Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

Brother Can You Spare a Bolt?

The majority of the problems I see with AR’s involve the bolt assembly. The simple solution to this problem is to have a spare bolt assembly on hand. If you’re training/practicing and experience a problem swap out bolts.

Just be sure to check the headspace on your spare bolt to make sure it fits. (Unless you plan on performing a lot of work on AR’s and need gauges get a gunsmith check it.) Have your spare bolt gauged in any other AR’s you own as well; usually one bolt will often fit several rifles, but check to be sure.

It’s also a good idea to have spare parts for your bolt group, and the knowledge and tools necessary to swap out parts, which is pretty easy. One of the most common parts to fail is the extractor spring. With a punch and the know-how it’s easily replaced.

I use chrome silicon springs for both extractors and ejectors in my rifles. (Brownells #840-000-051) While reworking the bolt I also replace the cotter pin holding the firing pin in place with an original style solid pin. The cotter pin eventually bends, making it difficult to remove and install. The solid pin (Brownells #231-000-029) cures this problem.

Get you an extra set of gas rings for the bolt. The rings wear out, and occasionally they break. I’ve seen rifles run with missing or broken rings, but it’s not something I’d do for extended periods of time. My Marine Corps Technical Manual advises testing the gas rings for wear by installing the bolt in the carrier, without the firing pin and cam pin, and holding the carrier upside down.

If the bolt drops free, replace the rings. I’m not sure what the ‘official’ life of the gas rings is – I have training carbines with 15,000 + rounds through them – but with an operational weapon, replace them regularly, like every 5,000 rounds or so. (Note: Keep a logbook on your weapons. Data books aren’t just for sniper rifles.)

One area to inspect on your bolt, especially with new rifles, is the gas key on top of the carrier. Make sure the bolts holding the key are securely staked in place. If they aren’t properly staked, they work loose, gas escapes and the weapon won’t cycle properly.

Use plenty of lube on the bolt, carrier, and charging handle. Where you see wear marks, lube it up. I use SLIP 2000 EWL. AR’s will run dirty, but not dry.

Taking proper care of a fighting firearm is a matter of life and death. Preventative maintenance is essential; it fails during a fight the consequences are disaster. If you don’t feel confident about working on your own weapons find someone who does, and not just anyone, but the guy that you trust when he’s finished it’s done right.

Occasional, sometimes, or the “it only happens every once in a while” problems are not acceptable when it comes to your weapon. This also is true for every other piece of your kit.

March 3, 2011 Posted by | AR-15, Gear | Leave a comment

Aimpoint PRO Optic

At SHOT I saw Aimpoint’s new PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic) red-dot sight. I like Aimpoint’s sights, and use them on my AR’s, so when I got a sample of the PRO I hit the range.

The PRO looks like Aimpoint’s M3 series, and has the same quality you expect with all their other products. It runs on a DL 1/3N battery, which provides you with something like 3 years of battery life. Now, when they talk about battery life, keep in mind this is with a fresh battery under ideal temperature and other conditions, and at setting number _.

In real life you’ll have to replace the battery more often, especially if you use it. But the point is you can turn the sight on, leave it on, and change out the battery according to what you figure out is life expectancy for your application.

Since you can leave the sight on all the time, Aimpoint has outfitted the PRO with a clear rear lens cap. The front cap is still black, but the beauty of working with the red-dot, which allows you to keep both eyes open, is that even if the front cap is shut you can still acquire a target quickly, and if necessary make surgical shots. When you have the opportunity then you can flip up the front cap and dial in the intensity level of the dot.

It has six daylight settings, one extra bright, and four for NV kit, with the correct lens coating, and will work with the 3X magnifiers. The dot is two moa, which I prefer because it’s small enough to make accurate hits at extended distances if necessary.

If you want a bigger dot turn up the brightness, make the dot flare out some, and it appears larger. For me the four moa dot is a little big for headshots at one hundred yards. Regardless of what you use, with dots it’s important to make sure the shots are going into the center of the dot when zeroing your rifle.

The PRO comes with a mount and spacer for attaching the sight to your flattop AR. For shotguns or subguns you’ll need to remove the spacer. The mount has a large knob for tightening, with a preset tension for the proper torque for securing the sight. This makes it sort of fool proof.

The best part of the new sight? The price. I’ve found it for sale for $400, which is a good deal for a great sight, with mount, and with spacer. All you have to do is install the battery, clamp it on the rifle, and zero it. Then make sure to practice so you have the proper skills to use it, especially stuff like using the sight as a rear aperture in conjunction with the front sight in case the red-dot stops working.

Good kit is necessary. Practice is mandatory. And remember, technology can never replace skill.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | AR-15, Gear | Leave a comment

Red Dot Failure

With the quality of red-dot sights available now it’s rare you see one fail, except for battery problems. However, we know Murphy’s law is in effect at all times, and if your sight does go down during a confrontation you need to have plan “B” to fall back on.

The answer to a sight failure is to use your optic’s window as a rear sight aperture in conjunction with the rifle’s front sight. Using this technique you can get accurate hits, within the body of the target, out to fifty yards or so. But in order to pull this off there are a few of things you have to figure out in advance.

First, make sure you have a front sight to use. If your rifle is equipped with flip up sights I recommend running it with the front sight in the up position at all times. During a confrontation you won’t have time, and possibly not the mental capacity, to flip up the front sight. With it in the up position it’s ready to go, and when using the dot with both eyes open, the way they are designed to be used, the front sight doesn’t block any of your view visually.

The next step is to figure out where the front sight should be indexed or positioned in the window of your optic to give you proper alignment for gettin’ hits. To determine where the front post should be turn on your dot, aim in on target, and acquire a cheek-weld on the stock so the red-dot is positioned with its center even with the top of the front sight post. Now take note of where the front sight is positioned in the window of the optic. The height or spacing of your optic mount will determine where the front sight post is located. Normally the front sight will be located in the bottom third or quarter of the optic’s window. With some mounts the sight post will be right in the middle of the window.

Now turn the dot off, position the front sight post where it would be aligned if the dot were on, and fire a few shots using some type target where you have an exact aiming point to work with. I recommend starting at about three or four yards, and then working your way back five or so yards at a time to see what type accuracy you can get. (Remember at close distances the offset between the sight and barrel.) I’ve found that most shooters can obtain pretty good results out to fifty yards or so, which is way past the distance most of us would be engaging a threat.

The key to this technique, as with all other fighting skills, is to practice in advance. As Clint Smith says, “It’s hard to acquire new skills in the middle of a fight.” Work this out on the range, so if needed you’ve got this technique in your toolbox. When it comes to fighting, as with most things in life, prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and you’ll be ready for anything.


February 13, 2011 Posted by | AR-15 | Leave a comment

The Head Shot

When I did my first Gunsite class the standard firing response was two shots to the chest and one to the head. As my training/learning progressed I started adding pelvis shots to the response, and eventually got to the point where the head-shot was an occasional added hit. Three to four hits to the body, two to four into the pelvis, and then maybe adding a round to the head.

Don’t get me wrong, head-shots, when applied correctly, are about the only guarantee for stopping a threat instantly. Apply the bullet in the correct location and you disconnect the computer that creates all the thoughts from the body that performs the physical actions. This is why snipers, in critical situations involving bystanders or hostages, go for the head. It’s literally like flipping the switch. One second the threat is standing, the next instant they are on the ground.

The problem in a defensive situation, using a pistol or carbine within fairly close distance, is that in most situations you’re in a reactive state, initially anyway, facing someone who is seriously trying to put the hurt on you. You’re moving to cover, creating distance or just to be a moving target to the threat. Most likely the threat will be moving, especially if you display a weapon and look like you know how to use it; they ain’t just gonna’ stand there and let you shoot them. So they are creating distance, going to cover, escaping or possibly even advancing rapidly towards you. Under these conditions placing the bullet in the proper location, just the right area to create the damage necessary to stop the threat, is extremely difficult to do. If you don’t agree try it on the range against a 3-D target that’s moving erratically. Work on it while lying on your back or side with the threat elevated, or with the target positioned at the bottom of the stairs. Then imagine it being ten times more difficult under actual combative conditions, which, unlike the range are usually less than perfect. Oh yeah, and lives depend on your performance.

Under these conditions how long will it take you to get one good head shot, on a three dimensional target that doesn’t want to be shot? How many body or pelvic shots can you get during the time it takes to make one good hit to the head? And, being realistic, at what distance, under these conditions, can you actually achieve this type accuracy?

These are some the questions you need to investigate and discover for yourself. What you read in a column, see on an internet forum, or hear about from your buddy doesn’t help you understand what you can do. It will be your fight, so find out what you can and can’t do in advance.

Then, when it comes time to dish out defeat, you know what to do and how to do it properly.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol | Leave a comment

Katana Reviews

As some of you know the Shootrite Katana, built by Red Jacket Firearms of Baton Rouge, is out in public. The first orders have been shipped, and two magazine articles have been printed about my vision of what an AR should be. So far response has been great. It is a great carbine for self-defense or patrol use. But rather than listening to me I thought you might be interested in what others have to say about the rifle.

Jim Shepherd, the creator of this and other shooting/outdoor related sites, came up and shot the original prototype of the Katana. His quote: “My job gives me the opportunity to shoot a lot of AR-style rifles – a lot of them – in a huge variety of configurations. For me, the Katana gives shooters the things they absolutely need in a shooting situation – without having to go out and spend the cost of a second rifle on “stuff”. Add a light, an optic if you like, and you’re ready for anything day or night. Without any other accessories, it’s totally mission-capable within what I consider the optimal fighting distances of an AR.”

The 2011 Special Edition of Guns Magazine Combat Annual has a review of the Katana by Todd Burgreen. “The Katana is intended for serious practitioners,” Burgreen states, “who plan on using it for patrolling, training or defense.” He closes the article stating that when responding to a possible confrontation, “and you have to grab a bandolier of magazines and rifle on the way out of the room or from the trunk of a patrol car, the Katana is more than worthy of consideration.”

Hal Herring, author of “Famous Firearms Of The Old West,” has an article on the Katana in the fall issue of “Tactical Gear.” Herring was able to come to Shootrite’s range to run the rifle through its paces – we spent a day moving, shooting, using cover, and running the Wall several times. “The Katana rifle,” Herring states, “like its namesake, the iconic sword of the Japanese Samurai, is meant to be a weapon of lethal simplicity, a kind of path that leads beyond gadgetry and clutter and back to the essence of the fighting rifle.” After the end of our session Hal wrote that “although it was far from mastery on my part, I had the feeling that, with the Katana and time and ammo I almost see mastery from where I was lying, prone, firing away.” He adds, “I fell in love with the little rifle.”

Check out the info on Red Jacket’s website, http://www.redjacketfirearms.com/about/about.html for the specs on the Katana. Just remember that reading about it doesn’t really do it justice. Everyone who has actually handled and fired one, especially during defense training/practice, has had a huge smile on their face. The Katana is one of those things that you have to know a little about how it is to be used to actually appreciate it. I’m truly proud of the design, Red Jacket’s work, and the function of the weapon. I think those who own one will be too.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | AR-15 | Leave a comment

The Empty “Empty” Reload

You’re engaging the threat, firing accurate rounds with your pistol while moving to create distance and searching for cover. You find cover and slip behind it for protection. The threat is still up. You shoot again and your pistol runs empty. Immediately your support hand drops down to the mag pouch, only to discover it’s empty. You have no more ammo. What next?

Option 1: You hesitate, a wild look of panic in your eyes. The threat sees all this and smiles. This option has a bad outcome.

Option 2: Dump the empty mag, just like you always do, grab a pretend mag, shove it into the pistol and cycle the slide aggressively. The threat saw you run empty and then reload. He hesitates and ducks behind cover. This creates an opportunity for you to tactically retreat, and escape the situation. Or your partner/teammates arrive. Maybe you remember the revolver on your ankle. This action results in a good ending.

“But you’re bluffing,” you say. Yes. Anything, even bluffing, is better than quitting and giving up. But this means you have to have a combative mindset. An attitude that says, “I will win no matter what may happen.” An approach to fighting that will not allow you to stop fighting until winning. Regardless of what the odds are, the weapon you have, or how much it hurts, you never stop.

In feudal Japan there was a warrior monk named Benkei, who was the only one still standing to defend his lord Yoshitsune during an attack. Alone, Benkei charged against the enemy, taking hit after hit from samurai archers. Finally, surrounded by the enemy, his armor full of arrows, he stopped moving. None would approach him. After time his opponents moved close enough to determine that he was dead. He never fell, and even in death his enemy was too scared to attack.

I have a clipping in my collection about a young mother who was attacked in her home by a violent threat, who was covered in blood and looking to escape the law. Two children, both young, were also in the house. She fought him. She grabbed a knife off the counter and cut, then managed to get her two children into a bedroom and lock the door. The attacker started working to get the door open. She opens the window, drops the kids out, and escapes with them just as the law arrives. There are shots fired, and the responding deputy is hit by her car as the threat escapes. In the article she says, “My kids are my life,” adding “I am hellbent we’re going to make it.”

Few of us can devote our lives to the pursuit of the martial arts. We’re lucky to be able to attend a class every once in a while and then practice our skills as much as possible. Yet every one of us can cultivate a combative mindset.

October 10, 2010 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, Defensive Mindset | Leave a comment

Lever Guns

While lever action rifles and carbines are often overlooked in favor of more “serious” weaponry, they are simple, easy to use for a variety of applications, and with practice can be a valuable tool for fighting.

Lever action weapons have a lot of advantages. They are simple to use, which means anyone with a minimal amount of training and practice can learn to work one. They are normally lightweight, which is an advantage if you’re carrying it for extended periods of time, and good for engaging quickly, especially when dealing with multiple targets. Weight and size are also an advantage for smaller size people like women and young shooters. Finally, they work equally well for both left and right shooters.

The lever gun comes in a variety of calibers. For example the ammo for my .357 magnum Marlin carbine – which I consider to be a great round – also fits my K frame Smith and Wesson revolvers, and I can shoot either .38 Special or full .357 loads. Then there are a lot of .22 lever action rifles out there you can pick up to train and practice with. Cheaper ammo means more range time. If you need big bullets, those are available as well.

A wide variety of parts available for the lever action rifle, and there are plenty of shops that specialize in modifying lever rifles. You can get synthetic stocks, large lever loops, and a world of sights. You can mount anything from peep sights to red-dots or magnified optics, making it user friendly for you and your application.

Another big advantage of lever guns is that there are some places where you can’t own an “assault weapon,” so the lever action may be just the ticket. It doesn’t appear menacing, but with training and practice you can get to where the lever rifle can be shot and loaded quickly. We’ve had students run them in our defensive carbine classes and trust me, you would not want them shooting at you with that “old” lever gun.

Regardless of what type weapon you normally use it would be a good idea to know how to operate a variety of other weapon actions. So even if you don’t have plans of owning a lever rifle borrow a friend’s and work with it some so that if necessary you will know how to operate one.

A lever gun is an effective fighting rifle. Most of us are not laying down suppressive fire; it’s not about how many rounds you can put downrange. For us fighting with a firearm is about placing accurate hits on the threat in order to stop them efficiently. The tactics are the same, and learning how to work a lever gun is easy. Your ultimate advantage in a fight is the ability to assess the situation, determine the solution to the problem you face, and then apply those actions properly. The lever gun and the proper mindset will do well.

October 10, 2010 Posted by | AR-15, Defensive Mindset, General Training | Leave a comment

System Check

A system check is the act of checking the status of your weapon. For example after unloading a semi-auto, removing the magazine and cycling the action, we visually check to insure it is actually clear. Before bedding down at night I run a system check on my AR to insure there is a round in the chamber and the mag is full.

When holstering my pistol in the morning I do the same thing, double-checking to confirm that if needed it is ready for duty. If I think I may be involved in a conflict and have the opportunity, I check my weapon to insure it’s ready to fight with. These are the type system checks most of us are familiar with. There are also other checks we need to perform as well.

After running a drill with your carbine it’s a good idea to confirm the weapon is still ready to fight with if the threat returns, gets back up from the ground, or has friends arrive; if the fight continues or escalates in any way you need to know your AR is ready to shoot. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen shooters finish a drill, scan and check their environment, rearrange mags on their body, and the entire time their bolt is locked to the rear on an empty magazine. They just happened to stop shooting before realizing their weapon is empty. After engaging it’s a good idea to bring your support hand back and feel, don’t look, to make sure the bolt is in battery.

If you don’t feel the bolt, it’s locked to the rear, or you recognize that it’s part way out of lock up from a malfunction you need to reload or clear it before the weapon is needed again. After running my check to insure the bolt is in battery I also make it a habit of shutting the dust cover to keep out any dirt or trash that could create a problem.

The same process applies to your pistol. Standing there issuing verbal commands for a threat to leave your house won’t carry much weight if the slide of your pistol is locked to the rear on an empty magazine. When it’s time to engage a threat is way too late to realize your weapon isn’t sending bullets downrange. Again, after engaging, run a check to insure your pistol is operational and ready.

Also, should a situation arise where you acquire a weapon during a fight if all possible run a check to see what you’ve actually got for ammo. This may dictate what your options are when it comes to using that weapon.

A system check is cheap insurance. Don’t rely on memory, assuming your weapon is ready to fight. You know what happens when you assume something, except that “me” won’t be there. It’s up to you to be ready to respond to a threat, which means knowing your weapon is ready to deliver rounds on target if necessary.

October 10, 2010 Posted by | AR-15 | Leave a comment

Moving Targets

Fights are dynamic and fluid, and most of the participants, at least in the opening moves of the conflict, are mobile. Both good and bad guys know that if you’re not moving then you’re a stationary target standing out in the open. This is a bad place to be in a fight. Armed with this knowledge, it makes sense to learn how to shoot moving targets.

For engaging moving targets there are two techniques – tracking and ambush. When tracking you obtain a sight picture on the target and follow it, pressing smoothly on the trigger to fire your shot(s). Make sure to follow through after the shot breaks, continuing to track the target. This is important for making multiple and accurate hits. If you stop tracking as the shot fires you’ll shoot behind the target, and if you come off target, but have to re-engage, you’ve lost valuable time. So I track, press the trigger, recover from the recoil while continuing to track, obtain another sight picture and reset the trigger in preparation of firing again. This is the method I prefer, especially at the distance where most fights take place.

With the ambush technique you pick a spot you think the target will be moving into, and as the target moves into position press off your shot. The problem with using the ambush method, especially at close range where most confrontations take place, is that it consumes more time and the target may not arrive at the point you think they will. People are funny, and sometimes they don’t do what you expect them to, especially during a fight. For shooting moving targets at extended distances the ambush method works really well because you can pretty much predict the target’s path of travel, and it can be difficult to track at longer distances.

One common tendency when tracking or ambushing is applying too much lead on the target. At the range most fights take place the speed of the bullet and the target won’t require any lead. For tracking hold center and press. For ambushing I tend to press off the shot as the edge of the target bumps the sight. By the time I press the trigger and the bullet exits the barrel the target is in position to take a hit. As the distances increase, or the target moves quicker, you’ll have to figure out what lead you’ll need to use. And everyone’s lead distance will be different because of the time it takes the brain to say shoot, you press the trigger, and the bullet exits the barrel.

The practice for fighting you need to be shooting on moving targets, while you are moving, and using cover whenever possible. After that’s working well then it’s time to throw a few no-shoot targets into the mix. Now you’ll start to get an idea of what a fight looks like. Standing stationary and shooting tight groups ain’t gonna cut it, so get creative, even with airsoft, and learn how to hit the threat.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment

Moving and Shooting

In a fight we communicate with the threat, family members, or teammates. We shoot to stop the threat. We use cover for the protection it provides us from the threat(s)’ weapon. We move for a variety of reasons. A threat is armed with a knife and charging. We step to the side to avoid his ‘line of attack.’ There are bystanders in the environment, so we reposition to acquire the target without fear of injuring any innocents. We move to cover, and then when possible to go to better cover.

Moving is easy, it’s a natural instinct and we’ve been doing it since we could first walk. Moving and shooting is not natural, so through repetition we reprogram ourselves to move tactically and shoot accurately. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, it just takes practice.

For moving to the rear we initiate that movement with the strong side leg – the right leg for right-handed shooters. The knees are bent so the legs act as shock absorbers. Step back with the right leg, place the foot to insure good footing, then shift your weight and reposition the left leg and foot. Every time you complete a set of steps you should end up in your fighting stance. Think about it as taking a full step with the right leg, and then a half step with the left leg. To move forward use the same technique, only now stepping with the left leg first.

Lateral movement is initiated with the leg that is leading to the direction we are moving. To move right step with the right leg first, taking a full size step, then after assuring good footing shift your body weight. While shifting the weight take a half step with the left foot, again ending up with your fighting stance. Repeat as necessary.

With these techniques the upper body is the same as your normal fighting stance, which keeps your weapon indexed on the threat. Crossing your legs twists the upper body, making it difficult to keep the weapon on the threat, puts you in an unbalanced position, and there is always the danger of tripping over your own feet.

While moving apply the fundamentals of marksmanship to get hits. If you come up on target and go “now,” slapping the trigger and tensing your muscles in anticipation of the recoil, you won’t get good hits. Shoot when you have the sight picture you need, but don’t create that opportunity by slowing down or stopping your movement. You’re moving for a reason, so keep moving until you get to where you need to be. You can either move smooth and shoot accurately, or move fast and not shoot. The situation will determine which is best. If you have cover two steps to the side, it may be better to move quickly, get to cover, then worry about shooting.

Our natural instinct when threatened is to root to the ground and fight, or run. To win the fight we need to move tactically and with reason. Start practicing now, so when the time comes you’re ready.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment