40 Years of Gun Wisdom in 5 Easy Lessons

Armalite AR-180 was popular with Cuban exile commandos in the late 60s.

Armalite AR-180 was popular with Cuban exile commandos in the late 60s.

 

I’ve spent 40 years, studying, shooting and collecting all types of firearms, including Class III weapons.  I now find myself in the enviable position of having been tapped by The Firearm Blog to share some of that accumulated wisdom with you, the reading audience.  I’ll try hard not to screw up and I promise you honest and (hopefully) interesting writing.  You may not always agree with me so I welcome your feedback, both good and bad.   Let’s get started…

 

My interest in firearms started at an early age and under circumstances that were not exactly your average American childhood.  It was the 1960s and my family had settled in Miami after fleeing Fidel Castro’s Cuba.  My oldest brother was a CIA-trained Bay of Pigs veteran and was secretly engaged in running spies and saboteurs into and out of the communist controlled island.  At any given moment, our modest little home contained enough small arms, ammunition and explosives to run a small war.  In fact, that was the idea– to run a small war.  All manner of small boats (used to insert and extract the spies and commandos) would be dropped off in our backyard, only to mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night a few days later.

 

Being a normal inquisitive kid I was always snooping around in the dressers, the closets, and underneath the beds; but I never found many clothes, shoes or dust bunnies there.  Instead I found things like Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs), M1 Garands and carbines, and the occasional Grease Gun or Thompson submachine gun.  Towards the end of the decade, AR-15s and AR-180s started to appear in those hidden spaces.

 

It was an interesting time.

 

Armalite AR-180 was popular with Cuban exile commandos in the late 60s.
Armalite AR-180 was popular with Cuban exile commandos in the late 60s and early 70s.

 

My older brothers and my mother sternly cautioned me never to touch anything… but that was like asking me not to like ice cream.  I was fascinated by the guns.  The fascination was made worse by the fact that one of the most popular television shows of the time was the World War II television series Combat! starring Vic Morrow.  Later, The Rat Patrol came along.  Every once in awhile, when no one was looking, I’d lift one of the heavy guns and make pretend I was either Sgt. Saunders or Sgt. Troy.

 

Thus began my lifelong addiction to firearms.

 

Given this background, you can surely understand why, after turning 18, I used my accumulated summer earnings to buy two things: A Valmet M-71/s rifle and a Colt AR-15.  I eventually sold the AR-15 (replaced by a Colt M-16A1), but the Valmet is still with me.

 

This Valmet M-71/s was acquired by the author in the mid-seventies and is considered an excellent AK variant. It was originally imported by Interarms into the US.
This Valmet M-71/s was acquired by the author in the mid-seventies and is considered an excellent AK variant. It was originally imported by Interarms into the US.

 

During my long firearms journey, I’ve learned a few lessons about weapons and shooting that I’d like to share with you.  Older readers will probably agree with many of these observations.  Younger readers will perhaps learn a thing or two that will save them time, money and aggravation… and maybe make them better shooters:

 

1.  Be leery of gun “porn”, gun forums and marketing hype:  I grew up reading gun magazines and a lot of my early knowledge was gleaned from them.  There were some great gun writers back then, folks like Elmer Keith, Skeeter Skelton, Jack O’Connor, and of course Jeff Cooper.  There was, however, an awful lot of mundane writing and bad information.  Gun magazines were clearly in bed with their advertisers. Rarely was a new gun, caliber, optic or accessory anything less than a magnificent “must have” item.  Technology has since changed and print magazines are quickly going the way of the dinosaur.  Still, bad information remains with us, perhaps more so than ever.  The internet is filled with open discussion forums populated by instant experts dispensing free advice on everything firearms related.  Most of the poor advice is harmless to anything but your pocketbook.  Nowadays however, our wallets are a lot thinner than they used to be. We can’t afford to be buying things that don’t work as advertised, that we don’t really need, or that serve no practical purpose. Caveat Emptor “Let the Buyer Beware” is as important today as ever.

 

2. There is nothing new under the sun: Every firearm, ammo and accessory manufacturer wants you to think that their new gizmo is the best thing ever invented.  Think again: it is not.  For better or worse, firearms technology has progressed in an evolutionary rather that revolutionary fashion.  There really is nothing new under the sun.  Modern alloys and polymers have made our guns lighter, more weather resistant, and ergonomic.  CNC machines have improved tolerances and accuracy.  Optics have improved and let us see our target better than ever.  Chances are however, that in the hands of a skilled marksman, your grandfather’s 30-06 Winchester Model 70 with a Weaver K4 scope is as effective and adequate a killing machine as the latest exotic-caliber precision rifle built by a custom gunsmith.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a fancy gun.  I have a couple…but they aren’t really necessary and it is tough to justify their high expense…not to mention their dramatic depreciation when you decide to sell them.  Focus instead on high quality used guns. Good guns do not have built-in obsolescence.  If well maintained, they can easily last you a lifetime.

 

Inland M1 carbine originally manufactured in June, 1944 still shoots beautifully.
Inland M1 carbine originally manufactured in June, 1944 still shoots beautifully.

3.  Stick with proven guns and calibers:  There is a reason why proven designs and proven calibers remain popular year after year, decade after decade, and even a century (e.g. the Colt 1911A1) after their introduction; they work.  It is tough to improve on the bolt action rifle as perfected in the Winchester Model 70 or the Remington Model 700.  Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 pump action shotguns have sold by the millions because they get the job done efficiently and inexpensively. With rare exceptions, a Glock pistol will go “bang” every time you pull the trigger; that is why they dominate the law enforcement market in the United States.  AR-15s had their growing pains, but there is arguably no better defensive weapon in the world today than an AR-15 style carbine from a quality manufacturer like Colt, Knight’s Armament, LMT, Bravo Company, or Daniel Defense.

 

The same logic holds true for calibers.  Modern cartridges like the short, fat magnums may theoretically be more efficient but they are rarely more effective than the tried and true 30-06, .308, .270 and the older, traditional magnums.  In addition, the older calibers are generally cheaper, easier to find in a store, and don’t suffer from the feeding and extraction problems that seem to bedevil the short magnums.

 

4.  Let your reality drive your gear selection:   Be realistic when you make your firearm choices.  If you’re an urban dweller like many of us, will you really use that .338 Lapua Magnum sniper rifle you’ve been lusting after?  It may look really cool in the hands of that SEAL Team Six member shown in the latest Gun Sex forum or magazine; but ask yourself:  Am I a SEAL Team Six member?  How often will I get to use it if the nearest 1000 yard range is 4 hours away?  Can I really afford a steady supply of ammunition?

 

The gear question is especially relevant when considering accessories for a defensive carbine.  Generally speaking, a modern defensive carbine requires only three good accessories: a simple single point or two point sling, a top quality short range optic, and a rugged, recoil-proof flashlight and mount.  Railed handguards, exotic grips, lasers, infrared illuminators, night vision devices and suppressors are rarely needed….unless of course you are a member of SEAL Team Six…in which case they will be issued to you.

 

Unless you're a Navy SEAL, chances are you don't lead an infrared laser.  This real SEAL keeps it simple with irons and a Surefire light.

Unless you’re a real commando, chances are you don’t need an infrared laser designator. This real trooper keeps it simple with irons and a Surefire light.  U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II.

 

5.  Buy less guns, buy more ammunition and train, compete or hunt more often:  I’ve been able to afford the purchase of many guns over the years and I’ve accumulated a fair number of them.  I won’t deny that I’ve enjoyed the experience.  Truth be told however, most of my guns are safe queens and wall hangers; I really only use a few of them. Those four or five guns satisfy 90% of my current and anticipated shooting needs.  They do the trick.  If I had to do it all over again, I would buy a lot less firearms and I would use the money saved to buy more ammo and shoot more often.  I get a lot more satisfaction from shooting than collecting.  I think most people do. I would encourage young gun enthusiasts to do as I say…not as I did.

 

There you have it. A few decades of shooting wisdom distilled into a couple of bullet points (pun intended).  I hope you found it useful…or at least entertaining.  I welcome your feedback.




Frank is a businessman, educator and writer based in South Florida. He has 40 years of experience studying and collecting firearms, shooting competitively, and teaching others to employ guns properly. When not working or shooting, he is a tireless advocate on behalf of America’s military veterans.


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  • http://twitter.com/MrozowskiJesse Jesse Mrozowski

    While I mostly agree with you when it comes to points 4 and points 5 some people are not shooters as much as they are gun collectors. They don’t have guns to shoot competitions or for practical purposes like hunting or self defense, they like to collect guns that are rare, cool, or just because and while that means their motivations differ from my own it doesn’t make their desire to have 100 different guns wrong.

    • Frank_TFB

      Nothing wrong with collecting Jesse….different strokes for different folks. I’ve alternated between periods of collecting and shooting in my lifetime. But as I get older, I find myself wanting to shoot the guns I’ve accumulated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.roberts.986227 Alex Roberts

    A lot of people new to the gun scene fail to realize that most technologies are 50+ years old, with minor updates here and there. When it comes to something that could potentially save your life, obviously you are going to want the best possible option, and that’s where a lot of people get sucked in to all of the gimmicky attachments and weapons and whatnot, thinking that what they have is the irrefutable best.

  • mike

    Welcome and I look forward to reading more of your writings. every one of your points were right on the mark and I only wish I would of read this 10years ago, but then again 10years ago I thought I knew everything

    • Frank_TFB

      Don’t kick yourself Mike….we’ve all been there. It is just the way things are. When we’re young we think we have all the answers and know exactly what we want.

      I wrote this article with younger shooters in mind. Guns are indeed fascinating and can be addictive. There are so many different varieties, so many calibers, so many different shooting disciplines, that it can be a bit overwhelming. We want to try them all, collect them all, and shoot them all. Pretty soon you’ve accumulated a haphazard arsenal of different guns that caught your fancy at different times for different reasons. Plus you’ve dropped a lot of cash in the process.

      All I’m suggesting is slow down. Don’t buy into all the hype (especially now with the ban hysteria). Build your armory wisely with the right tools for the right job. Keep your caliber selection simple. In the long run, you’ll have more fun with the weapons you carefully chose and you’ll have more money for hunting, target shooting, plinking or other endeavors.

  • Kyle

    I agree with 3/5 of these lessons.

    2.) If you do not nurture the new market, the new market will die. The fancy gizmos we have today weren’t “Proven and timeless.” when they were introduced. The reason we have smaller and smaller holographic sights are because early investors bought into the big and clunky Aimpoints and the big, bulky lasers. I guarantee you the 1911 had it’s detractors in favor of revolvers. In order to get to the point we were today, we had to ignore the “Stick with the old style.” naysayers and adopt the emergent technology.

    3.) If we stuck with “Proven calibers.” and didn’t adapt anything new, we would not have the data that shows how a 6.5 or 6.8 caliber round surpasses the 5.56 in terminal performance, nor would we have the data that shows how some wildcat calibers easily outperform their parent cases. So yes, gun owners should own practical calibers, but it should not mean that we shun the rest and stick with the things of yore. The firearms market is having revolutions. There are new concepts that are gaining traction and changing guns. If we stuck to this mindset, we would not be enjoying electronic gun sights, tactical rifles, picatinny rail systems. It’s great to own a .30-06 that shoots great and can take down game, but if we don’t dip into new ideas, it will be a stale market driven by the same designs over and over again.

    • http://twitter.com/blakedotfr Blake

      re: 3, I’d consider 6.5×55 Swede to be a “proven caliber” (Chuck Hawks certainly does). The Italians, Swedish, Japanese & others developed 6.5mm cartridges well before WWI (shortly after the advent of smokeless powder), because they tested lots of calibers & found 6.5mm to fly the farthest & penetrate deepest (what we now know as BC & SD).

      Neither the AR-15 nor 5.56/.223 were created for long-range matches, but to be portable, practical, & tough. Stoner was a great designer but unfortunately not a ballistician. Over the years its popularity has resulted in its transformation into a jack of all trades, & that’s sold a lot of guns & parts.

      I think the author’s point is that if you’ve got an AR in 6.5 Grendel that’s great; it’s an amazing weapon/caliber combo. Good luck finding ammo for it in a hardware store. Who knows if that caliber will be around in 20 years if you go to sell your rifle. Ask anyone with a 5mm rimfire or 22 Jet how that worked out.

      Good old .308 is (or was until a month ago) available cheap as chips surplus, and will out-range a 6.5Gren when hand-loaded with a 230gr match bullet. .243 will get you close with a 115gr match bullet, and can be used against anything from varmints to antelope. Both of these cartridges are ~60 years old and can be found pretty much anywhere ammo is sold.

      • Frank_TFB

        QUOTE re: 3, I’d consider 6.5×55 Swede to be a “proven caliber” (Chuck Hawks
        certainly does). The Italians, Swedish, Japanese & others developed
        6.5mm cartridges well before WWI (shortly after the advent of smokeless
        powder), because they tested lots of bullets & found 6.5mm to fly
        the farthest & penetrate deepest (what we now know as BC & SD).

        UNQUOTE

        You are spot on Blake. 6.5mm cartridges are outstanding and only seem to get better with time. Lapua just came out with a new line of even more precise bullets called the Scenar L. They have two bullet weights available for it: 120 and 136 grains. I have little doubt a lot of records will be broken with these bullets.

        A friend of mine recently introduced me to his 6.5mm Carl Gustaf m/1894 carbine: what a gorgeous little weapon! I want one badly.

      • Alan W

        Stoner didn’t choose the 5.56, he preferred the 7.62 NATO of his AR-10. The 5.56 a design criteria for marketing the rifle.

    • Phil

      It’s already a stale market. The lack of innovation and invention puts this industry decades behind newer industries like automobiles, aeronautics and electronics. How many of you today would go around bragging about your new car and its 50 year old technology. Or your brand new cell phone that looks and weights like a brick. However, that is standard for the firearms industry.

      The term “new” in this industry means a 50 -100 year old discontinued model that for some unknown reason is now resurrected into a “modern firearm”. This industry has more spin doctors than inventors. But then again, what else can you do when everyone else is selling the exact same product you are. In any other industry, our current firearms would have been relegated to a commodity status, like toasters in the kitchen appliance industry.

      The firearms industry has some of the least government oversight than any other industry, though some believe it is too much. It is protected by our country’s Constitution. No other industry has that protection. And all this industry can do is produce firearms built on 50+ year old platforms and call them “modern”?? Give me a break…I cannot believe this is the best we can do.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Zius-Patagus/747170900 Zius Patagus

        When you reach the pinnacle of design everything after that is just variation on a theme. New cars are still just internal combustion engines running on rubber tires, a technology that is over 100 years old as well. Let’s face it, casing, primer, powder and projective is as basic as you can get and is still what firearms are built around. It won’t be until after another projectile technology is invented that the firearm (won’t be called that anymore) is taken to the next step. We’re talking energy weapons or some sort of energy transference type gizmo. However, just like cars, firearms are limited to the laws of physics and those laws don’t change. We don’t have flying cars and we don’t have ray guns because of that little inconvenience called physics.

        • Phil

          You might be right if you thought that John Browning creating the 1911 and Eugene Stoner creating the AR in the 1950’s as the being the pinnacles of design. But using your analogy, if applied to the automobile we would still be riding in Model T Fords and declaring them the pinnacle of design and there would be several hundred groups in the US manufacturing them.

          It’s like saying that there is no real difference between a smooth bore musket and the 1911. They both have a barrel, a breech, a propellant, a projectile and an ignition system, because that is what identifies a firearm. The cars we drive today are nothing like what they were in 1911, but in firearms, the most popular pistol today is the same as the one issued in 1911.

          I would call that a big yawn.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Zius-Patagus/747170900 Zius Patagus

            My point was is that until someone figures out a way around the physics then firearms won’t change. I agree that they are big yawn. I would however argue that cars are essentially the same as well. Until you find a way for them to fly, they are simply an engine on wheels the same as they were 100+ years ago. Doesn’t matter what you make them out of or how many gadgets or dodads you hang on them, they are still fundamentally the same.

          • Phil

            (sigh) you are right, from 25,000 ft., it all looks the same. But when you finally come down to earth and actually drive a Model T and compare to any new car today, they are not essentially the same. Now if you want to stay at 25,000 ft. and continue viewing everything from there, be my guest. But having your head in the clouds won’t address this issue nor provide any meaningful discourse.

          • Justice

            And I still want my flying car that runs on garbage… like in Back to the future =].

          • http://www.facebook.com/don.meaker Don Meaker

            Keltec shotguns provide a unique capability despite being limited to the same physics as the old 870 or Auto-5.

            Just as cars developed in response to changed conditions (more expensive gas, urban greens who wanted the smug points for driving a hybrid), firearms are developed in response to changes. When guns were limited to 10 rounds, there suddenly was greater interest in small .45 pistols: If you only had 10, you wanted 10 .45acp rounds, if you were forbidden to have a 17 round 9mm pistol.

            It isn’t the physics that changes. It is the market, and gun designs respond to that market. Gun writers may not be in touch with the market, but vendors most assuredly are.

          • kenholmz

            Who is supposed to do this innovating?

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            Kel-Tec for one.

          • Justice

            That is due to the difference in the item/product you are comparing. Cars and Guns are different tools used in different ways, so their evolution will not necessarily be the same.
            If you think about it, we still don’t have solar powered cars, mag-lev cars, and even a widely-used flying car (there are airplane cars now sure, but not mainstream at all). Why don’t we have those cars from “Back to the Future” and “Minority Report”??
            In firearms, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Its mostly innovation vs revolution. We still don’t see phaser guns and homing bullets because it’s very expensive, and frankly just physically hard to design.
            In essence, combustion engines of today are still the same as combustion engines in the early 1900’s–just more efficient. Same with firearms.

      • Frank_TFB

        IMHO, the development of cased telescoping ammunition and caseless ammo will be the next really great step in firearms technology. TFB has been following the LSAT and it is worth keeping an eye on it.

    • Frank_TFB

      Kyle,

      60% approval ain’t bad! Thanks!

      Perhaps I painted with too broad a brush. I’m not trying to damn new guns or new innovations. What I was trying to get across is that sometimes it is wise to see whether a new platform or caliber really sticks. New stuff enters the market constantly …but a great deal of it falls by the wayside just as quickly. That is especially true with calibers. The traditional military bred calibers dominate the industry sales charts year after year. They also tend be cheaper and more easily obtainable. That doesn’t mean that other calibers don’t have their place or have legitimate uses and maybe even be more efficient/effective. I’m just saying most ordinary Joes can get along fine– and have plenty of fun and excitement— sticking to traditional calibers.

      Also, there have indeed been a lot of new developments in recent years that have indeed changed things dramatically. IMHO, Aimpoints are so rugged and useful that they’ve almost made iron sights almost obsolete. Reed Knight’s Picatinny railed forearms were a stroke of genius for the high speed low drag guys. Surefire flashlights have created an entirely new industry of weapon and tactical lights. All of this is good and welcome. I’m simply saying that sometimes it is best to let someone else be the beta tester.

    • John Doe

      100% agreed.

      It’s best to keep it simple, but if we gun owners can, we should go push the envelope. Causing innovation and change is in our hands, people!

    • http://www.facebook.com/don.meaker Don Meaker

      The 6.5 will be better than the 5.56 if you hit every shot, but a 7.62 will be better yet. If you are in a military situation and engage in suppressive fire, the 5.56 will be superior, as most of your rounds will miss, and the 5.56 does that every bit as effectively as the 6.5, and weighs less. In a hunting situation 5 rounds of 6.5 will be better than 5 rounds of 5.56, but for infantry, 220 rounds of 5.56 may be superior to 150 rounds of 6.5.

  • Mr. Fahrenheit

    Great story, great post, very nice rifles.

  • SFC_Retired

    Retired military veteran here. I too have been collecting engineering marvels since the 1970’s and I have some observations as well:

    a. Skill is the most important element. A fancy piece of kit is no substitute for experience and skill.

    b. As consumers we drive the market. If we are purchasing cool gadgets then the companies will continue to use their hard earned R&D money to create new cool gadgets some of which are really worthwhile.

    c. An M1 Garand is a formidable rifle that may be used at the range, hunting, collecting or the in self defense of one’s home. As a proud owner of one I consider it one of my most treasured items. However, I still admire and collect the latest and greatest that my wallet will allow (and my better half will tolerate).

    In the end, we all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to firearms. What is most important in these perilous times is the steadfast devotion to our rights as citizens – one of these the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. Even though some of us may not like a certain type of firearm we must stand together in the defense of our right or surely they will chip away until all of us or our children are left without a 2nd Amendment or a means to protect their lives and liberty.

    Enough said – SFC out.

    • Frank_TFB

      General George S. Patton, Jr. was right when he proclaimed the M-1 Garand “the greatest single battle implement ever devised by man.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/don.meaker Don Meaker

        Yet the Garand was obsolete at war’s end, made so by the StG-44, and M2 Carbine with 30 round magazines. The Simonov carbine and the AK-47 confirmed its passing. The Garand is still a great “all rounder” but not what you want in battle.

  • sadlerbw

    I would add a small corollary for reloaders: Feel free to buy any oddball rifle caliber you want, as long as the bullets it uses are a standard diameter. You can do all sorts of voodoo to form cases without much more than a standard press, but making your own cup-and-core rifle bullets in some funky diameter is a whole different world of suck.

  • Gio

    There gona take our guns people

    • Biff Sarin

      Not unless you give them to them. There is no registry unless you live in one of the Draconian states like Illinois, New York, or California. Statistically, national registries have yielded 1 in 6 firearms being registered. I suspect that number would be lower here.

  • zardinuk

    Been buying guns for about 10 years now and with the assault weapon ban looming I find I’m consolidating on AR-10’s, AR-15’s and glocks. I’ll keep a few polished-steel magnum caliber handguns to love and to hold…

    I think the biggest thing you get with the newer evolved weapons is better materials, the chemical hardening and polymers are better than ever, guns made the same advances that cars made in the last few decades, a gen 4 glock 17 ought to last generations with an occasional barrel swap.

  • animalmenace

    Interesting story you’ve got there. I think we all would love to hear some more.
    Many good points in there, though I would have to argue that a decent shotgun is going to be the best defensive weapon for most. Unless you live in a home with a hallway that’s a few hundred feet long, that is.

    • Frank_TFB

      I tend to agree with you. My primary defensive long arm is a shotgun. MIne is a Winchester Model 1897 worked over by one of the finest gunsmiths in the USA, Ned Christiansen of Michiguns Ltd. It is a thing of beauty as well a terribly destructive and intimidating piece of machinery. It is kept ready to go with 00 buckshot in the magazine tube.

      I can, and have, put my ’97 up against guys running modern day Benellis and Berettas….and it always performs beautifully. I may write an article on it.

  • Marc

    40 years, eh? It was 31 years ago when the Glock was new and most of the “wise guys” strongly recommended against that then unproven and different design. I try to judge as objectively as possible, new or old, and I hope that won’t change by the time I’m one of those wise old men.

    • Frank_TFB

      Actually I was an early adapter and proponent of the Glock. That is one weapon that very quickly established itself as noteworthy. Gaston Glock got it right from the get go. I’m still not enamored of the trigger pull but a Glock 17 sits in my gun cabinet and gets used quite often. However, the H&K P7 remains my primary go-to handgun. It was “unproven and different” but this wise guy fell in love with its stationary barrel (awesome accuracy), terrific trigger and a design that reliably feeds (and extracts/ejects) almost anything you can fit into the magazine.

  • ZeCatnip

    Great column, but now I want a AR-180!

    • Frank_TFB

      AR-180 has its design deficiencies and quirks but it is a good weapon. It was the “piston AR” long before pistons came full circle and became fashionable again. Its design inspired a lot of other gas operated weapons including the Steyr AUG and the H&K G-36. It was however, doomed commercially as it was completely overshadowed by the AR-15 and by the the US military’s adoption of the AR-15 as the M16 and M16A1.

      In addition to Cuban exile commandos, the AR-180 found favor with the Provisional IRA who smuggled them in from the US. They were referred to as the “Widowmaker” rifle in Northern Ireland. AR-180s were built by the main ArmaLite factory in Costa Mesa, California, by Howa Machinery in Japan, and later on by Sterling Armaments Company in the UK. The one pictured in my article is a Japanese produced Howa gun.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1396330984 Casey Khoury

        I’m fascinated by the history of the AR-180, I didn’t know it produced in Japan

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      The AR 180 is one fine rifle. Mine is an older Sterling model

  • Ronin

    Question: The “Metal Storm” system developed by the Australians a few years back seems to be a heck of a leap forward. Not that a peon such as I would be allowed to have it.

    • http://twitter.com/blakedotfr Blake

      Unfortunately, they’re in the AUS equivalent of chapter 11: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal_storm

      • Ronin

        Thanks for the information. I wonder about the idea. Patents and such.

  • http://euonymous.wordpress.com euonymous

    Great, experienced advice. Particularly agree with number 5. Buy fewer guns, more ammunition, and practice. Heard a sad story on NPR the other day of a woman who’s local police chief suggested she carry a pistol even though it was illegal. She worked at a bank. When the day finally came that somebody stormed in and started shooting people, her gun was safely tucked away in her car. Her father was killed trying to jump the shooter. These stories break my heart. I don’t know the answer. We clearly are in a quandary on how to cope with arms in our culture. There are good (and bad) arguments on all sides, with no obvious way to reconcile them. I grew up with guns. My parents hunted; we all had deerskin jackets and venison in the freezer. I learned to respect guns while cleaning them and target shooting. We also had some antiques that hung on the wall in the den. (Then there was my cousin who lost an eye shooting one of his dad’s antique guns.) Sometimes I think we would all do better to grow up with guns, then I see what happens when the wrong people have them. How do we determine who’s who? And isn’t before-the-fact action against gun ownership rather unacceptable (in American theory/principle)? Isn’t that the real issue? Our American ideals have some irreconcilable internal contradictions, like safety and freedom.

    • Frank_TFB

      I don’t want to delve into politics because we try to avoid that here on TFB given the site’s international audience. That being said, the growth of urban centers (where gun ownership is usually banned or highly restricted) means that entire generations of people are growing up with little or a very distorted idea of firearms and their legitimate uses. We all have a role to play in educating people and changing perceptions.

      Your comments bring to mind two things: a) rule number about gunfighting: bring a gun and b) an unloaded and/or stored weapon is essentially useless.

      Now very few of us go around looking for gunfights and keeping weapons loaded and easily accessible brings up other problems, especially if children are nearby. Every individual needs to look at their own circumstances and judge what the appropriate level of preparedness is for him or her. You can’t anticipate every contingency…so err on the side of caution if you must.

  • http://twitter.com/thatMrGguy Mike G.

    Great article and good advise. I have a Clinton ban AK and can’t even find the 10rd magazines for it. I do absolutely love my S&W Model 5906 in 9mm. I traded my .44 mag SA for it because it really was too much gun for me in my older years and with an eight and a half inch barrel, was unconcealable. And the fact that the 9mm holds a 15 rd magazine as opposed to the six in the 44…well, do the math.

    • Frank_TFB

      Dirty Harry might not approve of your trade…but I do.

      I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well,
      to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track
      myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in
      the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask
      yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

  • http://www.facebook.com/clark.oliver.3 Clark Oliver

    The youngest member of my collection is a Vietnam-era AR… The household defense duty falls to a 95-year-old M1911, still as lethal today as it was in WW1. Anything farther away than pistol range is the responsibility of my ’03 Springfield.

    • Frank_TFB

      I like the way you roll Clark.

  • jared

    I agree with the firearms industry lagging behind in terms of technology. Look at the P-90.
    It was the 1990 gun. Ambi ejection 50 rounds in the mag, light, short, armor piercing.
    22 years have passed since that. We should have, bullpup rifles with polymer cased telescopic rounds, reliable practical quad stacks magazines, free floated barrels ambi ejection and controls etc…

    • Frank_TFB

      If I recall correctly, the FN P90 was designed as a Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) for issue to rear-echelon troops as a last ditch defensive weapon; pretty much the role that was originally envisioned for the M-1 carbine in WWII.

      Unfortunately, outside of that limited role, it has its limitations. The 5.7mm ammo itself is ballistically similar to a .22 magnum, yet more expensive and not always easily found. Given the anemic terminal ballistics, multiple rounds (or full auto fire) are required to really get the job done. H&K’s MP7 is the same concept but with an even smaller round (and good luck finding a .17 caliber rod when an empty case gets stuck in the chamber).

      • jared

        I wasn’t saying its the perfect gun. But its perhaps the only mass produced gun from the last 30 years or so that came close to fully utilising the techonology of its day.

    • Paul J

      The 5.7x28mm ammo is a french invention from the SEAM MAS and EFAB.
      As Frank said, it was design for non-combatant personal.
      http://www.securityarms.com/firearm/4990

      There is some new mechanisms on the small arms industry every years but not any revelation.

      Some test/proto were done back in the days with rotating chamber => high rate of fire…

      Those concept will came back to life with the adoption of a caseless or semi cased ammo.

      Nowaday, we’ve got a lot of choice of rifles, but till we don’t think outside the box and don’t just want “our trusted” rotating bolt and gas operated rifle, we’ll always have these system into the “new rifles”.

      In 2013, as an infantry soldier, you do mostly the same mission as we used to do 50 years ago. The main problem comes from this last point.

  • Commandante Supremo

    You posted some good advice….But now that have some original Valmet 5.56mm 30rd mags and even a FAMAS 25rd mag and no Valmet or Famas anymore, what to do with the mags? :)

    • Frank_TFB

      I can’t speak for the FAMAS mags but the Valmet mags are built like a tank and will no doubt outlast me. I always try to buy a good number of original mags with any weapon I acquire and that’s what I did with the Valmet.

      For many years, Tony Rumore at Tromix converted East European mags to work with the Valmet. I am told they worked quite well. There is also a video on You Tube that features a guy converting Polytech 5.56mm mags to fit the Valmet. A little creativity goes a long way in keeping these old guns running. Ebay and the internet makes it so much easier to find rare stuff than in the past. Also, sooner or later some entrepreneur will either manufacture or locate hidden stashes of old mags and parts for these weapons. I’ve seen more than a few pop up over the years.

      Case in point: Scott Andrey Machine in South Carolina seems to have a healthy business making spare parts and gunsmithing Smith and Wesson submachine guns that haven’t been produced in decades. Capitalism is a good thing.

      • John

        You can buy a 3D printer and ‘print’ a magazine….one guy even printed the ‘poly’ parts of a pistol, and shot 200 rounds through it…

  • gbailey814

    Wow, seriously…..wow. One of the best gun articles I have ever read. Thank you!

  • lolinski

    I dont agree entirely with number 4. Suppressors are always useful they dont add much weight and make shooting easier both recoil-wise and in case your muffs slip or something.

    • Frank_TFB

      Suppressors can be fun (and useful) and I plan to build or acquire two suppressed SBR uppers myself, one in 5.56mm and another in 9mm for the AR platform. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had shooting has been blasting away with a full auto suppressed MP5 with subsonic ammunition. Its a very pleasant weapon to shoot.

      However, suppressors (and full auto guns) are probably best saved for when you already have a a good variety of weapons in your gun safe that meet your primary shooting needs.

      A .22 pistol like a Buckmark or Ruger, combined with one of the new .22 suppressors that can be easily disassembled for cleaning, is a great training platform for new shooters.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        Agreed–I love shooting the MP5-SD. A friend also had a select fire Ruger 10-22. It was also suppressed. A heck of a lot of fun!

    • Cymond

      Suppressors are great and I would do almost anything for one. Do I need one for defense? It’s certainly nice to be able to use a weapon without concern for permanent hearing loss, but it’s not critical. However, they take away everything bad about shooting except the price of ammo. I think they’re the #2 accessory for anyone who wants to shoot a lot. (#1 would be a reloading set up).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1396330984 Casey Khoury

    I think a suppressor is an incredibly valuable tool. If short barrel rifles and suppressors weren’t regulated the way they are today, I think you’d see something like an AR15 with an integral suppressor incredibly popular for home defense today. I do agree with you, people need to not spend so much time and money buying the latest and greatest, but rather go out and learn to shoot what they already have

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.k.gage Brian K Gage

    Great article and story, thanks for sharing! Wow, wish I was old enough to have bought a brand-new Valmet M71/s right off the shelf when I turned 18…

  • Justice

    Great article. I think you are pretty much spot on.
    I’ve only been into firearms a few years as a civilian, but many of your points ring true.

    Point 2 is right on. We are still using AR15’s and AK47’s, heck even century-old 1911’s and Mosin Nagant’s. I love them all and wouldn’t really change a thing, except maybe have unlimited ammo =]

    Point 3 is very true. I like my AR15’s and Glock’s, but when I tried a 300Blackout AR15 I could not keep a good amount of that caliber in stock. Now I just stick to the good ol’ 5.56 and 9mm.

    Point 5 is great, but man there are so many cool guns one can collect!! Its always a toss-up; should you buy a new rifle or a few cases of ammo?