my experience.  However, the fixed rear sight has the disadvantage of making it difficult to use red dot or telescopic sights, because it's usually either mounted on a carry handle or sticking up from the rear of the rifle and getting in the way.  I therefore prefer a flat-top rifle with a Picatinny rail above the receiver, coupled with a fixed M16A2-style front sight tower.  My 'social use' rifle uses this upper receiver configuration:




A folding rear sight and/or the optical sight of one's choice can be mounted on the Picatinny rail above the receiver, while the middle portion between the receiver and the front sight is covered by the handguard of one's choice.  I have a Magpul MOE handguard on mine.  Two other carbines in my gun safe use railed handguards instead, to extend the Picatinny rail on the receiver.  One wears a Daniel Defense EZ CAR unit that fits behind the standard front sight (like that shown above);  the other is fitted with a free-floating Troy Industries Bravo rail unit (discussed and illustrated here) that makes it impossible to use a fixed front sight.  On that carbine I've gone to a folding front sight mounted on the handguard.

There are almost innumerable options available for folding iron sights.  A quick search will reveal a bewildering variety of options.  A relatively low-cost solution (that I've used on the rifles I'm currently repairing and updating for my disabled students) is Magpul's MBUS sights.  The standard units are made of polymer and represent good value for money, while the newer Pro series are made of steel and should prove harder-wearing, albeit at a higher price.  On my own rifles I use the MBUS PRO steel folding front sight where necessary, coupled with the MaTech folding rear sight (shown below) that's been standard US military issue for several years.




As a former serviceman, I appreciate the concept of something being 'soldier-proof'.  If that sight's proved tough enough to take whatever US troops can do to it in combat zones, I'll trust it to be tough enough for my needs too!  It helps that it doesn't cost much more than Magpul's MBUS PRO rear sight, which would be my unhesitating second choice.  Either sight will serve you well.  (Hint:  if you find the rear sight aperture shown above to be a bit small - as I do, with my aging eyes - it can be drilled out to a wider diameter with no difficulty.  Just do it slowly and carefully, because if you remove too much, you can't put it back!  Remember the old saying about 'Measure twice, cut once', and apply it religiously to drilling as well.  Blacken the edges of the enlarged hole - a flat black paint marker pen is a handy thing to keep in your gun tool kit - and you're good to go.)

For serious combat use there's not much that can touch a good red dot sight.  The US armed forces have standardized on Aimpoint units, issuing over a million M68 CCO sights (that designation first referred to the CompM2 model, and more recently to its successor, the CompM4).  That speaks volumes for Aimpoint's quality and explains their dominant position in the field.  Their ultra-light construction, toughness, incredible battery life and proven reliability put them in a class of their own.  Unfortunately, this is reflected in their price, which is very high indeed;  typically $400-$800 depending on the model.  If your budget can support those numbers, I urge you to buy the Aimpoint sight of your choice without a second thought.  In particular, the Patrol Rifle Optic (shown below) appears to offer the best 'bang for the buck' in the company's range at present.




(In my experience, the best prices and customer service for Aimpoint sights and other high-end equipment were encountered at Strohman Enterprise, Inc, where retired Marine LtCol Joe Strohman was extremely helpful and very informative.  If you need a high-end sight, GPS unit, combat light, etc., I highly recommend his company's services - and no, he's not compensating me in any way for this endorsement.  He earned it the hard way.  Tell him you read about his company here, and see whether you can persuade a few friends to work together for a group purchase.  It helps with the pricing.)

There are some good lower-cost options out there.  Matt at The Bang Switch produced a three-part survey of the field earlier this year.  I won't reinvent the wheel;  instead I'll refer you to his articles at the links below.




There were two clear 'winners' in Matt's evaluation:

On sheer numbers totaled from the evaluation forms, the Bushnell TRS-25 is the winner, but the winner as chosen by 4 of the 8 evaluators was the Primary Arms MD-06L, with the other 4 votes being the singular vote for 4 of the other optics.  That said, on pure numbers alone, they were very close in scores as can be seen in the attached final scores table, with only 1.6 points separating the top two optics.

I was delighted to read that, because those are the two red dot sights I use on my own rifles and am currently installing on my students' weapons.  They're virtually identical in size and performance - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they're made in the same factory in China.  The Bushnell TRS-25 is shown in the top photograph below, with the Primary Arms unit in the lower image.






They're very affordable - in fact, right now the Bushnell unit is available below $50, which is the lowest price I've seen for it for a long time.  The Primary Arms unit is somewhat more expensive, but not unduly so, and that's compensated for by absolutely outstanding customer service.  This week I contacted the company (their Web site is here) to confess that I'd screwed up and inadvertently damaged the quick-detach riser mount for one of their sights.  I asked what it would cost to fix it or buy a replacement.  Not only did they supply a new mount free of charge, they shipped it overnight at their expense!  It must have cost them a lot more than the profit they'd made on the sight in the first place, but they did it without a second thought.  For customer service like that, I'll gladly pay a little more for their sights.

Both sights are very similar in size, weight and operation to the much more expensive Aimpoint Micro T-1, which isn't surprising - China copies everything!  Like the Aimpoint, they can be mounted on riser units to co-witness with AR-15 iron sights.  The risers can be bought already fitted to the sights (see here for the Bushnell and here for the Primary Arms versions), but I find that 'generic' risers (available from dozens of manufacturers) work just as well and are often a lower-cost option.  I particularly like this Hammers quick-detach unit because it has full-length mounting rails on both sides of the base, giving greater strength and stability.  It's also priced right.  I've bought five of them so far for the rifles on which I'm currently working, to mount both Bushnell and Primary Arms sights.  The riser allows the iron sights to be seen in the lower one-third of the field of vision of either red dot sight.  That means one can use the iron sights without removing the optical sight (although, since the Hammers unit is quick-detach, dismounting it takes only a few seconds if necessary.)

For law enforcement or military use, where conditions may be harsh and unforgiving for extended periods, low-cost red dot sights probably won't stand up to the demands of the environment.  Something tougher like an Aimpoint would be the way to go.  However, for 'average' civilian use on the range or hunting or for home defense, where the rifle won't have to to endure desert heat, Arctic cold or equatorial humidity for weeks on end, lower-cost sights can be very useful.  I wouldn't hesitate to use either Bushnell or Primary Arms red dot sights to defend myself if that was all I could afford.  I'd just make sure I checked their battery regularly (swapping it for a new one every six months, or every three months in colder climes), made sure they were in good working order, and satisfied myself at least once per quarter that they were still zeroed to my defensive load.  (Of course, I'd also want reliable, dependable iron sights available as a backup.)  They can be used on any gun that has a rail on which they can be mounted, including shotguns or even handguns.

Some vision problems, such as severe astigmatism, make it difficult to use a red dot sight.  Those with such problems are left with the choice between a prismatic sight and a telescopic sight, both of which tend to be more expensive than low-end red dot sights.  I don't propose to go into detail about either option.  I'll just say that for those who need an affordable alternative, my standard recommendation is to install a Weaver V3 1-3x20 riflescope (shown below).




They're not too expensive, offer good optical quality, and are compact and lightweight enough to work well on an AR-15.  At shorter ranges I use them at 1x with both eyes open as if they were a red dot sight, and find that works just fine.  For shooting at longer ranges I dial the power up to 3x and use them as a normal telescopic sight.  I find they offer more than adequate performance out to 300 yards range or more.  I currently have four of them on various rifles, and will be putting one on Miss D.'s new AR-15.  (I'll install it atop a UTG 1" riser mount so it'll work with her iron sights, yet she can take it off using the two thumbscrews at a moment's notice if necessary.)

I hope this short article has helped to clarify sight choices for those needing to make them.

Peter

A good man hangs up his hat


I've known for some time that Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was retiring, but it's sad to see the day come at last.  Irrespective of his party affiliation, he's been 'a voice crying out in the wilderness' against government waste, fraud and corruption, rendering a service to the whole nation.  The Washington Times saluted him.

It takes a certain kind of senator to single-handedly block a bill that supporters say would save veterans from committing suicide.

But that’s exactly what Sen. Tom Coburn did last week, facing down withering pressure from veterans groups and insinuations from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he will have the blood of veterans on his hands because he’s refusing to let the bill through.

The Oklahoma Republican also held up an energy conservation bill, released a road map for reforming the Social Security disability system, tried to undo one of Mr. Reid’s nuclear option-fueled rules changes and battled with Mr. Reid to try to pass a legacy-building transparency bill that would have forced the executive branch to produce a list of all its programs — all part of one of the busiest weeks any departing senator has ever had.

He cast his final vote as a senator Tuesday night, and was the first to flee the chamber floor, returning to the citizen part of “citizen legislator.” By Wednesday afternoon he was back in Oklahoma, driving to his home in Muskogee.

His next challenge as an ex-senator: pushing for a balanced budget amendment through an Article V convention — a method of amending the Constitution through a call of the states, which has the benefit of going around the entrenched interests in Congress.

. . .

... in his farewell speech last week, Mr. Coburn made the case for individualism.

“The magic number in the Senate is not 60, the number of senators needed to end debate, and it is not 51, a majority. The most important number in the Senate is one — one senator,” he told several dozen of his colleagues who had come to the floor to hear him speak. “The Senate has a set of rules that gives each individual member the power needed to advance, change or stop legislation.”

He also read his colleagues the oath of office they take, in which they pledge to defend the Constitution. He urged them to pay attention: “Your state isn’t mentioned one time in that oath. Your whole goal is to protect the United States of America, its Constitution and its liberties. It is not to provide benefits to your state.”

There's more at the link.

Senator Coburn excoriated waste of taxpayer dollars and pork barrel projects in his annual Wastebook, chronicling incidents uncovered during the year in question.  His final Wastebook for 2014 (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format) included these fripperies.





I'm worried about the prospects for an Article V Constitutional Convention being hijacked, but it may be the only way to force a balanced budget on our spendthrift legislators.  If safeguards can be built in to accomplish that purpose without extremists from either the left or the right of US politics being able to hijack the convention for their own partisan ends, I'll support his efforts.

I hope and pray that Dr. Coburn's ongoing treatment for cancer (which caused his early retirement) is successful, and he's given time to enjoy a well-earned retirement and time with his family.  He's done this country proud in Washington, something one can say of all too few politicians.  Thank you, Dr. Coburn, for your service.

Peter

Is this an economic tipping point?


I'm looking at economic events over the past week, and seeing all sorts of red lights flashing.  Consider these headlines - just a few of many I could have selected:


Those headlines mostly refer to foreign economies, but if they go down, they'll take ours with them.  There's no way to avoid that in today's interconnected, networked world.  See in particular the third and sixth articles linked above for a very informative perspective on that reality.

Keep your eye on international economic developments.  I think we might be in for a very 'interesting' New Year . . .

Peter

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

President Obama's gamble on Cuba


I hold no brief for President Obama.  I believe he's deliberately trying to destroy the United States of America as we've known it most of our lives, and holds the Constitution and our Founding Fathers in contempt.  I don't trust him further than I could throw him, which isn't very far at all . . . but on Cuba, I think his policy change announced today is probably the right thing to do.

Consider that ever since the Cuban Revolution, the USA has maintained stringent sanctions against that country to no effect at all.  They didn't change the regime;  in fact, they drove it into a harder-line embrace of the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.  When we eased restrictions on trade with Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed, and tried to improve relations with other Communist-era countries and governments, we conspicuously failed to do so with Cuba - with the inevitable result that the hard-liners there took an even harder line.  We also drove the Chavez/Maduro revolution in Venezuela into ever closer ties with Cuba, to the latter's economic and the former's security benefit.

If President Obama plays his cards right, this could have far-reaching consequences.  The USA has far more to offer Cuba, economically speaking, than Venezuela does, so it could put enormous pressure on that alliance.  It could potentially also reduce Russian influence in the Caribbean, if a more capitalist Cuba can be persuaded to be less of a Cold War-style Communist lackey.  It would have domestic implications, as the large Cuban exile community in the USA would probably benefit in many ways from closer ties with their former motherland.  This, in turn, might shake up the so-called 'Hispanic' bloc among the US electorate, changing long-standing allegiances.

I don't know whether President Obama's doing the right thing here;  for that matter I instinctively, viscerally distrust anything he does.  However, I've also got to be honest.  The USA's former policy towards Cuba was a failure, and a dismal one at that.  Einstein famously defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".  In that light, the former US policy towards Cuba was, indeed, insane.  Perhaps a new approach might yield more positive results.  We've nothing to lose by trying, and everything to gain.  Therefore, no matter how reluctantly, I've got to give President Obama credit for trying.  For all our sakes, I truly hope he succeeds.

Peter

Gigglesnort!


I'm afraid feghoots and puns are among my many weaknesses, so I couldn't resist this from The Lonely Libertarian.




I must have sprayed tea halfway up my monitor screen . . .




Peter

That explains a lot, I guess . . .


I'm amused by reports of this new book.




The Telegraph quotes from it:

Tea has a rich and fascinating history – as a drink, it is as old as the pyramids of Egypt and is second only to tap water as [Britain's] most popular drink.

Here are some facts:

[The British] drink 165 million cups a day, 95 per cent from tea bags; 70 per cent of [them] had at least one cup yesterday using up 25 per cent of the nation’s daily milk consumption.

Shen Nung, a toxicologist, discovered it by accident in central China around 2737 BC. Apart from thinking it a nice drink, he used tea as an antidote to 70 or so poisonous herbs. His stomach exploded after his final experiment because the tea obviously wasn’t efficacious against that particular herb.

. . .

Ireland has the highest per capita consumption of tea in the world: 75 per cent of the population are avid tea drinkers drinking on average six cups a day. In 1910 tea was considered to be a bigger public health problem than alcohol in Ireland. Russia ranks second in tea drinking – presumably to dilute the effects of vodka.

. . .

In 1822 William Cobbett wrote that tea killed pigs and leads women into prostitution, recommending a quart or two of ale instead. It makes boys effeminate and has them ‘lurking in bed’.

There's more at the link.

Looks like an interesting book.  Oh, well, add one more to the 'must read' list . . .

Peter

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When a city center becomes an island


The Daily Mail has some fascinating photographs of Detroit from the air, showing how the once mighty metropolis has become islands of city living surrounded by urban decay and slowly returning countryside.  This photograph in particular caught my eye (click it for a larger view).




Isn't that amazing?  The heavily-built-up, once-bustling central business district of Detroit surrounded by what looks like steadily encroaching farmland!  What's more, I'm sure Detroit isn't the only 'Rust Belt' city that's decaying in this way - just the furthest down the path.  What other cities are following the same trend?

There are many more images at the link.  Recommended reading . . . thought-provoking, too.

Peter

Review: Cree T6 upgrade for Surefire 6P and 6Z flashlights


(A quick explanation:  I've often mentioned in these pages goods, services and items that I've found useful or worthwhile.  That's sometimes led to questions from readers, asking for more information or where they can find the products concerned.  Accordingly, I've decided that on an irregular basis, I'll write review articles here concerning products and services that have either greatly impressed or greatly annoyed me.  I hope you'll find them useful.  I will never accept compensation or free product[s] for writing these reviews, even if they're offered, so as to remain impartial.  This is the first article in the series, which you can follow by searching for the label 'Product Reviews'.)


Back in the 1990's I bought two Surefire flashlights for use during weapons training.  One was the Surefire 6P, the first so-called 'high-output' flashlight designed for (and instantly a hit with) law enforcement and first responders.  (It's still available in a slightly refined form.)  The other was the Surefire 6Z CombatLight (now out of production).  It was roughly the same size as the 6P and used the same bulb and reflector, but in a reshaped body better suited to weapon techniques.  Both are shown below, the current-production version of the 6P on top and the 6Z beneath (the first image is from Amazon.com, the second courtesy of FlashlightGuide).





These lights were revolutionary when they were first introduced.  They were relatively expensive compared to conventional flashlights, but offered light output previously unknown in such small devices.  They could produce about 65 lumens for up to an hour using two lithium CR123A batteries.  I remember how amazed I was to see how bright they were . . . but of course, my amazement didn't last long.  Both were soon superseded by bigger, more powerful models, and when the LED revolution came along their battery life, driving incandescent bulbs, soon appeared anemic beside the current-sipping, more modern technology.

I retired my 6P and 6Z several years ago to a box containing other 'backup' flashlights.  A few days ago I was going through some gear and found them again.  I smiled with nostalgia as I handled them, remembering how revolutionary they'd seemed when I bought them;  but then I was struck with a thought.  They've been succeeded by LED models.  Were LED upgrade heads available for them?  A quick online search revealed dozens of possibilities, most appearing to use a LED module from Cree.  There were many customer horror stories about long delays in shipping from China, units not fitting, and failures shortly after installation.  However, there were also a lot of very satisfied purchasers, so clearly one's choice of vendor would be critical.

I spent a while going through customer reviews and checking feedback before I decided to buy two of this conversion unit.




It's offered on Amazon's Prime service, so two-day free delivery was guaranteed (despite horror stories about other vendors shipping similar products by slow mail from China).  Its balance of reviews was generally positive, despite some poor feedback.  Best of all, at only $9.99 each, two of them wouldn't break the bank.  It was advertised as delivering '1,000 lumens', but I knew that would require far more battery power than the relatively small 6P or 6Z flashlights could supply.  I reckoned I might get a couple of hundred lumens out of it if I was lucky.

The units arrived today.  I had to remove the springs at their base, as expected from prior customer comments, but that was a very simple procedure.  They dropped right into place with no fitting problems at all, and have completely transformed my old flashlights.  They used to produce 65 lumens with their original incandescent bulbs, but now I'd say they're at least three to four times as bright.  If their runtime has also been doubled, as many user reviews promise, that'll raise their performance to the level of the current-production Surefire 6PX Tactical model (which costs almost six times as much as these LED heads).  I think this must be the best value-for-money upgrade I've seen in a long time.  I've said as much in my product review on Amazon.com.

If you have an old Surefire 6P or 6Z unit, or any flashlight of similar size and performance, and want to bring it right up to date, I highly recommend this upgrade.  You'll be amazed at the improvement in performance.

Peter

The real racism in American society


We've heard a great deal of pontificating about racism in America from President Obama and the usual suspects (Jackson, Sharpton, etc.) after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner incidents.  Unfortunately, they've ignored the real racists among us.  The iconoclastic Fred Reed has taken it upon himself to set the record straight.

White Americans are in denial about racism in the United States. It exists. It is intense. So are misogyny and homophobia. Do not be fooled: While these evils are seldom openly expressed, they permeate society in the form of institutional racism and code-worded discrimination. To bring these to the attention of the public, I offer the following examples of subtle racism and discrimination.

Headline: "Farrakhan green-lights violence, calls for racial holy war at massive rally."

Rap lyrics: “Kill the white people; we gonna make them hurt; kill the white people; but buy my record first; ha, ha, ha”(“Kill d’White People”; Apache, Apache Ain’t Shit, 1993, Tommy Boy Music, Time Warner, USA.)

Headline: “New Black Panther Leader With ‘Kill Whitey’ Face Tattoo Busted on Gun Charge” His real name is Maruse Heath.

Rap lyrics: “These devils make me sick; I love to fill them full of holes; kill them all in the daytime, broad mother******* daylight; 12 o’clock, grab the Glock; why wait for night”( “Sweatin Bullets”; Brand Nubian, Everything Is Everything, 1994, Elektra Entertainment, Warner Communications, Time Warner, USA.)

Racial profiling is an undeniable fact in racist America: "Stunning 'dirty secret' " about racism in U.S, quoted from the San Francisco Examiner “In 85 percent of (300) physical assault crimes, the victims were Asian and the perpetrators were African American,” the newspaper said recently, citing a police study."

. . .

And so it goes. In all of these cases we see with shocking clarity the hatred that lies within the Caucasian soul. Here, laid bare before all the world, is White Privilege at its worst, the disrespect for women, the hostility, and the innate barbarism of European "civilization." We must make a clean breast of it, repent, and offer what reparations we may to those we have harmed.

There's more at the link.  Politically incorrect to the max . . . and true.

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #804


Today's award goes to the city government of Marseilles, France.

France's second city Marseille has been forced to ditch a controversial initiative that saw homeless people handed ID cards adorned with yellow triangles prompting critics to accuse authorities of implementing a "Nazi-style" scheme.

. . .

Although the initiative was aimed at making it easier for health workers to know what they were dealing with in emergency situations, human rights groups and government ministers were equally outraged, comparing the cards to the Nazi-era yellow Star of David that was sewn onto Jewish people’s clothes during the Holocaust.

And the uproar put an end to the scheme on Friday when authorities in Marseille confirmed that they were scrapping the plan.

There's more at the link.

Considering the history of France during the Holocaust, when hundreds of thousands of French Jews were forced to wear a yellow Star of David to make it easy for the authorities to identify them, and tens of thousands were deported to concentration camps by Vichy personnel acting in concert with the Nazis, it's hard to think of a more insensitive proposal than this one.  What's next?  Treat the homeless in hospitals named for the Nazi doctors involved in human experimentation?

Peter

Monday, December 15, 2014

Busy, busy, busy . . .


Sorry about the lack of posting this evening.  Life, the universe and everything got in the way.

I'll try to put up a more meaningful post early tomorrow morning.  Until then, please amuse yourselves with those on my blogroll in the sidebar.  They're all worth a visit.

Sleep well, y'all.

Peter

OK, that's clever


I had to smile at this 2009 advertisement for Guinness.





Very creative.

Peter