September 10, 2009

Long Guns I'd Like to See

Every once in a while I get the opportunity to test some exquisite firearms.

The last to pass through my hands was Ruger's first entry into the AR market, the piston-driven SR-556, which I was able to outfit with an Insight Technologies MRDS optic. I just returned it last week after having it for three months, and it was tough to send back. I'll post my range report in the weeks to come.

Having a newly-released gun in your hands sometimes lead you to try to get into the mind of the designer to try to understand why they decided on the features they brought to market, and in my case, that leads me to wonder about other firearms that I'd be interested in seeing developed from existing firearms, or entirely new designs.

There are two that I've been kicking around in the back of my mind in recent weeks, one being a 5.56 Garand, and the other is a user-friendly dedicated home-defense shotgun.

The 5.56 Garand

The Garand needs no introduction. It was America's premier service rifle in World War II through the Korean War, a semi-automatic firing eight .30-'06 rounds loaded from an en bloc clip.

There are millions of Garands in the hands of American shooters, with the vast majority of them chambered in the traditional .30-'06, but the .308 Winchester increasing being adopted in new rifles. Modification of Garands into other calibers is nothing new, with custom Garands chambered in .338 Magnum and 458 Magnum being available to those who can afford them, but I'd like to see development taken the other way.

I'd like to see a Garand design modernized and scaled to the 5.56 cartridge. Imagine a Garand at 90-percent the size of the original, with a forward-mounted short section of picatinny rail for "scout"-type scopes, with a detachable rear sight (and perhaps a folding rear backup iron site). Even scaled to 90-percent, I wold think an 8-10 round en bloc clip is quite possible.

I imagine it as a truck gun, equally suited for utility work, plinking, predator, and defense or light to medium game hunting.

The Home Defense Shotgun

While the 5.56 is a nice " want to have," the next firearm on my wish list is for a real and vital market that in my experience, is under-served.

When I was selling firearms, the most heart-wrenching work I took on was trying to help someone who had recently been the victim of a crime. A young couple just starting out was living in rough part of town, awoke one night to a someone high on drugs battering open their front door. A single older lady found signs that someone had tried to force open her apartment window. A single woman in her 20s, visibly shaken, scared that her obsessive ex-boyfriend was going to break in one night and hurt her for leaving him.

None of these customers was the caricature of a gun owner that liberals love to set up as strawmen, and none really wanted to purchase a gun. What they really wanted was the sense of security that only firearms can provide in a potentially dangerous situation.

For each of these customers, I wish I had a better option than what I had on the shelves. What I wish I had to sell was a very easy to operate, compact and nearly foolproof shotgun, one that was light and compact enough for women and smaller-statured men, without punishing recoil, and with at least 4-5 rounds in the magazine. I still don't see a perfect solution on the market (and a one-size fits all solution will never exist), but something built off the basic concepts behind the Kel-Tec RFB would certainly be a step in the right direction.

The RFB is a very compact bullpup-style .308 rifle that ejects spent shells forward, meaning it can be used ambidextrously without any modifications. A similar weapon chambered in 20-gauge with simple iron sights and larger game loads (#4-#6) could certainly be the in-home, last defense gun that I would have recommended if we had it on the shelf.

I don't know that there is a significant market for either firearm, but it would certainly be interesting to see how such concepts might work out.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at September 10, 2009 10:52 PM

I'm going to ignore that "most liberals" comment.

The Garand is a fine weapon. I own one. But it's a long-distance weapon unless you intend to use it as a club. Whatever conflict you and I are about to confront requires something in the close combat role.

If you insist on the long-range potential of the M1, but want something with less opportunity to bite your thumb, I suggest the M-14. It was what I was trained on and it is a beautiful rifle, phased out only because it tends to ride up on full auto. But in single shot or three-round bursts, the 14 is a great weapon. It's what I would grab in a heartbeat.

Still, in today's urban environment, you're looking at a carbine, perhaps. In that case, I'd suggest the H&K MP5. Comes in a variety of permutations, folding stock, banana clip, etc. It is a sweet weapon, one of the finest I've fired. Throws 9s like grandma threw chicken feed, but with more accuracy. No offense to grandma.

But, as one of my instructors said, "For home defense, nothing beats a Remington or Mossberg pump." He racked the shotgun. "That there," he said, "is the barking dog of firearms."

So, I have a Remington, an M1, my GI Colt .45 (because I am seriously old school) and a Browning .22 for close in and desperate work.

Stick with the classics, Bob. Cary, where you live, is about as safe as Disneyland.

But you'll absorb some firearm history, at the least.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at September 10, 2009 11:27 PM

>>"one being a 5.56 Garand"

Isn't that what the Mini-14 is? A 5.56mm (.223) verion of the M-14 rifle, which itself was the Garand with a bigger mag?

Posted by: Steve at September 10, 2009 11:45 PM

There is an M1 like you describe made by Beretta called the BM59. I had one and it is about a foot shorter than the M1 and it was a 308 NATO. It was built under license for the Italian army. Mine had a bipod and it was my boat gun in Fl. during the boat drug hijacking days.

Posted by: inspectorudy at September 11, 2009 12:03 AM

Terrenoire? Gross. Why would anyone believe anything you say? Ugh.

CY, I've always liked bulpup style weapons, but I think it's only because they're a little weird with the magazine placement. It seems a bit overly complicated.

For example, the brass has to travel something like 18 inches inside the weapon, before it's ejected. That seems like a good way for the cycle to get mucked up. Instead of firing it and getting it out, an even more goofy design would be to have a crazy stray ejector tube.

Also their own site said this (caps by me):

"No open sights are provided, ALLOWING the user to select from the very best new optics and sight systems available."

Oh, they *allow* the user to use optics? Good. Good. Maybe they could sell a weapon with rail mounted iron sights? I dunno. So you can go to the range right away, or in case you don't feel like shelling out big bucks for the very best new optics.

Posted by: brando at September 11, 2009 12:44 AM

My wishlist would be for someone to chamber an AR-15 or similar rifle in 6.5x45 and, yes I would jump all over the Ruger SR in 6.5x45. Seems like it would be very simple to tool for - the only change would be the barrel. IMO, would be the ultimate survival rifle, good for personal defense and taking game up to small deer.

I've been tempted to try it myself with a 6.5TCU chambered AR barrel, but I wonder if the "Improved" shoulder design would be a good idea in an autoloader. I may have to bite the bullet and order an SSK 6.5MPC upper, but that's a bit pricey.

Posted by: diogenes online at September 11, 2009 09:20 AM

A bullpup shottie would definitely be easier to manage inside a house, but I wonder if it's mean looks wouldn't be off-putting to a typical non-gun person. Such a gun is meant for only one thing: self-defense, and that's a mighty big hill for some people's psyche to climb.

Something like a Mossberg Bantam in 20 gauge might be less intimidating, as the argument can be made that it's a sporting gun. Lots of Hollywood celebrities and sports stars shoot clays, so it's a good entry-level gun as well as an effective home defense gun.

Posted by: Exurbankevin at September 11, 2009 11:20 AM

diogenes -
I have a friend who builds 6.5X45 uppers for AR's. Drop me a note if you want his number.

Posted by: emdfl at September 11, 2009 05:53 PM

I save several firearms, but chose my 12 GA Pump Riot gun for general house protection. It stays loaded with 00 Buck. It also holds 10 rounds.

My backup is my Colt MKIV Series 70 .45 ACP That I bought new, as soon as I got back from Vietnam. I instinctively shoot well with it after almost 40 years of practice.

My other guns include an AR, but that is last resort. My other guns are for pure fun.

Posted by: Marc at September 11, 2009 06:01 PM

I'd love to see a "Baby Garand" in 5.56. Ruger could use a variation on the Mini-14 receiver, and do an 8-10 round enbloc clip (or a flush 8-10 round box magazine to keep the "classic" profile). Don't like the idea of the Picatinny segment-if you're going to call it a Garand, it ought to look like one.

Posted by: TJ Simons at September 11, 2009 06:49 PM

The answer to the 'punishing' shotgun recoil would be to have available catridges that do not have the same powder charge as a hunting round. Buckshot for the 20' to 30' range, perhaps.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at September 11, 2009 06:57 PM

Ahh the shotgun. Let me count the ways.

Anyway. Yeah it is a great home defense firearm. But if you guys forget everything else I have ever said, remember this. Do not load it with anything less than #4 buck. Anything less will lack the velocity at 3 yd to reliably penetrate to vital organs. Yes you will get a mean looking shallow wound with bird shot, and that will likely turn away the normal intruder. But guys that are hopped up on something will not likely be stopped.

00 buck will sure do the trick. But it can have the tendency to over penetrate.

Posted by: Matt at September 12, 2009 07:57 AM

There is a 5.56 version of the Garand, it's the Ruger Mini-14. Of course it is based on the M-14 which is a magazine version of the M-1.

Posted by: Federale at September 12, 2009 05:09 PM

After reading I thought I should add....

Mossberg makes a home defense shotgun, the HS410, mode for home defense and women in mind. It has a number of features that make it very well suited to the roll. I know "410" , that couldn't be very useful?, but at close range it is as powerful as a rifle and easier to control than a pistol. The sound of the bolt is also universal for "Behave yourself!" They can be hard to find sometimes.

And I see that this has already been mentioned.
In classic rifles in 5.56 or .223, Ruger's mini-14, It is called the mini-14 because it is basically a scaled down M-14.

Posted by: Ron at September 12, 2009 08:41 PM

All you guys are just playing around.
Get serious, belt fed LAWS rocket. Now thats gonna wake up the neighbors. It will be easy to find the bad guys if you miss. A trail of odorous body fluids will lead you right to them. hahaha!!!

The wife and I both have Glock 17s. As easy to operate a revolver but with a whole lot more ammo.

Posted by: capt26thga at September 13, 2009 02:39 PM

capt26thga - a little hard on the plaster, perhaps?

Posted by: Mikey NTH at September 13, 2009 03:26 PM

I know this comment is a little late in the game, but the HD shotgun you've described was eerily similar to what a freind of mine once described.

Heres the kicker: He's a Marine veteran of the retaking of Fallujah. He had mentioned being dissatisfied with the M16A4 for urban combat, and I asked him what he thought the ideal tool for the scenario would be. His reply was a box magazine fed bullpup 20 Gauge shotgun with a smoothbore barrel.

Posted by: HullBreach at September 14, 2009 04:22 PM