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How to Avert a Firearm Tragedy

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March 29, 2012

How to Avert a Firearm Tragedy

By David E. Petzal

I am now in the thick of testing rifles for Best of the Best, and am sometimes accused of receiving specially selected and tuned rifles. Yes, and Ms. Elisha Cuthbert calls me up several times a week for dates. This morning, I took the very first shot from a medium-expensive MSR and after the gun went bang, it failed to extract the spent shell. The bolt slammed the next round in the magazine against the base of the stuck shell, neatly jamming the bolt, the magazine, and the live round. (This was, by the way, commercial ball ammo.)

Working very carefully with a Leatherman tool, I was able to grab the live round and pull it back far enough to unjam the bolt and the magazine. It took about 10 minutes, and in my long but thin association with ARs, was the best stoppage I’ve ever had. The rifle will go back where it came from, accompanied by a blistering e-mail.

Wondering what else could happen, I then proceeded to shoot a bolt-action .223 predator rifle, which started off OK but then shot worse and worse until I finally gave up in disgust. As I was putting the rifle in its case, something didn’t feel right. I shook the gun, and could actually see the scope jiggling. That’s how loose the bases were. Like a good many rifles these days, it comes from the factory with Weaver style bases, which is fine, but you have to check them to see they’re tight, which I normally do, but this time I had forgotten.

The oaf who installed them had a) left them swimming in oil; b) not tightened them and c) used a screw that was too long, so that no matter how much you tightened it, it would not bear on the base.

There are several conclusions to be drawn from all this:

1. If gun makers are willing to send defective firearms to an Exalted Presence like me, think what they’re willing to send you.

2. Never, ever, take a new rifle hunting. Shoot it first. If it hasn’t had at least 60 rounds through it, it has not proved itself.

Comments (52)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Steve in Virginia wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Good advice Dave. As always, I look forward to this edition of the magazine. Be honest, brutal and uncompromising in your assessments! And if you want to put Ms. Cuthbert on the cover of the magazine, that's ok too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MJC wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

A crummy extractor is probably the best way to seriously jam an M-16. We used to dread that one at the range.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I always give my guns a good shake before I put them away and after I take them out of the safe. I've had forearm screws come loose, set screws on scopes fall off, and rear sights work themselves loose over the years. Not fun getting into the woods and realize something is loose or worse, missing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cody5 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Dave, You're absolutely correct. A new rifle should be carefully inspected before taking it to the range. The same holds true for your reliable guns as well. Screws loosen, barrel can get dirty, mounts crack... I think it's a good idea to give any gun the once over before you fire it. As far as taking a new rifle hunting, you owe to the game you're pursing to make sure the gun your hunting with is safe and accurate.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Harold wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I could understand a firearms company sending you a specially tuned rifle since it very possibly could result in a positive review from you. What I can't understand either, is why they send defective guns to you. This is where they get (mostly) free advertising. The only thing I can think of to explain these happenings is that the people working for the gun companies don't have any background in shooting nor really give a damn about their work. And we wonder why other countries are taking over our manufacturing base!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I especially like your #3 with the long screw. I had this happen to me years ago and had a heck of a time figuring out what the problem was. Mine was about 1 thread too long and you couldn't feel the mount wiggle but apparently it moved pretty well when fired.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I just traded a NIB Mod 70 for a vintage Rem 788 in 308. A few weeks when I inspected the 788, it was fine. When we made the actual trade this past Sunday, most of the rifle, including the walnut stock, was covered in oil. The bolt and the detachable magazine literally dripped oil when I removed them. The former owner said he wanted to give it a good cleaning and oiling on my behalf. Good grief, what some people do to a nice firearm. I'll spend some time this week tearing it down and wiping up the slop.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MaxPower wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

You'd think that in such a litigious society firearm manufacturers would have a little higher standards when it comes to quality control.

Mr. Petzal, can you tell us what the two guns were? Even if they're from makers I like I promise not to curse your name.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I like the 60 rounds rule.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Guns are just like any other manufactured items. they are made by men and women and occaisionally one will get by quality control. I myself had had 3 over the years that were indeed defective. Another piece of advice is never, but never buy a new gun that has been sitting in the rack and the salesman tells you it is the last one they have.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

To MaxPower: Nope. It's been Field & Stream policy for as long as I can remember that we don't give out names in a case like this. As it happened, the AR was checked for function before it left the factory, and everyone is baffled about what went wrong. Any machine made by man can fail.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trapper Vic wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

send the gun back and start taking Elisha seriously. If I had to chose between her and my best gun? I'd be shooting my next best gun!lmao

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

As I have posted before, any machine is always one cycle closer to failure with each use, whether it be a 747 or a 10/22.

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from Walt Smith wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Imagine how those kids in Viet Nam felt when that happened and they didn't have leathermans or time to fix it!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I'm surprised that mfrs don't send you "tuned" guns. What's the matter with them? They should at least fire them to be sure they're safe and then polished before they're shipped to you.

I'd prefer that F&S purchase the guns that they test and publish the results of, from a dealer or distributor. Of course you guys may need to increase the subscription fee to support that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bruisedsausage wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

So did you tighten/fix your scope issue? And did it perform any better?

I always double check everything I can think of on my firearms prior to going hunting or shooting. If the bases, rings, scope and rifle come as a package deal, the scope, bases, and rings are probably el-cheapo's that should immediately be replaced. Most likely they will have been made in China and then shipped to the manufacture. Now the manufacturer should have caught this and made sure it was done properly, but they probably have some slob working who just reached into the plethora of screws in a bin and happened to come out with one that was out of specs.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

dave,
i own a ruger m77 hawkeye chambered in 308 win. not once in any of your articles or posts have you commented on this rifle. any reason why? just curious.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Dave; What you experienced is a symptom of a society that is starting to rot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Dave,Looks like you got the lion's share of mis-alighted starz of guns to test. Not a good review shall these guns make! BUT sound advise to not TRUST ANYONE when it comes to firearm safe handling.
Thanks "EP"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Mr. Petzal, I would like to thank you for what may be your most frank posting to date. While I understand the F&S policy of not disclosing bad eggs in these situations, I can't help but (respectfully) think it diminishes the jounalistic integrity of the magazine. It is a problem endemic to sporting periodicals which often disrespects the interests of your readers/subscribers, without whom there would be no magazine. This is the very reason why the problemn with 700 triggers went so

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

cont. (oops)
without many of us knowing about it. And also allowed CNBC to generate such an unflattering picture of Remington and the firearms industry as a whole.

That being said, you are one of the view gun writers that I've read who will say that there's something inadequate about a gun you are reviewing. which is why I suscribed to this blog in the first place.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

This does not surprise me at all. I install a number of products from factories all over the world and at least 20% of them are unable to be used in the manner for which they were designed, are improperly assembled, or all the parts are not sent. It is endemic. The quality control of almost all products is failing miserably.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from O Garcia wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

your extractor is not properly sprung/does not have the proper extractor kit? the AR forums are a mother lode of info on this malfunction.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1uglymutha wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

number one problem with m16s in the vietnem era was broken extractors. lots of them on the range and in the s**t. i don't know if the extractor problem is still there in military rifles but the ar 15 seems to be fairly reliable.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I HAVE ONE OTHER THOUGHT; COULD IT HAVE BEEN THE AMMO ?IN VIETNAM, MANY CASES OF THE M-16 JAMMING WAS IN FACT CAUSED BY AMMO

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nc30-06 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I had a gunsmith mount a scope for me once. I went out and shot it at 100 yards and could not hit even the paper, even with 4 shots. I moved the target up to 50 yards and still did not get on paper. Finally, I looked down on the rifle from above and noticed the scope was not aligned with the barrel. I had trusted him to at least align the scope properly, you know, he was a gunsmith. Once I made the adjustment, everything was fine. Turns out that just like pre-flighting a plane before flight, you should "preflight" whatever you are shooting before you shoot.

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from buckhunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Longbeard,

I will have to respectfully disagree about your comment " diminishes the jounalistic integrity of the magazine". In all fairness, Dave should only write a derogatory comment about a manufacturer only if the manufacturer is allowed to respond.

I think in this case, the judgement of the magazine is fair.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Edward J. Palumbo wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Thank you for sound advice, Dave. A left-handed colleague purchased a Savage bolt action rifle in .223 and a few boxes of Remington 55-gr factory ammunition. We repaired to the rifle range to sight in our varmint rifles, and my friend, disappointed at the inconsistent accuracy of his new rifle, asked me to help zero the scope. I fired two groups, and something was amiss. The scope was solidly affixed, but the trigger guard screws were loose. Just because it's a new rifle doesn't mean its "ready" for the field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

To coachsjike: Because none of the many Hawkeyes are really new rifles. The one Model 77-based gun that I thought was truly new and interesting was the Scout, and I wrote about that at some length. The American Rifle, which is truly a new gun, I wrote about pretty quickly.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Last year, a friend of my son brought his Howa .243 to me and said it would not shoot and perhaps I could help him figure it out. I told him that I was busy making paper airplanes at the moment, but to drop off a box of any factory loads and a batch of his handloads and I would check it. About a week later I got around to it and found all the mounting screws loose to the point where the scope had slid all the way to the bell. After tightening all the screws, it was a sub-MOA shooter. This bozo has been a gun counter guy at the three largest sporting goods stores in the area. Wonder how many he sent out the door in similar condition? This is also the clown who seated 7mm Rem mag reloads right into the rifling....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

buckhunter,

To me, jounalistic integrity would by definition include a response from the manufacturer, and that does occur in F&S and other sporting magazines.

Believe me, it pained me to say something negative about F&S because I think it is the best outdoor magazine on the market.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I was with a guy last fall who missed a beautiful 4x4 muley standing at less than eighty yards - twice! He had bought a new Savage el-cheapo brand new at a gun show earlier in the year. He had trouble getting it sighted in and rooted out the plastic stock so the barrel was free-floating. Thought he had fixed it. Nope. Problem was one of the screws on the aluminum scope rings was stripped out. Some twit overtightened them. One has to wonder about people who handle and market leathal weapons but aren't smart enough to know how to tighten a screw! Or, as WAM pointed out, even put the right screw in the right hole. Hardly rocket science! Pretty scary.

Back in the early 70s I reloaded my own shotshells. Dad did all our rifle ammo. Back then there was pretty much only one brand of primers available in our area - CCI. We had trouble with the rifle primers for as long as I could remember. Many were just too hard for the firing pin to dent. The shotgun primers, on the other hand, were denting fine but at least a quarter of them were not firing. That should have been unnerving enough. Then one freezing December morning while walking the mill creek I kicked up a half dozen northern mallards. Swung on the first one. Click! Crap! I ejected to get a second shot. Just as the round left the port it went off. Blew the sleeve off my heavy parka and left me shaking in my boots. Lucky it didn't take my head off! That was the last CCI primer ever loaded at our house. I believe Pat McVey, the oldest hunter safety instructer in the nation (he is now pushing a hundred) still has the mutilated shell. It is a sobering thing to see.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Sorry, the above story posted without the conclusion. Anwyay, the moral is if you think you have a problem with your guns/ammo, don't expect it to go away on its own. Get to the bottom of it or get something else.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Zermoid wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

@WA Mtnhunter
Just cuz the guy works at a gun store doesn't mean he knows jack about guns.......

I've run into several morons at gun shops in my life.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from T.W. Davidson wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

All . . .

Thank you, Mr. Petzal, for your entertaining (and wise) commentary. Over the years I've come to believe that rifles mirror the behavior of a fair portion of the human race--they can be tempermental, are subject to mood shifts, and can shift over time from being lovingly loyal to heartbreakingly unfaithful and back again.

Almost two years ago, I put together a 7x57 Mauser in a pre-WWII BRNO Mauser 98 action with a 24" Douglas barrel in a Hogue all-weather stock. The action already had a custom trigger and (beautiful, engraved) custom bottom metal when I found it, lost and forgotten, in a cardboard box on an unlit back shelf in the vast gun vault of a local gun shop.

I spent about six months torturing myself with that rifle, trying to get it to shoot straight. I created dozens of different handloads, with every bullet weight one can fire in 7mm. On rare occasions, the rifle would reward me with a single MOA (or sub-MOA) group--which could never be repeated in any particular shooting session, and almost never repeated ever again, even randomly, with that very same load. It was maddening!

After two gunsmiths tinkered with the rifle and did various "adjustments" to it, I was out hundreds of dollars and still had a rifle that could not reliably hit a barn at 100 yards. I sent the entire rifle to Douglas, along with pages of analysis and theory and blank targets that I--that the rifle--missed. The people there tinkered and fussed with it and ended up sending the rifle back to me, along with a new barrel as an aspirin to cure my firearm headache. Their head man told me they "had no idea" why the rifle wouldn't shoot straight.

Rumor and then word came my way about a Mauser-knowledgable gunsmith a few counties away. I called the man and then visited him. Talked with him for a long while. Got to know him a bit. Petted his dog. Left the rifle with him. That was six months ago.

Four weeks ago, the man called me. He was upbeat, bright, chipper. Told me he had deconstructed my rifle "down to the smallest molecule." Said he'd discovered a whole diary of little-to-large problems and had, he believed, corrected every one of them, including rebedding the action and ensuring that the (original) Douglas barrel was truly free-floating. The gunsmith said he only needed to test-fire the rifle before sending it back to me, but he was positive it would shoot straight and true when he did. He said, "You're going to have an MOA or better rifle. I just know it. Rest easy."

I sent the man money and a huge word of thanks.

Ten days ago, I read in the paper that my gunsmith was no more. The article was vague and troublesome, but between the lines it was clear the gunsmith had died from a GSW on the rural property where his gunshop was. There were no further details.

This was a huge shock to me. The gunsmith was a nice guy, a former Army officer, married, trying to make a name for himself and, as far as I could see, was succeeding in his goals. Nothing seemed right. Everything seemed wrong.

I waited a few days and then, unable to contain my curiousity, I called the chief of detectives in the county where the gunsmith had ceased to be. The chief remembered me from when I was a prosecutor over a decade ago. (I am a defense attorney these days, among other things.) The chief, who is a shooter, remembered that I am a shooter too. We talked about the case, which had become increasingly mysterious and odd and bizarre as he and his forensics people dug ever deeper into the few facts they had.

All of you who are shooters, think about the following:

The gunsmith had been a right-handed man. His wife told me that in all the many years she had known him, she had never seen him shoot a pistol (or rifle) with his left hand.

But the bullet wound in the gunsmith's head, the entry wound . . . was on the left side of his head, just behind his ear.

No bullet was recovered.

Eighteen feet uphill from where the body was discovered, despite days of hard rain and cool temperatures, is the unmistakable smell of death. There is no smell of death were the body was located.

(Bad weather has washed away much of the field evidence. Blood spatter analysis is pending. Gun powder residue on the gunsmith's hands is pending.)

The gunsmith's wife found her husband face up on the ground, positioned on a hill with a significant slope, directly in line with the slope of the hill, his head where his feet should have been--in other words, the gunsmith's head was lower, down the hill, than his feet.

The gunsmith appeared to be at attention while lying on the ground, legs straight as arrows, feet together, left hand (his supposed shooting hand) and arm straight and firm against the left side of his body, hand closed in a relaxed gentle fist. His right hand and forearm were neatly right-angled across his abdomen.

And the 1911 .45 that fired the round that took the gunsmith's life? Located a yard uphill from the gunsmith's feet, with no skid marks on the damp, soft ground to show how the pistol bounded, bounced or slid to its final position.

I got together with a friend of mine who is an expert on 1911s. He is an experienced shooter and handloader, a former prosecutor and very bright guy. He and I recreated the scene where the gunsmith had become no more. We conducted dozens of experiments. In none of them could we duplicate--not even close--what the gunsmith's wife encountered when she found her husband. We reported our findings. What had originally been thought of as a suicide has shifted or is shifting to something else entirely.

The gunsmith's wife, who I have been assisting (as an attorney, for no charge) in her time of crisis, dealing with law enforcement agencies and agents and officers, etc., brought my 7x57 to my office. She wanted to give me some of the money back I had paid her husband. I refused (of course) because I know she is hurting and because her husband would have been happy to test-fire my rifle and present it to me personally, but I suspect was prevented from doing so--was, in fact, prevented from living at all--by an unknown foe.

My former prosecutor friend (who is also a fan of the 7x57 and has two or three of them in original pre-WWI military vintage)and I went to his range and test-fired the rifle.

The rifle shoots MOA or better with just about any load I feed it. With some handload tinkering, with some minute adjustments in cartridge overall length, I have no doubt the rifle will consistently and reliably shoot 1/2 to 3/4 inch groups.

I just wish the gunsmith were here to shoot the rifle with me, to be a good husband to his nice wife, and to fix and repair other rifles I would have bestowed upon him with a check, a handshake and a happy smile.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from hutter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Name them,or are you afraid they won't send you more guns to test

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

@ Zermoid

My point exactly! Last week they were working at Walmart and next week they will be selling cell phones at Best Buy or oil filters at NAPA...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bandito143 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Odd how you can't mention names when something goes wrong. Is that not of equal benefit to the readers as reading a rave review a great new rifle?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I was Alaska's Vendors worst nightmare 86-90! LOL!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I have a few rules that I follow. I never buy firearms with scopes attached. I never use anything but steel scope rings. I completely go over every inch of a firearm that I buy and each firearm has at least 30 + test loads through it to find the proper load I want to hunt with before it ever goes into the woods. I have been doing this for the past 45 years and have found to be my best way of avoiding problems. I am one if I find something that works I keep on doing it.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Thanks Sarge. I got flamed pretty good a while back for my critque of aluminum rings. Garbage!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mazzman wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Hey Dave, it sounds like you had a Type III Malfunction ("brass low"), the worst kind to have anytime, but especially when the bullets are flying both ways. Not sure from your description if the bolt was able to be pulled back. If so, there is a procedure to rapidly clear these: lock the bolt back in the open position; strip the magazine out and let it drop (along with the 2nd round); rack the bolt rapidly 3 times which should clear the 1st round from the chamber; insert fresh magazine; rack the bolt again to chamber a fresh round. This usually works. If it doesn't, transition to another firearm if available or good luck & God Bless. In your case, it may be that the bolt was jammed so badly you could not lock it back, in which case tools will be needed. It is not an uncommon malfunction, but I understand your reluctance to attempt any more shots from a new factory rifle.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

MSR jams and takes ten minutes to clear. That is the price one pays for the luxury of not having to cycle the action by hand.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I think I just read an article that was telling me that "MSRs" (Are my rifles not modern or sporting? Is a '50s design modern? What the hell does sporting mean?) are now as reliable as any other style of rifle, even more so. Right...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I like the 60 rounds rule as well, but I wouldn't even think about taking an AR hunting that hadn't had more like 500 rounds through it. Let me shoot a bolt action a few times and I'm OK with it.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I agree entirely, Shane. Who the heck needs an auto to hunt deer anyway? And this acronym gibberish drives me nuts. Okay, I know it's a short trip ...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Sounds like owning a AR is a lot like owning a boat. You have two great days-- the day you bought it and the day you sold it to another idiot!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

That thing with the loose mount sounds familiar.... I've learned to mark up the ends of all the screws with a felt-tip marker to make sure they're not bottomed out in the hole, then thoroughly degrease holes and screws and finally, seat firmly with a properly-fitting screwdriver after doping liberally with a good thread-locker. My first experience with an '06 Savage kicking the mount loose and kinking the screws into cute little dog-legged pieces of scrap steel was enough. NO SHORTCUTS!!! :-)

RandyMI

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from vtbluegrass wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I recently had an issue with an AR chambered in 6.5Grendel. I bought from a custom shop and paid for the best components and a really really expensive barrel. When I got it the barrel was all jacked up and the first five shots from a cold bore gave a nine inch vertical string. Lucky the builder about fell over himself to get the rifle fixed in a hurry and it now is what I paid for and that is a sub-caliber grouping rifle.

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from Sanjuancb wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I sure would like to see some names attached to these products. It would save us consumers a lot of heart-ache. I understand that F&S probably makes a fair deal of money from advertising (maybe a majority), but darn---what is the value of a review if we don't ever see it?

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from jmshackelfo@aol.com wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

do you think the ammunition had any part in the weapon failing?

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

the AR is reliable. One US war in Vietnam, an Islamic separatist war in Southern Philippines (a largely unreported war that was in reality Vietnam War 2.0, but sadly now just a footnote to the story of the regime of Ferdinand Marcos), a few civil wars in Central America, plus the usual Arab-Israeli conflict.

While it has it's multitude of critics, the M16 was appreciated by those who must trek long distances and carry a ton of ammo because resupply was non-existent (the LRRPs, for example).

I'll say this about the AR, though. It is the one firearm in US military history that needs to be made exactly right.

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from Walt Smith wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Imagine how those kids in Viet Nam felt when that happened and they didn't have leathermans or time to fix it!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Mr. Petzal, I would like to thank you for what may be your most frank posting to date. While I understand the F&S policy of not disclosing bad eggs in these situations, I can't help but (respectfully) think it diminishes the jounalistic integrity of the magazine. It is a problem endemic to sporting periodicals which often disrespects the interests of your readers/subscribers, without whom there would be no magazine. This is the very reason why the problemn with 700 triggers went so

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

cont. (oops)
without many of us knowing about it. And also allowed CNBC to generate such an unflattering picture of Remington and the firearms industry as a whole.

That being said, you are one of the view gun writers that I've read who will say that there's something inadequate about a gun you are reviewing. which is why I suscribed to this blog in the first place.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from T.W. Davidson wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

All . . .

Thank you, Mr. Petzal, for your entertaining (and wise) commentary. Over the years I've come to believe that rifles mirror the behavior of a fair portion of the human race--they can be tempermental, are subject to mood shifts, and can shift over time from being lovingly loyal to heartbreakingly unfaithful and back again.

Almost two years ago, I put together a 7x57 Mauser in a pre-WWII BRNO Mauser 98 action with a 24" Douglas barrel in a Hogue all-weather stock. The action already had a custom trigger and (beautiful, engraved) custom bottom metal when I found it, lost and forgotten, in a cardboard box on an unlit back shelf in the vast gun vault of a local gun shop.

I spent about six months torturing myself with that rifle, trying to get it to shoot straight. I created dozens of different handloads, with every bullet weight one can fire in 7mm. On rare occasions, the rifle would reward me with a single MOA (or sub-MOA) group--which could never be repeated in any particular shooting session, and almost never repeated ever again, even randomly, with that very same load. It was maddening!

After two gunsmiths tinkered with the rifle and did various "adjustments" to it, I was out hundreds of dollars and still had a rifle that could not reliably hit a barn at 100 yards. I sent the entire rifle to Douglas, along with pages of analysis and theory and blank targets that I--that the rifle--missed. The people there tinkered and fussed with it and ended up sending the rifle back to me, along with a new barrel as an aspirin to cure my firearm headache. Their head man told me they "had no idea" why the rifle wouldn't shoot straight.

Rumor and then word came my way about a Mauser-knowledgable gunsmith a few counties away. I called the man and then visited him. Talked with him for a long while. Got to know him a bit. Petted his dog. Left the rifle with him. That was six months ago.

Four weeks ago, the man called me. He was upbeat, bright, chipper. Told me he had deconstructed my rifle "down to the smallest molecule." Said he'd discovered a whole diary of little-to-large problems and had, he believed, corrected every one of them, including rebedding the action and ensuring that the (original) Douglas barrel was truly free-floating. The gunsmith said he only needed to test-fire the rifle before sending it back to me, but he was positive it would shoot straight and true when he did. He said, "You're going to have an MOA or better rifle. I just know it. Rest easy."

I sent the man money and a huge word of thanks.

Ten days ago, I read in the paper that my gunsmith was no more. The article was vague and troublesome, but between the lines it was clear the gunsmith had died from a GSW on the rural property where his gunshop was. There were no further details.

This was a huge shock to me. The gunsmith was a nice guy, a former Army officer, married, trying to make a name for himself and, as far as I could see, was succeeding in his goals. Nothing seemed right. Everything seemed wrong.

I waited a few days and then, unable to contain my curiousity, I called the chief of detectives in the county where the gunsmith had ceased to be. The chief remembered me from when I was a prosecutor over a decade ago. (I am a defense attorney these days, among other things.) The chief, who is a shooter, remembered that I am a shooter too. We talked about the case, which had become increasingly mysterious and odd and bizarre as he and his forensics people dug ever deeper into the few facts they had.

All of you who are shooters, think about the following:

The gunsmith had been a right-handed man. His wife told me that in all the many years she had known him, she had never seen him shoot a pistol (or rifle) with his left hand.

But the bullet wound in the gunsmith's head, the entry wound . . . was on the left side of his head, just behind his ear.

No bullet was recovered.

Eighteen feet uphill from where the body was discovered, despite days of hard rain and cool temperatures, is the unmistakable smell of death. There is no smell of death were the body was located.

(Bad weather has washed away much of the field evidence. Blood spatter analysis is pending. Gun powder residue on the gunsmith's hands is pending.)

The gunsmith's wife found her husband face up on the ground, positioned on a hill with a significant slope, directly in line with the slope of the hill, his head where his feet should have been--in other words, the gunsmith's head was lower, down the hill, than his feet.

The gunsmith appeared to be at attention while lying on the ground, legs straight as arrows, feet together, left hand (his supposed shooting hand) and arm straight and firm against the left side of his body, hand closed in a relaxed gentle fist. His right hand and forearm were neatly right-angled across his abdomen.

And the 1911 .45 that fired the round that took the gunsmith's life? Located a yard uphill from the gunsmith's feet, with no skid marks on the damp, soft ground to show how the pistol bounded, bounced or slid to its final position.

I got together with a friend of mine who is an expert on 1911s. He is an experienced shooter and handloader, a former prosecutor and very bright guy. He and I recreated the scene where the gunsmith had become no more. We conducted dozens of experiments. In none of them could we duplicate--not even close--what the gunsmith's wife encountered when she found her husband. We reported our findings. What had originally been thought of as a suicide has shifted or is shifting to something else entirely.

The gunsmith's wife, who I have been assisting (as an attorney, for no charge) in her time of crisis, dealing with law enforcement agencies and agents and officers, etc., brought my 7x57 to my office. She wanted to give me some of the money back I had paid her husband. I refused (of course) because I know she is hurting and because her husband would have been happy to test-fire my rifle and present it to me personally, but I suspect was prevented from doing so--was, in fact, prevented from living at all--by an unknown foe.

My former prosecutor friend (who is also a fan of the 7x57 and has two or three of them in original pre-WWI military vintage)and I went to his range and test-fired the rifle.

The rifle shoots MOA or better with just about any load I feed it. With some handload tinkering, with some minute adjustments in cartridge overall length, I have no doubt the rifle will consistently and reliably shoot 1/2 to 3/4 inch groups.

I just wish the gunsmith were here to shoot the rifle with me, to be a good husband to his nice wife, and to fix and repair other rifles I would have bestowed upon him with a check, a handshake and a happy smile.

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from Steve in Virginia wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Good advice Dave. As always, I look forward to this edition of the magazine. Be honest, brutal and uncompromising in your assessments! And if you want to put Ms. Cuthbert on the cover of the magazine, that's ok too.

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from Harold wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I could understand a firearms company sending you a specially tuned rifle since it very possibly could result in a positive review from you. What I can't understand either, is why they send defective guns to you. This is where they get (mostly) free advertising. The only thing I can think of to explain these happenings is that the people working for the gun companies don't have any background in shooting nor really give a damn about their work. And we wonder why other countries are taking over our manufacturing base!

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from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

To MaxPower: Nope. It's been Field & Stream policy for as long as I can remember that we don't give out names in a case like this. As it happened, the AR was checked for function before it left the factory, and everyone is baffled about what went wrong. Any machine made by man can fail.

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from NHshtr wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I'm surprised that mfrs don't send you "tuned" guns. What's the matter with them? They should at least fire them to be sure they're safe and then polished before they're shipped to you.

I'd prefer that F&S purchase the guns that they test and publish the results of, from a dealer or distributor. Of course you guys may need to increase the subscription fee to support that.

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from bruisedsausage wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

So did you tighten/fix your scope issue? And did it perform any better?

I always double check everything I can think of on my firearms prior to going hunting or shooting. If the bases, rings, scope and rifle come as a package deal, the scope, bases, and rings are probably el-cheapo's that should immediately be replaced. Most likely they will have been made in China and then shipped to the manufacture. Now the manufacturer should have caught this and made sure it was done properly, but they probably have some slob working who just reached into the plethora of screws in a bin and happened to come out with one that was out of specs.

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from Tim Platt wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

This does not surprise me at all. I install a number of products from factories all over the world and at least 20% of them are unable to be used in the manner for which they were designed, are improperly assembled, or all the parts are not sent. It is endemic. The quality control of almost all products is failing miserably.

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

your extractor is not properly sprung/does not have the proper extractor kit? the AR forums are a mother lode of info on this malfunction.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Last year, a friend of my son brought his Howa .243 to me and said it would not shoot and perhaps I could help him figure it out. I told him that I was busy making paper airplanes at the moment, but to drop off a box of any factory loads and a batch of his handloads and I would check it. About a week later I got around to it and found all the mounting screws loose to the point where the scope had slid all the way to the bell. After tightening all the screws, it was a sub-MOA shooter. This bozo has been a gun counter guy at the three largest sporting goods stores in the area. Wonder how many he sent out the door in similar condition? This is also the clown who seated 7mm Rem mag reloads right into the rifling....

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I was with a guy last fall who missed a beautiful 4x4 muley standing at less than eighty yards - twice! He had bought a new Savage el-cheapo brand new at a gun show earlier in the year. He had trouble getting it sighted in and rooted out the plastic stock so the barrel was free-floating. Thought he had fixed it. Nope. Problem was one of the screws on the aluminum scope rings was stripped out. Some twit overtightened them. One has to wonder about people who handle and market leathal weapons but aren't smart enough to know how to tighten a screw! Or, as WAM pointed out, even put the right screw in the right hole. Hardly rocket science! Pretty scary.

Back in the early 70s I reloaded my own shotshells. Dad did all our rifle ammo. Back then there was pretty much only one brand of primers available in our area - CCI. We had trouble with the rifle primers for as long as I could remember. Many were just too hard for the firing pin to dent. The shotgun primers, on the other hand, were denting fine but at least a quarter of them were not firing. That should have been unnerving enough. Then one freezing December morning while walking the mill creek I kicked up a half dozen northern mallards. Swung on the first one. Click! Crap! I ejected to get a second shot. Just as the round left the port it went off. Blew the sleeve off my heavy parka and left me shaking in my boots. Lucky it didn't take my head off! That was the last CCI primer ever loaded at our house. I believe Pat McVey, the oldest hunter safety instructer in the nation (he is now pushing a hundred) still has the mutilated shell. It is a sobering thing to see.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Sorry, the above story posted without the conclusion. Anwyay, the moral is if you think you have a problem with your guns/ammo, don't expect it to go away on its own. Get to the bottom of it or get something else.

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from Zermoid wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

@WA Mtnhunter
Just cuz the guy works at a gun store doesn't mean he knows jack about guns.......

I've run into several morons at gun shops in my life.

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from bandito143 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Odd how you can't mention names when something goes wrong. Is that not of equal benefit to the readers as reading a rave review a great new rifle?

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from Sarge01 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I have a few rules that I follow. I never buy firearms with scopes attached. I never use anything but steel scope rings. I completely go over every inch of a firearm that I buy and each firearm has at least 30 + test loads through it to find the proper load I want to hunt with before it ever goes into the woods. I have been doing this for the past 45 years and have found to be my best way of avoiding problems. I am one if I find something that works I keep on doing it.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Thanks Sarge. I got flamed pretty good a while back for my critque of aluminum rings. Garbage!

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from mazzman wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Hey Dave, it sounds like you had a Type III Malfunction ("brass low"), the worst kind to have anytime, but especially when the bullets are flying both ways. Not sure from your description if the bolt was able to be pulled back. If so, there is a procedure to rapidly clear these: lock the bolt back in the open position; strip the magazine out and let it drop (along with the 2nd round); rack the bolt rapidly 3 times which should clear the 1st round from the chamber; insert fresh magazine; rack the bolt again to chamber a fresh round. This usually works. If it doesn't, transition to another firearm if available or good luck & God Bless. In your case, it may be that the bolt was jammed so badly you could not lock it back, in which case tools will be needed. It is not an uncommon malfunction, but I understand your reluctance to attempt any more shots from a new factory rifle.

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from 99explorer wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

MSR jams and takes ten minutes to clear. That is the price one pays for the luxury of not having to cycle the action by hand.

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from MJC wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

A crummy extractor is probably the best way to seriously jam an M-16. We used to dread that one at the range.

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from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I always give my guns a good shake before I put them away and after I take them out of the safe. I've had forearm screws come loose, set screws on scopes fall off, and rear sights work themselves loose over the years. Not fun getting into the woods and realize something is loose or worse, missing.

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from cody5 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Dave, You're absolutely correct. A new rifle should be carefully inspected before taking it to the range. The same holds true for your reliable guns as well. Screws loosen, barrel can get dirty, mounts crack... I think it's a good idea to give any gun the once over before you fire it. As far as taking a new rifle hunting, you owe to the game you're pursing to make sure the gun your hunting with is safe and accurate.

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from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I especially like your #3 with the long screw. I had this happen to me years ago and had a heck of a time figuring out what the problem was. Mine was about 1 thread too long and you couldn't feel the mount wiggle but apparently it moved pretty well when fired.

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from Proverbs wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I just traded a NIB Mod 70 for a vintage Rem 788 in 308. A few weeks when I inspected the 788, it was fine. When we made the actual trade this past Sunday, most of the rifle, including the walnut stock, was covered in oil. The bolt and the detachable magazine literally dripped oil when I removed them. The former owner said he wanted to give it a good cleaning and oiling on my behalf. Good grief, what some people do to a nice firearm. I'll spend some time this week tearing it down and wiping up the slop.

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from MaxPower wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

You'd think that in such a litigious society firearm manufacturers would have a little higher standards when it comes to quality control.

Mr. Petzal, can you tell us what the two guns were? Even if they're from makers I like I promise not to curse your name.

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from hal herring wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I like the 60 rounds rule.

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from deadeyedick wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Guns are just like any other manufactured items. they are made by men and women and occaisionally one will get by quality control. I myself had had 3 over the years that were indeed defective. Another piece of advice is never, but never buy a new gun that has been sitting in the rack and the salesman tells you it is the last one they have.

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from Trapper Vic wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

send the gun back and start taking Elisha seriously. If I had to chose between her and my best gun? I'd be shooting my next best gun!lmao

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

As I have posted before, any machine is always one cycle closer to failure with each use, whether it be a 747 or a 10/22.

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from coachsjike wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

dave,
i own a ruger m77 hawkeye chambered in 308 win. not once in any of your articles or posts have you commented on this rifle. any reason why? just curious.

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from RockySquirrel wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Dave; What you experienced is a symptom of a society that is starting to rot.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Dave,Looks like you got the lion's share of mis-alighted starz of guns to test. Not a good review shall these guns make! BUT sound advise to not TRUST ANYONE when it comes to firearm safe handling.
Thanks "EP"

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from 1uglymutha wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

number one problem with m16s in the vietnem era was broken extractors. lots of them on the range and in the s**t. i don't know if the extractor problem is still there in military rifles but the ar 15 seems to be fairly reliable.

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from deadeyedick wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I HAVE ONE OTHER THOUGHT; COULD IT HAVE BEEN THE AMMO ?IN VIETNAM, MANY CASES OF THE M-16 JAMMING WAS IN FACT CAUSED BY AMMO

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from nc30-06 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I had a gunsmith mount a scope for me once. I went out and shot it at 100 yards and could not hit even the paper, even with 4 shots. I moved the target up to 50 yards and still did not get on paper. Finally, I looked down on the rifle from above and noticed the scope was not aligned with the barrel. I had trusted him to at least align the scope properly, you know, he was a gunsmith. Once I made the adjustment, everything was fine. Turns out that just like pre-flighting a plane before flight, you should "preflight" whatever you are shooting before you shoot.

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from buckhunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Longbeard,

I will have to respectfully disagree about your comment " diminishes the jounalistic integrity of the magazine". In all fairness, Dave should only write a derogatory comment about a manufacturer only if the manufacturer is allowed to respond.

I think in this case, the judgement of the magazine is fair.

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from Edward J. Palumbo wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Thank you for sound advice, Dave. A left-handed colleague purchased a Savage bolt action rifle in .223 and a few boxes of Remington 55-gr factory ammunition. We repaired to the rifle range to sight in our varmint rifles, and my friend, disappointed at the inconsistent accuracy of his new rifle, asked me to help zero the scope. I fired two groups, and something was amiss. The scope was solidly affixed, but the trigger guard screws were loose. Just because it's a new rifle doesn't mean its "ready" for the field.

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from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

To coachsjike: Because none of the many Hawkeyes are really new rifles. The one Model 77-based gun that I thought was truly new and interesting was the Scout, and I wrote about that at some length. The American Rifle, which is truly a new gun, I wrote about pretty quickly.

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from Longbeard wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

buckhunter,

To me, jounalistic integrity would by definition include a response from the manufacturer, and that does occur in F&S and other sporting magazines.

Believe me, it pained me to say something negative about F&S because I think it is the best outdoor magazine on the market.

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from hutter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Name them,or are you afraid they won't send you more guns to test

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

@ Zermoid

My point exactly! Last week they were working at Walmart and next week they will be selling cell phones at Best Buy or oil filters at NAPA...

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from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I was Alaska's Vendors worst nightmare 86-90! LOL!!!

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from shane wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I think I just read an article that was telling me that "MSRs" (Are my rifles not modern or sporting? Is a '50s design modern? What the hell does sporting mean?) are now as reliable as any other style of rifle, even more so. Right...

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from shane wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I like the 60 rounds rule as well, but I wouldn't even think about taking an AR hunting that hadn't had more like 500 rounds through it. Let me shoot a bolt action a few times and I'm OK with it.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I agree entirely, Shane. Who the heck needs an auto to hunt deer anyway? And this acronym gibberish drives me nuts. Okay, I know it's a short trip ...

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from RandyMI wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

That thing with the loose mount sounds familiar.... I've learned to mark up the ends of all the screws with a felt-tip marker to make sure they're not bottomed out in the hole, then thoroughly degrease holes and screws and finally, seat firmly with a properly-fitting screwdriver after doping liberally with a good thread-locker. My first experience with an '06 Savage kicking the mount loose and kinking the screws into cute little dog-legged pieces of scrap steel was enough. NO SHORTCUTS!!! :-)

RandyMI

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from vtbluegrass wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I recently had an issue with an AR chambered in 6.5Grendel. I bought from a custom shop and paid for the best components and a really really expensive barrel. When I got it the barrel was all jacked up and the first five shots from a cold bore gave a nine inch vertical string. Lucky the builder about fell over himself to get the rifle fixed in a hurry and it now is what I paid for and that is a sub-caliber grouping rifle.

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from Sanjuancb wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

I sure would like to see some names attached to these products. It would save us consumers a lot of heart-ache. I understand that F&S probably makes a fair deal of money from advertising (maybe a majority), but darn---what is the value of a review if we don't ever see it?

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from jmshackelfo@aol.com wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

do you think the ammunition had any part in the weapon failing?

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from O Garcia wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

the AR is reliable. One US war in Vietnam, an Islamic separatist war in Southern Philippines (a largely unreported war that was in reality Vietnam War 2.0, but sadly now just a footnote to the story of the regime of Ferdinand Marcos), a few civil wars in Central America, plus the usual Arab-Israeli conflict.

While it has it's multitude of critics, the M16 was appreciated by those who must trek long distances and carry a ton of ammo because resupply was non-existent (the LRRPs, for example).

I'll say this about the AR, though. It is the one firearm in US military history that needs to be made exactly right.

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from Walt Smith wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Sounds like owning a AR is a lot like owning a boat. You have two great days-- the day you bought it and the day you sold it to another idiot!

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