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The Case For the 6.8 SPC And Other Rare Rounds

19 Aug

As preppers, a mantra we chant is to choose our weapons in popular calibers. This way when civilization falls and we’re scrounging the countryside for ammo, we’ll find some. I’m beginning to question this.

How likely is it really we’ll run out of ammo and need to forage for it or trade for it? Only in the most dire long-term situations could this be likely. If a riot happens and you have 400 rounds for your rifle, if and when you run out, is it likely you’ll find a source of resupply? Or will your rifle just sit empty regardless of caliber?

With most guns, there’s no reason not to go with a popular caliber. The 308 Winchester is a great hunting round. The 9x19mm is adequate for defense. The 22LR is, well, the 22LR. But when it comes to a defensive rifle, you’re forced to choose between the 7.62 x 39 in the AK, the 5.56 mm, or the 7.62 NATO.

Many shooters don’t like the AKs. That leaves us with the 5.56 mm or the 7.62 NATO. Neither is perfect. The 5.56 mm is a bit small. The 7.62 a bit big. A great solution for the AR rifles would be the 6.8 SPC. In terms of power, the 6.8 SPC is often compared to the 30-30. It fires a bullet about double the weight of the 5.56 mm. Many hunters feel the 6.8 SPC is an adequate deer round. Almost none would recommend a 5.56 mm for deer hunting.

The downside to the 6.8 is that it’s rare and expensive. If you shoot many thousands of rounds a year through your AR, you’ll want to keep it as a 5.56. If you can afford it, the 6.8 SPC is ballistically superior to the 5.56 mm in every way.

Because I have so much 5.56 mm and 223 Remington ammo and shoot so little today, I’ll never make the transition to the 6.8. I couldn’t justify the cost. If you want improved stopping power in the AR-15, give the 6.8 SPC a look.


The Colorado river is suffering because of drought. According to the article, its flow over the last 14 years is the lowest in 1,200 years. In the next fifty years there are estimates the demand for water in the Southwestern states will exceed supply.

Here’s a great short video about how to climb a rope.

I was a bit shocked and disappointed to see a video blogger I watch from time to time is no longer making youtube videos. From what I could make of it, it was because of death threats or actual attacks on his family. It’s so bad, he said he’s moving.

This article talks about dealing with online threats. I strongly agree with the main point of the article. If you feel your life is threatened, get the police involved. They have many capabilities the average person lacks and can work across jurisdictions to arrest and prosecute somebody threatening your family.

My Thoughts On Gun Control And The AR-15

9 Jan

When I started this blog, I wanted to avoid a heavy focus on guns and to avoid politics. There are plenty of blogs discussing those topics. I’m going to violate this and share some of my thoughts about gun control and the AR-15.

One year ago, gun control was completely off the charts as a political topic. But with a few tragic shootings, it has moved to the front burner. You can’t pickup a newspaper or visit a news website without seeing a piece about ideas for new gun control plans.

Some of the ideas include: universal background checks, a national gun registration database, heavy penalties for carrying guns near schools, renewal of the assault weapons ban, disallowing new magazines over ten rounds and banning “assault” style weapons.

A universal background check isn’t a bad idea. A person with a felony background shouldn’t be able to acquire guns through legitimate channels. In the case of the Newtown shooting, the lady who purchased the weapons passed one of the most stringent background checks in the country. By all accounts, she was a responsible and law abiding citizen. Her weapons were taken by her son.

Many criminals who want guns acquire stolen firearms through the black market. As long as guns can be stolen, it will be next to impossible to prevent a determined criminal from getting a gun. But a universal background check could help prevent a mentally disturbed person from purchasing a firearm.

A national registration database bothers many supporters of gun rights who don’t believe it’s the government’s business to know who owns guns. They see it as a possible first step to firearm confiscation. If the government knows exactly what weapons you own, and if a transfer to another party must be registered in the database, all of your firearms would be tracked.

While there might be some benefit to this, a national gun registration wouldn’t have prevented the Newtown shooting. The mother would have passed her background check with flying colors and have had her weapons registered in the database. That wouldn’t have done one thing to prevent the guns from being taken and misused. A database would allow law enforcement to track who acquires a lot of guns that wind up in the hands of criminals.

Heavy penalties for carrying guns near schools is a curious idea, but it too would have proved useless in preventing the Newtown shooting. The shooter was on a suicide mission. The shooter in Colorado was arrested and is facing multiple felony charges for murder. A penalty for carrying the gun on school premises wouldn’t have deterred either shooter. These people were blind to the personal consequences of their actions. One more legal penalty meant nothing to them.

Talk of reinstating the assault weapons ban and banning high capacity magazines has proved to be a powerful economic stimulus for gun shop owners who are seeing record sales of these items. Others have proposed making all semiautomatic rifles fall under Class 3 weapons which would require special permits. It would then largely be up to the individual states to determine if its citizens could own them.

Neglecting all the semiautomatic weapons already in the population, one problem with banning high-capacity weapons is that it won’t prevent malicious behavior. Even if we could use a large magnet to remove all high-capacity semiautomatic weapons from America, deranged shooters could still use a shotgun or a revolver to kill four or five people. Wouldn’t those shootings be tragedies too?

People strongly supporting gun control will argue we need to ban all revolvers and shotguns to prevent these future tragedies. If it worked for high capacity weapons wouldn’t it work for revolvers too? So once we accept gun bans as a solution to the problem of malicious shootings, there is no potential limit to just how much gun control we’d see in the future.

If gun control won’t prevent tragedies, what about the NRA’s suggestion of placing armed guards in every school? That’s not economically realistic. If we spend more for police, they can be much more effectively placed. Proposing that teachers arm themselves is a losing proposition too. Too many teachers don’t want guns in schools. Once we argue many teachers must be armed, that will only grow support for gun control nationally.

What about the infamous AR-15? Preppers who read my book know I like it. It’s popular with preppers. It’s popular with target shooters. Many long-range shooters love using AR-15s chambered in the 6.5 Grendel to hit targets at 500, 600, and even 800 yards.

There were three major shootings that have been reported in the last couple of years where a malicious person used an AR-15. I’ve seen estimates that there are about 3 million AR-15 rifles in America. Doing the math, the chances of an existing AR-15 rifle being used nefariously are about 0.001 percent. One thousandth of a percent.

The lesson is that misuse of semiautomatic rifles is rare. Do we really want to prevent three million honest law abiding Americans from owning AR-15s to prevent three shootings?

Some gun control advocates aiming at the AR-15 have singled out survivalists and preppers as “paranoid survivalists who worry about having to fend off thieves and trespassers in the event of disaster.”

They argue we don’t have a “need” for AR-15s. Putting aside the issue of rights versus needs, the thing that upsets many gun owners is being told what we “need” and what we don’t “need.” There are some who would argue you don’t “need” a revolver for defense either. Should we all give up our revolvers? Who is to decide what level of armament is appropriate?

Once we accept gun restrictions as a way to reduce rare events, we’re on a slippery slope where many more guns could be banned in the future. As I wrote in the book, preppers want to be self sufficient and this is a key reason we study self defense. We don’t want to have to depend upon law enforcement or the government to protect our families. No matter how bad things get, we want to at least have a chance to defend ourselves. It’s not about fending off “thieves and trespassers.” It’s about protecting our families from those who would be quite willing to kill us for a few supplies.

More (Sort of) Deep Thoughts About Guns (gas operation, AR-15, Rem 1100, 38 Super, headspacing)

26 Oct

In the book, I talk about the basic operation of semiautomatic pistols. The new edition will talk a bit about the basic operation of semiautomatic gas-operated rifles too. Why? Because understanding the basic operation can help us maintain our weapons and use them most effectively.

Gas-operated weapons, by their nature, are more particular to the ammunition used and can be more dependent upon proper maintenance.

At the simplest level, gas-operated weapons work as follows: There is a tiny hole in the barrel, called a gas port. When a bullet passes this gas port, the expanding gasses behind the bullet push into this gas port. This energy is used to cycle the action.

Some weapons use a piston or operating rod which is pushed back by the gasses. This rod or “slide” or piston operates the bolt. Weapons based on the basic M1 rifle design do this. Other weapons might feed the gases back to directly operate a bolt. [To demonstrate how this works with a diagram, I tried to find a webpage that contains figure 2.11 from an older book I have titled Basic Gunsmithing by John E. Traister. It’s a cutaway of the side of a Ruger Mini-14. Alas, I didn’t find it online. It’s an older book, published in 1979.]

One thing becomes clear. You need to keep the gas port free of fouling. If gases can’t get through that hole, your gun won’t function reliably. Because burning powder residue can get on other moving components too, it’s important to learn to properly clean your gas-operated weapons. Different weapons will need different levels of attention.

Two guns that come to mind are the M-16 and the Remington 1100 shotgun. I think of these two guns together, because each has a mixed reputation. Ask some people about the Remington 1100, and they’ll say they’re not reliable. Others swear by them. Same is true of the AR-15s. Some say they have reliability problems. Others say they’re great.

What explains the difference? In the Remington 1100’s case, it all comes down to cleaning. You must learn how to properly clean the gun, including the gas port. If you’re unsure of how to disassemble and clean some gun, my suggestion is to search Youtube.

For the Remington 1100, I found this nice presentation on Youtube:


(part 1)

(part 2)

Youtube rocks. Watching the videos, you’ll notice the rubber o-ring seal on the shotgun. Many years ago, when I first learned that some guns had rubber O-rings and other rubber parts, it blew my mind. Still does, kinda. [I’m still waiting for Ruger to send me a metal trigger for my Ruger Standard Pistol from the 1970s. A plastic trigger must have been a mistake. Right? It was like a template for making the real trigger or something?]

If you’re trying to seal in gasses, and something isn’t working and rubber O-rings are involved, try replacing the O-ring. A prepper can never have too many O-rings. (Well, OK, I guess you can have too many.)

The Remington 1100, with a bit of care and cleaning, can be a great weapon for the prepper. Many recoil-sensitive shooters and skeet and trap shooters love gas-operated shotguns because they reduce felt recoil appreciably. For a smaller, recoil-sensitive person, a gas-operated 20 gauge shotgun is perfect.

In the case of the M-16, one of the factors that led to reliability issues had to do with the gunpowder used. A slower-burning gunpowder was substituted without adequate testing. A slower-burning gunpowder creates more pressure at the gas port, which leads to a more aggressive cycling of the action. In the case of the M-16s, this effect was so pronounced that part of the cartridge case’s rim was ripped away sometimes.

This doesn’t affect reliability of the AR-15s today. Here’s a good article for those who want to learn more. Whenever one group of people says something doesn’t work, but a huge group of others say it does, look at how each group is going about doing the thing in question. You’ll often find success is attributed to some simple thing.

If you want to learn about cleaning an AR-15, here’s a nice video:

murpheysmuskets (on Youtube) has a nice comparison of the DI AR-15 system versus the M1 or M1A gas systems:

Here’s a short video about some spare parts you might want for an AR-15:

While some old-schoolers look down on the AR-15, a recent post about the 1911 pistols made an interesting point. The poster said that older 1911 weapons weren’t reliable because the three finger bushings broke (sorry I didn’t save the link). That doesn’t apply to 1911s today because they all use solid bushings. So even legendary gun designer John Browning didn’t always do everything perfectly from the start. It just shows there’s always some room for improvement and refinement. We shouldn’t hold a weapon’s early history against its modern incarnation.

Another great example of a weapon besmirched by its early history was the 38 Super. This had the potential to be a great pistol caliber, but was done in by a bit of bad design. Some shooters are familiar with the concept of headspacing. It often reduces to a length measurement. Physically, we can think of headspacing as what keeps a cartridge casing from moving forward in the chamber. If a cartridge moves too far forward all sorts of bad things can happen, like the casing blowing apart.

There are several ways of headspacing. Many calibers have a rim. The casing can’t move too far into the chamber because the rim retains it. The 357 magnum, 44 magnum, 30-30 WCF, and 22 LR are all cartridges with a rim. Some magnum calibers have a belt, like the 458 Winchester Magnum. Most rifle calibers headspace off of the neck. The neck of the cartridge keeps it from moving too far forward. The 308 Winchester, the 30-06, and the 223 Remington are common examples.

Some wildcatters like to neck 30-06 brass to larger sizes like a 338-06 or the famous 35 Whelen. Whelen contemplated a 40 caliber neck-up of the 30-06, but deemed it wasn’t a good idea. There was so little neck left that the round would be inherently dangerous. The weapon might not headspace reliably. The case would jam itself deeply into the chamber, the brass would rupture and ka-boom, in a bad way. [the contrary opinion about the safety of necking a 30-06 to 40 caliber]

Modern autoloading pistol calibers almost always headspace off the case mouth. This means the lip of the case prevents its forward movement of a fired cartridge. [this is difficult to believe for many, myself partly included. What happens if a bullet is crimped too much? Some claim it’s actually the extractor holding the case back in most autoloading pistols. I don’t believe that either!]

The 38 super had the unfortunate lineage of having a semi-rim and trying to headspace from that. It didn’t work too well. Worse, misguided attempts to handload the 38 Super hot contributed to the problem.

This isn’t a problem with modern 38 Super barrels which headspace from the case mouth, just like the 9mm or the 45 ACP. It’s a shame the 38 Super didn’t begin life with headspacing from the case mouth. If it had, it might well be the most popular autoloading pistol caliber today.

Many preppers recognize water as the most vital resource. Here’s a great article about water. Before clicking through, here are two questions to ponder: 1) Given the modern American life, how much water is needed daily for each American? Don’t just include water for drinking, washing, and cooking, but consider the water that is used for things like generating electricity and raising livestock. 2) How many gallons of water go into producing one pound of beef?

Here’s another interesting article about water.
About one-fifth of California’s energy use is to pipe water from one place to another.

A piece about divvying up the water from the Colorado River.
Stein’s Law: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

The Maligned 5.56 x 45 mm NATO (& AR-15)

29 Aug

For an old-school prepper, it’s borderline heresy to say you prefer the 5.56 mm to the 7.62 mm NATO. The heavier caliber is more effective in stopping vehicles and penetrating barricades and body armor. Expert marksman can hit targets at a greater distance.

When the military adopted the 5.56 mm, one of the surprising reasons was that at greater distances, aimed fire was found to be no more effective than randomly taken shots. Military marksman didn’t like hearing that. But it was statistically incontrovertible. In the hands of the average soldier, a battle rifle could be effectively employed to about 300 yards max. Being within 100 yards was even better.

It’s true; benchrest shooters and snipers can shoot groups as tight as 1.5 inches at 1,000 yards (the last I heard the record was about 1.4 or so inches for a five shot group). But, that’s exceptional and has little bearing to most of us.

As preppers, if we can use a defensive rifle out to 100 yards, that should cover nearly all WROL situations, short of war. Within that distance, the 5.56 mm is adequate.
Terrain limits range. As small groups, it’s impossible to know if a stranger hundreds of yards away is a threat. Even if you had the rifle skill, you can’t just start knocking off strangers 600 yards away.

“But, it can’t be adequate! It’s not adequate for deer! How can it be OK for defense?” some ask. That the 5.56 mm is considered acceptable for defense, but inadequate for deer hunting is something to ponder. There’s no question the 7.62 mm NATO is an adequate deer round.

With deer, the worry is that the light high-velocity 223 bullet will disintegrate on impact, causing a horrible surface wound, but fail to penetrate deeply enough to humanly kill the deer. This is most likely to happen if the bullet hits heavy bone, like a shoulder.

Some big-game hunters like a quartering shot that goes though the shoulder to immobilize the animal. It’s crucial that the caliber be adequate. This is why some Alaskan hunters who shoot moose and really big bear like the 338 Winchester Magnum with heavy bullets. It will reliably smash through the shoulder.

Deer run around on four legs and can present a broadside shot where the shoulder is hit. A human attacker is on two legs. If they’re coming right at you, they’re pretty vulnerable, unless they have body armor. What if you do hit the shoulder with a side shot?

As with the deer, the bullet will probably fail to penetrate into the vital organs and you’ll only wound the attacker. Very few people shot in the side of the shoulder with a 5.56 mm will continue to attack you.

There are rare people who could have their shoulder blown apart who would use their remaining arm to sling their rifle over a log or other support and shoot you. It could happen. But it’s not very likely.

Offsetting the lack of absolute stopping power, the 5.56 mm has some big advantages. The ammo is lightweight, so more can be carried. The smaller caliber is more shootable. It’s easier to get off more accurately aimed rapid shots.

Some old-timers were quick to criticize the M-16s reliability. That doesn’t apply as much to today’s AR-15s. In Vietnam, the M-16 got a bad reputation for failing to function. Many shooters chalk that up to those soldiers not knowing how to properly maintain the rifle. Another factor: the chambers rusted in the jungle conditions. Many modern weapons have chrome-lined chambers and barrels to keep rust at bay.

The one thing I agree with is that “plastic” rifles just aren’t as good-looking as rifles built out of solid wood and steel. Even some old-timers like their bolt action rifles stocked in fiberglass now, because fiberglass stocks are impervious to weather.

For those who like Mini-Maglite flashlights, there is a new “Mini Maglite LED Pro” which is getting good reviews:

Here’s a story about prepping your pets for a hurricane

In some hurricane areas, the government is offering free pet microchips. If your pet becomes lost, the microchip will ID him and see he is safely returned to you.

Want to be on Doomsday Preppers? Eat an Iguana.

The Wylde 223

9 Jun

In The Prepper Next Door, I briefly wrote about the differences between the 5.56 mm (5.56 X 45 mm NATO) and the 223 Remington. I want to add a bit to that discussion. Some AR-15s (like the Armalite M15A2 National Match) have what is called a Wylde chamber. This is sort of a compromise between the 5.56 mm and 223 Remington. It has a throat length between the 5.56 mm and the 223. My understanding is that it is fully safe to use this chamber with Mil-Spec 5.56 mm ammo. It should be slightly more accurate with 223 Remington ammo than using a 5.56 mm chamber.

As stated in the book, the simplest course is to use the caliber that is stamped on the weapon or recommend in the owner’s manual. Some people have said some AR-15 barrels are stamped as 5.56 mm, but have an actual 223 chamber. If you’re interested in checking this for your AR-15, there are gauges that can measure this sort of thing. The first link below will show you a specialized gauge. The link has a nice photo showing how much a bullet can extend from the case before touching the rifling for each of the 223, 5.56 mm, and 223 Wylde.

Many older shooters treated the 223 and the 5.56 mm as the same. The caliber initially was loaded with modest 55 gr bullets. Long-range shooters and the military sought to use longer and heavier bullets. It’s these longer bullets that create the need to distinguish between the 5.56 mm and the 223.

Three factors are usually noted:

1) Safety. This is obviously important to all shooters. Pushing too long a bullet up into the barrel rifling (too far) when loading a cartridge is to be avoided.
2) Accuracy. This is only important to the very best rifle shots. It doesn’t affect most of us. Intuitively, too long of a throat length could allow the bullet to wobble a bit more before it engages the rifling. This can diminish accuracy.
3) Barrel Longevity. Some have said that too long a throat will increase barrel wear. If you shoot a lot, this might be an issue. For most of us, don’t worry. Shoot all the 223 you want out of your 5.56 mm chamber.

For more info:
A pdf from (Books about AR-15s)

“Q: How can I tell if a round is SAAMI, US military, or 5.56 NATO Mil-Spec?” (from

This site “” has a link to a pdf showing detailed measurements for the 5.56 mm and 223. Also some nice links to Youtube videos.