July 27, 2012

Handy reference for AR-15 grips

It can get a little overwhelming comparing AR-15 grips if you're just shopping online.  Lots of us do this because we can't fondle most of the stuff we would actually want to buy in person at Wal-Mart (or even Cabela's or Bass Pro, who tend to carry cheap gear at exorbitant prices.)

Thanks to Military Times Gear Scout, either the situation is less overwhelming or there are more AR-15 grips out there than you once thought.  I purchased the BCM Mod 1 pictured above for my AR pistol, and as far as I can tell from all of the pictures, it has the most acute grip angle out there.  That's the characteristic I was looking for, so I'm glad to see my reason for purchasing it validated.

July 20, 2012

1911 endurance test

A 1911 went 2,287 rounds without a malfunction?  That has to be some sort of record.

Image stolen from Todd Louis Green - Pistol-Training.com
It will be interesting to see what the picture is like around the 50,000 round mark.

July 19, 2012

A very thorough test of eyepro

As someone who shoots a 5.56 rifle with a chamber in close proximity to where you put your eyes, eyepro is relevant to my interests. I have some cheap Ruger eyepro, but those are about to become a set of spares.

Image stolen from Andrew Tuohy
Andrew Tuohy has sacrificed many a set of eyepro in the name of science.  Go, now, read.

I just ordered a set of Smith Optics Aegis Arcs (which are sized to fit my rather large size 7 1/2 head) from Sierra Trading for a whole $46.41 shipped.  That's a lot less than it would cost me to have a hobo killed so I can get an eye transplant.

July 16, 2012

My barren automotive future, part III: Doors

I really hate four-door cars.  I don't really care for back seats either.  The back seat in my JCW has been used by a human a total of once in the past year.  I actually keep the rear seats folded flat 99% of the time because it lets more of that awesome exhaust note into the cabin and gives me a ton of space in the back in which to store large, manly things.  Like target stands.  And reclaimed stolen gold.

I just don't need the back doors.  If I want to fill the back of my car full of crap, I'll use the hatch.  If the car doesn't have a hatch, it was probably designed for old people who are stuck in their ways.  A car with a trunk and two rear doors just means that you have three not-so-terrific ways of getting large objects into what little space is available.  I purchased an enormous 15,000 BTU air conditioner a while back which came in an equally enormous box that was probably about three and a half feet on each side.  And it fit in my Mini Cooper - let's see you put that thing in a sedan with a trunk and two small rear doors.

Back seats ruin two door cars.  Wait, what?

You see, in order to get into the back seat of a two-door car with the difficulty of say, yoga (as opposed to actual reverse childbirth) the doors have to be very long.  The doors on my JCW are so long, in fact, that the car is actually wider than it is long when they're both fully open.  Think about that for a while.  How many parking spaces could you park a modern Mini Cooper sideways in?  None.  So when you're getting out of the car in a parking lot next to other cars, you can't open the door all the way.  And when you can't open the door all the way, you've got some bending and folding to do.

If you absolutely have to have a back seat, the RX-8 and cars with similar arrangements solve this problem elegantly.  The front doors are normally sized and can be opened in parking lots.  For entry into the rear, two "suicide" doors allow even better access than if the car had been fitted with absurdly long front doors.  This arrangement is pure genius which is exactly why fewer and fewer car companies are using it.  The back seat in the RX-8 is the best back seat in any comparable modern sports coupe I've ever sat in.

What all this means is that I have a hard time finding cars I like.  The Nissan 370z is just about the only car still in production that really checks all the boxes.  And that sucks, because I like having a choice.

July 5, 2012

Comparing the GT500 and ZL1

Chris Harris did a pretty thorough comparo between the new-for-2013 Camaro ZL1 and revamped 2013 Mustang Shelby GT500.  Click here to see the video.

I haven't driven the ZL1, but I have driven a 2012 GT500 with only about 50 less horsepower than the 2013 model (it's been tuned to produce 599 at the crank) and it's simply epic.  The car can absolutely corner and do it very hard with two caveats; the first being that the particular car I've driven is fitted with wider, non-factory tires and rims and a subtly upgraded suspension.  Simple mods that don't void much of the warranty and give you a better ride - the stock runflats on the GT500 are terrible, as are all runflats.

The second caveat is that the car is absolutely terrifying and that you don't dare give it the beans around a corner.  Half throttle is plenty to get the rear loose, even on very fast curves.  This also makes it quite rewarding to drive, because arriving alive is an achievement in itself.

June 26, 2012

Rethinking my nightstand gun, part III: Caliber

I mentioned in the first part of this series that I desired a firearm chambered in the "most powerful commonly available autoloading handgun round."

So what is that round?  Really, it depends on how you define "common".  .50 Action Express is clearly the answer to "most powerful autoloading handgun round."  With a load that achieves 1600 foot pounds of muzzle energy, it's hard to argue the point.  Not even .44 magnum can achieve that type of power, and it's a revolver cartridge.

So is .50 AE - and handguns chambered in it - "common"?  I would say "not even slightly."  The Deagle is the gun most people think of when they hear "50 cal pistol" which makes it iconic. It is not, however, inexpensive to purchase - or feed.  The cheapest plinking ammo I could find costs $1.25 per round at the time this article was written, to say nothing of the price for proper hunting/defensive loads which can be twice that.

Additionally, while .50 AE chambered pistols excel in the power department, they more than make up for it in poor capacity.  As far as I know, the 7 round magazine for the Deagle is the highest capacity magazine out there.

So how to compare on the basis of muzzle energy balanced with capacity?  If I can take the liberty of simply adding foot-pounds together - and I will - then we can simply multiply the capacity of the firearm times the ft-lbs of a single round of ammo.

If I do this for a Deagle loaded to 7+1 and assume the that I'm using the insane Speer 300gr loading, I come up with 12,800 ft-lbs of combined energy.

If I do this for the pistol and ammo I actually chose - a Glock 21 loaded with 14 Winchester Ranger T .45 +p rounds at 501 ft-lbs each - I come up with a mere 7,014 ft-lbs of combined energy.  So what can I do to rectify the 5,786 ft-lb deficit?

Fortunately, high-reliability magazine extensions are available for the Glock.  MagPul manufactures a +17 for the Kriss Super-V, and Arredondo manufactures a +4.  With the +4, you're up to 9,018 ft-lbs, and with the +17 you're up to 15,531 - exceeding even the absurd power available in the Deagle.  I opted for the MagPul +17.  To me, it's a known quantity because I've ran them on a full-auto Super-V and they're fantastic.  Additionally, I have a similarly sized 32 round magazine for my Steyr pistol, and I found that when I'm laying down in my own bed, I hold the gun cockeyed when pointing toward the door anyway.  So the magazine doesn't get in the way of lining up the shot, as I worried it might.

It looks very mall ninja and it is to some extent.  But when it comes to my bedside "last stand" gun you can bet I don't give a damn about looking un-ninja enough to be a gun hipster - I want to fight as unfairly as possible.  That includes not reloading and not looking hip.

Not only that, but with 31 rounds on deck I can afford to miss!

And back to cars for a moment...

Mike Spinelli has clearly drunk the Kool-Aid.

When we all heard that the FT-86 (Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ) was going to have a meager 200hp, we all assumed that meant the car would be light.  As in, Miata territory.  But it isn't.  Not even within spitting distance.  At 2,762 pounds, it's a full crackhead heavier than my Mini JCW, has two fewer seats (the Mini's rear seats have headroom for a 6' tall person) and it also produces 40 fewer pound-feet of torque.

And despite having a rear wheel drive traction advantage, the BRZ is a full second slower to 60 than my JCW.  Given the relative absence of torque, the picture is likely bleak past 60 mph: the JCW has plenty of roll-on power even in fifth and sixth gear, whereas I can bet you would find yourself downshifting to find power on the highway in the FT-86.

This is a bad formula in a world where the power to weight ratio in my JCW is becoming increasingly pedestrian.  The upcoming Ford Focus ST is emblematic of this.  With nearly the same base MSRP as the FT-86 twins in the states and nearly double the torque, it's hard to see why Toyota and Subaru refuse to turbocharge the Subaru sourced boxer engine in the FT-86 despite decades of experience with exactly that setup.  Ford seems to be able to do it at around the same price.

Really, it's a fantastic example of why I think engine choice is a not just a good thing, it's a necessary ingredient for success.  Cars with one engine choice are bound to please only a very few.  The addition of the aforementioned ST to the Focus line-up is a good example of good engine selection.  But it's not alone.

Mini's for instance.  There are three kinds, the "Justa" Cooper, the Cooper S (MCS), and the John Cooper Works (JCW.)  Each corresponds primarily to an engine specification.  If you don't want or need the power, you can get a Cooper.  It gets fantastic mileage and has the same chassis and looks as it's forced induction twins, yet costs significantly less.

Mustangs.  There are four kinds, the V6, the GT, the Boss, and the GT500.  Again, each corresponds primarily to an engine specification.  If you don't want or need the power, you can get a V6.  It gets fantastic mileage and has the same chassis and looks as it's larger displacement twins, yet costs significantly less.

American trucks.  Ah hell, you get my point.

The FT-86 then:  it's the Mustang V6, the "Justa" Cooper.  And if 150 lb-ft of torque isn't enough for you, you're stupid for wanting more power "than you can use on the street."

Somebody better tell Mini and Ford...