Running Spares- Keeping Your Weapon Going

AR-15 vs. AK-47. 7.62 vs 5.56. 308!! Mil-spec, mil-surp, match grade, green tip, etc, etc, etc. If you’ve been a shooter any amount of time, you’re familiar with these terms. In the internet-land these are hotly debated for some reason, each time by people who’ll no doubt prove this time around that their choice is the right choice, yours is not if you disagree, and whatever they’ve bought is by default the best (because they say so of course, along with it’s high price if talking among champagne elitists or it’s budget price if talking with the buildabag crowd) and every so often it’ll get backed up by unverifiable claims of “someone they know/trained with/watched a DVD of/thought lovingly about once who’s a no-crap SHTF ninjatype baddie” told them it’s what they run…

Yeah, Right. The overwhelming bulk of these people have never fired a shot in anger. Being a gun enthusiast doesn’t make one combat proficient. Pardon me for my genuine disinterest in their ‘opinions’.

What you very rarely hear is discussions about keeping your weapon running, long term. I guess that’s not ninja-enough. Believe it or not, it has little to do with weapon selection itself- it’s a question of logistics. Each of the common platforms have nuances, big and small, that need attention to keep your weapon from being deadlined. Nothing is worse that spending a month or more’s wage on a defensive rifle, an optic, mags and ammo, to have the weapon fail due to a dead trigger spring. It happens. It happened to an SR-25 I was running on a Known Distance (KD) range. Great rifle, but not widely known for its reliability. Even the Kalashnikov, the alleged marquee of reliability, has needs and can fail fairly easily and unexpectedly, especially with some of the lesser-quality brands out there. So all this being said, here’s a few guidelines to follow in order to keep your weapon running, post unpleasant-ness:

  1. Spare Bolts: Far and away, the only part I’ve actually seen break on the AR-15 platform (aside from the dead trigger spring on the SR-25…but that was different…) is the bolt. Just buy a spare, right? Well, yeah. BUT- Did you check the headspace with a go/no-go gauge? Do you own a go/no-go gauge for your weapon? Did you re-check it after so many rounds out of the weapon (the wear changes the spacing)? Did you test it for function? Is there any binding or unusual wear on the lugs? It goes without saying that the bolt must be quality- proper gas key staking, proper steel and heat treat, and no gimmicks (like the ‘lube-free’ AR-15 bolt…wtf, over?). The Kalashnikov also can have issues with the bolt. Some of the Yugo models have had mushrooming of the rear of the bolt where the hammer strikes- which could cause premature failure. You need to keep an eye on potential stress fractures as well, as some production runs from differing countries/companies have different heat treatments. You also need to understand not all AKs are the same; different countries have variations on their design. So know what you have, and pick up a spare parts kit for yours.
  2. Use Standardized Parts: Cornerstone to the homebuilt/bubba gun issues is the use of bargain-bin non-spec/non-standard parts. This is endemic to the AR, with all the snake oil being sold, so the watchword for keeping a rifle serviceable is using standardized simple spare parts. Believe it or not, for the money, DPMS makes a good lower parts kit.  On the AK, it’s a good idea to pick up a trigger pin retainer plate to replace the shepherd’s hook (you know, that paperclip that keeps the trigger in place and fails far more often than thought). They’re cheap, take all of 10 seconds to swap, and usually will never need replacing.
  3. Spare Trigger Packs: On the note of spare parts kits, the bulk of those parts are the trigger components. Now if you’re into custom triggers (and there’s some nice ones out there) that’s fine, but understand how it works. I strongly encourage new or inexperienced AR shooters to leave the internals alone- you need to get a feel for a bone stock weapon, and the trigger itself usually breaks in nicely with the weapon over time. In addition, if it’s a standardized trigger, with standard components, one can stock several running spares for all the rifles in the battery relatively cheap. The AK comparatively speaking has a very simple trigger, but believe it or not, can be the largest point of failure on the weapon. As cheap as the Tapco G2 is, if you’re a Kalashnikov kid it’s a great idea to have a spare on hand. Assemble it. The AK trigger is a drop-in component once assembled, but requires a tiny spring that loves to fly away if you have fumble fingers (ask me how I know). Have one pre-assembled so that it becomes simple under duress or less-than-ideal circumstances.
  4. Know the Points of Failure on Your Weapon: Every design out there, even the mythical Kalashnikov, has failure points in the design. It’s common knowledge that cleanliness is important to keep an AR bolt running (although it’s far more resistant to fouling than commonly thought). But other issues can arise, from the potential problems we’ve already identified to things unforeseen (like gas block issues or bolt hold-open failures) so it’s worth your training time not to just get mechanically better with the manual of arms but also to identify potential issues you may run into. The AKM for example, using a stamped-steel receiver, can suffer from broken rivets if improperly done. A broken trunnion rivet kills that rifle, then and there. Improper heat treatment or excessive wear of the bolt guide rails can cause failure to cycle. It happens. Having a working knowledge of the mechanics of your weapon is critical to being combat proficient- it’s a lot easier for a supporting apparatus to get a weapon running if the operator can diagnose the issue (more on that in a second).
  5. Use Common, De-Facto Standard Rifles: I really like the Sig MCX. That’s a cool little carbine, and although I haven’t run it with a can, I would be willing to bet it’s a dream to shoot suppressed. But aside from aesthetics, it doesn’t have a lot in common with the standard direct impingement AR. In fact, there’s a lot of proprietary components, such as the bolt carrier and dual recoil springs, which just might fail (and have, which is why it’s been recalled). If no one else in my Patrol is carrying that weapon (or can afford it), and we don’t have running spare components, then in the event my very expensive toy is deadlined, maybe it might be for good. Now I’m ineffective, all because I wanted to be the cool guy. The same for the PTR-91/G3/CETME weapons. Good rifles, sure. Popular in Iran, not so much with Rhodesians (according to Dennis Croukamp). But the HK roller-locked system is unlike anything else found in the wild here in the US, and although no doubt someone will comment to attest to it’s reliability, et. al., once those rollers go belly-up, that gun’s done. Get your spares now. So unless you’re a collector or enjoy cheap magazines for rifles that destroy brass, AND YES, THEY DESTROY BRASS, I wouldn’t bother but then there’s that rule that two is one and one is none if you happen to disagree. Be ready to supply spare parts or have the means to fabricate them. The AR on the other hand, far and away, along with the Garand action (both M1A and Mini varieties) and the AK to lesser degrees, are quite common and therefore are known quantities, so resolving group standards or potential logistical issues will much simpler. Any gunsmith in the world can usually keep them running…a CETME, maybe not. More on this in a second.
  6. Start Right, End Right. Buy Quality Parts: One of the biggest myths of the current gun culture is that quality must be equated with cost. While you do get what you pay for in most contexts, there’s also a definite law of diminishing returns. Quality, standard parts kits for the AR don’t usually cost a lot. $40-$50, maybe a little more, is about the norm. Spare quality bolts are a little more. The Tapco G2 AK trigger is ~$30. Spare milsurp AK parts, consisting of a spare bolt, bolt carrier and piston with recoil spring is around $100. Not a lot of money if you’re counting on that rifle working for the long haul. But in all cases, buy from a reputable manufacturer. On the other hand, you will reap Murphy’s rewards for being a cheap skate if you skimp on your resupply. Buy from reputable sources, buy from makers who stand behind their product, and buy from those who can tell you where and of what their stuff is made.
  7. Make Friends with a Gunsmith: There’s gonna be problems that come up that you can’t fix. Billy dropped his weapon during an IMT (individual movement techniques) and bent the barrel at the receiver. Johnny’s gas block just failed. Jeff showed up with a non-standard kludge stick and won’t fire six rounds without binding up. Mike’s well-worn AK just became a runaway gun or even better, broke two rivets on the front trunnion. If you’re training the untrained to become Light Infantry, which is what a lot of this ‘SHTF’ talk boils down to, these things are going to occur. I’ve observed each of these things happen with well trained guys by the way, and while that might be great for a chuckle, it happens more often than you think. It’s also very easy to laugh and say that ain’t us while sitting comfortably in your chair reading this…people do clumsy stuff under duress. A person cannot fix everything themselves, but a good Gunsmith is a great person to know and crucial to an Underground support. In addition to being a de-facto gun guy, he’s going to have a base of knowledge that you don’t, and chances are high he’s also gonna have the means to fabricate the parts that you otherwise cannot. (As an aside, I’ve never met a Gunsmith who wasn’t a pretty serious Survivalist) But along with that, just like a Doctor can’t look at you and just know you have the flu vs. an appendicitis, he needs an accurate description of symptoms, and a Gunsmith’s job gets a lot easier if the shooter can accurately describe what’s going on vs. mah gun just don’t work! -that takes experience and knowledge of the weapon, only gained through trigger time.

Standards matter. It’s not really about whatever your particular preference may be, or even what weapon is better for this or that, it’s about what the group can acquire, standardize upon, proficiently employ, and keep running long-term. In the US that favors the AR-15 the strongest. There are no guerrilla forces I can think of off-hand that simply picked what they wanted, either- it boils down to what the external support supplies them with or is expropriated (but this, of course, is another discussion for another day). So while that may or may not be your concern, creating a standard for your group, adhering to it, training around it’s strengths and limitations, and having a plan to keep those weapons running is critical to your success.

45 thoughts on “Running Spares- Keeping Your Weapon Going

  1. 1. Absolutely agree that anyone running an AR platform must be in possession of spare bolts THAT THEY ALREADY KNOW WILL WORK
    IN THEIR WEAPON. Also, shooters need to know how to inspect all of their weapon parts, including the bolt.

    2. As fun as it would be to build a gun, I wouldn’t really prefer carrying one into LONG-TERM combat. Why? Because the parts aren’t standard, of course. I prefer to purchase a quality weapon from a proven maker, and then acquire spare parts from them (or from wherever they get them).

    3. I have purchased new trigger set-up and dropped it into my weapon, kept the old set and will be buying another spare exactly like the one I know works. A complete triple set of spare parts for the trigger. That’s just my solution for trigger logistics.

    4. One advantage of having an AR is that the points of failure have been researched, discussed, bitched about and gone over ad nauseum. They’re not as bad as some say, but at least we know what they are.

    5. I’ve personally found it difficult to migrate my internet away from the proven, “boring” models like ARs and other proven, “boring” models like Mosins, 10/22 carbines, Glocks, etc. That’s just me. I like standard and boring, because I’ve used standard and boring in actual combat situations. It sort of got burned into me. I also had the honor of being in those situations alongside Special Forces soldiers. What they had was super nice, but NOT super exotic. So I try to stick to that too.

    6. Nothing more embarrassing, humbling or possibly deadly than having a failure due to cheap crap. Seen it at the local range a lot. Some gun newbie shows up with somethings he got for less than $150 and it has a catastrophic failure on day one!

    7. People fail to understand how technically brilliant a real gunsmith is. I would encourage anyone who has the time and a little money to pay for some quality gunsmith training and then put it to use assisting a pro when possible. Just helping out the armorer occasionally when I was in the Army gave me great insight. The doctor analogy is accurate for sure.

    1. Just my personal experience recently on your point #2. Spent $1600 on a Ruger 7.62 gas piston and it was junk. FFE and FTE right out of the box. Sent it in, they replaced gas regulator. Couldn’t shoot what I consider quality ammo or hotter loads. Back to the shop. They ended up refunding all my money. Read all over forums same issues. I know youre going to have mixed reviews, but do your research first. First rifle I built from a kit runs flawless (ar). Before knowing anything about firearms i would’ve never fired anything i built. But surprise. Some of these well known manufacturers are more concerned with quantity than quality. They think their name alone will carry them forward. I invested in a PWS gas piston, which takes the best of AR and AK world reliability. I love it and it eats all loads. My 2 cents.

      1. Yup, although I’m not a fan of piston ARs generally.

        There’s an old (06-07 era, IIRC) interview with C. Reed Knight in Small Arms Review about piston ARs.

        I share his opinion.

      2. I have a friend who’s convinced it keeps you in the fight longer requiring less cleaning and runs cooler. But from what I observe it violates KISS unlike a DI. We shall see.

      3. Looks like you did see once.

        It does not “keep you in the fight” any longer than anything else. That’s the kinda crap either spouted by salesmen, BS artists, or both.

        It may run cooler when suppressed- it does NOT require less cleaning. Your weapon, any weapon, if you plan on keeping it serviceable should be cleaned after every use. That’s basic discipline. It will however cause premature lug shearing, even on the paragon of piston-AR, the 416.

        As per DI vs. Piston, when the engineer who refined the platform (Knight, along with Sullivan, once Stoner moved on) says no, the answer is no. Look that article up.

        Also, did anyone stop to wonder why Stoner moved on…to design the AR-18? (a piston gun) Look into the design differences. And that weapon has been far more influential in future designs.

        This IS NOT a debate about guns. And it’s not going to be, either. It’s about keeping them running, as per the title.

  2. And when I say helping the armorer gave me great insight, what I mean is that it gave me insight into how technical it is and how little I knew compared to what I thought I knew.

    1. Individual Movement Technique.

      Thanks for pointing that out- I’m bad about throwing acronyms or terms in there without definition.

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  6. I’ll admit up front to being an uneducated noob with the AR15, having owned my M&P Sport 2 for less than a year. Before I even shot it the first time I sat down and stripped it completely down (not the trigger mech) to learn how it goes together, as well as it’s personal policy to strip, clean and lube all guns I purchase before shooting.
    Having spare parts makes sense, however when the manufacturer, S&W in this case, does not sell “spare parts” for their weapons, what’s the best way to determine which bolts, springs, pins, etc will work as replacement spares?
    Thanks for indulging my lack of knowledge.

    1. SAM

      It’s just a AR15 so parts made by anyone to fit any AR15 should fit. Get some books out of the library (you may find the books no help so why buy now) ‘Gunsmithing the AR-15 Volume 2’ by Patrick Sweeney is more basic than book one. You will also need the Brownells Catalog or AR15 only Catalog (may be a few weeks before the new one comes out). Talk to other owner/shooters (not some one who is trying to sell you anything) – not some one who owners but does not shoot, some things you hear will be BS but over time you can work that out.

      1. “parts made by anyone…should fit.”

        Nope. Not even close.

        When Sweeny wrote that, the market was nowhere close to where it is today, and any shmo out there with a CNC calls themselves an AR maker.

    2. The M&P Sport is a standard AR-15 Lego kit.
      You can get quality parts for it from Brownell’s, and fifty other places.

      Get familiar with a few details, and go to town.

      And even if you never build an AR-15 from the receiver up, get yourself a good DVD of the process so that you understand how the parts work together, and so that in a pinch, you could fix or build one, and/or train others to do so for bonus points.

      My personal fave is Building Your AR-15 From Scratch, new for $20 from Amazon.

      Simple, no-nonsense, and some good insight from a PD armorer.
      But there are many other DVDs out there of equal worth.

      The key, as in the OP, is to get the parts, have the relevant tools, and learn how to use B to fix A. It’s a hands-on thing, but if you can change lightbulbs, you can build/maintain/repair ARs. The Army has been teaching GED holders how to do it since the mid-1960s.

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  8. Reader

    Spare AK bolts are NOT plug and play like an AR bolt. Each AK bolt is headspaced individually.

    That being said, DDI is trying to make their bolts plug and play, I genuinely don’t know how well it has gone.

    1. Yep.

      That’s why I emphasized the headspace gauge as much as I did.

      On brand new AKMs, sure, whatever. But not just the headspace changes, but the conditions of the riveting also changes with round count. So some of the more dubious makers out there (IO Inc) have a much shorter life expectancy than quality, non-cast weapons.

      As per DDI, I don’t know. While they look promising and stand behind their product, Rob Ski’s test left a bad taste in my mouth. Never buy the first year model.

  9. 2knives

    Perhaps you “spare parts” should include a “quality” bolt action rifle of the same caliber? If your primary plastic toy fails your backup should be dependable. Bolt actions use less ammo , are more accurate (so sayth the snipers) , and are reliable. No gas tubes, magazines, bolts, etc. to come undone at the wrong moment. Unless you are in a militia with an armorer and massive supply chain (think Uncle Sam) than a bolt gun with optic and back up sights may be for you.

    1. The article is in regards to keeping the weapon in your hands running, no more, no less.

      Wanna talk this vs. that?

      Go somewhere where they’re interested in that discussion.

  10. Gdr468

    What are people’s favorite no nonsense books for aks, ar’s, and glocks repairs? Prefer books, not DVDs.

    Every ar probably should have complete spare bolt assembly, cam pin, retaining pin, firing pin, and spare lube on the rifle. This fits in magpul k2 pistol grip. Other items to attach are rod, shell extracter, and spare batteries.

    Ak is similar. Extracter, extracter spring, extracter pin, firing pin, firing retaining pin, disconnect or spring, and lube. This fits in a magpul k2 pistol grip. Other items are rod, cleaning kit, and spare batteries. Aks with Ar buffer tubes can be modified and used as storage space.

    These type setups are pretty handy and are easy to do. Stuff breaks.

    Now if some company would make a lightweight Aimpoint type single red dot dual focal plane variable power 1-4 or 1-6 scope with a handy ballistic reticle to 600-800 yards with 3, 6, 9+ mph wind holds…

  11. Fantastic overview. If I hear another MY M&P reference think I’ll puke. Pure fucking garbage.

    LMT, = good kit. Colt = Good Kit. VLTOR, and others are good parts sources. Got piles of BCGs, with extra high end bolts. Many of each.

    Would like to hear your oppinion on the newer ” cartridge” triggers. Got two in rifles, straight triggers. Think I like them just haven’t put enough ammo thru them to punish them for eval. CM brand as I recall.

    Lastly only put roughly 1800/2000 rounds thru he SR25. Me no likey.

    1. If it says “sport” in the title, just like with Jeeps and small trucks, it’s entry-level stuff. Unlike Jeeps, it’s usually trash.

      If it doesn’t have an ejection port cover, pass it by immediately, along with any other gimmick tripe, such as side charging handles.

      If by cartridge trigger you mean drop in, I’ve used a Chip McCormick and a Giessle. Both were nice. Unless you’re a competitor, I’d spend the money on training and ammo from a stock trigger.

      1. flighterdoc

        Agree on the training….

        I tell people who are new to shooting that they should buy a box-stock quality gun (it doesn’t have to be new), a case of ammo and a class. Leave the gunstore commando crap at the gunstore.

        When they’ve expended the case and class, we can start talking about tricks to make their gun better.

        The ONLY thing I recommend people do to Glocks (for example) is put good sights on them. If they’re left handed, maybe an ambi slide release. ARs need sights of some sort, if you’re going to run optics then put optics on, but quality.

  12. Sum Dude

    Thank you for posting this article.

    I’ve recently become a fan of Windham Weaponry AR’s, as I’ve had good luck with the OLD (pre Remington/Cerebrus) Bushmaster.

    So far, I’ve had good luck with mine. Has anyone had any bad experiences with their’s?

    Also, has anyone tried out the new Ruger 556?

    1. Windham builds a good one. I had an old Windham Bushmaster from LONG ago that was a very nice rifle. Sold it to a buddy before I joined the Army.

      The Ruger DI 556 seems to be a nice choice for the price. I would pass on the piston gun, or piston anything. Reference other comments for why.

      1. Sum Dude

        Yup, keep it standard and simple, for the reasons you cited before.

        I had a Bushie HBAR that I sold a long time ago, which I never should have. That thing ran like a top and was VERY accurate. The only jams I ever had were due to crappy ammo or mags, otherwise it was G2G. I think I’ll be holding on to my Windhams.

        Thanks 🙂

      2. Speaking of that…I ran the worst mags ever with my Bushmaster. The old 80s Israeli plastic mags…pure, unadulterated junk. CTD sold them for like $3 each in the early 2000s. Sill ran like a champ, even when they sheared feed lips.

        That was back when I was nothing more than a young survivalist punk getting ready for Invasion USA. 😀

  13. Ray

    Not a single weapon I own has an alloy or plastic part. ALL OF THEM get the regular clean & inspect at regular intervals with the FM or TM recommended parts replacement and service clean & lube. Having said that: I keep back up’s to my “back up” weapon and “back up” ammo AND back up parts. Never assume that the breakdown can be fixed or that the system won’t fail at a critical moment Having a working weapon that you know and trust, “ready to hand” is priceless when that primary weapon you paid too much money for, go’s tits up just as the goblins come over the hill 600 yards from the back door. Note that I didn’t say shit about WHAT weapon you carry? That’s because it does not matter for shit. You like the Mauser? Then buy two in as perfect a condition as you can find them and all the fitted spare parts and tools you can get your hands on. Shoot them and train with them. Learn what the weaknesses of your weapon are and how to “work around” them. Then learn to reload for and service your weapons. AR , AK ,Garand, M1 Carbine, Nagant, M1903? SAME, SAME, What you carry only matters to you and the internet argument. When crunch time comes having a weapon you know in intermit detail; have backups and spares for, and shoot well is priceless. Everything else is bull shit people argue about on the internet. Even if its old olive drab and black leather TAKE IT OUT AND TRAIN .That puts you miles ahead of the “gun and cammo fad” posers afraid to get there $5000 toy and fashion cammo dirty.

    1. flighterdoc

      Well, OK.

      All of my tactical weapons have alloy and plastic parts. I bet yours do to…4140 steel is an alloy used in firearms, for instance.

      I’m much happier with the reliability of my Glock handguns than I am my 1911’s….Any of my Glock 30’s will feed any round I’ve tried, with any of the Glock .45ACP magazines I have, including the G21 mags. My 1911’s….not so much: I have to keep a chart of which 1911’s will feed what ammo with certain (all quality, like Brown and Wolf) magazines, which I had to number to identify.

      Likewise, I don’t have to worry much about the finish on the Glocks. I don’t worry about wearing them out by repeatedly field stripping and cleaning them, they just work. They don’t require so much lube that they gum up or attract lint and dirt, either.

      Old school is fine, but facts trump fiction.

      1. Keeping a 1911 running is mostly about extractors. IIRC, they need to be changed about every 5000 rounds. I also keep a field kit with spare pins and springs, and have more at home along with replacements for everything. As stated above, get first quality parts; Les Baer is well regarded, and I have also used Wilson and Colt parts. Brownells has a good selection.

        Glocks need parts too, just not as often; the MTBF for the Glock is around 30,000 rounds or so, IIRC. One big no-no, apparently, is dry firing w/o a good dummy cartridge in the chamber; I have seen pics with the slide breech cracked out from excessive dry firing.

        When you ‘cheap out’ on parts, you are lying to yourself. Don’t be a politician. Better to have a few reliable parts than a pile of unreliable crap for spares.

        I’m a 1911 fan from way back. But when I recommend pistols to friends, the first thing I tell them is “The Glock has been tested to be one of the most reliable weapons on the planet. When you squeeze the trigger, it goes bang.” And that too, is part of system logistics- PICK A RELIABLE WEAPON.

  14. Russ

    If folks forget you are talking about keeping the thing running under dicey circumstances they may get butt hurt.

    I bought a S&W M&P Sport I for fun. The first iteration was a gem for ‘sport’. It had a 1 in 8 5R barrel and S&W tooling and quality control. But alas no forward assist or dust cover. I free floated it, dropped a decent trigger group in it and made a dandy target rifle for 69gr loads.

    Stoner apparently gave a thumbs down to the dust cover and questioned the need for forward assist. Why? A dust cover is just a little piece of spring loaded metal that never hurt anyone so what’s the big deal. If a soldier takes comfort in a routine ‘brush’ of the forward assist to insure a well chambered round then by all means. Life on the battlefield is stressful enough and we all have our obsessions when life and limb hang in the balance. Just don’t beat hell out of it.

    My ‘Sport’ would never do in a dirty environment. The upper and lower were both machined in house by S&W and the tolerances are so tight that if anything got into it by lack of a dust cover it would not escape. I do routinely push the bolt scallop as my version of forward assist though. Some things are forever ingrained….

    1. Agreed…but on the ejection port cover, it’s important to remember-

      Stoner was not an Infantryman, and his design parameters were not for an Infantry weapon but for a pilot’s takedown weapon in 7.62 NATO. That’s why he designed the AR-18 as an answer to the shortcomings…today we know of these derivatives as the G36, ACR, etc, etc.

      The port cover on the A1 and later models came from the reliability upgrade the French gave to the MAT-49 from their experience in Vietnam.

      Some things are forever ingrained…like unconsciously closing the ejection port cover, because its a basic reliability thing. 🙂

    2. Russ

      Not having a dust cover to close does leave one with a feeling not unlike forgetting to genuflect in church.

      I did not know the MAS49 ‘real world’ lineage of the dust cover. I will never refer to it as “just a little piece of spring loaded metal” again.

      I have always been fascinated by the practical utility that goes into the design of ‘built for war’ small arms. The receiver cover pin on the SKS is meant to never get lost. The bolt on a Mosin 91/30 is its own adjustment tool. To name a couple examples. It seems that these types of utility features are more prominent on older designs and that newer products have an eye toward parts service and supply through a logistics chain. Thus your theme is more important than ever for those of us not not so blessed by said resupply chain. Take heed all.

      Number 7 on your list can be extremely rewarding. Ask around in your local area and find a seasoned gunsmith with a good reputation (seasoned and good reputation go hand in hand here). Try not to impress them with how much you don’t know and learn as much as they are willing to teach.

      Excellent article. Thank you.

      1. You’re very welcome Russ!

        That’s an excellent point many old timers have pointed out to me over the years- older field kit was meant to be self-repaired by the operator…be it weapons, LBE, or even uniforms.

  15. I have no combat experience, but as a range safety officer, I’ve witnessed my share of AR-15 failures. I would say 90%+ of them are user contributed, or at least setup mistakes.

    Common problems with new rifles:

    1) Can’t zero (less than half I’ve asked thought to boresight at home prior to coming to the range)

    2) bolt short stroking

    3) fail to extract/eject

    Having a know working bolt as a spare is fantastic advice. There’s so much BS people get wound up regarding gas tube length, BCG weight, buffer weight etc.

    I was once told my “pencil weight” BCM barrel would over heat in a fire fight and lose accuracy.

    I’ve also been told shoot steel cased ammo will wear out my barrel faster – maybe, but I can replace the barrel for under $200. I prefer to handload for my budget ammo, but I have the mindset that parts are consumable (like brake pads). I check parts for wear, because I expect them to eventually wear down.

    Possibly the biggest mistake is buying a premium item, only lighting using it, but being complacent that it will forever function because of the expensive price tag.

    1. Definitely, on all counts.

      The whole light barrel thing is mechanically true based on old knowledge- but the world has changed a bit since the days of the A1. I don’t have a problem in the world running a lightweight profile barrel.

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