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Ruger AR-556 in 5.56 NATO Part I Rounds to the pound and familiarity

A number of years ago, as results of a less disciplined life, I became diabetic with an A1C of 11+, complete with arteries that took on the appearance of a clogged oil filter and blood pressure of 1000/Good Grief!. Examining the alternatives, a healthy diet… ugh and exercise.. ugh, became a part of my life. So my wife and I researched, reduced our findings to a three ring binder filled with appropriate meal recipes and food selection, and organized them so that any selection would provide only the correct levels of calories, cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates.

Today, A1C is below 5.7% without medication, my blood pressure is below 120/70 without medication and I can walk on a treadmill’s steep grade at 3 MPH for half an hour without breaking a sweat or becoming winded. I have not been one pound overweight for the past four years. OK, so I no longer entertain my family by clutching at my chest, falling to the floor and gasping for air like a bass out of water but, as a trade off, I can now walk the woods, enjoy firearms and enjoy this time with my wife and family. This is intended as a not too subtle message to other guys who get too busy to take care of themselves – never too late.

My point is that decisions that determine survival should not be made in haste, or in the midst of a crisis. It is not a good idea to wait until hunger pangs have set in before determining a menu. Just like it is not a good idea to wait until your family or your home is in jeopardy before thinking about what you will use to marshal a defense.

The case for the factory standard egg… Err… AR

Secured in one home location are AR 15 types chambered for the 6.5 Grendel, 300 Blackout, 350 Legend, and 450 Bushmaster. Secured in another location and stowed with other essential gear, is a lone Ruger AR-556 MPR chambered for the 5.56 NATO. Why? The first location is filled with firearms that are good choices for hunting, recreational target shooting and handloading projects. The second firearm represents a pragmatic choice I’ve made that will best serve in a crisis.

My interest is not to suggest use of a specific firearm, but rather that there is no time like the present to select the firearm that may determine your survival and the survival of those important people around you. One day, we may wake to a population turned into zombies, as has already happened in most of our larger cities, or even to a Maine population that has left for Florida in anticipation of winter, leaving us to our own devices.


Ruger AR-556 Multi Purpose Rifle

Manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co.
Point of Manufacture Mayodan, NC
Model# 8542
Caliber 5.56 NATO / 223 Remington
Mag Capacity 30 Round Magpul PMag
Barrel Length 16.1″ Light Contour 4140 CM
Rifling 1:8″
Weight 6.7 Lbs
Overall Length 33″ – 36.5″
Stock Collapsible
Receivers 7075-T6 Aluminum Forging
Receiver Finish Type III Hard Coat Anodized
Barrel & Gas Block Matte Black Oxide
Length of Pull 11.1″ – 14.4″
Accessory Mount Picatinny Rail
Trigger Pull 4 Lbs. 11 Oz. Single Stage
Safety Rotating
MSRP $899

A Ruger AR-556 MPR was selected, based on experience with the product and the company that makes them. Ruger materials, processes and purchase parts are exceptional and it shows in the quality of: castings, molded pieces, extruded pieces, piece parts, and finishes. Overall product quality and attention to detail shows in the final assembly.

Ruger refinements appear in areas like the buttstock, floating handguard and fire control components. However, in a pinch, mil spec standard pieces could be used to service and repair the AR 556.

Available also in 350 Legend and 450 Bushmaster, the 5.56 NATO version was selected because the ballistics were appropriate for foreseeable applications, ammunition is widely available in many forms, and because ammunition is relatively light. My assembled handloads yield 40 rounds per pound, the 350 Legend handloads are 26 to the pound and the 450 Bushmaster handloads are 18 rounds to the pound.

The moderate pressure 5.56 NATO round is light for the AR 556 system, whereas the other calibers tend to put more stress on the system and accelerate wear. Additionally, the power of the larger cartridges is not required for the application so the excess weight and reduced availability offer little as a trade off.

The tight 8″ rifling rate of twist will stabilize bullet weights between 35 and 77 grain. The 16.1″ barrel also means that 6″ – 8″ of silencer attached will not make the rifle feel duck blind ready.

The Ruger is light, the stock is collapsible, there is just enough Picatinny rail and handguard M-Slots to attach anything useful without getting in the way or turning in to a giant cheese grater.

A very well thought out  and complete AR system

The AR 556’s 4140 chrome moly barrel has 5R rifling for minimum bullet deformation and ease of maintenance. The barrel has M4 feed ramps and the chamber accommodates both 5.56 NATO and 223 Remington ammunition. The mid length gas system provides reliable operation at lower gas pressure than a carbine length gas system. The barrel’s muzzle has 1/2″-28 threads to accommodate the supplied Ruger radial port muzzle brake, silencers and similar types of devices; things stowed with the Ruger AR-556.

The AR-556 MPR floating handguard is a lightweight 13.50″ aluminum piece. It contributes to both accuracy and the firearms light weight and it provides M-LOK® accessory attachment slots at 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 positions. By placing rail segments at either end, but clear of the center, the handguard accommodates all accessories, but is clear of gripping surfaces. The long barrel nut mounts the floating handguard as part of a secure, yet simple system.


Ruger AR-556 receivers are 7075-T6 hard-coat anodized aluminum forgings for durability. The receiver integral top rail, and handguard rail segments, permit the use of metallic sights, red dot sights, scopes, and infrared sighting devices; all devices stowed along with the AR-556.

The grip is a B5 Systems Type P23, the buttstock is a Bravo collapsible, mounted on a mil-spec buffer tube. The stock offers good face support, a non-slip recoil pad and QD sling mounts.

The bolt is fashioned from 9130 steel, shot peened and proof tested as is the 8620 bolt carrier. The inside of the carrier and inside of the gas key are  chrome plated and the key fasteners are staked to stay put.

A substantially improved trigger…

The Ruger AR-556 MPR gets the two stage Ruger Elite 452 trigger in place of the standard single stage AR-556 trigger. The trigger is clean, has a relatively light pull, 4 1/2 lbs, and 30% fast lock time than a standard single stage AR 15 type trigger.

On the single stage side #1, the notch in the hammer is retained by #3, the primary sear. When the trigger is squeezed, the sear is pulled downward and the hammer is released to rotate forward to move the firing pin. If the bolt cycles the hammer before the trigger is reset, the secondary sear #4, engages the #2, the hook at the back of the hammer and prevents it from falling forward.

On the two stage trigger, the latching surface at the rear of the hammer #1, engages the primary sear #3. As the trigger is squeezed, the first part of trigger travel meets a light one pound resistance from the trigger spring and begins moving the sear away from hammer engagement. Then there is an increase in pressure as the backside of the hammer #2 contacts the nose of the secondary sear on the disconnector #4 and compresses the disconnector spring during the second stage of pull. The hammer’s secondary sear contact surface #2 was relocated, but functions the same.

Flexible configurations


At the moment, the subject Ruger AR-556 MPR is equipped with a 4.5-30 x 50mm scope on a low riser rail and with an AAC SR-5 silencer in preparation for live fire assessment. The plan is to wring it out with factory ammunition and then move on to the best handloads and firearm configurations for intended applications. Be back shortly with Part II.


The Remington V3 Tactical 12 Gauge As though a life depended on it


My wife and I were working on our home this weekend and came to a decision point most home owners have at one time or another. Should we mow the lawn or sell the house, buy an RV and move to a vegetarian commune in Patagonia? We compromised, deciding the lawn could wait until next weekend.

Instead, we tackled the portable twenty gallon parts cleaner that had been taking up space in the garage. Filled with primordial ooze, and rusting from the inside out, parts came out dirtier than when they went in and the recirculating pump had literally dissolved. The issue turned to salvage. Removing the tank and fabricating a work surface could result in a very nice rolling workbench. Alternatively, a similar approach could be used to make a portable potting table. You know, hoarder projects where nothing is really thrown out.

Mow the lawn? Disassemble the parts cleaner? Salvage? Metaphorically, the walls began to close in and the pressure became overwhelming. So we decided to look at RVs online and spend the weekend catching up on our reading.

Shotguns for defense and security

Firearms serve many roles, some critical, some recreational. Within each application, experience guides firearm selection, manufacturer’s guide firearm selection and firearm publications do their share of the same. Hopefully, when a decision is reached, the firearm will suit the person, or persons, it will serve. What is the consequence of a bad decision?

A poor choice for competitive shooting, and even for non-dangerous big game hunting, typically means no more than a lost match or an unrewarding hunting trip. However, with something as critical as a defensive firearm, where safety and perhaps survival are at stake, selection of a proper firearm is crucial.

Shotguns have played a role in my notion of home security; 12 gauge and 20 gauge, autoloader and pump, utilizing slug and shot loads. The purpose they continue to serve is protection when drawn out of the house to investigate a disturbance at night, where distance to the woodland tree line varies and house form, even under area lights, cast shadows and provide cover.

A shotgun is not used defensively inside my home for a number of reasons; layout of the house, movement and placement of occupants and locations of defensible positions. In my judgement, a shotgun would not provide sufficiently narrow coverage, it would endanger occupants and the shooting distances from defensible positions are too close to warrant a shotgun.

Outdoors at night, chances are that the need to defend would happen more quickly than in the day time and shooting distances would be greater than indoors, but still moderate. In this setting, a shotgun fits. Not a lecture directed at you, just some insight into one person’s perspective.

Remington V3 Tactical Solution

Remington V2 Tactical

Manufacturer Remington Ilion, NY
Order # 83442
Type Gas Operated Autoloader
Gauge 12 (2 ¾” or 3″)
Capacity 6+1
Barrel Length 18.5″
Choke Fixed Cylinder Bore
Weight 7.6 Lbs
Overall Length 39.5″
Stocks Synthetic
Hardware Aluminum – Steel – Matte Black
Length of Pull 14.2
Drop at comb 1 1/2″
Drop at heel 2 7/16″
Sights Vent Rib – Bead
Sight Mounting
D&T For Rail
Trigger Pull 4 Lbs. 3 Oz.
Safety Cross Bolt
MSRP $1,024

My current gun is a short barrel 12 gauge pump, fitted with a pressure switch actuated tactical light that is never used. The pump was my choice because, a few years ago, a preferred Versa Max Tactical proved too unwieldy for my purposes. The V3 Tactical addresses that issue without giving away anything central to my application.

The Remington V3 utilizes the same Versaport gas system design as the Versa Max, but the action is more compact; the Versa Max is a 3.5″ capacity action where the V3 is capped at 3″. Additionally, the V3 Tactical has a shorter barrel; 18.5″ compared to 22″. The result is the V3’s overall length reduction of four and one-half inches and a weight reduction of one-half pound.

Absent on the V3 Tactical are the Versa Max’s interchangeable choke tubes, adjustable stock, one round of magazine capacity and about 30% of the MSRP. Retained are the oversize charging handle, bolt release, and safety. This is not a suggestion that the Versa Max is overpriced. Rather, it is an assessment that the extra cost features useful to a bird hunter, or for clay target shooting, are not particularly useful within a defensive application.

I want to be careful when referencing feature similarities and differences between the V3 and Versa Max products, as these models share no common parts and vary substantially in design. As one example, the Versa Max recoil spring is embedded in the shotguns buttstock. The V3 recoil springs reside on dual guide rods and are contained within the receiver.

As noted previously, the V3 is a maximum 3″ shell design which contributes to the V3’s substantially more compact form. The V3 bolt assembly has a beefed up extractor and ejector. The V3 trigger assembly is simplified, more robust and incorporates elements of Remington target shotguns. The wide trigger feels light and crisp.

Another smart move on Remington’s part, the overall geometry and balance of the V3 was made to match that of the very popular Remington Model 1100. So the V3 would feel familiar to Model 1100 shooters and that trait makes it an easy shotgun to gain shooting proficiency.

The Versaport gas system

The Versaport gas system design is easy to maintain. The gas pistons drop in from the front of the gas block and the plugs go into the block to retain the pistons. Picture left, a substandard image from my borescope that illustrates port appearance.

Within the V3’s barrel, eight ports pass through to the gas block, directing pressurized gas to the pistons when the shotgun is discharged. When a 2 3/4″ shell is chambered, all eight ports are exposed. When a longer 3″ shell is chambered, only four ports are exposed. A simple way to regulate gas volume and pressure to the gas block appropriate for the type of ammo selected.

In addition to the metering of gas from barrel to gas block, the Versaport system dumps excess gas. In the case of the V3, the excess escapes through vents at the rear of the forearm. No, no puffs of smoke or jet streams. The gas volume is small and it expands, slows and dissipates mostly within the forearm. The proof of the quality of the design is that the Remington Versaport guns are highly reliable and digest what they are fed.

“Joe, why are you droning on and on and… over the gas system?”. If you were paying attention at the onset, you’ll note that I said I have a pump shotgun as part of a home defense system. Why a pump? Because of the old adage that gas system guns are not rock solid reliable, which certainly does not apply to the Versaport system.

A sound defense?

What about the sound of a racking pump gun scaring off perpetrators. Are there some criminals who are not cut out for a life of crime and would faint at the presence of a gun? Not likely. Today’s criminals are hardened, violent and want to hurt their victims, as much as they want to take their victims’ possessions.The sound of a racking shotgun may do more to disclose a position by shouting “Look at me! Look at me! I’m over here!”.

At 6 shells, the V3 Tactical holds one less round in its extended magazine than the Versa Max Tactical; a function of magazine length tracking to an 18.5″ barrel rather than a 22″ barrel. For sling users, the V3 Tactical has a swivel mount location on the butt stock and an M-LOK slot on the clamp that holds the barrel and extended magazine together. The subject shotgun is supplied with a ventilated rib and bead sighting system.  The #83441 version, $1,076 MSRP, is supplied with XS Low Profile open sights.

To Remington’s credit in putting together a tactical shotgun, the oversize controls are appreciated. Yes, they may seem like the push buttons on a geriatric telephone, but they are where they should be and as obvious as they should be on a defensive weapon.

The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for sight mounts, which would most appropriately be a Picatinny rail. No, that isn’t British. I believe you are thinking of Piccadilly rails, which are the U.K. trains serving the greater Manchester Piccadilly area.

The “soft shooting 12 gauge” oxymoron… After owning and shooting a good number of heavy African big game caliber firearms, and a good number of pop shooter heavy weight target rimfire rifles, then shooting essentially everything else in between, I’ve become a pretty good judge of degrees of recoil across that spectrum. I do not believe “soft shooting” is an adjective that can precede the term “12 gauge”.

I would say that the gas powered action, stock geometry and excellent Remington SuperCell recoil pad make the V3 Tactical 12 gauge recoil very manageable. The V3 pad fit me much better than the adjustable length of pull pad setup found on the Versa Max.The pad also did not hang on my clothing and it offered excellent lateral stability.

Yes, I did shoot the Remington V3 Tactical

Three types of 12 gauge ammo were fired from the Remington V3 Tactical, from left to right: Federal Premium 3″ #4 Buck 41 pellets of copper plated shot @ 1210 fps (now rated at 1100 fps), Remington Hypersonic Steel 3″ #2 steel shot 156 pellets (1 1/4 oz) @ 1700 fps and Federal Power-Shok 2 3/4″ 1 oz rifled slug in deference to the V3 smooth bore. Why?

Empirical data

The ammunition presented has been used on wildlife of size and weight that would be similar to defense against a human threat and at the distances indicated. After years of shooting holes in blocks of synthetic ballistic gel to create photographic imagery, I fail to see the result correlation between gel and ballistic gel in the broad context often reported.

The Internet is loaded with lots of ballistic gel test results; sometimes just bare gel blocks, sometimes gel dressed in denim, sometimes the gel is fronted with some type of construction material. However, the execution of the test is almost always the same. One guy sits in a chair ten feet from the block, another guy stands to the side with his fingers in his ears, a shot is taken and then they both say in unison, “Hoo boy! Will you look at that?” and then the video is played back in slow motion to show the gel block wiggle and waggle on impact… shot from ten feet away.

I do not know where the ten foot shooting distance comes from, other than a minimum safe distance when shooting into a block of gel and sometimes as a component of the methodology used to qualify the density of gel medium. In any event, I have no picturesque gel block penetration results to offer and, as published results vary to extremes, I have no gel block reference data from others to offer.

The failings of long term relationships

There are shotgunners and shotguns that can cover serious distances. There are slug guns and slug ammunition that can rival typical sporting rifle accuracy at multiple hundreds of yards. For the deer, moose and hog hunter, that is exceptionally good news and an illustration of how far firearms and ammunition has come over even the past twenty five years. However, that is not my application or, I suspect, the intent of the Remington V3 Tactical.

Distances referenced below reflect distances anticipated in service. Important considerations due to shot disbursement varying with distance, the low ballistic coefficient of a full bore slug… the flying barn door syndrome and because of the rapid deceleration of low sectional density shot. My defensive shotgun intent is ten to fifteen yards for shot and twenty five to fifty yards for slugs.

Why not just replace the shotgun with a handgun on the short end and a rifle when going long? Changing circumstances where a shotgun can handle both. What begins very close up and appropriate for shot, can quickly evolve into something longer range. With only shotgun in hand, a transition can be made from shot with broad coverage to slug ammunition for more tightly controlled target acquisition.

.Bang, bang… bang

Fifteen yards on a 12″x18″ target, 33 of 41 #4 Buck pellets on target. Penetration at this distance would shred internal organs and the wound would be massive with 33 0.240″ pellet wound channels.

Fifteen yards on a 12″x18″ target, 91 of 156 #2 steel 0.150″ pellets on target. Less penetration, but certainly discouraging for a perpetrator and, again, the wound would be massive with 91 0.150″ pellet wound channels.

Above, a five shot, 25 yard group utilizing Federal rifles slugs. Could similar results be achieved at 50 yards? Sure, and the Federal slugs would penetrate enough to drop a deer at even at 50 yards and slug expansion would be huge… 1″+ in diameter. If deeper penetration and less expansion were desired, a 12 gauge copper projectile, sabot mounted 0.500″ projectile or solid cast slug rifled slug would work.

Overall, patterns and groups were quite good, especially for cylinder bore. The Remington V3 Tactical functionally did as well with target loads and quick shots yielded shattered clay targets. No, not my first choice for skeet, but that is not the Tactical configuration’s purpose.

Different tests, different testers, different results…

I did want to offer one last test for the Remington V3 Tactical that has been the gold standard for shotgun/shotshell testing for as long as I can remember. It is at least as valid as any other test I have seen conducted on the Internet. The elastomer material thickness standard is 10 mils deflated, charged volume must be 268 cubic inches, and charge pressure is 14.7 PSI. Clusters are arranged in groups of 7 units. The example below was shot at 15 yards with #2 steel shot.

Yes, that is a gratuitous “Hoo Boy! Look at that!” video and exploitation of balloons moment. Sometimes I have to have fun too.

Back to business… a summary

The Remington V3 Tactical is a fast handling shotgun that provides plenty of power and reliable operation.The V3’s light weight, neutral balance and short barrel make it an intuitive shooter.

I have tried a good number of point and sight systems between shot and slug guns; lights, lasers, enclosed red dot, compact open red dot, express sights, scopes, ribs, and bead combinations. Ultimately, my guns always end up with simple rib/bead setups because they are effective and there is little to break or fail. The V3 leaves the factory with the necessary system in place.

The V3 Tactical is a quick clean up. Field stripping is easy and requires no tools. Metal finishes and polymer stock wipe clean of powder residue and defend well against scratches, wear and corrosion. The surfaces are also non-reflective so you won’t find yourself trying to be stealthy while holding a signal mirror.

Time to retire my pump gun.

The Browning Citori 725 Feather Superlight Even I know it's a great shotgun


I guess my life has changed since the Mesozoic Era when I was a young man. Jeans and t-shirts and not venturing far from home have replaced business suits and constant travel. Now, my wife and I poke around in our vegetable garden hoping to spot the fruits of our labor.

No more pursuits of exotic cars and motorcycles. My wife and I are all set with a little turbo charged Ford Escape in the garage, parked next to a garden tractor. And when we want to travel, it’s for personal enjoyment, not for work or necessity. A lack of ambition? Not at all. Just different directions and priorities.

Living on a parcel of woodland, we can shoot firearms when we choose, hunt turkey and deer, run machinery in the shop without disturbing neighbors and generally remain insulated from people and places we see on the news. No sounds of street traffic or night light pollution and, if my wife and I choose to extend our horizons… universe, we can break out a telescope.

Our children and most of our grandchildren are grown, healthy and safe. Now we can sit on the sofa at night, watch TV or read, plan projects or road trips and hold hands. It took seventy four years to get to this point in life, this peace of mind. I hope you people arrive there sooner..

The shotgun deficiency

Growing up, friends were deer hunters. Most father’s in that group were WW II or Korean War vets, who knew firearms well, did not discourage their use, but did not personally pursue shooting sports. So we learned about firearms by reading, hanging out at gun shops until we were ejected and from shared personal experiences.

My first shotgun looked a lot like this vintage sixty two year old Savage Model 202B 12 gauge single shot with 2 3/4″ chamber. Actually, this is my first shotgun and I so still own it. The case hardened finish is worn away, the stock has been cleaned up and refinished numerous times and the barrel has been stripped and rust blued.

Purchased with part time job earnings in the summer of 1959, it remained my only shotgun for quite some time. One of my buddies had a Browning Auto-5, a gift from parents, that was beautiful. It was always a pleasure to shoot when the opportunity arose, but I could not afford one at that age, so game birds, deer and small game were pursued with the Savage.

As a mature adult, I am not accomplished at skeet and trap. Meaning, I typically stand a better chance of blasting a flying clay target by drawing a 1911 45 Auto, then hitting it with any form of shotgun. Yes, that is the reason shotguns rarely grace the pages of Real Guns. I would say the leading cause of arrested shotgunning development is lack of practice and infrequency of outings.

However, while my shotgunning skills may be well developed, I can still appreciate a shotgun for its mechanical design, fit and finish and performance in my hands and in the privacy of my own… woods. And it does appear that a good shotgun can make me look better with a shotgun than I deserve.

So, Joe, why do you like the Browning Citori 725 Feather Superlight

I have to say I felt an instant affinity for the Feather Superlight, but it took a while for me to figure out why. At the top, there was a sense of nostalgia. Part of it was childhood associations with Browning shotguns, part was the modern company’s namesake and part was an overall European look. I love classic European firearms, not a fan of their modern governments.

There is something very attractive about a dark oil finish, a select grade of walnut, a graceful straight grip and Schnabel forearm, touched with just enough cleanly cut, bordered checkered panels. The care exercised in manufacturing and assembly is reflected in an outstanding wood and metal fit and finish.

The silver nitrided aluminum alloy receiver compliments the oil finished walnut and stainless steel pieces. The laser engraving is cleanly done and the design is appropriately restrained art. Engraving technology, in other brand firearms, has provided some comical scenes; birds apparently flying out of a ill proportioned hippopotamus’s butt, deer with a head the size of its body and what might have been a depiction of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. Not so with the Superlight. Browning put just enough quality game scene and just enough flowing scroll work to give the Superlight an… elegant appearance.

The clean inletting and fit of wood to metal is all over, not just at the receiver. The wrap around the deeply blued barrels and inletted stainless forearm latch are a tight fit.

The black walnut is listed as grade II/III. Unlike my old savage, the forearm and buttstock are a match in grain, finish and color. The wood has nicely figured grain and contrast and just the right amount of stripe to make it interesting.

Center of the universe

Unlike double and single barrel rifles that seem to have a magnetic muzzle to earth attraction, the Citori 725 balances at the hinge pin, giving the barrels a… neutral feel. Not light, not nose heavy, just enough heft to feel steady tracking flying clay targets.

Not heavy handed in weight reduction, the changes compared to the standard models are subtle. The low profile aluminum receiver, straight grip buttstock with narrow wrist, a slightly more narrow forearm, low mass, but very effective and smooth Inflex II recoil pad, and 26″ barrels all contribute to the 20 gauge’s  5 lb 7 oz overall weight.

Like a1963 Ford Galaxy lightweight Super Stocker… only not a car.

In applications where light weight contributes to performance, the trick is to remove parasitic weight, without diminishing strength. In this regard, the lengths Browning went to to achieve that result is obvious to any firearm enthusiast.  The mono-block receives a full width tapered locking bolt and barrels hinge to a full width steel hinge pin. The breech face insert in the aluminum receiver is stainless steel. The action locks up like a bank vault.

The FireLite mechanical trigger has a clean, crisp release, short take up, minimal overtravel and does not use an inertial mechanism to fire the second barrel. Subsequently, the second barrel will discharge even if the first barrel was a misfire… empty chamber, failed primer, etc. in the absence of recoil. The Feather Superlight has a fixed position trigger, where target model Citori 725s are shipped with three trigger types: wide checkered, narrow smooth, and wide smooth canted trigger shoes and they can be adjusted fore and aft to set length of pull.

The safety selector is moved fore and aft for safety on or off position and side to side to select which barrel to fire first. I can say the system works, is reliable and intuitive, but my level of shotgun proficiency has not resulted in a first barrel to discharge preference.

The subject Featherweight Superlight was supplied with three Invector DS chokes: Full, Modified, Improved Cylinder with each marked for choke effect with lead and steel. They are packaged in a poly case with a choke wrench. The brass seal must really work because clean threads made changing chokes easy.

I was tempted to just say, the Superlight has back-bored barrels, but that would be an incomplete description. Browning employs an integrated systems approach they have labeled Total Barrel Dynamics. An attempt to make a boring subject sound interesting? Fortunately, not.

In the case of the Browning Citori 725, the chambers are chrome plated, the forcing cone is extended to more gradually move the shot to the bore. The barrel is back-bored to minimize shot deformation, maximize velocity and reduce bore friction without letting gas slip past a shot cup. The Superlight utilizes the Browning Invector DS (Double Seal) choke system with longer taper that compliments the forcing cone and back-bore design.

In deference to the shotgunning public that would benefit from greater insight, Browning has done an excellent job providing further information. For me, if a clay target is flying away from me or across, and it does not escape, the rest of the detail is mostly a theoretical conversation.

Shotgunning is a lot like golf

It amazes me how well that thin 1/2″ Inflex II recoil pad takes the starch out of 5 1/2 lb gun – 20 gauge recoil. The pads on my rifles always feel like giant gum erasers that grab at my shirt and won’t let go. The Superlight pad is smooth, effective, but never in the way.

Rifle and handgun shooters have an absolute reference for alignment on a target, so it is possible to overcome a poor fitting stock, less than idea trigger and a floating cheek bone to score a hit. Shotguns are pointed, not aimed, and targets are mostly in motion. So stock geometry, drop at heel and comb, cast, and pitch combine to either make a shotgun point naturally or provide a great deal of frustration.

When the Browning stock was shouldered, it always fell into the same position, cheek supported on the stock and the center bead positioned just below the front bead and over the target. I’m not sure what is preferred, but that predictability allowed me to successfully line up and lead clay targets. The Citori 725 never felt like I was dragging the weight of the barrels to keep up with a target.

Live fire

Two types of shotshells were on hand, both lead; Winchester 20 gauge Super Target 2 3/4″ 1200fps 7/8 Oz. #8 and Remington 20 gauge Express Long Range 2 3/4″ 1220 fps 1 Oz #6 shot. Chokes installed were Improved Cylinder and Modified.

Initial use of a hand held clay target thrower resulted in the wind chimes being knocked off the back porch and I put one on the garage roof. So I dragged out a Trius One Step Trap, missed the first two targets, the second was close, then hit on the next 8 in a row. Okay, next 7 in a row, but seriously wounded the 8th.

At that point, I quit. I am typically a terrible shot, so that to me was excellent and I know I would not have done half as well with another shotgun. The Feather Superlight seemed to put the muzzle where it was suppose to be and tracked… (led?) so well, I did not feel rushed taking a shot. It was certainly not a punishing gun to shoot.

There are guns and then there are special guns

I am too old and I have shot too many firearms to get excited over marketing messaging and purported prestigious brands. There are lots of nice guns… lots. But the Browning is something special. You know how relatively young people sometimes seem to be old souls? I think the Browning Citori 725 Feather Superlight is a technologically very modern firearm, but with a very old soul. Maybe as much English tweed as camo. Nice shotgun.

Browning Citori 725 Feather Superlight
Item Number 0180766005
Chamber 20 Gauge 2 3/4″ Chrome Plated
Barrel Length  26″
Overall Length 43 3/4″
Length of Pull 14 1/4″
Drop at Comb 1 1/2″
Drop at Heel 2 1/2″
 Weight  5 lbs 7 oz
Barrel Finish  Polished Blued
Black Walnut
Wood Finish
Oil – Grade II/III Checkering 20 LPI
Receiver Silver Nitrided Aluminum
Front / Mid Sight Ivory Bead
Choke System Invector-DS
 Recoil Pad Inflex II, Large
MSRP  $2,669.99
Includes Choke Wrench and Full, Modified, Improved Cylinder chokes


Smith & Wesson M&P®22 Compact – Threaded Barrel A nifty plinker and small varmint dispatcher

Ah yes, the cold is coming; mind numbing, soul sucking, frigid air, and butt deep snow. Yes, I do realize I moved to Maine voluntarily, but that was to flee California socialism, an intrusive government, and associated loss of personal freedom. Which, ironically, is about what Maine has gradually drifted into over the past twenty years. As of late, it seems Maine’s primary source of income has been out of state, liberal PAC billionaires, successfully buying up our U.S. House and Senate seats. There is hope for change this year.

In any event, a more real life issue has been the demise of my fourteen year old tractor mounted snow blower that got my wife and I to the main road without fail. Deep snow, wet snow, gale winds blowing snow, the tractor would chug along, effortlessly spewing a forty foot plume a blue whale would envy, from house to street, one hundred yards and knock outs and walkways as easily. Unfortunately, breakage of a literally irreplaceable gear case placed it on the scrap pile out back.

I almost had a replacement tractor mounted blower, twice, but none panned out, either because of availability being mid winter, or because they were too fragile of a product to fit the bill. So the tractor has been relegated to landscaping duty and I went in search of a suitable walk behind. A two week headache of searching, researching, detailed investigation and thorough review of reviews.

As large as 36″, as small as 28″, I settled on 30″ because it is a four run trip with either a 30″ or a 34″ blower to clear and the 30″ had the same big motor, heavy traction weight, and auger and impeller and accelerator… three stage blower. The auger gear case is steel instead of the aluminum case more typically found. Warranty is 5 years on the gear box and 3 years on the rest. Yes, it is pretty. Yes, I do carry a picture in my wallet, along with pictures of my kids and grandkids.

Not inexpensive initially but, in rural Maine, equipment like this means survival and, hopefully, the cost amortized over the life of the blower, it will prove to be inexpensive. I also do not wait until I am in the midst of a crisis before attempting to avert disaster. It is a lot like firearms. I wouldn’t own a “cheap” firearm, because a firearm is just more necessary equipment. So they are chosen wisely, valued for quality that will play out in reliability and longevity.

Smith & Wesson M&P®22 Compact – Threaded Barrel

No, this is not a just released model. Nor is it a derivative model. In production since the end of 2014 / beginning of 2015 the M&P®22 Compact, unlike the German manufactured striker fired S&W M&P22 full size, the Compact is made in U.S.A. and a blow back, hammer fired design.

Smith & Wesson defines the M&P 22 Compact’s application as “recreational shooting”. Plinking, varmint control, small game hunting, firearm safety and operational training? Yes, I can definitely see this pistol in any or all of those roles. Why do I say that? Hmm… let me think about that for a moment.

The M&P 22 Compact is actually quite compact within the universe of rimfire pistols that are made to fit and be shot with an adult male hand. Compared to a S&W Victory pistol, that is also suppressor ready, the M&P is just about 2″ shorter at 7.3″ overall length, and that length includes a 1/2″ barrel extension on the M&P that mounts a silencer. Compared to centerfire M&P models, the M&P 22 Compact is scaled down by approximately 15%.

The M&P 22 Compact is an easy field strip; pull mag, check for empty with slide locked open. Then remove the 1/2×28 thread adapter, rotate the take down lever to the down position, pull back and lift the rear of the slide and ease the slide forward and off the frame. The grip frame is poly, the internal frame that mounts the 4130 carbon steel barrel and fire control/safety components is steel, the slide is fashioned from 7076 T651 aluminum. The dual recoil spring is captive.

As pictured above, the barrel is stationary and the blow back slide moves to cycle eject and chamber. All M&P 22 Compact pistols have a threaded barrel, 3/8×24,fitted with a flared bushing that assist in consistently centering the slide when moving to battery. This bushing terminates at the face of the slide. The subject model replaces that bushing with bushing and thread adapter, 1/2×28, the standard for rimfire silencers. The step up facing shoulder requires bushing removal for field stripping; a wrench is included and a thread protector is included for use when the pistol is not being shot suppressed.

Top side, thread protector in place. Dovetail mounted front white dot sight and fully adjustable rear sight. The top side port aft of the barrel is a loaded chamber check point and it permits checking for a protruding firing pin.

The Smith and Wesson M&P 22 Compact incorporates numerous safeties, something very welcome in a pistol intended for training, plinking and recreational target shooting. The drop safety connects the trigger to a plunger in the frame along side the hammer. When the trigger is pulled, the plunger is lifted until it lifts a firing pin release embedded in the slide, allowing the firing pin to travel forward. No finger on trigger, no plunger travel, no firing pin release. The intent is to prevent a dropped pistol from accidentally discharging.

As noted before, a top of slide view port permits checking for a loaded chamber and a protruding firing pin. It is not intended to replace removing a magazine and pulling the slide back to assure an empty chamber as activities require. The ambidextrous safety is thumb actuated to engage or disengage. The hammer key lock prevents unauthorized use of the pistol, as in when it is stowed and not to be at the ready, to prevent any number of accidents or theft from leading to a shooting.

The S&W M&P 22 Compact was shot with and without silencer; easy enough to change back and forth. Use of the silencer did not hamper the pistol’s reliability with any ammunition tested and influence on velocity, either way, was negligible. Sights were high enough to easily clear a dedicated rimfire silencer like the AAC unit installed.

Cartridge Bullet Weight
24″ BBL Rated
3.6″ BBL
3.6″ BBL
50 Foot
5 Shot Group “
Federal Champion 36 1280 954 943 1.8
Rem Thunderbolt 40 1255 730 871 2.2
Rem Golden 40 1255 972 915 1.7
Winchester Super Speed 40 1300 926 962 1.9

Shooting impressions… That was Jay Leno

S&W M&P22 Compact Threaded Barrel

Manufacturer Smith & Wesson
SKU # 10199
Country of Origin U.S.A.
Type Single Action
Operation Blow-Back Auto Loader
Caliber 22 Long Rifle
Mag Capacity 10
Barrel Length 3.6” 1/2-28 Thread Adapt
Rifling 1:16″
Weight 15.3 Oz.
Overall Length 7.3″
Grips Frame
Slide 7076 T651 aluminum
Rear Sight Adjustable Two Dot
Front Sight One Dot
Trigger Pull 5 Lbs. 14 Oz.
Manual Safeties Ambi Thumb & Key Lock
MSRP $409.00

Breaking news, firearms with a 3.6″ barrel do not generate the same velocity as firearms with a 24: SAAMI standard test barrel. If it seems slow, I can only comment that my 45 Automatic bullseye gun love 185 grain SWC handloads with a muzzle velocity of 780 fps.

I found that paper targets and random plinking targets don’t require a good deal of pursuit. How about small varmint and game hunting? More than enough power for a timely ending. For suppressed shooting, short pistol barrel velocity is naturally subsonic so no sonic crack, just the mechanical racket component of an autoloader to contend with.

The most endearing characteristic of the M&P 22 Compact was what it did not do, jam or fail to fire. Wandering around in the woodland behind the shop for a few days… at least from 8AM to noon, I got to shoot the Compact a good deal. In the absence of a suitable holster, it fit comfortably in a hooded sweatshirt pocket, ammo and silencer in the other.

With most shooting within ten yards, the pistol consistently hit where aimed, the white dots framed in black stood out against virtually any backdrop.

When the shooting was done, a cloth wipe cleaned it up like new. The S&W M&P 22 Compact shot pretty cleanly even with the silencer in place. A nice 22 LR pistol, made in USA, from the folks at S&W. If I would make one suggestion it would be to skip the large scale contrasting logo and return to the practice of small, conservative black on black markings. But I’m an old guy, so maybe that’s just me.

Smith & Wesson M&P® Bodyguard® 380 Self defense... Yes, that is a thing

These days, more Americans are purchasing firearms and practicing legal concealed carry than ever before. Who would blame them? Politicians are running for leadership positions on a hate America and Americans first platform, state governors and big city mayors are working to crush a robust economy and put people out of work. Violent, rioting mobs occupy large portions of our major cities, terrorizing local residents. At the same time, city governments work to defund and disband their own law enforcement and tie the hands of the remaining by imposing no arrest or no bail release policy on the police. Jails and prisons are emptying violent prisoners into the streets.

Sounds dire? Worrying? It should, because it is. Especially since the national Democrat platform says:

“Democrats will enact universal background checks, end online sales of guns and ammunition, close dangerous loopholes that currently allow stalkers and some individuals convicted of assault or battery to buy and possess firearms, and adequately fund the federal background check system. We will close the “Charleston loophole” and prevent individuals who have been convicted of hate crimes from possessing firearms. Democrats will ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. We will incentivize states to enact licensing requirements for owning firearms and “red flag” laws that allow courts to temporarily remove guns from the possession of those who are a danger to themselves or others. We will pass legislation requiring that guns be safely stored in homes. And Democrats believe that gun companies should be held responsible for their products, just like any other business, and will prioritize repealing the law that shields gun manufacturers from civil liability.”

According to the NRA, additional proposals include so-called “universal” background checks, the elimination of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s three-day safety -valve provision, and gun owner licensing, which would turn the right to keep and bear arms into a privilege dependent on the whim of government bureaucrats. The Democrats would empower government intrusions into the home to dictate how Americans keep and store firearms for self-defense and to confiscate firearms without due process based on the flimsiest of evidentiary standards. Moreover, the draft platform calls for a ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and their magazines, something explicitly prohibited under the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller.

So when your democrat buddy says, “Obama never took your guns”, remind him it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Instead, he delegated the honors to anti gun governors, mayors and town council surrogates who passed a record number of gun restriction, elimination, and seizure laws than had passed the thirty years prior. The New York AG is currently suing to dissolve the NRA, the largest pro gun lobby group in the world. New gun buyers aren’t panicking, nor are they paranoid. They just see very real threats coming, on many fronts, and they do not want to be defenseless. These days, I always carry a quality 380 Auto subcompact pistol, a combination that definitely has a role in self-defense.

S&W M&P Bodyguard highlights

I am told, giving people a sense of the size of an unfamiliar object is best accomplished by placing it in the proximity of something very familiar. Well. Everyone knows Albert and he knows more than a little about relative relationships, so, there you go. Initially, the S&W M&P Bodyguard was compared to a mechanical pencil, laying on my drafting board. However, a survey of people under the age of 90 suggests more people know the exact height of this Einstein bobble head, 8″ tall – 2.75″ at the base, than are familiar with the terms “mechanical pencil” and “drafting board”. And, yes, I could have placed a ruler next to the pistol, but what fun would that have been?

There are no surprise control surfaces, just the usual suspects, and where you would expect to find them. Always good in a defensive firearm. Side controls, back to front: thumb safety, slide stop, take down lever and, aft of lower trigger guard, magazine release. The M&P Bodyguard is supplied with two magazines and both flat and finger groove extender floorplates. Extender version shown.

Take-down is straight forward; remove magazine, check for empty, lock slide open, rotate down and remove takedown lever, move slide forward and off.

The M&P Bodyguard is a camming, tilting barrel design that fires from a closed, locked breech. It is double action, not a striker or blow back design, and hammer fired. Combined, the Bodyguard features make for a stronger and more reliable pistol and delayed opening after firing often results in higher velocity and certainly greater reliability. Double action also allows a second strike at a stubborn primer, where training regimen permits. The dual, staged recoil spring eases racking effort, but provides proper energy storage and resistance for a reciprocating slide.

There is a dropped gun safety in the form of a firing pin blocking plunger embedded in the slide, which requires a trigger pull before getting out of the way of firing pin travel.  So no blade safety poking through the trigger. The Bodyguard will fire with or without a magazine inserted.

An open top, low ejection port and oversize extractor contribute to the Bodyguard’s reliability. Dovetail mounted, blackened stainless steel front and rear sights are durable they stay put where adjusted. Alternative sight sets are available from S&W and third party suppliers. The M&P Bodyguard is a sub compact, so it is… brief in the area of the polymer frame.

With trigger finger at trigger level, I can get two fingers on the grip, with my pinky curled under the floor plate. No, not as much control as having all fingers around a grip as might be the case with a full size pistol, but more than enough control to back up a 10.5 lb double action trigger pull.

The M&P Bodyguard is tucked in all over. Some pistols sport diminutive dimensions when they are built around the 380 Auto cartridge, but then they go with thick grips or a thumb safety that expands the envelop. Not the case here and there are no sharp, snagable… it’s a word now, to hang up on clothing. Yes, I am stalling with pictures because I have not yet thought how to address the 380 Auto Loxodonta in the room. So read the spec table for a few minutes while I think.

The 380 Automatic… the cartridge

S&W M&P Bodyguard


Smith & Wesson
SKU 109381
Origin USA
Type Semi Auto DA Only
Caliber .380 ACP
Capacity 6+1
Metallic Sights Drift Adjustable
Barrel/Slide Stainless/Armornite
Grip Frame Polymer
Finish Matte Black
Overall length 5.3″
Height 4.3“
Grip Width 0.75″
Sight Radius 4.5″
Barrel Length 2.75″
Weight – Empty 12.0 oz. Actual
MSRP $379

Designed by JMB, the 380 Auto  first made an appearance for use in the Colt Pocket Automatic in 1908. It was introduced in Europe by FN of Belgium in 1912 as the Browning Short. It has seen substantial use in both military and law enforcement applications, as well as a civilian defensive weapon.

The 380 Automatic has had been assigned a variety of nomenclatures including, but not limited to: .380 Colt Automatic Pistol, .380 ACP, 9mm Browning Short, 9mm Kurz, and 9x17mm. The official SAAMI name is “380 Automatic”, no decimal point.

I often carry a 380 Automatic. Sometimes as a backup to a primary, but also when working outdoors around the house where there is a good deal of physical activity and both hands are occupied with the task at hand. It is a comfortable and not conspicuous carry and it offers protection where none otherwise exists.

Maine has more than an infrequent number of rabid fox attacks on residents, without provocation. Not a probability, but a very real possibility, and preparedness is always good. Additionally, we now live in a strange world with lots of people drawing satisfaction from harming others and my wife and I choose not to be victims.

Ammunition selection

The S&W M&P Bodyguard is not sensitive to ammunition brands, bullet weights or bullet types. Very important as ammo selection varies greatly from one individual to another and, sometimes, from one application to another.

Two approaches I’ve taken with factory ammunition and component bullets. Far left – Interceptor ARX and ARX injection molded 56 grain ARX copper/nylon compound bullets. Above right, Remington Golden Saber ammunition or 102 grain brass jacketed hollow point component bullets. Over a chronograph, fired from the Bodyguard, ARX MV clocked 1,263 fps and the Golden Saber generated 753 fps.

As published ballistic gel results seem all over the place, when I have the time and inclination, I gather my own data in a setting under my own control. ARX penetrated 14.5″ and the Golden Saber 13.0″. By comparison, a non expanding PMC 90 grain FMJ penetrated 20.5″.

The ARX does not expand, but it does generate a significant lateral fluid pressure load. How do I know? Tie a string with a slip knot around the gel block at 2″ intervals. Mark the string where it passes through the knot, shoot the gel block and measure how far the string has pulled through the knot. It is a good relative indicator.

The Golden Saber or brass jacketed hollow point expands to approx double its original diameter even at 380 Auto velocity levels, but still penetrates 13″ which is good; bare gel, no denim, flannel, or sheet rock barriers in front of it. The PMC FMJ is a good illustration of why the 380 Auto earned a poor reputation in the distant past. Zero expansion, minimal lateral load and over penetration. The ball ammo design, in ancient times, was required to make a 380 auto loader cycle reliably. Not needed now.

Why not use a simple blow back 22 LR rimfire? I won’t put my foot in my “22 LR is not powerful enough” mouth, because #war_harbinger will tell me that he routinely lion hunts with a 22 LR, but I will say that subcompact 22 LR pistols are about as reliable in function as a jamming desk stapler. Is that better? Again, subcompact auto loaders, as quality rimfire pistols with a 3.5″ barrel and longer barrels tend to be reliable… a reliable pistol with an anemic cartridge, with unpredictable terminal ballistics.

Accuracy, shot to shot

Ten yard, five shot groups; Remington Golden Saber left, Interceptor ARX right. Both measure 1.8″ with the biggest challenge coming from the long double action trigger pull. From my perspective, excellent performance from this type of firearm and for its intended purpose.

In sintesi

The Smith and Wesson M&P Bodyguard is an excellent 380 Automatic pistol; materials, quality of design and quality of assembly. Subsequently, it is also highly concealable, reliable and accurate as a subcompact pistol. It may not have the power of a 45 Auto or even a high capacity 9mm Luger chambered pistol, but it is easy to use, easy to control and light and small enough to carry where other pistols might be left at home. Nice gun.