There’s little doubt that the AR-15 is the most popular rifle design around. Everyone seems to have one, and while the design is solid it can definitely be improved. As a 60+ year old design it has aged extremely well, but there’s one specific improvement that can be made to the average AR-15 pattern rifle that costs less than $50, is easy to install, and yet can make all the difference in terms of the accuracy and usefulness of the firearm. What is this improvement I’m talking about?
The piston-based operating system has long been the gold standard for firearms design. Sure there are other methods like roller-delayed blowback and Blish lock designs, but nothing really stands up to the simplicity and raw reliability of a piston. The AR-15 rifle was originally designed to use a “gas expansion” system for operation, but these days more and more people are getting into the piston game. I’ve had a couple people ask me the difference between long and short stroke pistons, and so here’s the long and the short of it . . .
I was sitting around with Kevin Brittingham and Reed Knight talking about gun stuff and one of the things they agreed on was a mutual annoyance at how people don’t use the right word to describe the thing on the end of their muzzle. Heck, even some gun guys don’t really know the difference. So, at their request, I figured I would write a quick article trying to explain the difference between the three main muzzle devices in use today . . .
Reader Shea writes:
Nick, I have a real love/hate relationship with your gun reviews. On one hand I love that you are not afraid to be honest regarding how you feel about any particular weapon. You are so quick to call out a gun for what it is and even more importantly what it isn’t. That being said I have fallen in love with several guns in the past due to their reviews in other publications only to have my dreams of obtaining the perfect piece for a given application squashed due to your brutal honesty of how the manufacturer of said firearm has fallen short. My question for you is about the nature of your relationship with the manufacturers. . .
A reader emailed the following question:
I can buy a Ar 15 but the auto sear has been removed which is what I want anyway as I do not want a machine gun just a regular semi auto Ar 15. What part or parts do I have to get to fill the space left where the auto sear used to be?? Or should I not buy it but it’s cheap?
Something here wasn’t making sense . . .
Reader Christian writes:
So I’m trying to get my very petite Fianceé into shooting. She’s 5′ 2″, and weighs 100 lbs soaking wet. The term “waifish” comes to mind when describing her. So the .22lr is about right for her, since she has small hands and isn’t particularly strong. I happen to agree with you that shot placement is far more important than caliber size, so I’m looking for a small caliber pistol to be her “go-to” piece if she needs it.
Reader Randall writes:
While I’m not exactly a newbie when it comes to *using* firearms, I am a newbie gun *owner*. And now that I’m in the position of purchasing ammo, I’m finding things to be rather confusing when sorting out all there is to be had. I have Nick’s “Getting Started with Firearms” Kindle book, but it doesn’t really address the topic. How ’bout an article for us newbie-types explaining what’s +P and +P+ and all those others?
Good question. This area of ammunition, the +P and +P+ stuff, can get a little confusing and a tad dangerous . . .
While I’m not exactly a newbie when it comes to *using* firearms, I am a newbie gun *owner*. And now that I’m in the position of purchasing ammo, I’m finding things to be rather confusing when sorting out all there is to be had. I think I’ve kind of figured out what I want to buy for my Springfield XD 9mm, but choosing ammo for my AR-15 is proving to be more daunting. How ’bout an article for us newbie-types explaining the differences between, say, “full metal jacket” versus “total metal jacket” versus “jacketed hollow point” versus “jacketed hollow point subsonic” versus “frangible” versus “full metal jacket boat tail” versus “soft point” versus “boat tail hollow point” versus “lead round nose” versus “safety slug” versus…you get my drift.
That’s a pretty wide-ranging question, so I’ll answer it in three parts. This first part is all about the different types of projectiles, and there are quite a few. But first, in order to explain the different designations, a little about how bullets are made . . .
Now that I am turning 40 and I have a toddler in the house I
am rethinking my Home Defense strategies and tactics. One of my biggest thoughts (in terms of money and time investment) is filing the requisite paperwork and getting suppressors for my HD guns. What are your thoughts? Also, what happens to my suppressor in the case of a DGU? What else should I consider?
In my opinion, if you live in a silencer-friendly state and you don’t have a can on your home defense gun, that should be your next purchase. Like, your very next purchase, even over ammunition . . .
I am looking to buy my first AR. The biggest dilemma that is facing me is the choice of caliber. Obviously, the main stream choice is the 5.56/.223 but I am really interested in the .300 Blackout because of the larger size of the round and the perceived greater stopping power. The AR I am drawn to the most is the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport because of the price and I am a S&W fan. That rifle compared to an AR in .300 is a difference of around $1,000 from what I have been able to find. My question is, do you think that it is worth the extra money for the larger round or should I go with the cheaper option? I plan on using the rifle for home defense and of course range time. Do you think that I should buy a rifle in 5.56 and then possibly at a later time purchase a .300 upper? I am not sure if this will impact your suggestion but I also plan on putting a suppressor on my rifle at some point. Thank you for your help.
Short answer: No. Let me explain . . .
Reader Nick writes:
Assuming that your FNH 3 Gun Team is a marketing tool for FNH to highlight their products, you might tell them they ought to disband the team – many of those products are unobtanium. No use spending sponsorship money when there’s nothing to sell. I’ve had a SCAR 16 on order at three separate distributors for 6 months now and none of them have any idea when they’ll be blessed with one from FNH. I’ll give it another couple of months and then I’ll just give up and move on to another platform.
The implied question — what’s with the SCAR shortage? And the answer is one that lets us blame our favorite scapegoat: the U.S. Government . . .
Yesterday I talked about a med kit that’s being offered for sale that isn’t up to my standards. What followed in the comments was a pretty good conversation about the benefits of clotting agents, the appropriateness of duct tape and some really good suggestions as to what makes an “ideal” med kit for every day carry or to take to the range. Wanting to capitalize on that discussion, Dan asked me to write a quick article about what I’d include in a small, medium and large first aid kit. Here we go . . .