Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Project: Build rifles for the boys with granddaddy

Now that I've been back home in Mississippi for a few years, I am getting back to my roots a bit with respect to gardening, hunting, and other skills that I let founder over the course of my college and Navy career. When I was 8 I started with a single shot .410 shotgun from Harrington & Richardson. From there, I moved up to a rimfire rifle with my Marlin 75C .22 caliber rifle (the old carbine version of the Model 60, which now IS the model 60). Both of these were squirrel terminators. Neither kicked to speak of and were easy weapons on which to learn marksmanship and firearm safety. I later moved up to a 12 gauge identical to my 410. There is a great set of videos from Dave Canterbury (of Dual Survival) about the H&R 12 gauge and its versatility. My sons are old enough that they & their friends are starting to get BB guns and at an age close to where I got my 410. But now I look back and think of how I would have made different purchases if I was doing it now to end up with weapons that are more versatile long term but just as simple to learn and use as a kid. My dad always wants gifts to be meaningful. Between his desire to be meaningful and our shared goal to teach the boys lots of skills that everyone used to know, I think the next couple of birthdays/Christmases are going to focus on building up the boys sets of long-term tools like firearms and knives.

That leads me to starting them out on a 22 and letting them use my 410 until they can handle a 12 gauge and centerfire rifles. I've looked around at 22s and I certainly considered buying a couple of Marlins. After all, 2 is 1 and 1 is none. So 3 Marlins is like having 1.5 or something like that. However, that means I would spend somewhere north of $100 per rifle and be limited to 14-shot 22s. A little more digging and review reading led me to drop in conversions of AR-15s chambered in .223/5.56NATO to allow shooting 22s (25-round magazine). It provides an affordable alternative to shooting .223 or just a reliable platform from which to shoot 22s that can grow up to a 223 as the boys grow. To end up with a working AR-15, you need either 1 -OR- 2 AND 3 (more customizeable and cheaper) below. I threw in 4 below just for fun. It's a good little gun, best pump 12-gauge for the money, though admittedly is basically a copy of the Remington 870. To get the working AR-15 to become a 22, you also need 5 (or something similar from their comptetitors).

1. Whole Rifle: $650 & up You can literally spend as much as you want on these things. But if you spend $1000 or more, you're paying for the label. Mil-spec is mil-spec. Almost all of these rifles will be better than the marksman pulling the trigger.
Olympic Arms "Plinker Plus" flat top ("A4") with collapsible stock and railed gas block. This is kinda the bottom end of what I'd want to get for them. It has no customization and would require optics/backup iron sights to function.

2. Complete AR-15 Kit EXCEPT Stripped Lower Receiver $400 & up. This is all of the parts necessary to build a rifle except the lower reciever, which is the part of the rifle that is actually classified as the firearm by the feds. Similar to the entire rifle, you can go anywhere on the price spectrum from Yugo to MacLaren with these parts. The kit linked below gets you into a functional rifle with an adjustable length of pull (so the kids can use it) as well as a flash hider to which a suppressor that my family is considering can be mounted. J&T Distributing
- LW (lightweight) Barrel
- 6-Position DS-4 adjustable stock
- Picatinnny Rail Gas Block
- CAR Handguards
- Standard carrier, charging handle, trigger, trigger guard
- Hogue grip +20
- Phantom A-2 flash hider +$25

3. Stripped Lower Receiver: This is the only part of the rifle that has to be bought/picked up from a firearms dealer locally. Can't ship to your house, etc. But there are multiple options here and if it's mil spec it truly doesn't matter that much which you go with. Just find one you like, click, buy, pick up at local federal firearms licensee.
Mega Arms "Gator" with atom logo $109 (What nuke shouldn't have an atom logo reciever?)
Spikes Tactical SP-15 with spider logo $99 (The spider is just bad news)
Aero Precision $79
CMMG $79 (If sold out, there are others like DPMS for +$10-20)

4. 12-gauge Pump Shotgun for Home Defense/Hunting
New England Firearms "Pardner Pump" NP1-P18 (18.5" barrel, black synthetic stock, 5+1)

5. Drop in 22LR Conversion Kit from CMMG. You literally open up the rifle, remove the bolt carrier group, insert the kit and insert the 22 magazine... poof! You have a 22 on the AR platform.

Once you have 2 and 3 in your possession, it's a relatively simple matter to put all of the parts together assuming you have a couple of tools around like a strap wrench, vice, and some punches. Assembling your own rifle allows you to be familiar with its inner workings and I think letting my sons help assemble their rifles would be both a great learning experience and a fantastic memory with their dad and grandfather.

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