Oct 292016
 

Following on the hills of the initial issues I had, my problems with the TNW ASR are continuing.  Here is the previous post on this subject:

http://opticsthoughts.com/?p=1696

I finally managed to get a couple of hundred rounds through it and since it is still about as reliable as a politician’s promise, I sent TNW’s tech support an e-mail.

Here is the text of the e-mail in its entirety:

I recently purchased an ASR from you chambered in 10mm.

I fired of a couple of hundred rounds as a break-in of sorts, but the situation is not improving, so I figured I should contact you and see if you have any suggestions.

  • The rifle is not very good in getting a round into the chamber.  On an initial round, where I manually cycle the bolt (I pull it all the way back and let it go), the round does not go into the chamber.  It looks like the nose of the bullet hits the fed ramp and bounces up, Instead of going into the chamber, the round is stuck pointing upwards.  Once I get a round chambered (by manually inserting it into the chamber and closing the bolt on top), the rifle fires and the next round is successfully chambered about eighty percent of the time.  The rest of the time, there is the same failure to feed and I have to start over with the manual chambering.
  • About fifty rounds ago, the rifle stopped firing altogether.  When I took the bolt out of the receiver, I noticed that the firing pin is frozen in place.  I carefully tapped it out and discovered that the back of the bolt is all chewed up from the impact of the hammer.  It is apparently so soft that it deformed into the firing pin channel and prevented it from moving.  I gently removed the deformation and chamfered the back opening of the firing pin channel. That got the firing pin working again, but I am a little concerned that if I continue using the rifle, it will get deformed again.  Honestly, it sounds like the heat treat on the bolt is not quite right.  I would not expect it to be that soft.

Any suggestions?

I’ll let you know if they come up with anything good.

So far, I am more than a little disappointed.  ASR stands for “Aero Survivial Rifle”.  In principle, it would be a good survival rifle, since it can be taken down and transported in a very compact bag.  I like survival guns and have reasonable familiarity with several of them.  They are often crude, but decently reliable.  To trust a gun to be a survival tool, you have to have faith in it.  At this stage in the game, I have about as much faith in the ASR as I do in the ethics of news reporters’.

At this stage, if I can get the reliability issue worked out, it will take a fair amount of reliable operation to restore my faith.  Until then, this is a rather expensive project gun that I have to tinker with.  In principle, I suspect that polishing the feed ramp with some JB paste might do the trick, but I will wait for TNW’s response prior to doing that.

 

 Posted by at 8:41 pm
Oct 222016
 

Written October 22nd, 2016

DocterSight III

 

I have been looking into various miniature red dot sights for quite some time.  I typically use them as auxilliary sights to the primary magnified optics, but I did put together an article focused on a couple of specimens: Leupold Deltapoint and Vortex Razor (here).  I liked both of them pretty well, but they also had a few shortcomings.  Also, I realized that the type of shooting I typically do is not conducive to giving red dot sights a fair shake.  I am a precision guy at heart, and that is not what these sights are designed for.

That did not mean that I stopped looking at reflex sights, but I did start expanding my shooting practice into other disciplines and, a couple of weeks ago, I finally made it out to Frontsight for a rifle class.  This class had a very brief stint shooting from 200 yards, but the bulk of the shooting was from closer distances, mostly within 50 yards, which is red dot territory by and large.  On top of that, I suffered a leg injury early in the class, so I had to shoot standing from all distances even when other positions were available.  Trying to get into any other shooting position was painful.  Even though I had both a magnified sight and a red dot on my rifle, I ended up using a red dot a lot more than I originally thought.

For me a rifle class is both a training opportunity (especially since shooting offhand is easily my weakest discipline) and an opportunity to test different optics.  I went there with my brother and my nephew and since I had three rifles to set up, I had a chance to look at several sighting systems.

As far as reflex sights go, I had the following with me:

  • DocterSight III (mounted on top of my Elcan Spectre OS 4x)
  • Meopta Meosight III (on the rifle that also had Elcan Spectre 3x)
  • Vortex Sparc AR (with a VMX3 magnifier)
  • Leupold LCO (together with a D-EVO)

 

I will talk about most of these other sights in separate pieces, but I will mention them here and there.




In principle, the DocterSight competes directly against the Meosight and they look very similar, to the point that they even use the same mounts.  However, there are a couple of important differences in how they operate.

DocterSight does not really have any external controls per se.  Once the cover is off, it senses ambient light level and adjusts the dot brightness accordingly.  Generally, that is a pretty good way to go, except for one problem: if you are in a shaded place, but your target is brightly illuminated, the dot might not be bright enough.  To be honest, that is how this whole idea of looking at the DocterSight III started.  I was roaming around SHOT Show earlier this year and upon stumbling onto the Docter booth, I blurted out something along the lines of: “nice sights, but I’ve got some issues with the operating method”.  Going forward, I think I will try to first see what is new in the booth before voicing opinions, since the very pleasant lady at the Docter booth, instead of telling me to shove my opinions where the sun don’t shine, cheerily suggested that I looked at their latest iteration of a reflex sight, namely the DocterSight III.  

DocterSight III, unlike its predecessors supports three different operating modes.  All three involve automatic adjustment with light level changes, but they can now accommodate the variable lighting situations I have described earlier.  Here is an excerpt, from the product manual:

operatingmodes

Keep in mind that this is a log-log plot, so the actual perceived brightnesss difference between the modes is significant.  In order to switch between operating modes, there is a magnetic switch integrated into the front right corner of the sight body and a magnet incorporated into the sight cover.  Hold the magnet to the switch for three seconds and you go to a different mode.  Here is another illustration from the manual:

switchingmodes

Basically, I had to eat some crow.  It is not my favourite thing to do, but that is what I get for talking too much.

I was pretty busy earlier in the year, but in late summer I reached out to Docter and asked for a sample of DocterSight III that I can take with me to the rifle class.

The first thing I did, was try to throw different lighting conditions at the DocterSight III to test all these operating modes and it passed that first test with flying colors.  

Then, I mounted it on my rifle and headed to the range.

 

Sighting it in was pretty trivial.  The adjustment screws require a small flat screwdriver, which is provided with the sight.  They also provide a reference disk that you can affix to the screwdriver and that tells you how much you need to turn the adjustment screws to move the POI.  While I freely admit that it is a good idea, I ignored all that and made some educated guesses.  The basic process is simple: loosen the set screws on the back, adjust windage and elevation, tighten the set screws again.  I suspect that instead of taking about ten shots to get a basic zero, it would have taken my five, but I can live with that.  Once I got the initial zero, I proceeded to settle down and, taking my time and paying attention the fundamentals, fire off twenty shots without fiddling with anything.  That tells me a couple of things:

1) it is the first rudimentary check on whether the sight is holding zero

2) if you do this, you really get an idea of where your zero is.  Basing it on an aggregate of twenty shots is much more trustworthy than on three.    

I had to make one small adjustment after that and we were off to the races, so to speak.


After that, I spent a fair amount of time setting up other rifles and did not shoot with the DocterSight a whole lot until we headed off to FrontSight.  I did shoot it side by side with the Meopta MeoSight III a fair bit, and one interesting thing that came up was that the dot on the Docter optic had sharper edges.  The MeoSight seemed to have a bit more of a starburst effect to my eyes.  Now, I have a slight astigmatism, so the dot is not perfectly round to me, but with the DocterSight, in slow fire, I could use the edge of the dot for aiming.  With the other red dot sights I had, I could not do that as easily.  Frankly, I have not spent too much time digging into that so far, but I will.  Generally, that blooming effect is usually due to the dot being too bright, but with MeoSight I was running in the manual mode (it has both a manual mode and an Autoadjust mode), so I tried to decrease dot brightness.  The dot was still sharper on the Docter.  Weirdly, the dot in the Leupold LCO and Vortex Sparc AR was also less well defined than in the Docter.

During the class, all reflex sights I had functioned without issues, but I had the most time with the Doctersight and it worked beautifully.  I had some initial concerns that the speed of finding the dot might be a problem due to the sight sitting above the primary sight, but those concerns turned out to be unfounded.  

The 3.5 MOA dot size turned out to be just right for my purposes.  I generally like smaller dots and I think the 7 MOA is better suited for handguns, while the 3.5 MOA was just right on a rifle.

Despite some fairly rough handling the sight stayed zeroed and never gave me a hint of trouble.  I am not sure what the battery life will be, but so far I have not had to change it.  I’ll keep using it and see how long it lasts.  In order to change the battery, I have to remove the sight from the mounting plate, so one of the things I want to keep track of is whether that causes a significant POI change.  Interestingly, some competing designs, like the Razor and Meosight, have a sidemounted tray that holds the battery, while some others, like the Deltapoint Pro and FastFire access the battery from the top.  I am a bit mixed on what is the better way, so it will take some experimentation.  I suspect that accessing the battery from the bottom aids reliability and compactness.  With the side mounted battery, keeping the contacts always connected might be more of a challenge, although I have not run into these issues.  Top acces battery is likely to require a larger sight body and might interfere with LED placement.  Either way, that is one of the things I plan to investigate going forward.

Fundamentally, I like this sight a fair bit and, honestly, more than I thought I would.  I will keep it on my AR for now.  At a later point, I might try it on my Glock.

As I wrap up with my testing, I’ll put together some final thoughts and, naturally, if I run into issues, I will report those as well.  For now, I am pretty impressed with what I see.

 Posted by at 11:11 pm
Oct 212016
 

I mentioned this little carbine a while back:

Pistol Caliber Carbines from TNW Firearms

I finally managed to get my hands on one in 10mm and dragged it out to the range together with my longslide Glock that takes the same magazines.

I really like the concept of this carbine: it is easy to take down and it is very handy.  Also, a 10mm cartridge out of a 16mm barrel is a pretty potent beast.

Now, I understand that firearms need some break in, so I am not going to form any major conclusions yet.  However, of the three ammo types I brought with me, it only fed with one: 180gr FMJ Armscor.  I had two Double Tap loads with me, 135gr HP and 230gr Hardcast and neither would feed.

The trigger is quite possibly the worst I have tried on any modern firearm and the grip it comes with must have been selected specifically to be so uncomfortable that I do not pay too much attention to the trigger.

Once I got a round in the chamber and muscled my way through the trigger, the gun went boom every time and ejected a spent case every time.

I chrono’ed the velocities and they were within expectation.

I will take it apart and take a close look at what is happening inside.  I can see where the cartridges are getting hung up and causing failures to feed, so perhaps I will need to do some minor surgery to that spot. That will wait a bit though since I will first get a couple of hundreds of rounds through it as a break-in process of sorts.  If it still gives me issues, I will give TNW a call and see what they say about it.

Stay tuned…




 Posted by at 7:57 pm
Aug 132016
 

Written on 8/13/2016 by ILya Koshkin

I see this question pop up a lot: “I just bought a “fill in the blank” rifle and I want to learn to shoot it out to 1000 yards, what scope should I use?”

Many people much more qualified than I am have written on this subject, so there is a lot of material out there.  To top it off, I am not that great of a shot.  I do know a fair bit about gear and I am definitely up to speed on just about all the new developments in the riflescope world.

Unfortunately, with the internet being what it is, so is everyone else.  Not enough information is a bad thing.  Too much information is a bad thing as well.

There is a nearly uncountable number of different set-ups (rifle/caliber/optics combinations) that will get you to 1000 yards.  The thing that will hold you back the most is your skillset (ask me how I know…).

Developing the skills to shoot long distance consistently is difficult, timetaking and expensive.  It requires a lot of practice. As you go through this exercise and this practice you will figure out what kind of gear works well for you.

With that in mind, what I want to do here is make recommendations on what you should start with.  It will take you to 1000 yards and if it is a good fit for you, it will serve you well for a long time.  However, chances are you will change something along the way.  All I want to do is suggest some equipment that will not hold you back as you learn.

If you are just starting out, looking at the best shooters in the world are using and copying that is not necessarily your best option.  Their requirements are not the same as yours.

First, let’s talk about caliber.  I still keep on hearing people say: “just get a 308! There are so many loads for it!”  That will work, but I think that makes things complicated.  If you reload, it almost makes no difference which caliber you get as long as there is a good quality brass for it.  If you do not reload, match quality 308 ammo is not cheaper than some others.  Generally, if you do not reload, stick with 6.5 Creedmoor.  That is the least expensive high quality ammo out there.  Match 6.5 Creedmoor ammo is actually cheaper than Match 308Win ammo most of the time.  Generally, various 6.5s are a good way to go: 6.5Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, 260Rem, etc.  If you reload, any of these will work.  If you do not reload, go with 6.5Creedmoor.  At the moment, these calibers offer the best combination, flat trajectory, low recoil and barrel life out there. Yes, some 6mm calibers have flatter trajectories and lower recoil at the expense of barrel life.  Some magnums have exceptionally flat trajectories, but they beat you up with recoil and burn barrels.  Pick a caliber with decent barrel life, low recoil and external ballistics that let it stay supersonic to at least 1200 yards.

Rifles: the simplest is to get a Ruger RPR.  If you prefer a more traditional stock, get a Savage 12 Long Range Precision in 6.5Creedmoor with a 26″ barrel or a Tikka T3x CTR with a 20″ barrel.  If you want this rifle to do double duty as a hunting rifle, get the Tikka since it is the lightest.  Otherwise, it is all the same.  Yes, there are other rifles out there that will do the job, but in my opinion these three will do so with the least amount of fuss right out of the box and on budget.  If you can afford it, you can always get a fancier rifle, of course.

Optics: Virtually every competitive shooter out there is running a 5-25×56 or 6-24×56 or something along those lines, so I might get a lot of flack for suggesting you do not go that route.  Not in the beginning.  Learn to shoot with your scope at 10x or 12x.  It is very difficult to develop the right skills if you reticle is jumping all over the place, which is exactly what will happen if you set your scope to 25x.  The best starter scope configuration is a good quality variable of approximately 3-15x or 3-18x or similar configuration.  Use the highest magnification to read the conditions.  Then do most of your shooting at lower magnifications.  If you decide to learn to shoot from non prone positions as well, that 3x on the low end will come in pretty handy.

Aside from magnification, here is what I recommend you do: make sure the scope has a FFP reticle.  Yes this can all be done with a SFP reticle, but that complicates things.  Make sure the scope has turrets that track.  Zerostop is a good thing to have, although it is not a necessity.  Christmas tree style reticle is a good thing to have, but I suggest you first learn to do this with turrets.  Later you can decide if you want to primarily use the reticle for your holds, but starting with dialing is a good practice.  It instills discipline.  Make sure the reticle and the turrets match, i.e. both are in mrad or both are in MOA.  I strongly prefer mrad, but that is a personal preference.  Make sure that the scope has the means to correct for parallax.

If you are on a severe budget, get a SWFA SS 10×42 with Mil-Quad reticle for $300 will get you going.

If you can afford to spend $700, stick with SWFA 3-15×42 FFP.

$1000: Burris XTR II 3-15×50

$1500: Bushnell Elite Long Range Hunter 4.5-18×44

$1800: Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50 or Sig Sauer Tango 6 3-18×44

$3k or more: Tangent Theta TT315M  I just got done testing one.  Overall, this is the best scope I have ever used.

Make sure you get high quality mounts.

Now go practice!

 

 

 Posted by at 12:52 pm
May 082016
 

As we get closer to the presidential election my various politician induced paranoias bubble up to the surface and make me think about survival guns.  Now, I do not think that the end of the world is coming just, but anything that gives me an excuse to get another gun is fine with me.

All jokes aside, I am in the process of building myself a long barrel Glock chambered for the 10mm round.  I am building it with a 6″ barrel and slide from Lone Wolf and with a red dot mount from the good folks at sight-mount.com.  Here is an image from Sight-Mount, but my gun will look a bit different since it is a lot longer:

10mm is a pretty potent round and a 6″ barrel gives it a notable energy and speed improvement over shorter barrels.  10mm is a new caliber for me, so I figured I should research its ballistics a bit more.  As a part of that researched I stumbled onto the fact that some of the peppier 10mm ammo achieves really impressive speeds from longer barrels.

I had looked at getting a pistol caliber carbine in the past, but at the time I mostly looked at 9mm and 45ACP versions and they do not offer enough of an advantage in energy for me to mess with,  They are definitely easier to shoot accurately and they do go faster, but it always seemed like higher pressure rounds make more sense in a carbine like that.  I had considered getting a 357Mag levergun, but since Remington bought and ruined Marlin, that became an iffy proposition.

I had looked into 357 Sig carbines, but the only viable offering I saw was getting a Mechtechsys conversion for my Glock frame, which is an interesting solution, but it is not as compact as I want.  Also, since I live in California, I would have to mutilate mag release on a perfectly good Glock to make it legal (look up “bullet button” if California gun law perversions are new to you).

I let it go at that, but now I stumbled onto a company called TNW Firearms.  They make a switch barrel pistol caliber carbine called Aircraft Survival Rifle (ASR) that can be configured for both 357Sig and 10mm (and other calibers).

On top of that, they chrono’ed the velocity of some of the peppier ammo from Underwood and Buffalo Bore among others out of their 16″ barrels.

If these numbers are true, this is exactly what I was looking for: 357 Sig carbine, 10mm carbine.  I did a little more digging and I am pretty impressed with what I see.  The basic weapon design is clever and a few minutes of web surfing yielded a number of positive reviews.  The trigger is reputed to be decent as well.  After some consideration, I think I will get a 10mm version of the carbine and test it thoroughly.

Now, considering what my interests are, I started giving some thought to the best sighting system for such a carbine.  It comes from the factory with some sort of an inexpensive 4x scope.  If it is the design I am thinking of, I fully intend to chuck it into the trash bin as soon as it gets here (well, I suppose I’ll look at it briefly to be certain).

Since this is ostensibly a survival tool, I would like to set it up with a dual sighting system: that gives me both unity magnification and some sort of a 2x to 4x magnification for a bit more precision.

That means either a low range variable, or a combination of simple iron sights with a compact fixed power scope or  red dot with a magnifier (or a red dot and  magnified scope in QD mounts pre-sighted in).

Once I get my hands on the carbine, I will do some experimentation and see what works best.  The trick is to keep the whole sighting arrangement sufficiently compact and light weight to make sure it does not upset the balance of the carbine.  Also, since the rail is fairly short, I need to give some thought to what kind of iron sight arrangement will work best.  Most AR sights are designed with a longer sight radius in mind, so I do not know how well they will work on the ASR.  Most red dot sights with magnifiers are probably too heavy, which raises another concern.  It is the same concern for most quality low range variable scopes.

Anyhow, this will be an interesting challenge.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 4:01 pm