Sunday, June 30, 2013

S.P.O.R.T.S. Clearing AR-15 Malfunctions While Staying "In The Fight"

A few posts ago, we featured some causes and effects of AR-15 weapons malfunctions.  Suggestions were made regarding why things may be happening the way they were in an attempt to help the shooter diagnose and resolve a simple problem and get their weapon functioning the way it should without having to send it in for repair when the cause or problem is not an extensively mechanical or technical one.  This time we will consider the standard "S.P.O.R.T.S." method of clearing a malfunction that is designed to quickly resolve a situation and return your weapon to service immediately.  This method may not address all problems or what may be at the "root" of the problem, but it is ideal for a situation that requires your weapon to be immediately usable.    

Before we start, a safety warning: if your rifle fails to fire with a "live" round in the chamber, attempt to remove it via the method described below quickly.  If you cannot do this within a few seconds, remove the magazine from the weapon, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and wait around five minutes or so for the weapon to cool  (if it is hot from earlier use), before attempting to investigated further.  Keep your face and other body parts as far away as possible from the ejection port, magazine well, and chamber until you are certain the weapon is cool and the unfired round will not experience a delayed detonation.

If you have a history of recent military service, you will likely remember learning this method in basic training.  S.P.O.R.T.S. is an acronym:

S     Slap the magazine upward  (make sure it is firmly seated)
P     Pull the charging handle (all the way to the rear)
O     Observe the ejection (or lack thereof) of the case or cartridge
R     Release (pull and release the charging handle to chamber a cartridge
T     Tap the forward assist (to ensure the bolt is in battery)
S     Squeeze the trigger to fire the newly chambered round.

This typically will quickly resolve an issue related to improper chambering, ammunition quality, or improper magazine seating.  If the rifle still fails to fire, the sequence should be performed again.  While this is a quick and easy to remember method, the steps must be performed properly.  The third step of observing the ejection of the case or cartridge is extremely important.  If the cartridge (spent or unfired) is not extracted and ejected, the sequence should not proceed or it will only cause a new problem (double feeding, etc...).  The cartridge must be removed and the reason it remained in the chamber should be identified and addressed.  

Further continued failures require more detailed inspection and considerations.  Remove the magazine, pull back the charging handle and "lock" the bolt to the rear by pressing on the bolt catch so that a detailed examination of the chamber and inside of the upper receiver can be performed.  Place the weapon on safe (the fire control group must be "reset" by retracting the bolt and carrier assembly via the charging handle before you can move the selector to safe).  Release the charging handle or bolt catch and separate the upper half of the weapon from the lower half so a proper inspection of all parts can be performed. Some causes of malfunctions that are not remedied by the S.P.O.R.T.S. technique were highlighted in our earlier blog post, so please use this resource for ideas and methods that may help to resolve any malfunction or performance issues.  Something as simple as using a different magazine or fixing a problematic one or even performing a proper cleaning of the entire weapon may resolve malfunctions that are not remedied by the S.P.O.R.T.S. process.

It is a great idea to familiarize yourself enough with this process so that it can be performed quickly and properly if necessary.  Start slow to do it right.  If you have inert/dummy rounds/snap caps (Magpul often includes them in their stock packaging), placing one in the middle of a magazine can help you train to use this in a realistic manner so that, should you ever need to use it in a dangerous scenario, you will do it right and do it fast and can "stay in the fight."

Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any questions about the AR-15 parts we sell or rifles we manufacture, please contact us.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

AR-15 Shooting Techniques-Support Hand Positioning

Once you finally acquire an AR-15, you will feel an urgency to shoot it...a lot.  And that is a good thing. The last thing the "gun culture" needs is another AR-15 owner who treats the weapon like a toy or model (always accessorizing it, but never learning how to employ it; rarely using it, but reading and posting online about why it should be configured a certain way and never becoming proficient in its intended purpose).  Now that I have gotten that out of the way...

Becoming a skilled shooter with the AR-15 platform will take time and practice.  If you can attend a training course with an open and teachable mind, you will benefit greatly.  Take in all the information you can, but do so with a filter.  Instructors may have a particular reason for why they do things the way they do, but beware of one who says it is the ONLY way you should EVER perform a technique.  If you go with that in mind and ready to learn, you will acquire new or improved ways of performing accurate shooting techniques that could one day come in very handy.  In this blog post, we will focus in on support hand positioning.

There are two main support hand positions that are suggested for accurately and proficiently employing the AR-15.  The first one has the support hand wrapped under the handguard closer to the magazine well.  This is a comfortable and natural position to use, and can be good for accuracy and fast target acquisition as long as the elbows of both arms are kept in close to the torso.  Keep things tight-don't let the firing elbow "chicken-wing" out.  If either elbow starts going horizontal when using this technique, the benefits are lost.  When practicing, focus on technique when engaging targets and allow speed to build. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

The second position (that has become very popular recently), is to extend the arm to place the support hand near the end of the handguard.  This technique sometimes is done with the thumb of the support hand over the top of the handguard.  If you find this uncomfortable, distracting, or have a railed handguard, placing the thumb between the top and side rail with some light downward pressure on the side rail can be an alternate position with identical benefits.  Benefits of this position include an ability to prevent muzzle rise during quick fire and being able to "drive or steer" the weapon to multiple targets if necessary.  While it can be uncomfortable to begin with when using this technique on rifles with a longer gas system or barrel (mid length or rifle length), it is even more beneficial in helping their muzzle stay on target or move to target.  

When a forward vertical grip is added to the handguard, it may alter each technique a little.  Forward grips like the Magpul AFG are well designed for either application, and even standard vertical grips like the Magpul MOE or TangoDown grips can be used with an extended support hand position like shown in the picture above. 

One thing I would suggest is to never place your support hand directly on the magazine well when firing.  The main benefit of this can be some level of steadiness resulting from pulling the weapon into your firing arm shoulder (though the other techniques also provide this).  This technique offers little muzzle control though, and the main negative factor can appear should you ever have a catastrophic failure of the weapon.  If a failure of this nature occurs, the high pressure created will exit the path of least resistance, and this can often mean out of the magazine well.  There is just a better and more safe place in which to place your support hand and still control the weapon. 

Both techniques are good and, as with most things related to tactical use of an AR-15, deciding which is best depends on your application (how you intend to use the weapon at that time).  Having an extended support hand position while in a stack or being forced to shoot behind a barrier may be impossible.  Having a "close in" support hand position can make steady muzzle control more difficult than the extended technique.  One thing is for certain-use whichever support hand position if best for YOU and how you will use YOUR weapon.  And use your weapon. Practice. It is that simple.

Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any questions about the rifles we produce, the parts we sell at Del-Ton, or any questions about the AR-15 rifle platform please feel free to contact us.