Norfolk Virginia Mechanic

I don’t know if anyone still reads here considering how little I post any more, but I’m putting this info out there for informational purposes. I had a hard time finding a good mechanic shop so I’m hoping that this info will help someone else in the same boat out.

We used to use the Firestone Mastercare at Military Circle. They were OK. I was never hugely impressed by them, but they did competent work at a reasonable rate. They did have a habit of trying to “upsell” by trying to convince you to have them do work other than what you were there for, which was annoying, but I’m very well practiced at saying “no thank you”…however we started having issues with them a couple of years ago.

First, they failed my truck on an annual safety inspection because of a tiny tear in a wiper blade. The guy had a very hard time even showing me the tear that he was failing me for. They wanted to charge me $60 to replace the wiper blades before they’d pass the inspection. I changed them myself for $15.

Then my wife started having issues with them over her car. She took it in to get the oil changed before a drive to Indiana while I was on a business trip. They convinced her that the car wasn’t safe to drive unless she had the hoses and belts replaced…but after they realized they didn’t have one of the hoses in stock, they declared that it would probably be OK to drive to Indiana on that hose as long as she brought it back to get it replaced after the trip.

So it’s OK to drive when they don’t have the parts, but if they’d had the parts, the car was unsafe without them? Really?

A few other incidents followed, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when they tried to tell my wife that her radiator was cracked and she needed a new one but, strangely, there had been no evidence that the radiator was leaking. I was, again on a business trip, so I had her take it to a mechanic friend of ours to check it out to be sure…he verified that the radiator was not cracked or leaking and that was the last time we darkened the door of Firestone mastercare.

We then went through a plethora of mechanics in this area and each and every one of them had issues. My friend the mechanic is a good mechanic, but is a very small operation and doesn’t have the diagnostic equipment or tools to work with modern cars, he’s more of a “classic cars and motorcycles” kind of guy. Some mechanic shops just didn’t strike me as particularly competent, some tried to rip us off in one way or another (trying to overcharge, or fix things that weren’t wrong), some the staff was rude or downright jerks. We just couldn’t seem to find a shop that did good work, charged reasonable rates and were honest.

That all changed on Friday. We’ve had an ongoing problem with The Wife’s car; a loud “roaring” road noise and slight vibration when steering, especially at highways speeds. I thought it was probably either a CV joint or wheel bearing, but didn’t have time to mess with it myself. The Wife found a mechanic shop with good reviews on Yelp so we gave them a try.

Accurate Tune on the corner of 14th and Monticello in Norfolk is now officially our “go-to” mechanic shop.

The Wife called them Friday morning and asked if they could get the car in. They assured us that they would be able to take a look on that day (almost never happened at Firestone).

When we dropped the car off, JT at the front desk was straightforward, friendly and professional. He outlined what they would do to troubleshoot and assured us that they would get to the bottom of the problem.

A couple of hours later, JT called and verified that the problem was the driver’s side wheel bearing. Since the bearing is integral to the wheel, they’d have to change the whole wheel. They quoted a price of $240 which I felt was very reasonable for such a repair and we authorized the work. BTW: I’d had a similar problem with my truck a few years before and replaced the wheel myself. The part was about $90 and it took me about 6 hours to do the work.

Anyway, they called back a few hours later and told us the work was done, we went and picked up the car. They did not try to “upsell” other service, they didn’t try to tell us anything else was wrong with the car, they just fixed the problem, the first time, perfectly.

The problem is resolved. JT even called The Wife the next day to make sure everything was OK with the car after the repair.

So, if you’re in the market for a good, reliable, honest mechanic in Norfolk, VA; my mechanic is Accurate Tune Plus on Monticello and, so far, I recommend them wholeheartedly.

Follow Up

Back when I put together my M4gery AR Carbine, I reviewed the Sight Mark red dot sight and the mounting base I got from Midway USA.

At the time I mentioned that I’d follow up if anything changed.

I just wanted to report that, finally, after approx 4 years and maybe 2,000 rounds of ammo, I’ve finally got an update other than “it works great”.

I took 6 new shooters to the range (I know, I know, I didn’t post a new shooter report…bad blogger…I’ve been busy) a few weeks ago, new shooters (especially guys) tend to like to shoot the AR carbine, so it really gets a workout on those trips. During firing, we had two minor glitches, one with the sight itself and one with the mount.

On the mount, one of the top screws started backing out. I didn’t have the right size allen wrench so I couldn’t tighten it back down right there, there are three screws on each end of the top of the mount, so I figured 2 would work and if the screw came completely out I could just buy a new one at Tidewater Fasteners. Well, it never came all the way out so it ended up not being a big deal. A little locktight and a correctly sized allen wrench and it’s good to go.

The other minor problem was on the sight itself. The hinge pin for the front flip cover came out while firing. The shooter at the time recovered both the cover and the spring, but couldn’t locate the pin. I haven’t fixed that yet, but it’s simply a matter of finding a piece of wire or spring steel that will fit in place of the pin and putting it back together again.

The rear pin seems solid so I don’t know what caused the front one to come out. Again, just a minor thing and the sight still works great…by the way, the battery life on this sight is excellent. I haven’t tested it straight through from turn on till it dies, but this last time, the batteries were brand new when we started, we started shooting at around 3pm and they forgot to turn the sight off after we left the range, I didn’t think to check it until the next morning at about 0800 and the dot was still strong, so, based on that, the run time is in excess of 17 hours.

Anyway, that’s my update. Granted, I’ve never tested this setup in harsh conditions, just at the range, or at my step-father’s farm in PA, but for civilian purposes and a rifle that’s probably never going to see more harsh conditions than standing in a field shooting watermelons from 150 yards away, I’d say this sight is well suited for the task, at a fraction of the cost of the brand name optics.

Windows Phone Follies

Last week, my company finally decided I was important enough to shell out for a smart phone.

I ended up with an HTC Imagio with Windows 6.5.

I’ve had some growing pains with it. I’ve been having trouble getting it to sync correctly and I can’t get Microsoft Zune software to work with it for some reason.

Other than that it works pretty well.

I downloaded and installed a couple of apps using the Marketplace software that came installed on the phone. It worked great until a couple of days ago. I could still browse the available apps, but when I tried to download something, I’d get an error message: “Marketplace could not connect to the Windows Live ID service. Please try again later.”

I was able to log into windows live from my computer, and even could log into the web site from my phone, but the Marketplace app just kept giving me that error.

I did some searching and found this thread on the Microsoft Answers forum.

Basically, plenty of other people have been having this same problem since at least April. Interestingly, the very first reply was from someone from Microsoft, assuring us:

Hi,

We’re aware of this problem and we’re working on it.

In 8 more pages of comments on that forum, there is no further followup from Microsoft and, obviously, they have not fixed the problem.

After five more pages (and over a month) of people having the same problem and begging for a solution, a helpful poster (not Microsoft) responded with this:

Thank you Arup Chaki for this fix! To fix the problem you need to reinstall MyPhone. Follow below.

1. go to http://myphone.microsoft.com/install from your phone.
2. Tap on start download and follow the rest of the process.
3. The application will ask you to reboot the phone and just follow it.
4. Open My Phone from your phone and log in

Several people posted that the technique worked for them, so I gave it a try. Much to my dismay, when I went to the linked website, I got this helpful message from Microsoft.

If you click on the link for more information, basically it says “sorry buddy, you’re SOL”.

Sigh.

After some more searching, I did find out that the app is still available for download, even though it’s no longer supported. It can be found here

I downloaded and reinstalled the myphone app, and, Viola!, Marketplace is now working again.

Don’t ask me why.

And no thanks to Microsoft.

I can say unequivocally that if this is the level of customer support that I can expect from Microsoft on their Phone products, I won’t be buying one. If the one I have hadn’t been provided by my company, I’d take it back and get a refund.

There’s simply no excuse for this kind of neglect and I’m just glad I was able to find someone helpful to assist in figuring it out, because Microsoft sure wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit on this issue.

Buyer beware.

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this, my phone stopped working. I could get online, check e-mail, etc, but when I tried to use my phone as an actual…you know…phone, it would error out. It did helpfully offer to send an error report every time it refused to work.

Sigh

I ended up having to do a hard reset (which, of course kills all user data and resets the phone to factory defaults). This worked and my phone now works as a phone again, but now windows Marketplace refuses to work again. I guess they really don’t want to sell me any apps for my phone after all. I’m just going to uninstall the stupid thing and leave the phone as-is. Although I must ask: What’s the point in having a phone they bill as a “pocket PC” when the software that comes on it doesn’t work and you can’t install any new software without fear of killing the phone?

I’m seriously considering giving this stupid “smart” thing back and asking for my old dumb phone back again.

Freaking ridiculous.

Flashlight Review

Like any gunnie, I’m always in the market for a good flashlight, but I’ve never felt the need to drop a hectobuck or two on one, so I’m  always on the lookout for a bargain.

Almost a year ago, I picked up a Coleman 75 lumen LED flashlight at Walmart for about $25.  I was very happy with the light, it wasn’t like, the best thing since sliced bread or anything, but it was plenty bright, the batteries lasted a long time and it seemed pretty well made.

I probably would have been fine with that light for a long time had I not accidentally dropped it down into an interior wall in my house while crawling around in the attic a couple of weeks ago.  Heck, for all I know, it may still be lit up in there.  I didn’t think it was worth it to rip a hole in the wall to get a flashlight out so I just decided to write it off and get another one.

Unfortunately, when I had a chance to hit Walmart again the other day, they didn’t have the same light in stock any more.  Fortunately, they had an even better deal.

Another Coleman, 90 lumens this time, and only $18.

It takes three AAA batteries and has a listed run time of 2 hours.


It has a crenelated “strike” style bezel, is all aluminum, water resistant and seems very solidly put together.


It has a recessed rear push button on/off switch that has a very solid feel when actuated.

It’s about an inch and a quarter in diameter at its widest point…

…and about 4 and 3/4 of an inch in length.

It does have some down sides:  It’s a little larger than I’d like, not unwieldy, but slightly bigger than some other 3AAA flashlights I’ve had (including the one that’s still in my kitchen wall).

The switch has a momentary mode, but it only works after the flashlight is turned on, to turn it off momentarily.   I prefer a switch that allows you to leave it off, but turn it on momentarily when needed.

It comes with a wrist strap, but no belt holster so you’d have to buy a generic holster to carry it on a belt.

And the beam is not adjustable and it does not have fancy flashing modes or variable output power.

Those negatives are actually pretty minor when you get right down to it.

So, how does it stack up as far as beam quality and brightness?

I don’t have a high dollar streamlight or surefire to compare it to…I just can’t make myself spend that much money on a flashlight…but I do have an old-school incandescent, three cell Mag Light that was my standard for years before LED lights started coming out.   So, how does a modern, high output LED light stack up against a Mag Light?

Very well.

Better than very well as a matter of fact.

I put fresh batteries in the Mag Light to make it as bright as possible.

The first thing I did was compare them straight on.  One of the uses for a flashlight as a defensive tool is to blind an attacker.

I took the pictures with the camera on the same settings (ISO 100, shutter speed 1/20, f5.6, flash on.  I used the flash so that the lights wouldn’t completely wash out the picture to, hopefully, allow for a better comparison.

This is the Mag Light.  Not too bad.


But it pales in comparison to the Coleman LED light.

Although this one isn’t one of those 230 lumen monsters that can heat your lunch for you in a pinch, I’d say this one does a pretty good job.

The light is more blue and seemed much more intense than the Mag Light.  It caused me physical pain to look into and I had to wear sunglasses in order to take the picture.

So far so good.


How about the beam pattern.  Is it clean and concentrated?

This is from about 1 meter.  The left beam is from the Mag Light. The beam pattern has more defined edges but is distinctly asymmetrical and inconsistent, as well as being a softer yellowish color and noticeably less intense.

The Coleman light’s beam edges aren’t as defined, but the beam pattern is much more consistent, the light has a harsher bluish tinge and is significantly more intense.

And finally, what about at distance?

This is at a distance of about 100 feet from my backyard onto the back of the neighbor’s garage.

Again, the Mag light casts a yellowish, fairly soft light.  The beam has very well defined edges, but is inconsistent and there is a noticeable dim spot in the center of the beam.


The Coleman light is distinctly more intense, even though more diffused without distinct edges to the beam.  The light is, however, very uniform with no dark spots or noticeable imperfections.

Again, the two pictures were taken with exactly the same camera settings.  I used a tripod and had the lights sitting on a table so they’d be stable for the long exposure time required to get decent pictures.

It may not be a tacticool $250 streamlight, but I have to say that this is the second Coleman LED flashlight I’ve had that has very much exceeded my expectations.  I’m very happy with it and I think if you’re on a budget but looking for a very serviceable, bright, practical flashlight for everyday use, it would be hard to beat the value of these little Coleman lights.

FTC Disclaimer:  I received no remuneration, perks, swag, discounts, coupons, trips to Hawaii, airline miles, booze, hookers, limousines, court-side seats, scooby snacks, swift kicks, letters patent, kind words or any other consideration from any of the companies or producers of the products mentioned in this review…although I probably wouldn’t have turned them down had any been offered.  All rights reserved.  Void where prohibited.  Your mileage may vary.

AR-15 Build Part 9

In B.O. Special, I introduced the newest addition to the gun cabinet and reviewed the rifle kit from Del-ton.
In Part 1, we talked about tools and preparation and installed the magazine catch.
In Part 2. we installed the trigger guard.
In Part 3, we installed the bolt catch.
In Part 4, we installed the pivot pin.
In Part 5, we installed the trigger assembly.
In Part 6, we installed the hammer assembly.
In Part 7, we installed the selector and pistol grip.
In Part 8, we installed the takedown pin, buttstock, buffer spring and buffer.

In this…the final edition of this series…we’re going to install the complete upper, install the sights and optics, take Barack to the range, and sum it all up.

Installing the complete upper is a snap. First, place the forward mounting lug of the upper receiver into the lower receiver and line the hole up with the pivot pin.

You may want to turn it over and look at the holes from the back side to make sure you get them lined up.

Once it’s all lined up, just push the pin in.

You’ll feel some resistance from the detent spring pressure and you should be able to feel the detent snap into place as the pin seats completely.

The next step is optional. The M-16/AR-15 design was intended to have a bit of a loose fit between the upper and lower receivers. Some contend that this impact accuracy. I’m not convinced of that, but I do know that I don’t like things rattling any more than they have to so I prefer a tight fit.

Considering that I got the upper and lower from two different vendors, mine actually fit pretty well, but there was a slight bit of movement.

To alleviate this, I purchased an “accuwedge” from Midway USA. For all of $2.99 plus shipping, it’s hard to go wrong. I actually went ahead and bought two so I’d have one for “Obama” when I finally get it built up.

The accuwedge goes into the rear of the receiver…

…with the “base” down in the bottom and the “tang” sticking up behind the takedown pin.

Then swing the upper receiver closed and into place in the lower receiver.

With the accuwedge installed, the upper probably won’t seat completely into the lower on its own.

You’ll have to squeeze them together…

…and then push in the takedown pin. Again, you’ll feel the resistance of the takedown pin detent and spring and you should feel the detent pop into place as the takedown pin seats.

Now the rifle is complete; however, because I went with the flattop upper, it doesn’t do us much good without rear sights (unless you’re one of those people that the Brady’s like to talk about who “spray fire from the hip”…in which case you can skip the rest).

Considering that I’m on a budget, I couldn’t afford expensive sights and optics. I could have easily spent as much on those as I did on building the rifle…if I had that kind of money, I would have bought the parts to build up Obama already.

Basically, I cheaped out.

I bought both the iron sights and the red-dot from the same vendor: Combathunting.com.

The iron sights were only $21 but looked to have pretty standard windage and elevation adjustments and two aperture sizes. I knew I was taking a chance by buying something that cheap, but I figured if they suck too bad, I could always buy something else more expensive later.

I have to admit that, after getting them, I’m pretty impressed. For the price, they seem to be very well made. We’ll see how they do at the range.

As a carbine, I figured this rifle would be more suited for close-in work and my military buddies really like the Aimpoint red dots that they have on their M4’s so I wanted to approximate that.

I definitely wanted something that I could co-witness with the iron sights…but there was no way I could afford an Aimpoint.

After some research and reading of reviews, I decided to go with the “Sight-Mark” Aimpoint look-alike. Yes, I realize that were I a “real” operator I’d settle for nothing less than the best. I guess I’ll just have to hold off on earning my Mall Ninja merit badge for now.

The Sight-Mark I also got from Combathunting.com for a very reasonable $78.

One disadvantage to the Sight-Mark is that the base that comes with it is not high enough to co-witness with the sights…however I found out that Pro-Mag makes a cantilever sight base that will work with the Sight Mark for that purpose. The most reasonable price I found for the Pro-mag sight base was Midway USA, where I got one for $45. Oh by the way…did I mention that I have a Curio and Relic FFL and so Midway USA gives me the dealer price? If you don’t get the dealer discount, the price for this mount is $67.

Mounting the sights is very easy. Open up the clamp on the base as far as it will go.

I put some blue thread locking compound on the threads to make sure that it stays tight.

Put one side of the base onto the flattop rail and rock it down into position.

Then tighten the base by turning the knob until it’s good and snug.

I used a large screwdriver to tighten it another half turn or so to make sure it wouldn’t come loose.

I put the rear sight all the way to the rear on the rail. The rear of the sight was formed to match the rear silhouette of the receiver so I just matched the rear edges up and put it there.

For the red-dot the procedure is pretty much the same.

Open the base all the way and put a little blue thread locking compound on the threads.

Figure out where you want it positioned…

I wanted the red dot to be relatively centered on the rifle fore and aft so that’s how I chose my mounting position. This was purely aesthetic. The only real concern is not to put it so close to the rear sight that the flip up cover hits the iron sight when opening or closing.

…rock it onto the rail…

…and tighten down the wing nut.

One thing I really like about the Pro-mag sight base is that it has a compartment for storing extra batteries.

And now we have a complete, useable rifle.

‘Course I STILL need to get a sling…

The next thing to do is take it to the range and see how it shoots.

I went to Camp Allen Weapons Range at a local Marine Corps base. It is the newest, and best indoor range around…unfortunately, it’s only open to military, LEO, military retirees and DOD employees.

I guess that’s a good thing because it would always be packed if it was open to the public.

It’s only 25 yards, but you can use anything up to and including .50BMG and they even allow black powder, which is VERY unusual for an indoor range.

The ventilation system is pretty impressive. Black powder smoke is gone almost as soon as it leaves the barrel.

I have to say that I’m very happy with both the iron sights and the Sight-Mark. I zeroed them both at 25 yards and it shot very well.

This is prone with the iron sights. I believe it was ten rounds, but I could be off by one or two. The squares are 1″.

Keep in mind that this was without a rest or even a sling. I was resting my support arm on the ground and that’s all the support I had.

And this is with the red dot, standing, off-hand.

I’m thinking for close-in work, that’ll do the job.

I did get a chance to take it to the outdoor range a week or so ago and shot at 50 yards. I didn’t have a lot of time so I didn’t take it to 100 because I wanted to get in some pistol work too…but I got similar results at 50. After reading some other opinions, I think I’m going to zero both sights at 75 yards on this rifle, which, according to what I read, should give me a good “center of mass” battle zero for any range up to 200.

I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with both sighting systems so far. I don’t think you can do much better than that for the price. The zeros stayed true between range sessions and I had no problems zeroing them or co-witnessing them. They both seem to be pretty well built and solid.

Only time will tell how they will hold up with use, but if I have any problems I’ll be sure to report them right away.

I already mentioned the one little glitch I had with the rifle itself: while firing the first magazine, it was basically a single shot. I had to cycle the selector between safe and fire between each shot to get it to fire. After that first magazine, though, I’ve had no further problems.

The trigger is a little creepy and the letoff isn’t as crisp as I’d like so I’ll be doing some trigger work shortly, but other than that, I’m very happy with my project.

Thanks for coming along for the ride and for your patience in slogging through all the pictures and my wordy descriptions.

And, with that, I’ll close this series with one final picture.

B.O. Special

I’ve already mentioned that I bought a pair of stripped AR lowers shortly before the election. It was a win-win for me. I had wanted at least one AR pattern rifle for a while…not necessarily because I particularly like them, but because they are popular, very versatile and practical rifles; and, with the potential for a ban in the future, there’s no time like the present.

At the time, I didn’t have enough money to build both lowers up, but I decided I wanted at least one built before B.O. and the Dems in congress had any opportunity to ban them or the parts, so I bit the bullet (so to speak) and ordered a complete rifle kit from Del-ton.

Basically, it included a lower parts kit including a 4 position collapsible buttstock, and a complete upper. I ordered the upper with the 16″ lightweight chrome lined barrel with 1-9″ twist, M4 length handguards, standard front sights, A2 flash suppressor and an A-3 flattop upper receiver.

The whole kit and kaboodle with shipping ended up costing right around $545. Added to the lower that I had already bought for $125, two 30 round Magpul Pmags for $20 each and $30 for a rail mounted rear sight and I had a complete rifle for $740. I also added an optional Sight-Mark Aimpoint knock-off and a pro-mag cantilever mount which allows for co-witnessing the sights which added another $95. I still need to decide what style of sling I want and get that.

And without further ado:

click to make bigger

This was before I got the promag mount so the red dot sight is actually too low to co-witness, but I wanted it on there for effect.

Say hello to the newest member of the family, Barack.

I’m already looking into what I want to do with the second lower. I definitely want to build the upper on that one as well as the lower and I’m thinking 6.8spc. I’m hoping to start buying parts for it soon because I don’t want to wait too long in case some sort of ban gets rammed through and parts go even more through the roof than they already have. BTW…that one is going to be named Obama.

Over the next week or so, I’m going to document my build. I know that there are already a million sites out there with AR-15 build instructions…in fact, I got my instructions from two different threads on arfcom. I’m not doing this because I don’t think the instructions are out there; my intent is to share my journey through amateur gunsmithing with my readers and that’s what I’m going to do.

But first, a quick word about Del-Ton. They are VERY backed up. I ordered my upper in early November, just at the beginning of the rush. I received my order in late December. Mine was quick relative to the later orders, and many were delayed due to back-ordered components.

With that said, the people at Del-ton are doing an excellent job of keeping people informed of what’s going on and where they stand through their “Industry” forum at arfcom.

I have to report that I did have a problem with my order when I received it. The fsb was dramatically off-kilter.

After doing some research, I thought there was a good chance I could fix it, but I shouldn’t have to…I’d ordered a complete upper and I expected it to be ready to go out of the box.

I called the number and, after about ten tries, actually got through. I spoke to Laura who was very understanding and apologetic about it.

She assured me that UPS would be there to pick it up for return the next day.

They were.

Laura was at SHOT show the next week and asked if I could wait until she got back so that she could look at it before repairing it and returning it to me. I agreed to this delay…heck, I’d already been waiting two months…what’s another week.

I called her after she got back and spoke to her. This was the only annoying part about the whole thing. She basically passed blame off. She said that they order those barrels with the front sights already installed, they don’t assemble them themselves. That’s why it was off.

In my humble opinion, when a company sends out a product with their name on the invoice, it is their responsibility. They should have recognized that the barrel was faulty when they installed it, not after shipping it to a customer and having to have it shipped back.

I realize that they have been extremely busy, but QA is vital in maintaining customer satisfaction.

I want to point out that this seems to have been a fluke. I’ve read and heard very good things about this company, and I was very impressed with their response to my problem. They handled it with alacrity and professionalism, so, the minor hiccup I had notwithstanding, I still feel comfortable in recommending Del-ton to others who are looking for a relatively inexpensive source of AR-15 upper receivers.

As far as the lower parts kit goes…it went together flawlessly…no problems at all. I will say that the first time I fired it after assembly, there was a little wierdness: I was ready to fire the very first magazine, put the selector to fire and squeezed the trigger for a very satisfying “Bang”. Released the trigger to reset and tried to pull again…nothing. It felt like the safety was on. I moved the selector to “safe” and then back to “fire” and successfully squeezed off another round, with the same result. After firing, it felt like the safety was on. I had to cycle the selector between “safe” and “fire” between every round for that first magazine.

During all this, I was adjusting the sights. I got the iron sights zeroed at 25 yards and finished burning through the first mag. I then tried the second mag and…lo and behold…no problems. I reloaded the first mag and tried it again…no problems. I’ve never been able to duplicate that problem since that very first magazine. Something in there must have not been seated completely correctly but subsequently popped into place because I’ve had no further trouble with it.

To finish the review. I wish the collapsible stock was a 6 position versus 4, but it seems well built and functional. The pistol grip is not incredibly comfortable for me so I’ll probably replace that at some point. The upper to lower receiver mating is pretty good, but just slightly loose, so I did install an accuwedge. The trigger is a little creepy and the pull weight is a little higher than I’d like. I’m going to have to clean that up some.

But overall, I’m very happy with it. You can’t expect perfection from a lower end product, but this is well worth the money in my humble opinion.

I’ll start documenting my build very soon.

Next Post in the series

One thing I’ve been remiss in posting about

Are some of my newest acquisitions. I’ve commented on a couple of blogs about them, but I’ve never hit the subjects here very hard. In my last CZ-82 gunsmithing post, I mentioned that I bought two more. I won’t post pictures of them because…well, when you’ve seen one stock CZ-82, you’ve seen them all. I do plan to refinish them both though so you’ll get a look at them when I start that process.

I also bought two, sequentially serialized stripped AR lowers. I’ve already built one of them up and I’ve got a post percolating on that build that should be up in a day or so.

Why two CZ-82’s and two AR’s you ask? Well…I have two kids you see, and someday…

Actually, my son already has dibs on my M1 Garand when I die, so I guess his sister’s going to get the Carbine. The rest I haven’t figured out yet. Don’t worry, I’ll work it out somehow.

Anyway, the point of this post: I’ve been wanting a 1911 or a long time. One of the issues that I”ve had with my combination of carry guns is that they operate differently. The Ruger does not have a manual safety. It has a decocker and is intended to be carried in condition two.

The CZ-82 has a thumb safety and I typically carry it in condition one.

The problem is that, under stress (like with someone shooting at me) I fear that I’d lose conscious track of which one I’m carrying and either forget to disengage the safety on the CZ, or get hung up trying to disengage the nonexistent safety on the Ruger.

What I’ve wanted for a long time to alleviate that problem is a 1911 with an ambidextrous safety. The problem is that I’ve never thought I could afford one reliable enough to be a carry gun.

I was wrong.

I started hearing very good things about Rock Island Armory’s entry into the 1911 field and the prices on them are downright tasty. I ended up selecting the “tactical” model which has the lowered ejection port, extended beavertail and skeletonized hammer, along with a few other nice to have bennies…including the main ingredient for me…ambidextrous safety.

I tried not to have too high expectations because at $425, it just seemed “too good to be true” to expect it to be a reliable shooter right out of the box, but I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised.

The fit and finish were much better than I expected. I have to admit that the Parkerizing isn’t proving to be as durable as I’d like…I’ve already got some holster wear after a couple of months…but functionally, I couldn’t be happier.

I did disassemble, clean and lube it after getting it home, but I did nothing else to improve reliability. The first time I took it to the range, it ate 100 rounds of my preferred carry ammo, 165 grain speer gold dot JHP (that I get from Georgia Arms for a very reasonable price), without a hiccup.

The follower on the factory 8 round magazine that came with it seemed a little cheesy to me when I first saw it, but it has fed reliably in the few months that I’ve had it. I’ve since bought 4 more Chip McCormick 8 round magazines and all of them have functioned perfectly.

I’ve now fired several hundred rounds of the above mentioned Gold Dot, 230 gr Federal Hydro-shok JHP, and 230 gr Winchester White Box FMJ with nary a problem. Not a single failure so far.

Color me a satisfied RIA customer. The only two things that could REALLY use improvement: The smooth walnut grips, combined with a smooth frontstrap just didn’t give me a good enough grip. I could especially see this causing a problem with hands that are slick for whatever reason. Also, the sights are not adjustable and have no dots. They’re taller and easier to use than stock military sights…but only slightly so. Fortunately, RIA uses a Novak cut so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find replacement three dot adjustable sights when I can afford it.

The grips, I’ve already taken care of at least for the time being. At the last gun show (astute viewers of my SKS trigger job video may have noticed the SGK stamp on the back of one of my hands…I had been to the gun show earlier in the day before filming that) I picked up a cheap $11 set of rubber grips attached with a rubber, textured front strap cover.

I don’t have a picture of the pistol wearing her new shoes at the moment, but I’ll put one up when I get a chance. The grips weren’t cut for the ambi safety so I had to slightly modify them, but I bought them for function, not for form. For that purpose, I am extremely happy. They fit very tightly…I had to put the gun in my padded vise in order to get a good enough grip to stretch them across and attach the other side…but that was a plus. That made for a very secure fit. For $11 I think it was a very good investment, at least until I can afford something better.

So now I have two carry guns with very similar control systems. Both have ambidextrous safeties in approximately the same place and that operate in the same manner (down to fire, up for safe). That vastly simplifies my training and alleviates my concerns about “grace under fire” so to speak.

I’m hoping to get my AR-15 build post up in the next few days.

CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 13

This is it…the final post in this series. I know what you’re thinking: “About D@#$ Time!” Sorry it’s taken so long to get this done.

In the first post of the series, we Introduced the CZ-82 to our collection and identified the areas that needed work.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 1, we discussed the loose grips issue and disassembled the slide components.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 2, we disassembled the magazine catch and lightened the magazine catch spring tension.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 3, we removed and disassembled the safety and disassembled the slide.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 4, we removed the slide stop and spring, and then the trigger, trigger spring and trigger bar.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 5, we removed main spring, hammer, sear, and associated other fire control parts.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 6, we covered the basic trigger job.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 7, we reinstalled the hammer strut, hammer, sear, auto safety, ejector, and disconnector.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 8, we reinstalled the trigger, trigger bar and trigger spring.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 9, we reinstalled the mainspring and plug and the safety assembly.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 10, we reinstalled the slide stop and trigger guard latch pin.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 11, we reassembled the magazine catch and reinstalled the trigger guard.
In CZ-82 Gunsmithing Part 12, we reassembled the slide and installed it on the frame.

In this edition, we’re going to install and review the fancy new grips I got from Marschalgrips and then discuss how I feel about the corrections I made and how it all turned out.

As a reminder, the reason I decided to replace the grips was because the original plastic grips had a tendency to move on the frame making it hard to be consistent. A commenter drew my attention to the fact that overtightening the grip screws can cause tiny cracks in the grips making them impossible to ever get tight again. With that in mind, and with an eye toward making the pistol a bit prettier, I ordered new grips from marschalgrips.com.

Marshalgrips has a very good selection of grip styles for the CZ, but I wasn’t looking for anything too custom. One problem is that I’m left handed, but my wife and kids like shooting my guns too, so if I got custom, finger groove/thumb rest grips made for me, they wouldn’t be able to shoot it comfortably. With that in mind, I went with the standard ambidextrous grips in checkered walnut, grey finish. The cost was $45 plus shipping.

I wasn’t expecting the turnaround time to be speedy and I wasn’t disappointed, it took over a month to get them after placing the order, but that is expected with a craftsman who makes each set individually.

When I did get the package, I took a picture because I’ve never gotten any mail from Budapest Hungary before and I thought it was interesting.

At any rate, I was very happy with the initial look. The craftsmanship is very good, the lines clean, the finish smooth and even and the screw holes were reinforced with recessed metal rings.

So far so good.

They installed easily enough, but I immediately ran into a problem: The magazine fit was now tight to the point that I couldn’t even insert the mag all the way without forcing it. I’m pretty picky about mags dropping free on their own after the mag release is pressed so that wasn’t going to do at all.

The problem was easy enough to identify. The magazine well inside the grip was just barely too small.

Not a problem, a bit of 600 grit emery cloth and some fitting took care of the problem with alacrity.

I had to remove a little from the front of both grips.

After fitting them a bit better, the mags inserted and dropped free perfectly.

But then I ran into another minor problem.

The safety on the left side was a little to close to the frame and the new grip was interfering with its operation.

This is a more significant problem because it required fitting on the outside of the grip…where the finish is.

I removed as little as possible from the corner to allow the safety to operate and didn’t mar the finish too badly.

Unfortunately, over time, the safety has caused some marring of the finish since I installed the grips. which I’m a little disappointed about.

I can try touching up the finish, but I’m afraid I won’t pick exactly the right color and it won’t blend well. It’s really not that noticeable and this is a working gun, not a wall-hanger, so I can live with it.

The only other thing I’m disappointed about is that I could still feel a slight bit of movement of the grips on the frame. I don’t think this is a hit on the grips themselves, I think it is a flaw in the design of the pistol. There is basically nothing holding the grips in place except the single mount screw and it is simply impossible to get the screws tight enough to stop the movement without damaging the grips. The Marschal grips were significantly better in this regard than the originals, but there was still some movement.

I did find a solution however. What I ended up doing is trimming a piece of double sided scotch tape for each side and placing it between the grip and frame at the rear over the mainspring well. Then I used locktite on the screw threads when I installed them.

After a couple of hours, the glue on the tape adhered well enough that I can’t feel the movement any more, but I still should be able to get the grips off with no problem when the time comes.

At any rate, here’s what the finished product looks like.

I am very pleased with the looks of the pistol with these grips and I am impressed with the workmanship and quality of the grips. The minor fitting problems I had did not surprise me overly considering that the grips were made some 4500 miles away from the frame that they were supposed to fit on. I wasn’t expecting a perfect, drop-in fit.

They get my recommendation.

I’ve now had this pistol for some time and have been carrying it regularly as my discreet carry piece. I’ve also used it to shoot in a couple of bowling pin matches and a steel plate match as well as many trips to the range.

To recap the issues that I had with it when I first got it: The trigger was creepy and rough, the magazine release was too tight making it difficult to release the magazine, the grips moved on the frame, the trigger bit my finger, and it was shooting a bit low and left.

I am very happy with the results of my trigger job. By judicious use of a stone, I reduced the creep dramatically and smoothed it up at the same time. The trigger pull is now light, smooth and crisp.

By replacing the grips and using the double sided tape, I got the grips to stop moving around so that is no longer a problem.

When I reassembled the slide, I did adjust the rear sight a little to the right, which fixed the “shooting to the left” problem. It still shoots just slightly low, but I repainted the front sight and left the paint strip a little below the top of the sight, which encourages me to use more sight when aiming and brings the shots up where they should be.

One thing I forgot to mention is, before reinstalling the trigger, I did use a jewelers file to smooth and round off the edges of the trigger. Then I used 600 grit emery paper to smooth it and touched it up with cold blue. That cured the trigger bite problem. I didn’t have to take much off, just enough to round the edges of the trigger a little more.

One thing about the finish. As noted in the first post of this series, this gun did have some pretty significant holster wear, to the point where the finish was completely gone in a couple of areas. I did clean the finish up with cold blue, but I have to say that the bluing didn’t take as well as I’d have liked and isn’t proving to be very durable.

Finally, I’m VERY happy with the results of weakening the magazine catch spring. The mags are held securely when in use, but I can easily release them with one finger from either side of the mag release.

This little gun is slightly underpowered for a defensive firearm in my opinion, but it is a little hotter than the .380 which is the minimum I’d consider for defensive use. Because of the double stacked mag, it isn’t quite as concealable as it’s single stack cousins like the Makarov, but because of its relatively weak cartridge, I like the idea of having 13 rounds to work with.

The recoil is a little snappy, but not unmanageable and it is very accurate. I have been consistently pleased with its performance and have never had a failure to feed, fire, eject etc.

It is not too heavy (of course this is very subjective…my standard carry piece is a full sized 1911 that I carry openly so I’m used to a relatively heavy gun) and I am able to carry it with an IWB holster, even under a tucked shirt, without printing.

As far as disadvantages: it is hard to find parts for them because they’ve never been sold at retail in the US. This is alleviated by the fact that most CZ-83 parts (which are sold here) are identical and will work on the 82. Also, it does not have a decocker, so if you are inclined to carry condition 2 (round in the chamber, hammer down) and fire the first shot in double action, this is not a very safe firearm for that. The only way to decock with a round in the chamber is to use your thumb to lower the hammer while pulling the trigger; which is, in my humble opinion, a recipe for a negligent discharge. This is alleviated by the auto safety which ensures that the hammer cannot contact the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. In my opinion, this gun is safe to carry in condition 1 (cocked and locked) and that is how I carry it. I WOULD NOT carry it that way loose in a purse or pocket. It would be too easy for the safety to be inadvertently switched off and have something get caught in the trigger. I would only carry this firearm in condition one using a holster that covers the trigger completely.

In a nutshell, I like it. Especially for lefties, I think this is an excellent choice for discreet carry as long as you understand the limitations of the design and keep in mind that these are surplus, used pistols and may require some work to get them into shape.

In fact, I like this gun so much that I bought a couple more to play with. One thing I’m definitely going to do is try a complete refinish on them. I’m thinking Parkerizing. At any rate, when I get to that, I’ll be sure to post the step-by-step and we’ll see how it turns out together.

Thank you again for your patience in waiting for me to get this series finished. I hope you weren’t disappointed.

The Onion Movie

I don’t usually do movie reviews, but this is more of a public service announcement/warning than a review.

My wife and I rented The Onion Movie. I’ve always enjoyed their web “news”, the previews looked entertaining and we thought, what the heck, how bad can it be?

Oops.

Don’t waste your money, or the required 90 minutes of your life that could be more constructively spent painting inside the crawlspace or alphabetizing the contents of the refrigerator.

Their brand of satire just doesn’t lend itself well to video. They tried to tie together their short skits with a plot…but failed miserably. Not only was the “plot” very contrived and lacking in…well…pretty much everything you’d expect from a plot…but the skits themselves were long on sophomoric pseudo-humor and very short on the intelligent, but irreverent wit that I’ve come to associate with the web site.

Perhaps it was just directed at a different demographic. I may have found it funny when I was about 15.

One positive thing I can say about it: They definitely did not worry much about political correctness. I guess that’s a positive. Too bad it otherwise just plain sucked.

Midway USA does it again

I ordered my targets for the Gun Blog e-rifle league from Midway USA the other day.

While I was there, I also ordered some ammo and a fine ceramic triangular stone for trigger work.  
I got them yesterday and, sadly, the stone (which had been packed in with the ammo and not protected very well) was broken.
I called Midway USA’s toll free number.  After pressing a couple of selection numbers, I immediately spoke to a Customer Support agent…no hold time at all.
She cheerfully took my information, expressed apologies for the broken item and assured me that a replacement would be sent right out.  Before the end of the day yesterday I had confirmation that it had been shipped and I should have it in a day or two.
That, my friends, is how customer service is supposed to work.
Kudos to Midway USA (as usual) and their employees.  I’ve never had an experience with them that was less than outstanding.  I can’t recommend them enough.