Reflections on building an LR-308 pattern rifle

The AR-15 pattern of rifle is almost stupid simple to put together into a system that functions reliably, and generally you can find at least some ammunition that will be both reliable and accurate.

Not so with the DPMS Gen 1 LR-308 platform. Putting mine together was nowhere near as simple as purchasing the correct parts and assembling, validating headspace and enjoying. Nope, not at all.

My LR-308 had…problems. And believe it or not, none of the problems were associated with the 80% lower I finished with a drill press.

My two symptoms from my initial build were inconsistent cycling, and cratered primers on known good loads and even low power handloads. Spending over 200 dollars on a JP Enterprises high pressure bolt, which is like a normal bolt that has had the firing pin bushed, fixed the cratered and pierced primer issue, and increased the reliability of the cycling. There was obviously a lot of variability in cycling resistance, even when I hand cycled the action. Since the cycling inconsistencies remained, so I cut three coils off the buffer spring, and lubed the snot out of it, which also helped. So 20 dollar “flat spring” to the rescue, and now cycling the action is much, much more consistent. The normal coil spring, which I’ve used for decades in AR-15 pattern rifles without issue, somehow binds in the “ridges” found inside the LR-308 buffer tube, which brings up the question why in the heck does the internal surface of the buffer tube have ridges that the spring can bind up on?

So what does this mean to you? Well the large frame AR isn’t as user friendly as the AR-15 platform. Especially since there are multiple competing form factors, DPMS Gen 1 and 2, Palmetto State Armory’s proprietary builds (which are just fine if you are buying a whole rifle), and Armalite’s AR-10 and AR-10B. Of all the formats, DPMS Gen 1 is the most common, but it is also pretty dang heavy compared to some of the other formats (Gen 2 really cut a lot of fat off the frame).

Another issue is that large frame ARs don’t shoot like bolt rifles, and they don’t exactly shoot like AR-15s either. Some say you need to free recoil them for best accuracy, other say you need a solid death grip lock like you would with a Garand or M1A….honestly even with over 400 rounds through mine I can’t tell you which is the best technique. One day it shot five shots into a tight quarter size group, the next it opened up to a baseball, and I couldn’t tell you why for the life of me. Is it the AR-Stoner brand barrel? Or the Vortex Venom scope? Not sure, but I may send that scope back to Vortex for a thorough checkup (several hundred rounds of 308 might have knocked something loose).

So….after all the expense of putting my own LR-308 together, the total cost ended up greater than had I just purchased a Palmettos PA-10, or a similarly priced full rifle from a reputable dealer… I did get the experience and knowledge gained from putting parts together, and then purchasing different parts to fix problems, and turning over 400 pieces of precious ammunition into marks on paper (sometimes, other times it was hard to get on paper), using three different powders (IMR4064, IMR4166, and Ramshot TAC), two different bullets (173gr FMJBT and 175gr SMK), in good Lake City brass with a milspec primer.

So now to test out that 6.5 Creedmoor upper I put together….

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Mammoth Sniper Challenge 2023, lessons learned part 3

Recoil mitigation. There were not many competitors shooting without either a suppressor (aka a can) or a muzzle brake. The lighter your rifle, the more recoil sends you off target, and the longer it takes to get back on target.

I was lucky that two of the squad mates we had were shooting cans, and one of the items the picked up off the price table was an Accu-Tac Tank II muzzle break for 223. They saw us, and for no other reason than we were squadded together and had a decent time suffering with each other, they tossed my buddy and I those muzzle brakes. The AR-15 of mine by buddy used had a standard A2 birdcage flash suppressor/compensator, but those are not great at reducing recoil.

Shooting a muzzle brake as part of a team requires you to have good hearing protection. I used foam insert ear plugs, but I’ll definitely get some electronic ear muffs (the kind that let you talk normally, but deaden the microphone when a loud noise hits) to double up if Ruck Buddy and I do this thing again next year.

Ballistic tables…some competitors had their drops/come-ups pasted to their stock. Others had customized turret markings. Both methods seemed to work. I’ve found that using JBMBallistic to calculate bullet drop in 25 yard increments gives a pretty good view of how many tenths of a mil you’ll need to dial. This year I’d printed out a 50 yard chart, and went halfway between for shots that were between my drops, and I missed a lot. The targets at Mammoth are small, and there’s very little room for ranging error or a two tenths of a mil error.

I will say this, everyone at Mammoth paid to be there, or volunteered to support the event. Ruck Buddy and I showed up with two goals, “Safe Gun Handling” and “Make our Ruck Times.” And we made those two goals, and we even put points on our score sheet from time to time (not many though). This year we learned we could survive, stay in the competition. Now it is time to take that knowledge, and work on our teamwork, shooting skills, and kit optimization because next year it may be freezing, or raining, or so foggy that we can’t even pick out the near targets. And no one will care, Mammoth is first and foremost an endurance event, and only secondly a shooting competition.

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Mammoth Sniper Challenge 2023 lessons learned part 2.

Teamwork and communication. I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to find all the targets. The targets aren’t painted to be easily seen, aren’t at known distances, and often have to be engaged by either the primary or secondary shooter before the other can alternate. My buddy and I started off with a stage where four targets were supposed to be lined up in a row, and the first two were for the secondary shooter and the furthest two were for the primary shooter. It took all of our time to get him onto his first two targets (we got the first one, never got him on to the second, the round gong was in the shadow of a tree and really hard to spot with the 10×42 scope he was using) so I didn’t get a shot off at all that stage. But I was using a 5-25×56 scope, I spotted the second (his) and third targets (mine) a lot easier. I should have told him “send three, count as misses, so I can engage the one I can see.”

That technique of sending the certain number of shots to get scored misses so the other could hit a target they could see helped us out the following day when we used it in a four minute event. From my position I couldn’t see the rubber duck, from his position he couldn’t see the spade. But we both put points on the paper by hitting what we could see, and not wasting time trying to find what we couldn’t, especially in a four minute stage.

One of the better teams told us about a teamwork drill they did with two decks of cards…. The first deck got taped or glued to popsicle sticks and put out on the range from 50 to whatever yards, and then the second deck was used to pick which card needed to be shot. Flip a card, call it out, both mates try to find it, the one who finds it talks the other on to target, and they try to time themselves form card flip to shot through the card. I think I’m going to try to find a way to test that game out this year.

The primary shooter and secondary shooter had the exact same number of rifle and pistol shots per stage, so the only difference is that the secondary shooter had to be using a 223 or 308. I will probably never take a 308 to a competition like Mammoth ever again. The ballistic benefits of the 308 beyond 800 yards just aren’t enough to overcome the weight penalty you incur, and you lose the ability to crossload ammunition between common platforms and shoot it. Buddy and I could have taken 200 rounds of 5.56 and weighed in way less than me taking 150 rounds of 308 and him taking 135 rounds of 5.56, and we still would have had ammunition left over at the end (it was really hard to spot some targets).

Bipods….Buddy and I planned to shoot off of our rucks, but that was a bad plan. A decent to top end bipod was used by everyone seriously competing. A lot of stages weren’t set up for shooting prone off a ruck, sometimes you had a barricade where people used their bipod like a “hook” to soak up recoil, other times it was just easier and fast to drop the legs and get into position. And it keeps your rifle off the dirt, and there’s a lot of dirt at Fort Gordon.

Rangefinders….all the serious teams used really good ones. One of the top 100 PRS shooters used a 1,200 dollar set of range finding ballistic solution solving Vortex binos, other teams forked out the money for the RAPTAR system. Some teams used the mil estimation method, but they weren’t as fast as the teams using range finders. The sequence for success seemed to be, scan for targets with low powered optics, lase targets for range, dial or hold over, send it, repeat on next target. You would have to get really good at doing math in your head to mil as fast as the top teams lased.

I’m trying to capture as many little nuggets my brain still remembers…it was a very painful three days.

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Mammoth Sniper Challenge 2023 Lessons Learned part 1.

Wow….Mammoth is a beast. It’s not actually a “sniper” challenge so much as it is a “practical accuracy under pressure” challenge. There’s no getting in ghillie suits or stalking or final firing point selection….but there was a lot of rucking. Friday and Saturday each had four shooting stages, Sunday had two. Each day averaged between 10 and 13 miles of ruck marching with all your gear.

So what did I learn? Mammoth is not a cheap event if you want to be competitive. I fired hundreds of 5.56 and 7.62 rounds on targets getting prepped for Mammoth. I should have been firing THOUSANDS. I bought a Tidewe hunting pack to hold my gear, I should have spent three times the amount for something from Mystery Ranch, Eberlestock, or Osprey. I took my LR-308, I should have taken an AR-15. I took enough pistol ammo. I took way more rifle ammo. I took way too much food.

The top teams all seemed to be running bolt action rifles. There is a huge benefit to running a bolt action 223 Rem, in that you can customize the bullet length well beyond AR-15 magazine length, and start sending 75gr match bullets really fast. A lot of competitors went that route for their required 223 or 308 rifle the secondary shooter had to use. One guy, ranked in the top 100 PRS shooters in the USA for 2022 was pushing 75gr match bullets close to 3,100 fps from his custom rifle.

A lot of very successful teams used the RAPTAR laser range finder on a Spuhr adapter right above their riflescope. That’s some straight Gucci Gear as the RAPTAR is a close to 10,000 US Dollar piece of kit. It definitely sped up their range to target calculations. Other teams used laser range finders with ballistic solution capability and did ok.

Shooting at moving targets….you need to know three things. First, the range to target. Second, using range to target know your time of flight. Third, able to track how many mils or moa the target moves in that time frame. This is all simple stuff, but difficult to do under pressure. Especially since not a lot of ranges have moving targets to practice this skill on.

Pistols….if you think you are a good pistol shot, or even a decent pistol shot…Mammoth will either confirm or deny that assumption. I’m definitely not as good as I hoped I was, and I probably need to dump a few hundred dollars into 9×19 ammunition every six weeks or so to get better at pistol work. Seriously I should have focused a lot of effort at ringing a 10″ gong at 10 and 15 yards consistently.

The Tidewe rucksack I used worked out ok…it wasn’t optimal, but it handled better than the old green ALICE or newer large MOLLE rucksacks used by the US Army. I had to tighten up all the attachment straps or things would work themselves loose and the pack would shift while I rucked, sapping away my energy. I’m definitely keeping the Tidewe, but probably going to use it for more traditional outdoor recreation like hunting rather than marksmanship competitions. Still, if it’s all you can afford, it got me into the Finisher category at Mammoth.

Bipods…everyone shot off a bipod, most with a rear sack as well. Some teams carried Vortex brand carbon fiber tripods and did well with them, but even then they also had bipods on their rifles. I only saw one old school Caldwell style bipod, the rest were definitely more expensive than that.

Barrels…lots of carbon fiber wrapped Proof Research barrels. When you are carrying a rifle over 30 miles in 3 days, ounces make pounds and pounds make pain. Also a lot of heavy barrels by people who just sucked up the extra weight and humped it.

ARs….there were plenty of AR-10/LR-308 and AR-15s present. Teams ranged from very good, to bottom of the pack. The key here is to keep the sand out, oil in, and optics clear.

Food…most every team used freeze dried camping meals of one make or another. And a lightweight isubutane/propane mix as the heat source to boil water. My buddy and I ate a lot of oatmeal, which was good since one cup of instant oats with one scoop of protein powder mixed with one packet of almond butter is almost as lightweight as a freeze dried breakfast, but one tenth the cost.

Lenny and Larry’s perfect cookies….one of the favorite snacks of all the teams I was squadded with. I assume the other squads also consumed a bunch. A lot of protein, complex carbs, and shelf stable. At three bucks a cookie (your price may vary) they are not exactly cheap, but twenty five dollars will get you enough to have one pretty regularly over three days.

Footwear. Military boots were definitely a minority. Most competitors wore civilian hiking shoes, from brands like Merrel or Salomon. I wore basic issue Army boots, and wore a serious hole in my left foot by the second day. It was not fun on the final 7.43 mile ruck march on Sunday.

Socks…synthetic or wool. Cotton is right out.

Ammunition. Premium match, Federal Gold Medal or Hornady, or handloads. I’m sure there were people shooting other brands of match ammo, but those were the two I saw.

Tents…there are two thoughts on this. The first is go “ultra light backpacking” tent and the second is “go without.” My buddy and I went without, using surplus bivy covers over our sleeping bags. Turns out there are some lightweight tents even lighter than a bivy cover. I saw one guy use a Tyvek tarp and a tripod to make a sleep shelter.

There’s my first unstructured look at some of the things I learned….I’m sure there’s more posts to come.

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The end of 2022

2022 seemed like a very long year.

We are three years into the COVID-19 global pandemic, and there are still a few diehard believers out there afraid of that particular strain of Coronavirus. And occasionally COVID still makes the news, currently most of it coming out of China as that country struggles to find a balance between “OMG! THE SKY IS FALLING!!” and “meh, continue on.”

All of the data I’ve seen, at least from the more reliable western nations, tells me that COVID isn’t something to disrupt your national economy over so I’m a big fan of “meh, continue on. And despite a relatively small increase in the death rate for some demographics, the real casualty of COVID is the credibility of public health officials who deliberately stoked the fears of a public who can’t point to the position on a molecule that makes the difference between DNA and RNA. Especially when “Black Lives Matter” protests were just fine, but protest COVID lockdowns were bad. Pepperidge Farm remembers.

A pork filled spending omnibus passed with “bipartisan support” by a Lame Duck Congress. Some necessary stuff for things like military and infrastructure, but mostly pork spending aimed at “bringing home the bacon” to voting districts.

I’ve completed some gun projects, completed some home computing projects, got another year older. Even got a green belt in the Ribiero/Lovato school of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (getting into BJJ was definitely the best life choice I’ve made in a while, even if there’s a long way to go still until Blue Belt). Got to take my first Georgia Whitetail with a 350 Legend, really happy about that.

Twitter finally got bought by Elon Musk, and the Left simply refuses to talk about the blatant government interference and support for left talking points on the platform. Elon Musk was the darling of the Left when he was saving the planet with electric cars, but now they hate him for supporting free speech. Of course Leftists hate anyone not walking in perfect lockstep with Leftism Du Jour, so anyone with actual principles will eventually feel the wrath of the Left.

The last few months training up for Mammoth 2023 are about to end, and the event is now less than a week away. My homebuilt LR-308 finally has a true sub minute of angle (sub-moa) load, which if you are wondering is Lake City brass, milspec primer, 41.6gr of Ramshot TAC powder (+/- 0.1gr), and a 175gr SMK loaded to magazine length. The lessons I’ve learned in trying to tune a large frame AR pattern rifle for both accuracy and reliability would fill volumes, so expect some blog fodder on that in 2023.

The “War of Russian Aggression” on Ukraine is still ongoing, and Western military and monetary aid is keeping that country from becoming yet another province ruled by Moscow. I no longer speak to people who were convinced the T-72 was a better tank than the M1 Abrams, but the weaknesses of the T-72 platform are now on full display for the whole world to see. I truly hope Ukraine prevails in retaining their national borders, and I hope that whatever power vacuum Putin leaves when he’s ousted doesn’t turn into World War Three.

We are in the end game for shrinking the circuit size for silicon integrated circuits. TSMC is building on a 3 nanometer node, with a 2nm node expected to follow not too far in the distant future. That’s rather exciting, but once the lithography gets to 0.5nm or the size of individual atoms, it will be purely component size optimization and circuit optimization that will see performance increases. For the last decade or so both optics and carbon fiber have been proposed as potential replacements for silicon, but we’ll see.

Well…Happy New Year. Let’s hope 2023 isn’t the dumpster fire the last three years were.

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350 Legend

Today I took a Georgia whitetail doe with a 350 Legend, from a 16″ barreled AR-15. Distance was 80 some yards, and while I aimed for the heart/lung boilermaker I had a case of “deer fever” and delivered a neck shot. Still it was “bang, flop” for the doe. Hunting accuracy really is harder than target shooting accuracy. To be quite honest, the “adrenaline dump” from deer hunting was nearly the exact same rush I experienced with parachute operations in the 82d Airborne Division. I’ve been hunting many times before, but this is the first time I’ve had the ability to take doe for freezer meat (the state of Washington limits you to one antlered in the areas I could hunt unless you draw a doe tag, and I’ve seen a lot of antlered after and before legal hours there, but never got a shot off).

The good. In the AR-15 platform it is easy to make a highly compact, handy carbine that has the ballistic equivalence of the old 35 Remington my Grandfather used to hunt deer. That’s pushing well into the 30-30 Win to 32 Win territory for bullet mass and energy delivered. Those deer rounds have survived since your Great-great Grandfather’s time simply because they get the job done, and the 35 Remington is still kicking around commercially for the same reason.

The bad. You’ll need a new magazines, or modify some old ones, and you can’t effectively resize 5.56×45 brass to make 350 Legend. However, both those are minor costs compared to a yearly hunting license, and not a detraction at all if you don’t handload or aren’t sitting on a hoard of 30 round surplus STANAG magazines because you lived through the Clinton era AWB.

The interesting. The 35 Remington was first put to market in 1908 with the Remington “Model 8” semi-automatic sporting rifle. The modern AR-15 platform in 350 Legend simply brings this same performance to a new generation of hunters. The exact same benefits of a heavy bullet at moderate velocity from 114 years ago still exist today, as deer, black bear, and even elk, haven’t evolved bulletproof hides. The 350 Legend isn’t the “best new thing” in hunting cartridges, it was designed to meet the hunting laws of Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and parts of Michigan, which just made it perfect for the AR platform. It also makes it clear that “laws” have nothing to do with “ballistics” since the straight/tapered 350 Legend is legal in those areas, while the bottlenecked 35 Remington is not, despite launching the same 180gr bullet at the same velocity.

My take? If you don’t like recoil, like the AR-15 platform, and enjoy hunting, the 350 Legend is a great option. It won’t feed into a 5.56 chamber like some 300 Blackout loads will, which makes it much safer, and if you shoot a 5.56 through a 350 Legend chamber…well you won’t hit a target but you won’t blow anything up either.

The only argument I could see for going up to the 450 Bushmaster would be if you were hunting in the “big bear” areas and wanted a rifle with more “stopping power.” But you pay for that in cost, recoil, and reduced magazine capacity. Still a 180gr bullet from 350 Legend 16″ barrel is going to have more velocity and energy than a 240gr bullet from 44 Magnum 6″ barreled revolver, so even in “big bear” country the 350 Legend is going to be a lot better than harsh language. The 450 Bushmaster is in another class entirely, having energy levels closer to the 30-06 or 308 Winchester than the 30-30 or 32 Win. If you are deliberately hunting bear, the 450 Bushmaster is the easy choice. But if you are hunting deer, caribou, feral hog, or black bear, the 350 Legend isn’t going to hold you back as long as you do your part. Or get lucky like I did, and get a neck shot when you aimed for the heart/lung area.

For comparison: Using Hodgdon reloading data, a 30-30 Win pushing a 170gr bullet at max charge (36.3gr Compressed) of LVR powder hits 2,330 fps from a 24″ barrel while a 350 Legend pushes a 170gr bullet at max charge (27.9 gr) of Lil’Gun to 2,307 fps from a 16″ barrel. Those are ballistic twins as far as energy goes, the 350 Legend bullet, a Hornady Spire Point has a G1 BC of 0.215 and the 170gr Sierra Flat Point in the 30-30 has a G1 BC of 0.205. There’s no real difference in velocity or energy at hunting ranges where a 30-30 is appropriate, so is the 350 Legend.

For a more interesting comparison, a 308 Win from a 16″ barrel pushes a 180gr bullet between 2,400 and 2,500 feet per second, depending on bullet, powder, and barrel condition. The 308 Win with 16″ barrel is the hunting system of choice for two of my friends, who really love it. But at the same 80 yard range, there’s very little difference in 100 fps and 10 grains of bullet between the 350 Legend and thd 308 Winchester. The real difference is the much more streamlined 30 caliber bullet lets you have a “point blank range zero” of over 250 yards (plus or minus 5 inches from point of aim) from that same 16″ barrel. The 350 Legend really only gets you to about 210 yards. But you pay for that in rifle weight, ammunition weight, and increased recoil. This isn’t to make the argument that the 350 Legend is equivalent to the 308 Win, it isn’t, especially since that 180gr 30 cal bullet has a lot more sectional density for penetrating deep on things like big bears or elk. This is to say that for deer, odds are good you don’t need that 308 Win unless you also happen to have an elk or bear tag and will shoot what comes across your sights. But, if I would definitely find the 350 Legend a lot better than “harsh language” for carrying around in bear country, especially since it has ballistics better than any of the “bear defense” revolvers commonly recommended. Especially for people sensitive to recoil, or who would struggle to handle a full size rifle for some reason.

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Chip embargo with China, what will it really accomplish?

Currently the People’s Republic of China is huge in the microchip fabrication production industry. However generally the chips manufactured in China are on older lithography nodes, meaning larger than 14 nanometer level technology.

So what does this really mean? Honestly, not much in terms of military capacity, capability, or software development. And here’s why.

The newer, smaller, the manufacturing node the more efficient a circuit can be made, whether it is memory, logic, or “other” (the other category has things like digital analog converters, analog digital converters, etc). Generally this means that “progress” is seen as the power budget for a given amount of computational power decreases. What this doesn’t mean is that you can’t get the same computational power, with older and less efficient processors, using more power. So fundamentally, China will retain access to all the computational power that it wants.

After all, six Raspberry Pi 4 compute modules in a cluster is enough to make the equivalent super computer from the Top 500 of the year 2000. That’s not too long ago, and we still had a working Space Shuttle program going at that time, and the F-22 was already delivered to the US Air Force and in serial production. The F-35 program was well underway. Limiting China to 14 nm and larger essentially puts them at the first generation AMD Ryzen level of manufacturing, and that’s 2017 level technology. So I really do make the case that China will not lack from raw compute power, and other defense/intelligence analysts have been saying this for years now.

Where China will hurt from this action by the United States is the decrease in foreign capital influx. If the US isn’t buying Chinese chips, and not allowing top end lithography equipment to be sold to China, the capital necessary to build or upgrade a chip fab isn’t going to flow into China. It will flow to Israel or Ohio or Canada or Arizona or Germany.

This will absolutely not hurt China’s military modernization efforts. Chips for modern weapon systems do not require bleeding edge lithography nodes, and in the case of missiles that go orbital or suborbital, older larger nodes are actually better for resisting the error inducing effects of cosmic radiation. The lithography nodes necessary for things like electro-optics are already in the older generation of tech, so camera guided missiles (even IR cameras) aren’t going to be impacted.

Some analysts believe this will hurt China’s artificial intelligence goals, however I do not believe this to be the case. China will only have to spend more on more chips, more electricity, more cooling, to get the same level of compute power that modern CPU and GPUs provide. And I believe that China will pay this extra cost, as in 2021 Defense spending was 1.3% of GDP, but Research and Development hit 2.44% GDP. In fact, R&D expenditures as a percent of GDP has risen every year since 2007, when R&D passed the 1.3% that Defense gets. So it is clear that China is very interested in keeping scientists and engineers supplied with the necessities for their work. Even if we could lock China into a 5 year silicon lithography gap, that’s largely meaningless at this point.

And why? Well China has a huge push to get everyone off of Windows and running the Chinese version of Linux. And with that China can leverage the vast intellectual depth and breadth of the open source community, on everything from signal processing to database management to AI training tools. China will largely keep pace with the rest of the world contributing to open source code, and benefit from it.

What China really lacks, is the culture of innovation and free inquiry that exists in Western democracies. And a microchip embargo by the US Government has nothing to do with that problem. China has no problem making smart people with deep technical chops. What China has a problem with is turning them loose to look into what they are curious about instead of the next CCP dictated 5 year plan.

The other thing that China lacks is a sensible national electric grid plan. The Chinese electric rate is controlled pricing, but the price of coal is not. The Chinese electric grid has a lot of potential, but turning it from “interconnected regional grids” to a “fully resilient national grid” doesn’t seem to be on the political agenda for the CCP. However given that it is a strategic weakness, maybe it will be on the agenda soon.

And lastly, “node optimization” is a real thing. Intel has been milking the 10nm node for so long now that they had to rebrand it “Intel 7” to try to get away from looking like losers compared to TSMC. And TSMC’s 16nm node was refined and optimized so much that they rebranded it “12nm” with real efficiency and performance gains. So it is likely that China will begin investing more heavily in node optimization in addition to funding research (and espionage) to eventually manufacture their own extreme UV lithography equipment.

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AR-Stoner 20″ 1:8 5r 223 Wylde stainless HBAR review

So far there is less than 100 rounds through the barrel, which I bought cheap off of MidwayUSA a few years back (I think for like 87 bucks). I tossed it in the cart to bump up the amount to get free shipping, then tossed the barrel in the closet until I’d need a barrel.

And now, I needed a barrel for a designated marksman rifle (DMR) style build, so I used it. Ammunition tested so far is 75gr BTHP over 24gr of Varget (a mid range load, Hodgdon’s data for this is 25gr compressed), and a single load only 75gr Hornady ELD-M over the same charge weight of Varget.

So far best groups are right at 5 shots in an inch at 100 yards with both loads, from the bench but without a bipod or rear bag, just a block of wood to rest the free float tube on. This isn’t benchrest quality by any stretch, but it performs essentially the same as my Criterion 1:8 223 Wylde service rifle upper with the same loads. The worst groups were in the 3″ range, with some called flyers by me (I’m still working on eliminating flinching since I’ve been spending a lot of time on 308s lately).

The good, it was affordable, and functions fine.

The bad, I don’t think the “5r” rifling looks to be actually “radial” rifling, at least not like I’ve seen on M24s. It looked more like “ratchet” rifling than radial to me, but either way, it seems to be shooting acceptably.

The interesting, I used a Yankee Hill Machine clamp on gas block, and had short stroking issues the first range session. So I mated the gas block flush with the barrel shoulder and haven’t had a problem since. I don’t know if that just pushed the gas tube 0.002″ further into the receiver, or allowed gas to flow better, but it fixed the short stroking problem handily. Also, it’s a heavy barrel, there’s essentially two cylinder cuts, the heavy part between chamber and gas block, and the 0.75″ diameter from there to the flash hider.

Would I recommend this barrel? With some caveats, yes. If you are building for a junior High Power competitor/team then this makes a lot of sense for the price/performance. If you are looking for a range toy where 1 MOA is acceptable, it’s a fine choice. If you plan on shooting bullets in the 69gr to 77gr range, this is a good choice.

Where would I recommend someone look elsewhere? If you are only shooting 55gr or 62gr bullets, get something with a slower twist rate. If you are looking for a 0.5 MOA rifle, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a barrel with longevity and high volume of fire, look elsewhere (and think chrome lined or nitrided).

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Disinformation Equation

Effective disinformation requires two main ingredients. The first is having a story that is just enough believable. The second is having an audience dumb enough to believe it and spread it. This brings up Terry Goodkind’s famous quote, “Wizard’s First Rule: People are Stupid. They will believe a lie because they want it to be true, or fear it to be true.”

The ice breaker game, “Two Truths and a Lie” is a lot like disinformation, as it is harder to spot a lie among truth within the same context. My current favorite example is “FTX was laundering money to Democrats through Ukraine!” because it is true that Ukraine set up an account with FTX to receive money, and that Democrats like to pad the pockets of their supporters through government largesse (after all, paying non-profit/not-for-profit charitable organizations to “community organize” only seems to happen in the bluest of blue areas). The lie is that somehow FTX then funneled the money back to Democrats. Anyone familiar with crypto currencies and blockchain technology said, “Ok, let’s look at the ledger and see where the money went, we’ll see if any of this is true.” And it’s not true, but since it makes for a good meme it satisfies the first requirement “a story just believable enough” and the second “an audience dumb enough to believe it and spread it.”

Another example is the Hunter Biden Laptop scandal. The first scandal was the contents of the laptop. The second scandal was the mainstream media and over 50 current and former government officials claiming without any evidence that it was a Russian disinformation operation. One even went so far to defend his position that he didn’t say it WAS a Russian disinformation operation, only that it LOOKED LIKE a Russian disinformation operation. And it’s true, it does look like a Russian disinformation operation, except that the shop owner interacted with Hunter Biden (no controversy there), and the FBI in charge of counter-intelligence never made any arrests based on any investigation into the now infamous laptop…. People wanted to believe that the “experts” knew what they were talking about, and the “experts” knew their words would be repeated by all the friendly media outlets….

Ironically I’ve found that the “solid Right” is more likely to parrot Russian disinformation than the “hard Left” because the “solid Right” prefers a case of isolationist government policies to internationalist/engagement government policies. And a lot of Russian disinformation starts out with the premise that America should fix itself first, before supporting NATO or Ukraine (or whatever else Russia wants America to not support). “The US Government pays for missiles for Ukraine, but cannot keep the prices of meat and milk from skyrocketing!” was a pretty popular theme for a while. Another favorite is the intentional misunderstanding of the “4 + 2 Treaty” that re-unified Germany, which specified no NATO troops would be permanently stationed in the former DDR (aka East Germany) to mean (from Russia’s point of view) that there would never be any “eastward expansion of NATO.” And you find this talking point all over conservative idea pieces on the internet because they don’t trust the words of Boris Yeltsin who said, “we never understood the 4 + 2 Treaty to limit increasing NATO membership.”

But then again, I just saw a one star review for a 50″ flat screen where the guy claimed since it was only “44 inches wide, it’s a scam!” and 642 people (and counting) found that review helpful, rather than correcting him that TV inches are measured on the diagonal…. And in the words of Ron White, “You can’t fix stupid.”

And disinformation relies on stupid people to believe it, and spread it.

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Tidewe 5500cu external frame backpack, second review

The Tidewe 5500cu external frame backpack has been on my back for many 4 and 6 mile ruck marches now, so it is time for an update to how it performs.

Durability: so far no problems with straps, buckles, or fabric.

Comfort: when carrying a substantial load the comfort level is better than a surplus ALICE, and has a better weight distribution than a MOLLE ruck.

Utility: you can definitely pack a lot of gear in the Tidewe, it’s is probably more than you need for a 72 hour “get home” bag, but probably just right for my purposes of carrying: 1 Beretta M9 with 3 magazines and 100 rounds 9×19, an Army modular sleep system (winter bag and bivy), a top tarp and ground tarp, a propane bottle and burner, a pot to boil water, an AR-15 (carried external) and 100 rounds of 5.56×45 ammunition with three magazines, a laser rangefinder, a spotting scope, extra cold/wet gear, extra socks, sleeping pad, food for three days, and various other items (mildot master, write in the rain notebook, pencils/pens, tape, 550 cord, etc).

The nylon straps remain the “weak link” in the overall system, but are still completely useable, and easy enough to adjust when the main shoulder straps slip a little to add slack.

Interesting points….these can be had in civilian sporting camouflage, but mine is in the black/gray scheme that was cheapest. They can be had off of Amazon for around 120 US dollars, which makes them a good buy for people who need a serious hunting or endurance hiking bag. There are better rucksacks out there, but you will pay more for them, whether Eberlestock or Mystery Ranch or Kelty there are definitely better materials, better fit, more comfort, better weight distribution options. But they all cost a lot more, so the “value proposition” is definitely there with Tidewe.

Downsides: These are a “made in China” product, which is why they are affordable. If there were a “made in USA” equivalent for 200 dollars (an 80 dollar price increase) I’d say that it would be worth it to buy the American made option. But there’s going to be a lot of “made in China” gear that I take with me to Mammoth, from the Vortex Venom scope to the Arken Optics mounting system, to the generic quad rail free float forend I bought off of ebay mounted on the AR-15. It’s really hard to not purchase Chinese made, or partially Chinese made sporting good products in the current American market without purchasing “top tier” goods. If you are like me as one of the “poors” who doesn’t mind building on an Anderson “poverty pony” lower then stretching your dollar as far as it goes for your hobbies is probably a big concern.

But, when I was growing up (in the previous century) the label “Made in Japan” had been associated with low quality and cheap. For quite a bit of my adult life “Made in China” has meant low quality and cheap. Now “Made in Japan” is associated with high quality and expensive, and China (under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party’s goal of neo-mercantilist empire) has decided to make it largely impossible to not “do business in China.”

It is an interesting problem, one that I hope resolves favorably to the United States (and the rest of the world) without becoming mercantilist raw resource providers for the Chinese manufacturing conglomerates.

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