22 June 12
When the “cure” is worse than the “disease:”
Over the last two days, we conducted an Urban Rifle Course at the famous Cor-Bon Academy in Sturgis, SD.
A student brought a Stag Arms “left-handed” gas-piston AR. Unfortunately, it is only partially left-handed. It is, in fact, a mixture of left-handed and right-handed parts.
Directly over the left-handed ejection port, on the integral rail, he had mounted an ACOG optic. We experienced immediate problems with the rifle. Failures to eject were running one in every five rounds!
The culprit was, of course, the upward-hinged dust-cover. The spring-loaded dust-cover, when moved to the left side of the receiver, hinges upward, which means it can’t open all the way, as it hits the optic mount right over it. Because the dust-cover can thus only open half-way, ejected cases strike the latch-housing on the under-side, pause, and are then gobbled-up by the bolt as it moves forward… creating a hash!
We could not move the ACOG forward and out of the way, as it is eye-relief critical, so we removed it. With the optic removed, the dust-cover was able to open completely, and the ejection problem immediately disappeared. But, the student then had to default to iron sights.
However, that was not the end of our grief!
With Stag’s left-handed receiver, the bolt-forward-assist button is, of course, on the left side, placing it directly under the charging-handle latch, which, instead of being moved to the right side, is still on the left side! The arrangement makes it difficult to use either, particularly the charging-handle.
My student, in an effort to enthusiastically operate his AR’s charging-handle during reloading and stoppage-reduction drills, consistently skinned knuckles and broke fingernails.
Finally, in all-inclusive exasperation, my student decided he no longer wanted to work with his rifle. I let him use my personal BCM/AR w/forward-mounted Aimpoint T1, which, of course, ran fine for the duration. He is still left-handed, but he quickly learned how to operate all controls satisfactorily. He then successfully completed our Course without further frustration.
Issues such as those described above don’t usually make themselves known during “computer simulation” nor other laboratory-oriented “testing.” You have to get this equipment out and into the hands of Operators and novices alike, and let them run it hard, under “field” conditions. Only then will hidden gremlins rear their ugly heads and make themselves known, as we see!
The rifle my student brought, with great expectations, thus proved completely unsatisfactory when run hard. Luckily, its owner learned that painful lesson during our training Course, and not during his first gun battle. Most importantly, my student learned the inherent advantage of spending his time finding a way to win, rather than looking for an excuse to lose.
New equipment all looks great in the showroom. A little cynicism is a good thing!
“There lives more faith in honest doubt… than in half the creeds.”