Concerning Arming the Military in America

Since the tragic terrorist attack and the murders of our servicepeople in Chattanooga, there has been a lot of talk in the state I live in, Minnesota, about arming ‘the troops’.

The discussion itself highlights the growing feeling among some civilians that we here at home in America are under an active, ongoing threat of attack. Talking about arming active duty military servicepeople is a response to the feeling that we are engaged in a war on our home territory. A terrorist threat, a guerilla war, however you’d like to phrase it.

As a former Marine that writes about video games for people who mostly don’t have anything to do with active duty military stuff, or who aren’t familiar with America (waves to Rel and Hunni!) I wanted to give you a little more insight into some of the issues involved here. Stuff that I just don’t see included in the discussion.

The first big thing is, this discussion is mainly being driven by civilian citizens that want to do something to try to address what they feel is a vulnerability for our armed forces. The argument goes, “We allow them to be armed and defend themselves when we send them in harms way, but here at home we disarm them but require them to wear their uniforms or be in clearly marked areas, painting targets on them and making them helpless victims.”

As an example of where this comes from, take a look at this relevant picture from the news coverage of the recent Chattanooga terrorist attack. That picture is of the front door of the recruiting station that took quite a few rounds through the glass.


That’s right, a sign proudly stating that “this is a helpless victim zone, fire at will, we can’t shoot back.”

Oh, no, sorry that was my editorializing. It’s a typical sign declaring an area to be a gun free zone, so please don’t bring your guns in here.

How that is any different from posting a sign saying, “Hey whackjob, helpless victims inside, have fun” I have no idea.

So civilians want to do something. And something probably should be done.

But you can’t just say, “Oh well let’s arm them all and then we’re all safe.”

The armed forces won’t do that, because THEY’RE in charge of how the internal firearms policies work, and those policies are based on long and careful considerations of lots of stuff. No, really.

See, the first issue is the conversation is happening in the wrong place. Civilians aren’t going to get SHIT done about this.

Armed forces aren’t democracies. It’s a top down hierarchy that is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not a civilian legal code. There are specific rules about firearms use by active duty military.

Changes in the civilian legal system, especially at the state level, can’t dictate how a federal armed force will choose to arm or equipment individual mission classifications or MOS dutues. The National Guard may work differently, but sure as hell Governor Dayton in Minnesota ain’t gonna get the Marines all issued pistols and ammo. So talking about it is just a barometer of the concern we all have about wanting to do something.

Any action will come from the military themselves.

A valid question would be, “Is there anything in the civilian legal system preventing the various branches of the military from arming recruiters or other service personnel?”


They can absolutely do this. The armed forces can indeed, at any time, choose to make internal changes up to and including assigning weapons to, issuing weapons to, and instructing active duty servicemen to carry them while going to and from and about their duties here and anywhere else they are assigned.

The main issues as to whether they will or not are armory and supply logistics, firearms safety, weapons inventory control and mission requirements.

Let’s talk about mission requirements first.

All it takes for this change to begin is for the upper ranks of military leadership to re-examine what the mission requirements are for, say, active duty servicepeople assigned to recruiter duty.

If they re-examine the requirements for that mission and determine that the capability of an armed response to a potential threat is required, then they can determine what type of the equipment needs to be issued to a serviceperson fulfilling that mission. That includes the issuing of a firearm, what type of firearm, and deciding at what times that firearm is to be carried and how.

Regulations and standards get written. It’s called your T/O equipment, or table of organization equipment. Every rank, every role has a place within the Table of Organization, and if your role requires you to carry a Beretta 9mm pistol as your T/O weapon, then there you go.

It does not require any interference by an outside agency or civilian legal system.

I can tell you flat out that before that happens, before the T/O gets re-evaluated for recruiters to be required to carry firearms, then someone will have to admit that our armed forces in the United States of America are under credible and consistent threat on domestic soil by armed terrorists, whether foreign or domestic.

Despite all the talk in the media, ain’t nobody official from the federal government gone anywhere NEAR saying that, or admitting to it.

But let’s say our military leadership does change the mission requirements, they determine our military forces assigned to recruiter duty, or living off base, all need to be armed.

The next step are all those rules and regulations and standards that have to follow.

First off, it won’t be a case of just letting military personnel carry their personally owned firearms. Not in this lifetime.

This may surprise you, but most active duty military don’t OWN personal firearms. Not while they’re active and living on base. If they do have them, they mostly have them at their parent’s or relatives home, or at a friend’s house off base.


Because if you have a personally owned firearm on base, you have to keep it stored in the on-base armory, where it is controlled, maintained and issued by the armorers just like any government owned firearm, and if you want to check your personally owned weapon out to go hunting, then you have to go there and request it, fill out the inventory control card, and after shooting it you have to clean it before they let you check it back in.

Most people don’t want to deal with the hassle.

Also, there will not be a requirement that active duty military must spend personal funds to purchase a firearm for official use. So no, no they won’t make active duty recruiters carry personal firearms. And I cannot see them allowing the possession and carry of personally owned firearms while on duty in uniform. I just cannot see that happening, because holsters and rifle slings and safety and OMG just no.

No, if the mission changes so our recruiters need to carry a firearm for personal defense, it will have to be an official firearm identified and supplied by the military, controlled under armory conditions and inventory rules, and the service member will have to train with it and qualify on the range with it.

So, on to the next one. Armory and logistics.

The military will have to get enough inventory of these firearms to issue out to meet this new requirement. Also ammunition. Also all associated equipment like holsters, etc.

Training in the rules and regulations on grooming and cleanliness standards will have to be provided, since  aside from Military Police and officers, few active duty servicepeople are ever issued a pistol for their T/O weapon. Your average Marine sure as heck knows how to march with and salute with a rifle in his possession, but a pistol?

Yes, these are important considerations. You don’t just hand a pistol and holster to a Sergeant on recruiter duty and tell him to figure it out.

And finally, one of the biggest considerations; safety and public opinion.

Before the recruiters are assigned weapons and ammo and directed when and how to carry them, someone in the military leadership will have to decide that the benefits of arming the recruiters outweigh the potential negatives of loss of life, bad press and other fallout that would come from an active duty service person firing on and wounding or killing a civilian when it wasn’t in response to an actual terrorist assault.

If you arm a shitload of recruiters, you HAVE to address the conditions that permit those recruiters to use those weapons.

Only in defense of themselves? What about in defense of others? All service people swear an oath to protect and defend the citizens of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

That’s pretty fucking cut and dried. it doesn’t get much plainer than that.

Yes, there is training provided on when it is appropriate to apply lethal force. Yes, that training can and would be freshened up for everyone involved. But it is a consideration that would have to be rexamined in light of arming active duty people and sending them out to interact with civilians all the time. The training is normally focused on what to do while on active guard duty and witnessing a security breach, or in the field, not when walking across a mini-mall parking lot to your POV.

But this is the real world, and if you’ve never been in the active military you have no freaking idea how much your base and unit commanders fear and dread having their Marines or whatever get into trouble with civilians off base.

No, really. You really have no idea.

Just for a moment try to imagine that the unit commander is the father of 200 or more smelly, messy testoterone-addled teenagers whose only desire is to get out of the house, get drunk and get laid at any opportunity.

What is worse is none of those kids are yours, they come from your wife’s former marriage. So you’ve got all the responsibility, but you aren’t related to those pains in the ass by blood.

And finally, realize that these kids are off base, out of your control, and when or if they get into trouble it will be with civilian authorities that are going to resent having your charges out of their legal control because they fall under the UCMJ for most things.

That base or unit commander, therefore, rarely feels much mercy towards someone that fucks up to the point that the civilian law ges involved, from say a DUI off base.

You cannot imagine the reaming you endure and the punitive actions that can be taken when a dry cleaning store owner calls your base commander to tell him, personally, that Private Dumbschmuck wrote him a bad check for the uniform dry cleaning bill.

Think about it.

Now we’re talking about those military leaders having to address how to deal with having all those recruiters, working out of small offices all over the country, being armed and living exclusively among civilians all the time, with the increased potential for incidents that would come with it.

So there you go. Those are just some of the real issues involved behind the scenes right now while people are yelling about how OF COURSE our active duty military should be armed and why hasn’t it happened already, jerk that knee.

Could be those folks are right. Maybe our recruiters should be armed. Maybe ALL active duty military should be armed while not actively on base or at a secured facility.

But those decisions need to be made after careful consideration of all the many aspects of this change, and as part of an overall analysis of how to respond to the situation as a whole.

I can assure you that if our military leaders are looking at the pros and cons of increasing defensive capabilities on an individual basis among recruiters and off-base active duty military, they are also looking at ways to be proactive and go on the offensive, identifying the threats in each community and taking action against them to neutralize them before it gets to a shooting at a strip mall.

That would require increased military intelligence and cooperation with local and federal law enforcement, but those are the kinds of things they WILL be examining.

This isn’t going to be about a sudden popular fad in the media asking why they’re not arming recruiters.

It’s going to be about analyzing the overall threat, and how best to address it. And just tossing guns to recruiters isn’t going to be the only solution discussed, or the only layer to the solution, if any, that they eventually go with.

Never lose sight of the fact that before any of this happens, there will have to be an official recognition by the government and the armed forces that this is a serious ongoing threat that needs to be faced. I’ll be honest, our current sitting President does not seem capable of using the term ‘terrorist’ or of acknowledging that anything out of the ordinary is happening in America. Can’t fix it if you’re too proud to admit it’s broke.

In the short term, I’d expect many, many, many safety briefings and terrorism counteraction classes are being given and an overall “let’s be careful out there” message is being delivered to the troops.

Novice AR-15 Build – Black Rifle on a Budget – Part 2 (Parts List)

Part 2 of the AR 15 build posts.

This post lists every part and special tool I ordered and received, why I chose it, and my impressions once I got it.

In all cases below, I have included the link to the actual item I purchased, and I’ve also listed the price I paid at the time, all purchases having been made during the month of July 2015.

I have learned from hard experience before placing an order to check the price on Amazon for the same or similar item and read reviews. Frequently Amazon has the same item for less, yes even gun parts and tools, and if you have Prime free shipping like we do that’s free money right there.

My intent on choosing what to build for my AR-15 went something like this;

I wanted a fully functional AR-15 chambered in .223 Remington that was built from Mil Spec or better parts, especially the barrel and upper receiver. I wanted solid metal receivers instead of composites, a mid-length barrel/handguard/gas system because I don’t like the increased gas system pressures of a carbine length but I do like a shorter overall system than the base rifle I am familiar with from the service. I also wanted to start with a vertical hand grip and a sportier style handguard than the default tube, but I didn’t want to go full into floating handguards due to the additional cost. I also wanted a flattop SOCOM style upper receiver with full picatinny rail without any carrying handle because I intend to mount a red dot scope as the primary sight. And I always thought the carrying handle was stupid. I’ve never known anyone to actually carry their weapon by the damn thing.

The key points of this build were an AR-15 on a very low budget but a fun looking and shooting rifle with full functionality.

There is always plenty of time to upgrade later, a bit at a time. I have definite ideas on where this can go, but also where I’d like to begin.

Future changes to this build include removing the A2 front sight and replacing it with a low profile gas block or a gas block with mounting rail for a folding front sight, replacing the MOE vertical grip with a 7 slot polymer rail and a combination vertical grip and bipod, or even replacing the vertical grip altogether and mounting a 45 degree grip and an independant folding bipod towards the front. Also look towards eventually upgrading to good optics with a quality red dot sight and secondary flip-to-side magnifier. Definitely things that can be done later and to look forward to researching.

One intentional decision I made was to NOT buy a rear mechanical sight. At the time I ordered all of my parts, I couldn’t tell if the upper receiver / barrel combination from PSA would come with a rear sight to match the A2 front sight post, and I didn’t want to buy stuff I didn’t have to. Now that I know it did NOT come with a rear sight, I will have to look for a modern flip-up rear sight to add on later, which I feel is critical for when the red dot scope fails. For now it’s cool, but I’ll be looking for a reasonably priced rear sight very soon.

Going ‘Tommy Tactical’

I know there is a certain amount of ‘Tommy Tactical’ fun that goes along with a lot of AR-15 custom builds. The desire to add all sorts of doodads to a rifle just for the sheer love of gadgets.

Kind of like sticking a spoiler and mag wheels on a Yugo.

I personally prefer clean minimalist weapon designs that emphasize form and function. If something is on the rifle, it should have a definite purpose that fills a need.

That being said, I’ve got a flashlight mount because damnit why the hell not, it’s my only AR-15. I want to do SOMETHING to customize it.

I could have gone with a laser pointer, but unless the beam itself is visible in daylight, I don’t think they add anything. It’s not like I shoot from the hip hoping to see a red dot on the target to tell me where the rifle is pointing, I aim.

But a flashlight, that’s just tacky enough to scratch the tactical widget addon itch. Which I suppose explains the desire to mount a plastic green fluorescent flashlight in the thing, because if you’re gonna go tacky, go the full monty. Fuck halfway measures.

Yeah, I don’t think the green plastic flashlight is going to make it to the actual range, I don’t have the balls to uncase the rifle in front of other people with that thing stuck on there.

A black aluminum flashlight on a mount, that will be okay. Tacky, sure. But hey, live a little. I always wanted one of those things. Pew! Pew!

You know I’m raising my son right when he looked at the flashlight mount, looked at me and said, “Really, dad? Really?”

Then after I mounted all the pieces of the upper together including the flashlight, he grabbed it and pretended the flashlight was a raygun, holding it by the vertical grip and saying “Pew! Pew!”

See? SEE?!? That’s exactly what I’M saying!

He makes me very proud.

On to the actual parts;

Retailer – Arsenal Arms Group, Osseo, MN. They are brand new, and haven’t yet finished building their e-commerce website. I found their lower receiver listing by following the Armslist website for Minnesota for several months.

Lower Receiver – Stripped (Anderson Manufacturing) – $69.95

The lower receiver is the foundation of an AR-15 build. It is the only piece of the rifle that is directly controlled under Federal Firearms License regulations because it is the piece that has the weapon serial number etched into it. In order to purchase one you need to follow all FFL rules and regulations. If you purchase one through the internet for mail order, it has to be shipped directly to someone in your area with an FFL license, and there is almost always a fee that you will need to pay to an FFL holder to do this. The fees vary and there is a website you can visit to find FFL holders by region so you can see the people near you that have one you could ship to. It doesn’t have to be a brick and mortar retailer, many private citizens obtain their Federal Firearms License and operate out of their house, and charge nominal fees of anywhere from $25 to $100 to receive a shipped firearm for you.

Because of these rules, you can purchase the lower receiver as part of a finished rifle, as part of a complete subassembly like a finished lower receiver, or as you see in the picture below, which is what is called a ‘stripped lower receiver’. It’s the lower receiver without any parts whatsoever. The point of buying one of these is to get the only serialized item done locally as inexpensively as possible, and purchase everything else over the internet at the best prices you can find.

This particular lower receiver is made by Anderson Manufacturing, and they have an excellent reputation for quality. I was specifically looking for a locally obtained lower receiver so I wouldn’t have to pay shipping or an FFL transfer fee for it, so I spent some time watching Armslist for Minnesota, knowing that many small dealers list items there. This showed up, and I jumped on it. At $69.95 for it I felt I was getting an excellent deal for an aluminum milled receiver, and after close examination and measuring it’s everything I could hope for. Perfect finish, excellent tolerances so far, and when I match it up with my upper receiver it fits smooth and snug. Couldn’t be happier with it so far.


AR15 stripped lower receiver

Retailer – Palmetto State Armory (online)

PSA complete upper receiver assembly with melonite 16″ barrel, 1/7 twist, chambered in 5.56 including lower parts kit, pistol grip and stock kit – $389.99

This is what makes this a build suitable for a novice. By purchasing a complete upper receiver and barrel assembly, I eliminated having to purchase and assemble individual parts for the bolt carrier group, gas sytem, forward assist and dust cover. I was intending to get each item individually, and I’d even already purchased a stripped upper receiver, but then Cassie (my wife) found this, and it was so perfectly suited and at such a great price I ended up returning the stripped upper and getting this.

This kit even came with the complete lower parts kit you need to finish your stripped lower receiver, the adjustable stock and the pistol grip (which often but not alwasy comes with the lower receiver parts kit).

Basically, if you bought a stripped lower receiver, a magazine and this upper receiver/barrel assembly you would have everything you’d need to have a fully functional bare bones rifle except for the rear mechanical sight. All the rest of the parts below this are accessories for customizing the build and aren’t strictly necessary to go shooting.

The quality of all the parts in this from PSA have been outstanding. I installed the magazine release catch and some of the trigger assembly to the lower last night and they’re great. I also installed all of my replacement parts on the upper assembly like the handguard, and everything fits perfectly. This really is very nice.

The reason I chose this particular complete assembly from among the others available were for the flattop SOCOM style rail top, which I like for mounting a red dot or scope, the mid-length handguard and gas system, and above all else the melonite metal treatment of the barrel. There are many different metal finishes and treatments available, and one of the more common upgrades is chrome plating the barrel. From what I’ve read, I actually prefer melonite as a metal treatment as it is an actual metallurgical change rather than a surface plating, and helps provide better protection against corrosive ammo than a non-treated barrel.

Other reasons for choosing this one are the forward assist and dust cover, which not all upper receivers have.

The reason I went with a mid-length gas/handguard system I mentioned briefly above, but one thing I wanted to repeat was how the chamber pressures and weapon responsiveness can change based on the length of the gas system and gas tube. The way this rifle system cycles is by diverting part of the expanding gas going down the barrel into a small hole in the barrel hidden inside the front sight assembly. The gas goes up the ‘gas block’ which is part of the sight, and into a thin gas tube that runs above the barrel and feeds back into the receiver. That gas pushes the bolt carrier group back, ejecting the empty casing and recocking the weapon. the bolt carrier group, being pushed back against the buffer and buffer spring inside the rear buttstock, then gets sprung back into position peeling a round off the top of the magazine and seating it in the chamber ready to fire.

What this all means is, the further down the barrel the gas port is, the lower the gas pressure being pushed back to the bolt carrier group. A short carbine length gas system has the shortest distance for the gas to travel, meaning much higher gas pressure flinging the bolt back into the buffer spring, and that can mean harder recoil as well as higher overall chamber pressure.

To adjust for this, you’re supposed to match up the buffer spring stiffness and buffer itself (which comes in different weights) with the length of the gas system you’re using so you get the bolt throw right; not too light or it jams, not too heavy or it recoils harder than necessary.

From what I’ve read, a mid-length gas system provides a nice middle ground between smooth recoil and chamber pressure. This means any accessories I get have to be sized for a mid-length system. And if I choose to replace the buffer or buffer spring later, or replace the front sight gas block, I need to make sure I match them up correctly.

There is another alternative, and that is to replace the gas system completely with what is known as a gas piston system. It uses the gas to push a piston to move the bolt carrier back instead of sending the gas directly into the rear chamber. It results in a MUCH cleaner weapon, because the dirty expanding burnt gunpowder residue isn’t flooding your chamber with every round fired. But… the retrofit kits for gas piston systems are expensive, and this is a novice build on a budget. That will be a project for next year, probably.

AR15 upper receiver and barrel assembly complete

AR15 PSA lower receiver parts kit with stock and grip

Retailer Cheaper Than Dirt (online)

Magpul PMAG Gen 2 AR-15 magazine (x2) – $12.30 each

Not much to say here. From everything I’ve read, these magazines by Magpul are outstanding quality and are certainly cheap to buy. I got two for less than a single BX-25 magazine from Ruger cost for my son’s 10/22.

AR15 magpul 30rnd mag

Magpul MOE Mid Length Drop In Handguard (black) – $33.20

When it came time to look at options to replace the drop in front handguard that came with the complete upper kit, I decided to try the MOE system by Magpul. There are two ways to go with the handguards, drop in or free floating. Free floating are considered inherently more accurate, and a better option. To install them, however, requires dissassembly of the barrel, removing the flash suppressor and gas block assembly so you can get at the ring where the barrel enters the upper receiver. And you also need an upper receiver action block to mate everything up perfectly, and of course the special tools and torque wrench. It’s definitely the best way to go long term, BUT. My M16A2 in the Marines didn’t have free floating handguards, they were the drop in design, and I consistently shot high expert at the rifle range every one of the eight years I was in. I figure chances are the drop in handguards are going to be just fine.

I chose the Magpul MOE system because I like the lines of it. I don’t feel the need for a full quad rail system, because I know I’m not adding a ton of stuff to it. A mounting point for a vertical grip at the bottom and the option of adding other rails as needed seems prefectly legit. And it got good reviews for the heat shield after lots of firing even for a polycarbonite light weight system. And, hey, cheap.

I mounted this last night, and aside from some fiddling for a minute it went in perfect, and now that it IS in it’s nice and snug, extremely solid. Looks great too.

AR15 magpul MOE handguard

Magpul MOE Hand Guard Picatinny rail section, 7 slot – $6.60

I only intend to mount one accessory, a flashlight, and the vertical MOE grip doesn’t need an additional rail. So I only bought one of these. I may get another later if i want to add a bipod. Or see if there are MOE bipods that don’t need a rail.

AR15 magpul 7 slot polymer handgrip rail

Magpul MOE vertical hand grip – $18.95

This handgrip, again designed specifically for the MOE handguard system, has monted on very securely and is very comfortable and has solid quality. Overall I’ve been delighted with the quality of all the Magpul parts I’ve purchased, they’re all perfect.

AR15 magpul MOE fore hand grip vertical

Leapers UTG 38mm SCP-129 Red/Green dot sight – $29.97

This one, I’ll be honest, scares ths shit out of me.

I bought it because cheap. NO OTHER REASON. I fully expect it to implode after the first shot when the recoil of the AR chambering a .223 round hits it. $30 for a red dot sight is so dirt cheap it can’t possibly be good. Amazon reviews said it was great, all gun forums I read say it’s a piece of crap.

BUT. It’s $30. If you go by the gun enthusiast recommendations, you could easily spend more on your optics than the entire rest of the weapon system. EASILY spend more. It’s a lot like digital cameras and DSLR cameras and all of that mess. Some people will tell you a $125 point and click is fine, others will insist that if you don’t have the $900 Canon DSLR you’re screwed.

I got my son a red dot reflex sight for his Ruger 10/22 and he loves it, I love it, it works great. But it only has to deal with the recoil of a .22 long rifle, not a full sized .223 Remington. You add that constant hammering shock to an optic and you’ll see how well it holds up. It may look fine on the bench but you can’t know until you’re on the range.

Regardless, I bought this because it was $30 and you never know, maybe I won the lottery that day and got one that will last me. Or maybe it will crack apart after the second round. If there is any one piece of this entire build that I’m embarassed about (aside from a certain tool purchase I made) it’s this. This optic is… well, I have no justification for it other than cheap.

I hope like hell I’ll be able to tell you that actual experience with it at the range turns out to be wonderful. I really do.

Meanwhile, I continue to read optics reviews and worry.

AR15 Leaper UTG red dot sight

Retailer –

Monstrum tactical 1″ flashlight mount, offset for picatinny rail – $11.95

This cute little offset mount for a flashlight is pretty cool. It seems to have mounted on to the rail extremely well, for a quick disconnect it was easy to adjust and seems solid, and it is gripping the 1″ diameter black aluminum bodied flashlight I attached to it very well. I did not yet use blue loctite on the threads because I’m still not sure I’m going to keep that flashlight in there.

AR15 1 inch flashlight quick mount

NcStar AR handguard removal tool – $8.84

This. This is… don’t buy this. Just… just don’t. This tool purchase goes to prove that yes, I am a dumbass and can be swayed by reviews even when I absolutely fucking know better. Dumbass.

From everything I read, it’s supposed to be very hard to pull the handguard drop in retaining ring back far enough to remove and install your handguards, so you need a tool.

Protip – in 8 years in the Marines I never once saw a tool for this. That should have told me something, and it DID tell me something, and yet I somehow decided to second guess myself and wonder if ring spring tension somehow tripled over the last decade or more I’ve been out.

It turns out it did not.

AR15 handguard tool

Roll pin punch set, 9 pieces – $13.99

I’m very happy with this tool set. The lower receiver has a lot of roll pins that need to be hammered in, and while I had plenty of punches I did NOT have a set that went down to the very smallest of sizes needed.

AR15 Roll Pin Punch Set

Aim Sports AR15/M4 combo wrench tool – $19.97

The upper receiver kit came with an adjustable stock that has a castle nut, and if I ever decide to replace the barrel, install a free floating handguard or replace the flash suppressor or gas block I’m going to need this one special combo tool, so i decided to just buy the damn thing now.

I checked, and it does fit the stock castle nut and upper receiver barrel ring holes perfectly.

AR15 combo tool

All the parts in my planned layout;

AR15 All Parts


That fluorescent green plastic flashlight in the picture, that’s my little joke. I would LOVE to have the balls to mount that sucker and uncase that at the gun range just to see the look of horror on uptight gun snobs faces. But my son won’t let me. 😦

The final tally;

Rifle cost – $585.21

Special Tool cost – $42.80

Impressions so far;

Every single damn part I’ve bought has not only met but exceeded my expectations of quality. Things are nicely finished, perfectly coated, mate well without slop and generally are just kick ass.

It doesn’t matter how nice it looks or goes together until I get it assembled and to the range, but at the bench it looks great.

And then there was this damn tool.

The fiasco – exhibit ‘A’. That stupid handguard removal tool.

Look at that thing.

I present to you the barrel, the tool, and the handguards I took off without the tool in about 3 seconds. Just… if you have any upper body strength at all, don’t buy this stupid damn thing.

AR15 Useless Tool

I’m so embarassed I bought that damn thing.

Novice AR-15 Build – Black Rifle on a Budget – Part 1

For those of you not chatting with me on twitter, my latest project is a first time novice build of an AR-15 ‘black rifle’.

I’m not going to lie, this is toys for grown ups time I’m talking about.

Well, it gets more complicated than that.

My son is really enjoying the Ruger 10/22 rifle and his shooting skills are coming along well. The .223 Remington round in an AR-15 rifle has comparatively low recoil and can be a fun gun to shoot, a step up from the .22 LR but not all the way to a .303 or 7.62 yet. As a next step in developing his shooting experience it’s a good rifle to go with. Also, building one ourselves will be a great experience for him, I’m looking forward to having him take part in the assembly once all the pieces have arrived to see just how everything goes together and how the system works.

The AR-15 is also the modern civilian version of the M16A2 rifle, the rifle that I used while in the US Marines. There is a strong sense of nostalgia to building one of my own, but even better since this one will be ‘my’ M16, built the way I’d like it. And I won’t have to check it back into the Armory once I’m done playing with it at the range.

One last thing… modern AR-15s have so many damn customization options and accessories and design considerations that you can trick yours out any which way, but the end result (when tuned right) is a lot of fun for ANYONE to shoot.

The Plan

I’m going to do a couple of posts over the next week as I build it and take it in to shoot. The last rifle pieces I have on order should actually arrive TODAY, so this is going to be a true novice work in progress, and any issues that come up are going to happen live. You’ll get to see exactly what happens as I try and build it and what the final results are.

The Disclaimer

This build is going to be a true novice “I’ve never built one of these damn things before” project. What’s more, it’s on as tight of a budget as I could manage while still getting the base features I wanted on my rifle.

Yes, I was in the Marines for eight years, and yes I know the M16A2 extremely well. That has nothing to do with building an AR-15 from scratch. I certainly never had to select my own components in the Marines. They hand you an M16A2 and you learn it exactly as it is. So building this thing will be a new experience.

On the flip side, I’m not inexperienced in firearms. No, I didn’t pick much up during my military service, but firearms and reloading were among my biggest hobbies bordering on obsessions before I went in. So I do have extensive knowledge of firearms… knowledge that ended in 1986. No, I’m not joking. As far as I’m concerned, my knowledge is as outdated and useless as a wheellock enthusiast at a 3 gun match.

Coming back to the firearms hobby has been a lot like playing World of Warcraft in vanilla original release and having a great time, hardcore raiding and defeating original Naxxramas. Then, imagine quitting the game only to come back seven years later wondering if anything changed while I was away. Oh, and since when did Druids get allowed to tank stuff, they’re only good for healing, right?

Stuff has changed a lot from when I was into firearms, but at the same time the core principles of centerfire rifles in general and the M16 gas impingement system in particular are still around, so things are thankfully familiar to me. But I’m taking nothing for granted as I research and plan this build out. I’m assuming that whatever I think I know is wrong or dangerous and I’m double checking everything.

So. If you’re reading this, I’m going to be writing about choosing stuff and assembling as a rank beginner, BUT I may use terms and describe in passing ideas that seem obvious to me but that you’re not familiar with. If something seems confusing, by all means let me know in a comment or sending me an email.

It occurs to me to mention for those reading that haven’t seen my blog before… I’ve been doing machine maintenance, both mechanical and electrical, for well over two decades now. I can weld, machine, fabricate and lathe, run a CNC and etc etc. I have a bunch of tools and a passing familiarity with which end of the wrench is venomous. If I encounter something during the assembly of this rifle that I think requires more than minimum mechanical know-how, I WILL say so. And I’ll also list what special tools I felt it important to buy or have on hand for the build, and why.

The Goal

I’m assembling an AR-15 black rifle chambered in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO, legal to the requirements of the state of Minnesota. If you are building your own, make sure you check your local laws on permits, magazine capacities, barrel lengths, etc.

I am attempting to build this rifle for the absolute cheapest cost I can while at the same time reaching my own personal minimum standards of quality and equipment options. I may upgrade this build later by replacing components, or I may sell this rifle for a small profit and use the increased funds to build a rifle with better features or workmanship standards. Or I may keep it as is depending on reliability at the range.

Keep in mind if you’re reading this, there are hundreds if not thousands of customization options for every aspect of an AR-15 rifle on the market. Johnny Cash built his Cadillac one piece at a time, and he might have needed to do a little fiddling to get everything to work right together. I expect the same result.

I intentionally chose low cost options that had positive reliability or quality reviews for a budget rifle. You can pay thousands more than I did for top of the line components and systems. You can take a shitload of money and throw it at manufacturers and build the Rolls Royce of gun systems.

The thing to remember is, at the heart you are building a rifle whose parts should all be ‘Mil Spec’, meaning they are designed to conform to the military specifications for the M16 rifle system to be a perfect interchangeable fit with the same minimum quality tolerances and standards acceptable for service. Can you get better than Mil Spec? Absolutely. But Mil Spec parts means that the rifle should at least be able to serve as a safe and fully functioning rifle using the same commercial grade ammunition as every other .223 rifle. At least, it will as long as you match your system parts such as buffer tube and buffer to barrel length and gas system, or bullet weight to gas system length.

Sorry, another tangent. The point is, to have a fully functioning and safe AR-15 doesn’t require purchasing the top of the line parts.

Those parts may improve reliability in adverse weather conditions, increase the durability of your components across thousands of rounds fired downrange, make the gun easier to clean after firing, reduce overall recoil, reduce barrel rise, improve accuracy or tightness of groups, etc etc. But you expect that from a Rolls Royce. If you’re looking to take a Pinto out and do donuts in the parking lot, you can probably settle for less.

My goal is a fun gun to take to the range and put holes in paper. Maybe go to an outdoor range and ping some tannerite, watch a pretty flash.

What This Build Isn’t

One thing I want to be clear about, I’m not building a home defense rifle. I’m also not going to arm myself with an ‘assault rifle’ to take back my streets like some kind of 80’s action hero. This is a grown up toy that I do not have a personal need for unless zombies really do take over the country, and if that happens I’ll be using this rifle only long enough to get me a 12 gauge shotgun like an 870.

I would personally never choose an AR-15 chambered in .223 for my home defense weapon. I own a home in the suburbs of Minnesota, so if I shoot at an intruder, and God forbid I miss, the last thing I want is for a bullet to overpenetrate the thin exterior walls or windows of my home and enter someone else’s house with enough foot pounds of energy left over to cause harm to an innocent.

For home defense I prefer a shotgun, and NO not because it is guaranteed to hit, because they’re not. In the hallway of a home, or at ranges you could expect to find within a home, a shot pattern won’t spread more than a few inches apart at most. It does NOT fan out into some huge basketball sized never-miss thing like you see on TV. You still have to be able to hit exactly what you’re aiming at. But the shot from, say, a 20 gauge will still do considerable damage to an intruder while not having the individual pellet energy to be life threatening if they hit someone else’s house across the street.

Specifically, if I were to select a firearm for home defense I’d probably choose a 20 gauge shotgun with the shortest barrel length legal in my area, mount a flashlight on it for positive target identification, stick a pistol grip and folding stock on it to be easier to move around corners, and stick it loaded by the bed with a 3 number trigger lock on it that I can move one digit to unlock by feel in the dark.

The point is, I don’t intend the AR-15 to be a home defense weapon. But I AM putting a flashlight on it. A flashlight is supposed to be for positive target acquisition in the dark so you don’t shoot the wrong person (or your son sneaking into the house drunk at 3 in the morning), but in my case it’s going to be so I can get that ghetto Tommy Tactical look I crave by hanging a widget off the barrel.

Okay, I kid.

Well, maybe not. Wait until you see what I’m going to use for a flashlight. Oh man, just thinking about uncasing this thing at the range is making me laugh my butt off.

Wrapping Up

My next post will go right into the parts list I ordered for the build, including web links, the cost of the items, and the breakdown of why I chose each one. I heartily encourage those of you that know far more about this than I do to mock the living shit out of me.

Until then, have fun and happy shooting.

If WoW PVP had other popular PVP modes

Yesterday Blizzard revealed they were developing a ‘Mercenary’ mode for battleground queing.

In brief, it’s a system that would speed up queue times by letting members of an over-represented faction play on the opposing faction team for that match.

I like that Blizzard are very careful about there being ‘lore’ reasons behind all the pvp content the players have available. There needs to be some small suspension of disbelief in the number of times the battle for Alterac Valley plays out, but everything has to this date had to be explainable in terms of lore and story and setting and motivation.

So it is with Mercenary mode. A simple conceit that allows us to imagine, if only for a moment, that some traditionally Alliance races have individuals that would be willing (for a wage or a cause) to join in on the other side.

Sounds pretty cool to me.

I’m sure a lot of questions immediately spring to the minds of the perpetual complainers. “What about people who join a match intending to throw it for their friends on the other side!” Etc, etc, ohmygodarewebacktothat.

I remember a time, lost to the pages of history, where you could have characters of only one faction on a server. You could go Horde or Alliance on a server, but not both. Why? Because OMG what if your friends on Alliance were going to PvP and you could switch to Horde and listen in on enemy plans WTFQQBBQ.

Yeah, that was a thing. Didn’t really happen because, as we all discovered, outside of flaming forum posts nobody ended up having the energy to truly give a shit what the other side was planning. I mean really, nobody has time for that shit.

Remember when Transmog was impossible to consider implementing because of how game breaking it would be for pvp if people couldn’t evaluate your power level by recognizing the look of the individual pieces of gear you had equipped?

Oh yeah, you think I’m kidding. That was also really a thing, and some people actually took that argument seriously.

Moving on…

I like this idea, I think it sounds fun, spices things up and adds some additional flavor options.

But I don’t think we’ve gone anywhere near far enough, and I wonder if the desire to match gameplay into existing lore and story are limiting our options.

As an example.

We have these wonderful maps for PvP battelgrounds, places like Alterac Valley, just as an example.

These maps, if present in a traditional first person shooter game, would each have multiple mission types you could choose from. capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, you know the drill.

We get one type of battle built in to each map. Wouldn’t it be WONDERFUL if we could use these maps for other types of missions? Missions that perhaps wouldn’t use the looking for more / automatic matchmaker function, but would instead open them up for inner-guild or cross-realm friend gameplay events?

My first example of what I’m talking about, using Alterac Valley, would be a Snipe Hunt.

A group of friends or guildies, all same faction, group up into a raid and queue up for the battle.

The existing looking for group has role verification. You get a popup offering you the different types of role you are willing to queue for based on the capabilities if your class.

In this case though, it wouldn’t be a role check for tank, healer or DPS. Instead it would be a check for Hunter or Hunted.

In Snipe Hunt, one person would be the Hunted, and everyone else would be the Hunters.

That one person would be the target of everyone else. Obviously a class with stealth capabilities would be great for this, but consider this;

The first question everyone would have is, why not gang up in groups of four and ensure that whichever group finds the Hunted can lock them down and insta kill them?

My answer to that is, proximity based health and dps debuffs. The closer a Hunter is to other Hunters, the lower the debuff drops their health, damage and related atributes like armor.

If you hunt as a pack of four, you will be more effective in terms of numbers and multitasking but you will still have the effective health and combined damage of one player, the average of all four combined.

Can you imagine the fun of a stealthed Hunted sneaking up on a group of four Hunters and killing them all in a burst of Killing Spree or Barrage because of how weak they were when clumped up?

One grenade, man. Just one grenade. Don’t bunch up! Get scouts out on the flanks, damn it!

It would be a balancing act, but I think you could tweak the gameplay into something that would be fun and thrilling, especially if there were bonus objectives like capture the flag or treasures to steal or other things that could give the Hunted multiple paths to gather enough points to hit a win objective.

If it were all capture the flag, then the Hunted turn turtle, and if there are no capture points or treasures than there is no reason for a Hunted to go roaming instead of hiding in stealth in a corner. But give the Hunted a time limit and a point total to reach, and make each Hunter kill, flag point or treasure worth a certain number of points and the Hunted gets plenty of options to make the flow unpredictable.

Moving away from the gametype, think how you would feel being able to join a group of guildies for a night of “Hunt the Guild Leader”, where everyone gets to go into a battlegroun with one goal… hunt your guild leader down and kill him with extreme prejudice.

Or a cross-server group of Twitter friends able to group up with the express goal of killing someone like Rades. Rades is a badass hunter, he could handle it. Right?

Same-faction grouping for different pvp modes in battlegrounds wouldn’t really fit in with lore or story, AT ALL, but I think it would inject a lot of life into the game and add lots of possibilitiies for friends to get together and do things together outside of formal pve raiding or playing against strangers.

With all the innovation taking place in FPS games, i’d love to see more gameplay modes available for our existing battlegrounds. Heck, even tourist modes for Battlegrounds would be a hoot.

What do you think? Do you have any passing ideas for spicing up pvp by keeping the battle within your circle of friends?

Ship Just Got Real – WoW Shipyard Tips

Murloc Navy

I’ve learned a few things the hard way, and I hope some of the following helps you. or amuses you, whatever floats your boat.

My approach to the shipyard has been to do it on only two characters, my two ‘mains’. They’re the only characters I actively play, the rest are Garrison Mission gold farms.

That being said, I have set up my main Garrison to support my Shipyard activities. My mains already have fully maxed out Followers with the mix of talents and abilities I wanted. If you’re not done with Follower upgrades or leveling yet, or if there are still things you are leveling buildings in your Garrison to accomplish and need resources to build, some of what I’ve done will probably be a waste of time.

First thing to decide is if you are going to build your Shipyard to fully optimize the Legendary quest chain. The Legendary Ring quest chain has a very strong naval component to it, and to have the absolute best chance of mission success requires certain ships loaded out in certain ways.

Chibisan#1890 (on US servers) put together a fantastic list of every mission in the Legendary Shipyard quest chain with rcommendations on the best way to succeed at them that he posted on Reddit, I’m linking it for you here.

The relevant bit for planning purposes is this;

To complete all missions with the best chance of success, you will need the following ship and crew combinations available:

1 Transport (Crew does not matter)
1 Carrier (Must have undead/human/panda crew)
1 Submarine (Crew does not matter)
2 Battleship (Only 1 battleship needs undead/human/panda crew)
2 Destroyer  (Only 1 destroyer needs undead/human/panda crew)

Also, those ships will mostly need to be epic to make sure you have two equipment slots per ship you can customize. Some ships have custom crew (like Murlocs) so they may fulfill multiple conditions without using an equipment slot, but for planning, those ships on the list up there are the ones you will need.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that you can keep destroying ships at the Shipyard table and then going and make another. Yes, it takes a while for the next ship to be finished but to get that perfect ship with the right crew can be a true relief. You can change equipment out later, but the crew is yours forever. Or until you scuttle the bastard. I wouldn’t worry about trying to proc a rare or epic ship, I’d be more concerned with the right crew combo. Nothing hurts worse than releazing you’ve leveled all your ships to epic and you really should destroy one so you can have the right crew available.

As a side note, you can rename your ships. I still haven’t done that yet, but I have been reliably told there is (so far) no profanity filter for your ship names. Go nuts.

as a super special side note if you happen to get a Murloc ship (like the one I show you from my Warlock above), save it. It’s got a Murloc crew that is pretty rare, so hang onto it. It doubles as a transport. Also, I love the idea of a ship with an all Murloc crew. As pirates. Singing show tunes. Well, murgling show tunes. And if murgling wasn’t a word for a singing Murloc before, it is now.

I’m assuming a lot here. I assume you know you have to go out and get the patterns for ship equipment before you can buy them at your shipyard. Or where to find them. That kind of thing. I know you’re all usually better informed than I am and you’re reading this for amusement value. Still, if someone does have a question about something I passed over just say so, I’ll be happy to help.

About ship equipment, you’ll rarely ‘just happen’ to have the exact equipment and ship loadout combination you need for all those treasure missions, legendary quests or Hellfire Citadel loot missions you want to run.

That means you’ll be buying new equipment to load up your ships, at the stupidly inhibiting price of 500 Garrison Resources. EACH. Ugh.

STUPID amounts of resources.

Still, rather than rail at the Gods of the Frozen Storm for setting such a steep cost, let’s work out some solutions.

What I’ve done is fired up both a level 3 Trading Post AND a level 3 Lumber Mill at my Garrison to keep me fed with resources. And I do the follower missions for them. And I set my Tree Follower to the Lumber Mill to boost the gain. I damn near forgot I had that Evergreen chap, nice to see he’s still willing to help me butcher his leafy friends to fuel my war machine.

Using Garrison buildings to boost resource production is one method to speed things up, but the other is to try and get bonus free ship equipment.

Having at least one or two ships with Troll (Horde) or Gnome (Alliance) crews is a treasure. The Troll and Gnome Crews bring back equipment when the mission is complete. So far, every single successful mission I have sent my Gnome Crew on has brought back some equipment that is worth 500 Garrison Resources each. I just stash them in my bags, hoarding them until needed.

This is where destroying ships and making news ones looking for the right crew comes into play. It’s not just for Human/Panda/Undead crews. If you make sure to get a Destroyer or Battleship with a Gnome/Troll crew, there are frequently 4 hour naval training missions up for those ship types so you can keep that ship busy bringing you back some equipment and saving you massive resources. Stockpile those up and use them!

Now, other gates to sending ships on missions are Oil and Time.

Oil is pretty obvious. If you go to Tanaan and do dailies and kill rares, you’re going to have plenty of Oil. I’m getting plenty of Follower missions that being some back too. Oil is not gating my ability to do ship missions. I was all worried about the Oil thing before the patch went live. Little did I know what equipment was going to cost. Worried about oil my big furry butt.

Um, that didn’t come out right. I don’t mean I want you to oil my big furry butt, I’ve already got tons of oil… damn it, I did it again. Um. Okay, I’ll come back to that and fix it later.

Time is the other big factor. With so many missions taking from 4 to 18 hours (and thank you to Blizzard for pulling back from the two full day stuff, OMG), you can only run what you can get done.

One thing I didn’t know going into this patch was that the Mage Tower / Spirit Lodge did more than have Ogre Portals to whisk you away across the map of Draenor.

The other HUGE thing a Mage Tower or Spirit Lodge can do for you is give you work orders for Apexis Crystals, which now have tons of value. Mounts sure, but 20,000 Apexis now gets you an ilevel 695 token to upgrade that baleful gear that drops like flies this patch.

Ilevel 695! And you can choose what baleful gear to upgrade so you can choose to upgrade pieces that have optimal stats! Even better, those 20k upgrade tokens are bind to account, so if you have alts that were slowly gathering hoards of Apexis from the 600 crystal follower missions, those things just proved their value.

Sorry, talking about Mage Towers and Spirit Lodges and benefits for your Shipyard.

When you complete a work order for the MT/SL, there is a CHANCE (about 30% per work order for me) that you will ALSO get a Mission Completion Order. You can have up to five at a time, and using one instantly completes a Garrison Follower mission… or a Shipyard mission. At least, when they don’t bug out as they apparently are occasionally doing. I haven’t had it happen to me yet, and I’ve used several, but I’ve heard it can.

It was a tough choice for me to drop my Dwarven Bunker / Gobline Workshop for a Mage Tower, but I’ve never regretted it yet. I have gotten plenty of those Mission Completion Orders and they have hastened the leveling and mission progress for me quite a lot.

Just imagine, you send your ships on an 18 hour mission at 97%, and instead of waiting until tomorrow to find out if your Murloc ship blew up, you can use a Mission Completion Order and find out RIGHT NOW that it blew up.

And let the murgling commence.

So, to recap.

Don’t be afraid to destroy and rebuild new ships now to lay the foundation for having leveled ships with the right crews later.

Ships with Human/Panda/Undead crews are critical to get that extra success chance for the Legendary quest lines, but also try to aim for some Gnome/Troll crews to get you free equipment and save Garrison Resources.

If you’re starved for Garrison Resources, don’t be afraid to double dip a Trading Post and Lumber Mill. If you choose only one, I’d take the Trading Post because of the delicious +20% faction reputation bonus you get with it at level 3. You do want to fly someday, right?

And finally, if you are done with leveling your Garrison Followers and don’t mind having to buy all three of your weekly raid bonus rolls, don’t hesitate to dump your Dwarven Bunker / Goblin Workshop for a Mage Tower / Spirit Lodge for the bonus Apexis Crystal work orders and Mission Completion Orders.

Happy sailing!