18 July 14

“As a teenager you are at the last stage in life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you.”

Fran Lebowitz

AR Dust-Covers and Annoying Surprises!

During my Urban Rifle Courses, I council students armed with ARs to manually close the spring-loaded dust-cover at nearly every opportunity.

The dust-cover is there for a reason! It is there to keep the receiver sealed as much of the time as possible, so that dust and grit don’t enter from the outside. I thus advise all AR owners to (1) keep the dust-cover closed, and (2) keep a magazine in the weapon. This practice will keep grit from entering the receiver through the ejection port or through the magazine well.

Of course, the dust-cover opens automatically whenever the bolt moves, so there is no provision for manually opening it, nor is that anything you need to worry about.

Accordingly, at the end of every live-fire drill, I instruct students to manually close the dust-cover, as they re-engage the manual safety and finally re-sling. We run a hot range, so rifles, like pistols, stay loaded all the time they are carried.

However, as with all procedures, there are issues!

With inexperienced students, I sometimes fail to adequately explain the way each sub-routine is precisely integrated with all the rest. As a result, sometimes this happens, as it did earlier this week during a Urban Rifle Course:

A student finishes a drill involving movement and sequential engagement of multiple threats. Who are accustomed to cold ranges then sometimes unload (instead of reloading as they’ve been instructed), lock the bolt to the rear, close the dust-cover, and then re-insert a magazine! The dust-cover is closed, so, viewing from the outside, I can’t discern the position of the bolt. Of course, when the bolt is locked to the rear, the AR’s manual safety can be pushed “on” and “off” normally.

When this student subsequently starts the next drill, he mounts his rifle, pushes the manual safety to the “off” position, and attempts to fire, only to unhappily discover that pressing the trigger accomplishes nothing!

With me, or one of my instructors, at his shoulder reminding him, he is then prompted to execute the standard, AR stoppage-reduction procedure: “Strike, Pull, Strike” (Strike the bottom of the magazine. Pull the charging-handle all the way back and release it. Strike the bolt forward-assist), which speedily resolves the issue and gets the rifle running, so the student can recover and complete the drill.

During the subsequent critique, I ask the student why he was carrying a rifle with the bolt locked to the rear. Of course, when I start to hear feeble excuses, I interrupt and remind the student of Ben Franklin’s admonition:

“Who are good at making excuses, are seldom good for anything else!”

Such confusion on the part of the student is understandable, and, as noted above, mostly a result of poor instruction on my part. But, we always clear it up without delay!

When a student is armed with an AUG, XCR, PTR, M1A, or SIG556, I can tell right away when the bolt is locked to the rear at an inappropriate time. But, the AR’s dust-cover can easily conceal the fact, as we see.

Happily, my student made the mistake only once, acknowledged and understood his error, learned from it, and went on to victory!

True enlightenment always involves failure and correction. Endlessly manufacturing and articulating excuses just slows the process. My students learn that before anything else!

“Hold yourself responsible to a higher standard than anyone expects. Never make excuses”

Henry Ward Beecher