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Campfire Chat

October 21, 2019

What is your opinion of foreward assist on an AR? I have occasionally had to use mine to close a bolt on some random piece of ammo over the last 20 years, usually due to a grain of sand, or a reload with a large base.

But after the front pawl broke loose, and immediately jammed the carrier into the upper with the pawl between the groove and gouged into the aluminum, I am rethinking having one on my rifle. I eventually used a dremel tool to cut the upper apart and tried to salvage the carrier. Without the forward assist in there in the first place, I could probably solve any bolt closures with a brass punch and a hammer.

BTW, since I’ve stopped using RCBS X-dies and a progressive press, and have gone back to single stage reloading, my need for the FA has decreased significantly.

I use my forward assist all the time. Mostly, upon completion of a press check, to make sure the bolt has locked back into battery. I don’t know that I’ve used it more than a handful of times because of fouling, but then, I keep my guns pretty wet.

I can see where if you’ve had the problem you describe, it would be concerning, but without knowing the round count and resultant levels of fatigue on the metal, I can’t say that it wasn’t simply a matter of metal fatigue and stress on the FA that caused the issue.

I will say, in almost thirty years of running M16s, CAR15s, M4s, and AR15s, I’ve never had that happen. I don’t know that I’ve ever even seen it happen. Certainly not to that level of catastrophic failure. I’d be a lot more worried about things like staked carrier keys shearing off (I’ve had it happen on two different BCGs, or the locking keys on bolts themselves shearing off (I’ve had it happen a couple of times over the years), than about the FA causing a catastrophic failure….


Have you found any good radios for your group?  Not the big HAM ones, but the individual carry ones like you would have used in the army.

I’m no commo expert, but I’m very fond of the Yaesu FT-60R. I’ve got a couple of them, and we get really good service out of them, in all sorts of weather, and mine have had me fall on them on numerous occasions, during IMT (and general just falling ass-over-teakettle), and have been dropped from varying heights onto varying surfaces, with little or no damage. I did have to have one of our commo guys do some minor clean-up work on the one that I keep in my truck, as a combination radio/scanner. It slipped between the seats, and ended up forgotten there for about a week and a half, and ended up with lots of debris lodged into the keypad. It was a pretty quick and painless clean up fix though, according to him.

Perhaps—I couldn’t say for sure, of course, since I would never do, or suggest, such a thing—best of all, I’m informed that it’s a fairly simple process of severing one resistor, to allow them to not only receive FRS, GMRS, and MURS band frequencies, but also to transmit on those bands, which they are not supposed to do. I suspect such an ability would be handy to have, if some of your people only had handie-talkies out of the Cabela’s or Wal-Mart bubble pack….


Have you ever worked up a ‘bump in the night’ chest rig, plate carrier, etc. for your wife?  Do they even make plate carriers for women?

My wife does have a plate carrier. It’s an old lightweight LBT one with medium size plates in it, and her Tactical Tailor MAV slips right over the top of it, should she need that. More commonly though, if she’s putting a plate carrier on, she’s just tucking a spare rifle mag in her back pocket, although she does also have a very nice warbelt set up, much like mine.

I THINK they make anatomically appropriate body armor plates for women. It seems like I’ve read that they do. She just has standard ESAPI plates in hers though, and the PC was a gimme from a (male) buddy of mine, when his department required them to switch from Ranger Green to black, so hers are not “female specific.” They don’t seem to cause her too much trouble.


Do you still use the VG2 ‘holster’ at all?

Not really. I keep it in my range bag to show to students during classes, but I really don’t have any use for it. There are so many better options available now.


I read your response to the night vision question with interest.  I was thinking of getting a PVS-14 when funds allow, but put it down the list of priorities after reading in GG v2 that learning to shoot with a NOD was no easy task (probably requiring expert training).  And I’m still coming-up-to-speed learning to shoot in day light 🙂

I was wondering, however, if it might be prudent to have a night observation device, possibly hand-held, that could be used to identify potential threats at reasonable distance (say 100 ft on a moonless night).  Threats could then be lit up by white light if needed.  Does such a device exist?  If such a device were available at a reasonable cost, they could be distributed to the whole clan.  Or would it be best to conserve resources to purchase a full PVS-14 set up for key clan members, and leave the rest of the clan in the dark, so to speak?

Right now, with the grid up, there is a lot of ambient light (especially in the city!), and one could put up flood lighting around one’s property, I suppose.  But with the grid down . . . man, it’s dark out here in the country.

On a somewhat-related note, do you have a brand of lightweight binoculars you like to take on patrols?

The hand-held NOD you’re looking for? It’s still a PVS-14. If that’s just not in the cards, for financial reasons, a set of PVS-7s will work as a fallback, but you’ll have to remove the NODs in order to switch to white light.

One of the methods we used, back in the day, before everybody had NODs, was for key leaders (Team Leaders and above) to have night vision devices. They would load either alternating rounds of ball and tracer, or 3:1 ball:tracer. They could then use the tracer rounds to mark target zones for their subordinates and crew-served weapons to target. It’s far from ideal, but…

Yeah, few people in urban and suburban areas really understand what a moonless night, with no electrical lighting really means…

I use a small pair of Steiners. I love Steiners. They’re a little on the spendy side, but they’re great glass, great internals, and really, really robust.


Seriously asking since you use them; What’s the point of AR pistols? The only advantage I see is a high round count, at the expense of quite a lot of muzzle velocity? It never seemed worth it to me, asking in case I’m missing something.

Two different reader responses, I’m going to share, before I answer the question, addressing the answers provided.

1. Good for short to intermediate ranges
2. Easier to shoot accurately beyond point blank range compared to a standard handgun / pistol.
3. 556 has more power than 9mm in same barrel lengths


You still will need a red dot optic and maybe a 3x magnifier, but based on barrel length this isn’t going to be the long distance shooter.

The point of AR “pistols” is, legitimately, the same point of a 10.5” or other SBR, without the $200 tax and permission slip from The Crown, honestly.

You are losing some muzzle velocity, but you’re making up for it with handiness and light weight.

So, let’s address the muzzle velocity issue, while we address the reader answers:

The obvious issue with muzzle velocity is two-fold: a) reduced range, potentially, and b) reduced lethality of mil-spec ball ammunition. As both readers pointed out, this seems to make it a limited-range weapon, good only for short-to-intermediate ranges. SOCOM has been using the MK18 with it’s 10.5” barrel for well over a decade and a half now. In Iraq alone, there are AARs of dozens of one-shot stops on hostiles, at ranges in excess of 700 meters (and these are from sniper team spotters, in most cases, so it’s safe to assume the stated ranges are pretty damned accurate).

I’ve personally made shots (on steel, the MK18 came into use after my time) with a 10.5” in excess of 500 meters, on reduced silhouette targets. So, it’s really not limited to just short and intermediate ranges. It can—in the hands of a competent shooter—reach reliably out past any sort of common engagement distance with rifles, as seen in modern combat situations. Of course, the MK18 was specifically a CQB module for the SOPMOD system, so it really is going to excel at close ranges, within the 100 meter common engagement distance of most modern combat engagements (even in Afghanistan, where, at least for awhile, there was a trend by Hajj to use crew served weapons to stand-off from US forces, the majority of fights have actually occurred well within that 100M envelope).

The biggest advantage of the weapon, which is essentially a submachinegun, in a rifle caliber, is the same as submachineguns have always offered: as the reader mentioned, it’s a lot easier to shoot accurately, and fast, even at room distances, than a pistol. It’s damned sure a lot easier to shoot accurately and fast, at 100 yards, than a pistol! That makes it ideal for both a personal defense weapon (PDW) like the M1 carbine’s original purpose, and for CQB, whether in a building, dense forest, or even trenches/dugout compounds (as someone once told me, “The purpose of a SMG is to assassinate rooms full of very surprised colonels!”). It’s more powerful than a pistol, and handier than a rifle or carbine.

As far as the optic recommendation goes, a red dot, if that’s your preference, does work really well on an AR pistol, just like it does on a SMG. On the other hand, we have three AR pistols in the safe. One is mine, one is my wife’s, and the third is the oldest daughter’s (she’s eight). Mine has a 1-4x LPVO on it. My wife’s has a 1-8x LPVO on it. Only my daughter’s has a red dot on it, in the form of an EoTech. The LPVO offers the same benefits on the AR pistol that it offers on my 14.5” or my wife’s 16”: it allows us to extend the range dramatically, as well as offering us to ability to see better, into shadows and tight spaces, at shorter ranges.

In fact, oldest daughter’s AR pistol has an EoTech on it for two simple reasons: 1) I have found it is easier to teach her to shoot it, well, with the simpler EoTech reticle. Since it still has a .22LR conversion in it, she’s not really shooting it past 50 yards anyway, so the simplicity of telling her to put the dot in the center of the target, hold the gun still, and break the trigger, is just simpler for her to process. Combined with the less visible movement from wobble, as her positions aren’t as stable yet as they will be, simply makes it less confusing for her. 2) It weighs less. She’s a stout, strong girl, but she’s eight. She’s got some growing to do yet, and a lighter weapon, that she can hold more steadily, makes the shooting/training experience more tolerable for her, when she’d rather be playing with horses.

I use my 14.5” a lot more than I use my 10.5”, but I absolutely trust my 10.5” “pistol” to do anything I will ever ask it to do, out to at least 400 meters. I wouldn’t not have one.

In fact, I’d rather have the pistol than the registered SBR, because transportation is a lot less of a headache.


Got to spend a great weekend at Old Salem in Winston Salem, NC. Couldn’t help but think about an application of the Moravian’s methodology in a smaller scale for the upcoming spiciness. The community owned the basic property, while families could own their own homes. Skills and trades were encouraged, and the educational system supported them. Common worldview, mutual support for families and individuals, interactions with “strangers” on their terms are just some of the takeaways.

Careful, people might start calling you a socialist, spouting ideas like that.

To be honest though, if I was going to start any sort of “retreat community” or other “intentional community,” that’s basically how I’d do it. I’d incorporate and purchase the land and major tools as community property, of the corporation. Written into the by-laws would be that shareholders own their homes, and those homes are inviolate, and may be passed on to heirs, as long as the original owner, or the heir, remains part of the community, but cannot be sold or transferred outside of the community.

We’d have a community school, and all the rest. It’s the only way to “force” form a community that has tribal-level ties and commitments (this is also why I will probably never be able to form any sort of intentional community….)


NVG or Thermals?
The price on thermals has dropped quite a bit over the last few years.
Now IIRC, thermals can’t see through glass (windows, ect) or be used to read maps, but they do make people “pop” out of the background, unlike NV where a good job of camouflage by daylight does just as well by night when viewed through NV.
Of course a set up that merged the two would be best, but DARPA isn’t funding my purchases.

NODs first, followed by thermals down the road. Positive ID of targets is a real concern, and important. It’s much easier to ID targets with NODs than it is with thermals….


American Nations is a good read but the authors near pathological anti Southern bias as well as his complete ignorance of the Southwest flaw the work.

Meh. 1) I’ve yet to read a book that wasn’t flawed somehow (including the ones I wrote, for what it’s worth). It’s the nature of the beast. 2) Hell, I have biases against the South too, and I’m a damned Southerner. Of course, a lot of that depends on which part(s) of the South you’re discussing. Were all the author’s criticisms of the South valid? Probably not. In my experience though—again, as a Southerner—the majority of them were, even if some of those were exaggerated.

I’m not in the loop enough about the SW myself, to comment with validity, but, overall, I still found it an important book, and well worth reading and digesting, even with his biases.

I generally accept that everyone has biases, many of which I may or may not agree with. I don’t accept the criticisms anyone offers against anything as articles of faith, but, if they are well argued, I can certainly consider them in formulating my own opinions on the subject. On the other hand, if they’re poorly argued, that also allows me to consider, and weigh, them, in formulating my own opinions.

Ultimately, I feel like accepting an author’s opinions on a region he’s not from himself, is much akin to listening to a musician or actor pontificate on politics and current affairs. If you lack expertise on the specific area, I can choose to ignore that portion of your presentation. I can watch a movie starring an actor whose politics or other public statements I dislike, and still appreciate the movie. I’m watching the movie to be entertained, not because of the actor’s politics. If the movie incorporates those politics, well, that’s another issue, but that rides more on the screenwriter and director than on the actors themselves, in that case.

Similarly, I can read the author’s work, and appreciate it—and the valid points—while ignoring or discounting obvious biases that are irrelevant to the conclusions.

From → Uncategorized

  1. ViejoTorro permalink

    American Nations is an important book and worth reading but the author overstates the cultural and political ties to Mexico in the South West

  2. swampstalker permalink

    “What is your opinion of foreward assist on an AR?”

    You will appreciate the FA a bit more in a situation where you need to chamber a round and do it with as little noise as possible. It will allow you to seat the bolt carrier group into battery without the loud “slam!” of releasing the charging handle from the full rear position.

  3. Donk permalink

    I am not a comms guy either but the ICOM F3S work well, decent range with better antenna and are relatively cheap on eBay. Also, Motorola i355s work even better with replacement Motorola fixed antenna, secure from Bubba eavesdropping and again, cheap on eBay available in sets. Be sure to get the appropriate SIM card so they will transmit. Oh, no license required.

    +1 on the Steiners. Try this, find a cloudy pair on eBay then use the lifetime warranty for brand new ones – worked for me.

    • Vagus permalink

      Just be aware that no radio transmission is ever secure. You can have sub-audible tones and all that, but there is civilian equipment out there that automatically records and notes that stuff to be able to reply back.

  4. Baja permalink

    Ha, the S. west is Messco…

  5. Rusty permalink

    Is there still time to stock up on Baofeng UV-5R’s before the much-rumored crackdown? They’ll allegedly soon be weakened or outright banned from importation, if that’s not already happened. I could stand to buy half a dozen and stash them away for future use.

  6. Mel permalink

    Forward assist
    Never used it until last weekend. Was teaching new shooter on handguns and then did some longer range rifle. Have a fairly new 300 blackout that needed some tweaking with deer ammo. I fI red a few rounds to zero the ammo. Changed magazine to FMJ and gave to newbie, since he did fine with 5.56, thought he would be fine with 300. He charged it, lined up sights, safe off, and then nothing. Thought that he didn’t have magazine seated, so reracked. Oops, now a bolt that is partially closed with 2. Cleared the jam and then did a slow charge cycle with no magazine, saw that bolt didn’t go completely closed, but would with the forward assist. Or would also if if I charged my normal way. New gun, about 25 rounds total, cleaned 2x, not broken in yet, and a little weak on lube.
    I have had similar issues with National Guard soldiers with my rifles, they were taught to rack slowly. Maybe works for sloppy Army rifles. I had to tell them that pulling the charge handle briskly is a lot better especially if your life is on the line, but they say they get yelled at if they do it on the range.

  7. CPB permalink

    FFS people a pistol is a pistol, a rifle is a rifle, stop following the bullshit “fads” to get you gullible sheep to buy more “tactic-cool” shit!” Also, can any of you use your heads for more than a hat rack or ear bud holder? Can any of you research your own questions? Can any of you actually do any damn thing on your own? FFS most of you ass-hats are going to die, deal with it and prepare now, because most of you are stupid. Those agreeing with me wont bitch, because they know its true, those that just got offended, fuck you snowflakes, your the lazy fucks who can’t even do a fucking google search. Fuck me these are the idiots my brothers in arms and I fought, bled, and died for? Fucking morons!

    • LFMayor permalink

      You got picked last at kickball… no shit?
      Affirmation and the experience of others is a useful consideration in the decision making process.

      Some of these guys are new at this, and even the saltiest ones are still learning. Even you, Chesty.

  8. Winston Smith permalink

    Another reason for an AR pistol is that you can carry it under your Handgun Carry Permit. That matters in some states.
    (I don’t like AR pistols personally fwiw)

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