Archive | October 2014

Muzzle Brakes? How Do They Even Work?

They work really simply. They divert high pressure, high velocity gasses (which can thus be thought of as a fluid) from moving along the axis of the bullets travel to moving perpendicular to it. That change of direction causes force to be exerted on the brake itself as the gasses slam into it and flow along its surfaces to the exits. That exerted force can attenuate muzzle rise if it’s diverted in the proper direction or it can help reduce rearward recoil or both depending on the brake design and stock design. Probably the best brake you could get would be a suppressor. Those work really well normally as brakes and as flash hiders and they make shooting more comfortable in general. We’ll assume that you don’t have one. They’re legal in most states and not all that hard to obtain. If you can, do go that route. Note that suppressors are sized based on case capacity and barrel length. Just any can won’t necessarily do. Back to brakes though.

What makes a crap brake is simple, it doesn’t fit. That means that the hole in it that the bullet travels through is significantly larger than the bullet diameter or it lacks any sort of baffle face for the gasses to act on (that’s called a flash hider most times). You can bet if your brake has a .430″ diameter hole in it and you’re launching .308″ bullets through that that you’re not getting much benefit from having a brake because there’s too much gas still moving forward and not being deflected. What you’ve made then is an extremely loud rifle.

So what makes a *very effective* brake? Usually at least 1 baffle face, tight exit bore fit of .020″ – .030″ clearance to the bullet, solid concentricity. High quality machine work is the foundation of all of that. Machine work costs money. So if your brake has a snug fit to the bullet and more than 1 baffle face and it wasn’t super cheap to begin with (very effective brakes cost on average 80-200 bucks) and it threads on to the muzzle, that’s likely to be a pretty good brake. It sucks but you do get your money’s worth for the most part. There are inexpensive and highly effective brakes but they’re few and far between. Things like JP Recoil Eliminator, Holland quick discharge brakes, or Dean Maisey’s brakes (New Zealand, and worth the effort) are very effective brakes. Very Effective means that they have been proven to work as advertised and will often require some gunsmith services or skills to fit properly.

An *effective* brake may have only one baffle or have a larger than optimal exit hole or may be one of the Vais type or something like the barrel weights that come out of Witt Machine. They do reduce recoil but because of either design flaws, excessive slop in the tolerances and clearances or accommodations for people that are too cheap to have one properly installed they lose a large amount of their effectiveness. The Vais is notable the exception there and it is designed to work like it does which is pretty well but not nearly as well as it could with an uncompromised design. It’s not to say they don’t work at all but they won’t work as efficiently as something properly made from an uncompromising design and competently installed. They will usually be slightly cheaper or vastly easier to install. Expect pricing to be from 35-100 bucks or so and to not have to spend much effort getting them fitted, timed or otherwise professionally futzed with. If you’re on a budget they’re ok. They do actually work, just not as well as some others.

The last in the line are flash hiders or flash accentuators masquerading as muzzle brakes and the even more insidious Ebay special muzzle brakes which are none of the above. These are usually pretty inexpensive and are almost uniformly found on Ebay with free shipping and thousands of positive feedback accrued. The feedback is from people that don’t know what they’re talking about or only care that it was cheap and they got it fast so it should be ignored entirely. The only thing left to judge them by is the design, machine work quality and the fact that they’re on Ebay. One easily discernible signal to run away is if there’s no brand name. These designs are patentable in most countries and if nothing else the companies that design really effective brakes put their name on them. They’re necessarily proud of executing so well on the design. So if you don’t see a brand name, it’s probably a POS. The easiest way for me to tell for sure is if it costs 15-35 bucks on ebay and looks like 3 gills in a cylinder, it’s almost certainly a piece of shit that won’t do much. Flash hiders are by definition not brakes. They have a big open end and normally either fingers or slots running lengthwise. A brake is a brake. It doesn’t do other things.

Some things to watch out for: Excessive numbers of ports. Beyond 4, maybe 5 ports (for extremely large and powerful cartridges) you’re looking at machine work for the sake of machine work. 10 baffles won’t do any better than 5 so why spend the effort to cut the metal? Excessively long and heavy brakes also weigh down a muzzle and under rapid fire or with skinny barrels can cause it to droop. Witt Machine is a classic example of making something way too big and not realizing it. His brakes are 100 bucks too and look otherwise like good designs but their weight and the fact that the design is visually more pleasant than the effect of using it is make it a no-go for me.

So some of what I think are current performers which have proven time and again their ability to function as described and which are useful when properly installed:

Most any properly sized suppressor.
Dean Maisey Tresamax
JP Recoil Eliminator
JP Bennie Coolie
Dean Maisey Varimax
Holland Quick Discharge Radial
Badger Ordinance Micro
Accuracy International
Barret M468 (limited applications BARGAIN ALERT!)

I’m sure there are other just insanely great muzzle brakes out there but I think those above do a good job telling you about designs that work and what a good brake costs.

The one that really surprised me was the Barret M468. I’ve been trying out all sorts of brakes for a while, even some of my own designs and I was not confident in the M468 brake. 2 ports to the side but only 1 real baffle made me skeptical as to how much recoil it could eliminate. I got a couple of them and tried them out on 10lb .308 Winchester and 14lb 7mm Remington Magnum rifles which have in the past made for some sore shoulders after long days of research shooting. The M468 brake turned them into pussy cats. Loud as fuck pussy cats but pussy cats all the same. The .308 required me to open the exit hole to .340 but the 7mm passes through with .020 clearance. My 7mm bullets were very long and the nose was outside the brake while the base was still inside the muzzle. We thought that might end up causing some heel upset but it didn’t. The rifle printed amazing groups and had very little recoil. I know I won’t make any friends at the range or in competitions but it’s my shoulder I’m here concerned with, not their nerves.


The 14 (or 15) C’s of Bug-Out-Bags For Families

What do you need in a bug-out-bag? Well if you go by the suggestions of most people you’re looking for 45 pounds of random crap where most elements are duplicated and those that aren’t are flatly ignored. You’d think these people never had to bug out before. I have had to bug out and when it came time to do so there was no grabbing a bag, it was go or you’re going to die here. We went. Most of us on the walk to high ground had nothing, not even carrying anything. Many of us were actually missing things you’d think we would have had anyway, like both shoes. I was missing a shoe at least.

After a couple years of really paying attention to what I take with me on a hunt and what I needed and didn’t have when I was a child bugging out of a disaster area and what I’d want with me, or more specifically my kids, in the event that a bug out was required. I have family to worry about and a dog which makes things complicated. If you have girls you have special worries. Girls don’t travel as easily as boys do. If a girl needs to go potty it’s not a thing you can do while still walking and remain even a little sanitary. Guys can to a point.

What I came up with ended up being the 14 (or 15) C’s of bugging out. There is some overlap in the categories but you can’t get past that when things are intended to do multiple duties when they can in the interest of saving weight and staying mobile. Here you go: Calories, Cleaning, Catnap, Communications, Combat, Cutting, Chopping, Cures, Comfort (or) Convert, Carrying, Cordage, Cooking, Compass, Combustion.

This is what’s in my bags. I have two bags that I maintain. They’re intended to be used together but if we get separated then one of the bags will do. The 2nd bag is mostly just additional dehydrated food, fuel, cordage and a radio. It can be dropped in a hurry and not hurt the bug-out effort.

Calories: This is made mostly of sardines, small granule pasta, lentils, dehydrated stuff, jerky, granola, water purification, 2x 2-litre water bladders, several MRE heaters as well as some gatorade mix, salt and sugar. There’s even an MRE main course in there. Use what you like but don’t carry excessive water or wet food. That means you’re looking mostly for things you can add cold water to, leave it for a while and then just eat it. You want to avoid too much salty or high sodium foods but that doesn’t mean avoid them entirely. Just watch the intensity. Potato flakes are a really good way of carrying quick-preparing and easy eating energy. It won’t last long though so bring some oil. It’ll taste like ass but a spoon full of vegetable oil with a potato ration will really help prolong your energy. I also keep a collapsible fishing pole and reel and basic fishing tackle in the bag. Fish are highly nutritious and easy enough to catch so there’s no excuse for not having the ability or the tools. Sardines and anchovies make great trail food despite their weight. Highly nurishing, chock full of calories from protein and fat and best of all, low fecal response (means you don’t have to shit much for the amount of sardines you eat).

Cleaning: For me this means tampons and pads, water filters (Katadyn), ethyl alcohol, baby wipes, iodine tablets, iodine neutralizer tablets, metal water bottle, toothbrush, floss, powdered soap (borax), and a teensie dust pan and broom. The second you lose the ability to clean yourself you bring disease into the mix and that will kill your group. Stay clean.

Catnap: You’ll need to sleep sooner or later. I keep a space blanket, compact tent and tarp in there. The tarp can be a tent if it has to as well. It’s not a lot but you don’t really need that much. Wool is heavy and only gets heavier but it has virtues that you may or may not like. Try it out.

Comms: A national weather service radio and an FRS radio are the first things but they’re probably the least important. NWS radios usually have a flashlight in them which is handy. I also maintain a red/blue/white LED headlight. Fireworks are also handy. Smoke bombs, black-cats, and sparklers are handy signaling devices. As well, keep some chalk, a sharpie, a pencil and a ball point pen. I also keep several sheets of Revlar by Relyco which is water-PROOF media much like paper. Finally, a junk CD which makes a super awesome signal mirror is there.

Combat: I keep the stuff in the bag minimal. My family is all sufficiently armed anyway. Still, at least 1 fixed blade knife should be there for this purpose specifically. That means a combat knife. Apart from the blade, keep a gun, a spare magazine and a full box of ammo in there. What kind of gun? Don’t care. I keep a .357magnum revolver and a bunch of spicy .38spl ammo in the bag but I also daily carry a .45ACP Glock and keep 3 mags handy.

Cutting: This is pretty simple, you’ll need a fixed blade skinning type knife, a folding multi-blade jack-knife, and a Leatherman multi-tool. This is stuff that you don’t whittle with. These are long term survival tools.

Chopping: Related to cutting but oh so different in use case that it gets its own column. I keep a Gransfors Bruks hatchet and a Gerber machete in my kit. These are for the big jobs so you don’t use a knife wrong and cut yourself. They’re heavy but sometimes you need some heavy. These aren’t for delicate work but still must be kept in good shape and used correctly.

Cures: Got to have some medical supplies. I keep a few suture kits, a pneumothorax drain tube (chest tube), sulfadimethoxine, cipro, penicillin, amoxicillin, ampicillin, tylenol, asprin, prilosec, quick-clot, nosebleed stopper, bug bite soother, tick remover, scalpel & blades, vascular clamp, opiates, gauze roll, gauze pads, butterfly/finger/regular band-aids and a quick deploy ice-pack in my med kit. Tampons make good bullet-hole plugs as well but they’re in hygiene. I’m not a doctor and I don’t mean to suggest anything in this list. My antibiotic and drug list is based on the medical needs of me and mine. Do your research.

Comfort & Convert: This is stuff to use either for your comfort or for you to convert into whatever else you need via barter. This means photos of loved ones (in case you need to search for them), identification (plastic ID’s help identify the bodies), silver coins, gold, precious gemstones and jewelry, faith items, flip-flops, a couple light sticks, hand warmers, ponchos and spare .22lr ammunition. These are light, valuable and highly trade-able. You also don’t “need” any of them.

Carrying: I have 4 backpacks. 2 are BoB’s, 1 more pack is inside one of the BoB’s and allows a day trip away from camp, and both BoB’s fit inside a 4th pack which is a surplus military external frame expedition pack. I also keep a military surplus load bearing rig, a pair of insulated canteens and a few stuff sacks for holding whatever we might gather on the way.

Cordage: 75-100 feet of 550 paracord is vital. Besides that, a couple sets of boot laces weighs nothing but supplies great and tough cordage. In addition you should keep some 1″ wide nylon strap with a friction clasp/buckle. I also keep 2 small aluminum carabiners and 2 heavy duty steel carabiners. The small ones are great for setting snares, the big ones can be used for handling actually heavy loads. You might consider picture hanging wire for this role too. It makes a great snare.

Cooking: The metal military canteen cup is a life saver. I also keep a metal fork, large metal spoon, P38 can opener, and a folding camp stove. With these things you don’t need much in the way of a proper mess kit but I’d also advise a 7 piece mess kit if you’re toting kids and a wife along. You can make the bulk of your mess kit from wood if that’s an option but you should have something to prepare food in or carry water in or whathaveyou.

Compass: A compass is critical but so is a set of maps. I keep detailed topographic maps of the whole area I live in as well as maps of all areas on the way to our rally points. Do not mark your rally points, that may set up an ambush or robbery. You’ll have to train the family on where they’re headed.

Combustion: Tri-Ox pellets. Little white pellets of unstoppable fire that’ll ignite in almost any conditions. That’s half of the solution. I also keep a magnesium fire starter, 000 steel wool, a 9v battery (replace every 6 months), a bunch of cotton balls, several cans of sterno, a few lighters and waterproof matches. If you run out of fire you’re screwed, so I have several methods of starting fire. This also makes it easier to give a method to everyone in your group.

Those are the 14 c’s of bugging out with kids over about 7 years old. Younger kids bring much more difficult problems. Teenage kids actually help matters in most cases except for the hardest thing to deal with, their appetite for calories. My kids are teens and that has caused me to have that 2nd bag full of food.

One of the handiest things I’ve come across is beer sold in 12 ounce aluminum bottles. These are awesome for boiling water and transporting small amounts of water or just for measuring. They’re fully opaque too so you can actually keep the beer in them.

Finally, drop a pint or 2 or 3 of Everclear or Vodka or Moonshine or another high proof, unflavored, clear alcohol in your bag. You can sterilize with it, drink it, start fire with it or even trade it. What you can’t do is find some for as little as it costs now when the world has already come to an end. Alcohol of the isopropyl type is not as handy.

Put some thought into it. Plan how long you’ll be bugged out before you get to your rally point and then how long you think you can maintain your rally point before bugging out again. I know we can make it 3 days without issue, 7 with rationing of food, 12 with damned near starving level rations. Beyond that, we’ll need to be stabilizing. I also know how far our rally point is and how long we can hold out there.

In the interest of full disclosure, in addition to the pistols in my BoB’s, given the chance I’ll also be bringing my drag bag and a long range rifle as well as the weapon set that the family brings. Barring their participation I’ll have to lug around an AR-15 as well. Each centerfire rifle comes with a 100 round battle pack of ammo. .22LR guns get a 500 round bulk box. I think that’s enough firepower to bring hell down upon us or to rain it down on a hostile force. In any event, taking my rally point will be very costly in men and materials and I hope that the ability to project firepower accurately at extended range will attenuate the need to actually do much of that in a world without rule of law.

Just surviving is not enough. You need to be the master of your death too. It might come about that just walking away from your bug-out location ends up the better option. It might come about that walking away is a pretense to avoid the damage caused by your booby traps when the interlopers enter your “surrendered” camp. The idea is that only you should know and if only you do know then the battle is half won already.

Don’t think that bugging in or out will make it so you can survive long term. You need a plan that deals with that. In all reality you’ll need several plans to deal with long term survival. Most people will not survive long term and that changes the equation as well. Deciding to try is the first step but it’s not a promise of success. If history teaches us anything it’s that refugees don’t get to bring weapons with them. That means that you won’t be able to move with the herd for too long before you have to put your guns down. Most preppers would not want any part of that and they’re the ones that need to think really long term. The rest of us will make it a few weeks, maybe a few months and then we’ll just be more vulture food like the billions of totally unprepared folks around the world.

Safe shooting!

Projectile Performance and Power

I’ve been wasting a lot of time lately watching some random stuff on YouTube with respect to guns and ammo. One of the things I notice is the wide spread investment of ego and what’s possible versus what’s probable invading the discussion of the proper application for various calibers and projectiles and the distances and targets they’re well or poorly employed against.

The fact of the matter is stopping a threat means you have to severely damage the threat. They don’t represent a threat if they’re not one and once they are they have to be dealt with in as short a time as you can. So when your gunshop attendant tells you that .38spl is fine and so is .22lr they’re not lying if that’s all the nut you can hold. What he’s also telling you is that 9mm, .40S&W, .45ACP and other defensive/combat chamberings are more effective and that you should consider that. You’re not in the market for defensive weaponry to be civil about something. You’re in the market for it because civility has already been tossed out the window. When it’s time to use weapons the time for civility has passed. You do not owe it to your assailant to not kill them or to not maim them. You do not owe them courtesy, forgiveness or mercy. You owe them sudden, crushing, overwhelming injury which happens in sufficient volume and in a short enough time that their combat effectiveness drops to zero.

In the world of rifles you have some similar thinking to the idea that any bullet will do. Well it won’t. If you’re shooting long range then you have a target there obviously. If it’s paper or AR500 steel then you don’t need anything other than the best target bullet you can afford. It doesn’t have to do anything but arrive right? If it’s enemy soldiers, a missile or a truck engine then you need to make sure that in addition to being able to reach the target at all, that once the bullet does reach it the bullet is retaining enough energy, velocity and bullet toughness to defeat the target including whatever armor it might normally be equipped with.

When people wonder why someone would use a .338 Lapua against a truck at 1000m when a .300winmag would have gotten a bullet there on more or less the same ballistic trajectory it’s because of the need to deliver sufficient energy to a target that’s a little tougher than the .300wm would be appropriate for. Long range saps bullet energy so your bullet has to get bigger and tougher as the ranges get longer. The case volume will normally have to grow as well. Bring enough gun starts to take on new meaning in extreme range. .338 Lapua is loved for a reason. Civilian shooters would do well to remember though that we don’t have the need to take out a missile and so we can get away with chamberings that are sufficient to just getting a bullet to the range we need it at. That means that long skinny bullets launched at moderate to high velocity. This is 6.5creedmore and 7rem mag territory more than it’s .300winmag territory.

Family Pictures

Here’s the current stable of long range project rifles. They’ve been getting paint jobs and new barrels and general sprucings up.
Table top to bottom = picture left to right:

Rifle Chamber BBL Twist Optic Range
Savage 10FP-SR .308 Winchester 24″ 10 Bushnell E3200 10×40 900m
Savage 110 7mm Remington Magnum 28″ 9 Bushnell E3200 10×40 1750m
Winchester Model 70 7mm Remington Magnum 24″ 10 SWFA SS 16×42 1350m
Mossberg MVP Varmint .223 Remington 24″ 9 Bushnell E3200 10×40 750m

 photo 0E5B3E11-C182-459F-96BC-08328B963F84_zpscsbnckaz.jpg

Gabriel and Rolling Stone have been upgraded with LSS chassis from MDT. Rolling Stone now wears a SWFA 16x42mm. Gabriel is getting one of my new U.S. Optics ST-10’s.

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