The Case for Good AR 15 Parts

geissele ssa trigger
There seems to be a lot of people with the mistaken idea that a beginning shooter doesn’t need good quality parts on their AR-15. The reasoning seems to be that “I don’t need a gun that can shoot better than I can.” It doesn’t take long to find a lot of comments on internet forums along the lines of the barrel shoots better than I can or how many people are at such a level that hitting our target is determined by a $$$ trigger? That kind of reasoning is flawed. I’ll tell you why and make the case for good AR 15 parts, i.e. the best quality you can afford when putting together your firearm. I’ll talk about barrel accuracy issues this time, trigger issues next time, and wrap it up with reliability.

The case for the best AR 15 barrel you can afford: I’ll be the first to admit that a combat weapon doesn’t need a match grade barrel. After all, if you can shoot a 3″ group at 100 yards you can probably hit a man-sized target at 500 yards. That’s fine for a combat rifle. Big deal. If you’re reading this I’m 99% sure you’re not using your rifle as an actual combat rifle. If you’re like me, you use your AR for plinking, punching holes in paper, and maybe hunting. For plinking, 3″ groups are OK, for hunting and paper punching, not so much. A rabbit’s head is maybe 2″, and when shooting targets it’s a lot more fun if you can put all your shots in the 10 ring. So how do you get from 3″ (or 8″ – LOL) groups to something a little better? With a better barrel.

Before you say “my barrel shoots better than I do,” hear me out… Pretend you have a barrel that can shoot 3″ groups when conditions are perfect. The rifle is completely immobile, mounted in a shooting vice that’s set on a solid bench, zero wind. Next, assume that with a perfect barrel (one that shoots one-hole groups) you can shoot 3″ groups. Now, add your barrel’s best potential (3″ groups) to your best potential (3″ again) and you’ll probably be shooting 6″ groups. No matter how much you personally improve you’ll never shoot better than 3″ with that particular gun. Then, imagine the same scenario except with a barrel that can shoot 1-1/2″. Now, you’ve instantly shrunk your groups by 25% even though your barrel “shoots better than you can.”

ALG ACT Trigger – quick look

I have this rifle I put together myself. I LOVE this rifle. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to just be a cheap date. I used the least expensive parts I could find, even if they were getting bad-mouthed in reviews. Even if they weren’t “sexy.” Even if they were kind of ugly…

Then a funny thing happened: after I got it put together it was actually a fun date. Shot pretty good too – in fact my best 10 shot group at 100 yards was a little under 2″ except for one flyer. With cheap ammo. With ME behind the trigger. Other groups were bigger due to more flyers, but the funny thing was as bad as I am with a rifle I could call the flyers as soon as the shot went off. Why? The trigger. That cheap stock trigger is gritty, the take up is like a mile long, and it “breaks” at… who knows? It feels at least 3 times as heavy as the SSA trigger in my nice rifle.

The thing is, I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on an SSA –  after all, this thing was an exercise in building a cheap rifle with the emphasis on CHEAP. On the other hand, I really want to see how good I can shoot it with a decent trigger, especially since it shows so much potential – even with ME behind that crappy stock trigger.

Enter the ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT). The ALG ACT trigger is a factory tuned stock trigger – nothing more. The grittiness and long take-up are gone, it breaks at a consistent 6 lbs, and it’s only $65 – about a third the cost of the favored SSA. So it’s a no-brainer, right? Order an ACT, throw away the stock trigger in my cheap rifle, and go on to shooting nirvana.

EXCEPT…

It defeats the whole purpose of my cheap rifle, and I’ve also heard that even REALLY crappy stock triggers can wear in and actually feel pretty good over time, and I want to see if mine does. If it doesn’t, I’d like to try a home trigger job to see if I can improve it without making it dangerous. Besides, I’m saving all my money for a nice Savage Arms varmint rifle. So for now the ACT is a no-go for my cheap rifle.

HOWEVER…

I have an AR-22 that I really like, but I hate the lower because it’s a color filled (WTF was I thinking???) Spike’s Spider with a trigger (an SSA) that is way too nice for that particular lower. I also have a precision build I’m doing that lacks a trigger, and a SOPMOD clone that has an SSA-E but an SSA would probably be a better choice. My plan for now is to take the SSA-E out of the SOPMOD and use it to finish my precision build, use the gawdy AR-22 lower to test the accuracy of my cheap upper, and after testing put the SSA in my SOPMOD (things can get kind of complicated when you have Black Rifle Disease). Then, after I get my varmint rig and a thousand rounds or so to go with it, I’ll get a proper 22LR roll marked lower for the AR-22, an ACT for the Spider, and slap it on to my OTHER cheap upper (which is currently sitting in the safe, unfired). So should I ACT? Yes. Will I ACT? Yes, just not quite yet. I’m looking forward to it.

Yesterday was the last day…

My dad passed away a year ago today, so yesterday was the one year anniversary of the last day I got to talk with him. I remember it well. Last year the 19th was on a Sunday, and even though Monday was a holiday I was going to have to work. My parents were planning on picking up my son and having him spend the day with them. I called them in the evening to finalize the plans, which were for them to pick him up around 11:30, then when I got off work I’d go to their house and we’d all have a visit.

I don’t usually remember casual conversations, but this one really stuck in my mind because my dad sounded really agitated about the NFL playoff game he was watching. His team was losing, a combination of poor playing and bad refereeing (according to him). My dad was an avid football fan, but it was the first time I’d ever hear him sound so irritated about his favorite team losing a game. I jokingly told him that if he didn’t calm down I’d have mom ban him from watching football… then I changed the subject and we talked a little more and hung up. Something just didn’t feel right. If I’d known it was the last day I’d ever talk to my dad I would have gone to their house that night to visit. It turns out it’s good I didn’t though because they wouldn’t have been there anyway.

Day at the Range

There aren’t a lot of good places to go shooting around here, so today I went to the range. It’s been a long time since I’ve been shooting, so it was nice to finally have a day at the range. It was also a good learning experience. Range shooting isn’t like other shooting – a lot of things are better, other things, not so much. So here are some things I learned from today at the range…

1. I need practice. I was disappointed with my groups, but seriously what can you expect if you never go shooting? Today was my first time in about a year… but even with only 100 rounds put down range the groups at the end of the day were a lot better than the first groups of the day.

2. Only take one or two guns. I came fully loaded for… what? My AR with a spare upper, my Marlin 60, Glock 19, and an RIA 1911. I was there for 3 hours and only had time for the AR and a few test shots with the Marlin. Not a big deal, just wasted effort lugging around the ones that didn’t get fired.

3. Take a friend. Shooting can tend to be a solitary sport and usually it is for me. Today though I asked a friend to come with me (always a good idea when testing a new rifle) and it was nice. So nice in fact I don’t think I’ll go alone to the range again unless I have to…

4. I love 22 LR. I was shooting 5.56 at the range and probably had the smallest chambering of everyone there. Some of the other guns being fired were ‘jolting’ (lobw) even with hearing protection. On the way home I stopped at a spot I know to get a few rounds of 22 off – no hearing protection yet oh so pleasant. Just on that alone I think a 22 rifle is a way better survival gun than an AR-15…

5. Ammo is important. With the AR, ammo it like grouped almost half as small as ammo it didn’t like. With the 22, one certain brand of ammo was so bad I couldn’t even get it on paper. Another brand and I was suddenly ON paper with no changes to the scope. Not naming names, but…

6. I need a better trigger for my AR. This one was put together as cheap as possible but I’m thinking I shouldn’t have cheaped out on the trigger. I’m not a great shot but even _I_ could tell what shots were going to be pulls as soon as the gun went off. I think with a better trigger I could have shrunk my groups by at least 25%…

7. The trigger on a Marlin 60 is surprisingly good. Not match grade but a heck of a lot better than a ‘mil spec’ AR trigger. I think I can learn to shoot pretty good with the 60…

All that from just one day at the range. Can’t wait to go back and learn some more 🙂

Things to do this year…

I’m not big on resolutions because I never keep them, but planning is a different thing… some would even say that failing to have a plan is akin to intentionally planning to fail. I won’t go that far but planning things does help me keep organized and since the last year had some major changes, I need something to get more focused/better organized/whatever… Anyway, here are 12 things I hope to do this year:

1. Get in shape. In 2013 I was doing great. I joined a gym, cut way back on my drinking, started eating healthy, etc. Then in January of last year my dad passed away and all that went out the window. I dropped out of the gym, started drinking, uhmmm… NOT moderately, and eating, well… which is all stupid. My energy level has gone through the floor, and if I want to get anything done I need to get back in shape – so of all the things to do this year, this is the most important.

2. Homestead the house. In most states, ‘homesteading’ your house gives you a LOT of protection against law suits, creditors, etc.

3. Set up a trust. Another great way to protect assets is to put most of them in a trust, with the trust (not you) owning the assets. If YOU don’t own them, they can’t be taken away, say, as the result of losing a lawsuit…

4. Grow a garden. I’ve already started this actually, with 3 raised beds planted with garlic. I plan a lot more though, with emphasis on stuff I actually like to eat.

5. Raise some animals. I’m going to start with rabbits, and if that works out I’d like to get 3 or 4 laying hens.

6. De-clutter. It’s really hard to get anything done when you’re constantly tripping over junk, and we have a serious junk problem at our house – time to get rid of it.

7. Spend more time hunting and fishing, along with other legal methods of getting wild (natural) food – catching crayfish, gathering edible plants, etc.

8. Learn how to cook and can. I know some basic cooking, but not more complex things like baking bread. Canning will also be great for preserving the stuff I grow in the garden, which leads to…

9. Set up a food store. If the SHTF, it would be nice to know I’ll be able to feed my family, at least for awhile.

10. Spend some time camping and learning outdoor skills.

11. Get my CCW.

12. Start going to church again and regularly studying the Bible. “Man does not live by bread alone…”

There you go, 12 things. I hope they’ll keep me busy and out of trouble…

Today is the first day of the rest of your life

Welcome to 2015:) I don’t put too much stock in New Years Day… January 1st is just another day… except…

It gives us a chance to reflect on the past and plan ahead.

2014 wasn’t a great year for me. My dad passed away in January (hard to believe it’s been almost a year) and I still miss him. My mom, who seemingly handled it well at first, seems to be… well I don’t want to say she’s losing her mind, but in some ways…

My 9 year old continues to be rebellious (9 going on 19, I swear…), I have gout or some other crap going on in my left leg, and try as I might I’m having a hard time trying to re-forge family ties with my sister. I mean… does politics have to be injected into EVERY thing???

On the plus side, our front yard no longer looks like a disaster zone. We have 3 raised beds in the back yard planted with garlic and all (well most) of the brush has been cleaned up. My mom got a new house a lot closer to ours. I visited with my sister 3 times in 2014 – more than in the previous 10 years – and when she shuts up about her politics she’s actually a nice person.

Looking forward to 2015, I’m going to build a rabbit hutch and get 2 bucks and 4 does. Also want to get a ringneck pheasant rooster (have a friend of a friend who breeds them in Bishop) and maybe a few chickens. We already have garlic planted, in the spring we’ll be getting 6 more raised beds (one for Salsify) and maybe plant a grape vine.

Last but not least I’m pretty sure we’ll find a way that my wife can quit her day job, and also get my dad’s (now mine) old truck to Sparks so I can get it running.

Hope everyone reading this has a blessed year in 2015…

Cheap truck gun…

Building a Cheap Truck Gun

good upper for a cheap truck gunPSA has a really good deal on an upper assembly if you’re looking to build a cheap truck gun. It has a stainless steel barrel (easy maintenance), 1-7 twist (can handle any .223 bullet up to 80 gr), 16″ (easy handling and no NFA worries), mid length gas system (better than carbine length gas for several reasons I’ll get to in a later post), front sight base (FSB – another good thing for a homesteader’s rifle), all put together for you… for $199??? I usually spend more than that on just a barrel…

It’s only good thru Sunday, it’s from Palmetto State Armory (PSA) and no, I don’t work for them, nor do they pay me a commission or advertising fee, it just seems like a good deal so I wanted to share. I’ll find out if it’s a good deal when I get mine. Yep, at this price I had to order one for myself…

BTW if you’re new to AR’s this isn’t a complete rifle or even a complete upper. You’ll need a bolt carrier group (around $90), charging handle ($20 – $50), and a rear sight ($25 – $150, again depending on how fancy you want) to complete the upper, as well as a lower assembly to make a complete rifle.

Even needing all that you could put it all together for around $600 unless you need a scope, and unless the barrel turns out to be crap (I’ll find out soon and report back), that’s pretty good for a cheap truck gun that’s probably better than most of the lower priced offerings that sell for at least $100 more.

Guns for the Urban Homesteader

I know – you live in the city, so what do you need a gun for? It’s not like you’re going to be shooting wild game in town or ridding the back 40 of varmints, so why would an urban homesteader want or need a gun? Well, a few reasons I can think of are home defense, concealed carry, and hunting.

Hunting? It’s true you can’t hunt in the city, but every city I’ve lived in was within a few hours at most of land that was legal for hunting.  Hunting is a great way to get back to nature, and adding wild game to your diet is a great way to supplement the animals you’re raising for food.

Home defense and concealed carry are touchy subjects for some, and depending where you live it might not even be legal for you to use a gun for self defense. Assuming you can legally own and use them though, a gun is probably the most effective means of self defense you can get.

If you’ve never owned a gun it’s important to learn the basics of gun safety before you actually buy one. In my opinion, the best way to learn gun safety is through a hunter safety course sponsored by your state’s wildlife department. Another way would be to ask at a local sporting goods store that sells firearms. Be careful though – the store is going to want to sell you a gun, not try to talk you out of one. When you’re talking to the sales person, make it clear that you’re trying to decide if owning a gun is right for you – not that you’ve already decided to buy a gun.

simple-ar15

Welcome

Welcome to my urban homestead. There’s not a lot going on since it’s winter here in northern Nevada, but there are still some things that can be done. I’m still in the process of planning next summer’s garden, I have a few gun projects to finish up, my garage/workshop needs a major cleaning and reorganization, etc…

The two big things I’ll be working on through the end of this year are learning how to bake bread and growing wheat grass. It’s too cold outside and the days are too sort for any kind of regular gardening, but I’m going to try growing a wheat grass microgarden. It should be fun:)

garlic4