Sunday, September 8, 2019

First Impressions & Range Report - Century Arms AK and Starg Arms AR

I headed up to Benton, AR Friday afternoon and got there soon after Brendan arrived home from work.  We stayed in at his place and had dinner and some beers together but not too many. This morning (Saturday) we got up not too early and not too late, had a nice breakfast of bacon (oven roasted) and eggs with some excellent coffee and then headed off to a range about 60 miles west of his place. We each drove our own cars because I wanted to leave from there to head back to TX after shooting.

He got there a few minutes before me because I made a stop at Homer's Despot Home Depot to pick up a few boxes to make target stands. They are fairly cheap and can be good to use for one or more trips to the range. Brendan brought along his Remington 870 with rifled barrel, a S&W Model 10, his Beretta Model 21A, and I think that was it. I hauled my Browning Model 81 BLR Lightweight, an old dilapidated Remington 22 rifle, and two of my recent acquisitions that need to be test fired at the range for their first shots the - Century Arms C39V2 - MOE Magpul furniture, model number: RI2399-N, with milled receiver - and the Stag Arms 15 ORC with Magpul furniture.

While Brendan was shooting blasting away with his 870, I decided to take out the AK first. I loaded up with a 30 round mag and took aim at the Shoot-N-See target I had slapped onto one of the HD boxes. It was either on the sixth or seventh round that I somehow started to bump fire (no you do not need a bump-fire stock to shoot in bump-fire mode) and the rounds  went up in a line above the stick-on target center. After that, I fired the other 20 rounds at the berm. A little bit later, after marking off my shots on the target, I fired another 30 rounds at it and managed not to shoot any in bump-fire mode. I don't know how I did it the first time because when I tried to do so purposefully later, I could only get maybe 4 to 6 rounds to go off two at a time. Oh well, practice may make perfect. Brendan also took some shots with it.

Shots marked black were first 10, white lined 30 rounds.
Anyway, the above is the target I was shooting which was set up at 50 yards. I am happy enough with the result being it was the first time I fired the thing and considering it is an AK and they are not known for great inherent accuracy. My first impressions of this AK, totally made here in the US of A by Century Arms, is that I was highly impressed. First of all, it looked good and the fit and finish were tight and nice respectfully. Secondly, it took both the Magpul magazine that came with it and some old com-bloc mil-surp maazines (I think Romanian) and fed from them flawlessly. Third, it went bang every time. Fourth, it extracted and ejected every casing without a hitch.  Fifth, it was more than accurate enough for my purposes and I will probably do better with it if using brass cased ammo; I was firing steel cased Wolf Military Classic HP rounds out of it. I don't recall how many grains and am too tired right now to go get the ammo can out of my trunk to check.

The CA AK, and I think all of them they make nowadays come with two nice features. One is a scope mount rail on the left side of the gun and the other is a notched safety lever that allows for the bolt to be locked back in place. That safety lever was a bit of a brute to move, it was pretty stiff but my guess is that will certainly loosen up a bit with use. There were only two real negatives about this rifle and one of them is an issue inherent to AKs of all ilks. The damn barrel gets so hot as to make the fore-end difficult to impossible to hold after shooting a bunch of rounds rapid fire. I put 30 slow fire through it, followed by 60 or 90 more rounds rapid fire and I started to wish I had thought of putting on one of my leather works gloves beforehand. The other negative is the position of the side mounted sight mount rail and that may or may not be easily overcome. What happened was I  could not load the lower mag of the two my son had clamped together - both with the follower end up. The clamps kept the mags so close to one another that the right side of the outer and higher mag kept hitting the mounting rail and you could not get the lower mag into the mag well.  Now I am guessing that clamps that kept the mags a bit further apart would solve the problem but have no clue if available. Also, clamping them together with the open ends opposite to one another would also solve the issue and would not require special sized clamps that put more space between the mag bodies.

Lest I forget to mention it, there was something totally unexpected about the AK and that was the extremely smooth, not too heavy or too light and consistent trigger pull. I have got to hand it to the engineers who drew up the specs for this rifle and then put it together. It is nice right out of the box.

After that Brendan and I took some shots with the Browning BLR. Brendan's first shot just dropped the hammer and went click. There was no indentation on the primer. I am guessing he had not pulled the lever all the way up because after I told him to do that, his next two shots went off okay. That was it for him, two shots because it slammed into his cheek bone. I have a video of him shooting it and will show it to him because his cheek weld was all wrong. He seemingly tilted his head down to meet the stock instead of bringing the stock to meet his cheek and he had the upper edge of the stock pressed firmly right under his right cheekbone - ouch! I fired it after him and was dismayed to see it shot every shot to the left by a few inches. It had not done that before if I recall correctly. It was not only me either, Brendan's two shots were about equidistant to the left. A little tinkering with the rear sight should get that fixed. I fired maybe 12 rounds out of it altogether. Then I decided to put it away because I was antsy to shoot my Stag Arms AR15.

Before I move onto the AR though, allow me to mention that Brendan had brought along a loading device for the AK mags, it's called the Lula Loader & Unloader by MagLula and is made for a variety of weapons. I have to say it is the best thing since medicinal papers (arse wipes). It made loading the 30 round mags very easy if not much or maybe even not any faster than I could have done by hand but easier on the thumb. It is an excellent device and I will be getting a couple for myself. If they make one for AR mags I'll get a couple of them too. With a bit of practice it probably would make loading the mags much quicker with it than without this device.

Now, finally getting to the Stag Arms AR, I had slapped the sights on the AR last night and shame on me - I played with the windage adjustment. First I fired off one, or was it two, 30 round mags rapid fire at the berm just to make sure it fired okay. Then I fired 30 rounds at a target slow fire and it wound up putting every shot in an okay group, nothing special, but all to the left by several inches. I adjusted the rear sight, fired it, adjusted it again and had it just about centered by the time I decided to take a break for my finger. 

Overall the Stag Arms AR was nice but there was a bit of a disappointment and it had nothing to do with where the first volleys of rounds went (as  said that was due to me screwing with the windage adjustment). While it fed, fired, extracted and ejected every round - firing them started to become a pain in the trigger finger after only 30 or 40 rounds. The trigger is deplorable in my estimation, one of the worst I have ever pulled and I think much akin to a NY trigger on an NYPD Glock.  First off - it is too heavy. Second - there is a lot of trigger creep and the trigger travel feels gritty. Third, it made for a sore finger after maybe 90 rounds total. One thing I liked about the trigger was the trigger reset, it clicked and sprang back forcefully into reset position and after the mag went dry it did not reset. Everything else on the AR - the mag release, bolt, bolt release, safety all worked just fine but damn that trigger. I guess you get what you pay for and this was not a very expensive AR. I have to say - the difference between ts trigger and that of the Century Arms were miles apart; that AK trigger was smooth as silk.

As for the mags, those I used in the AR were all Magpul PMAG, GEN M2, 3o round magazines. They all worked flawlessly.

While I was shooing the AR, Brendan was firing his Beretta 21A and the S&W Model 10. He was having fun but later complained that the Beretta had been firing inches low. Had he let me know that at the range and asked, I would have taken some shots to see if it was him or the pistol. My guess is user error but there is no telling for sure until I take some shots with it. Of course, it could be as he suspected that it had to do with the ammo he was using with was something by CCI. Time will tell and get it worked out.

We both also test fired an old really beat up Remington Model 552 Speedmaster. I won this one at a shooting competition where I came in second place by an RCH. It had been donated to the Long Island Gun Club as a sort of a goofball prize for that competition by a club member who had had the high bid on it on As he put it, he knew it was a mistake to bid on it as soon as he had placed his bid. The front sight is missing, it has some surface rust, the foregrip is a bit loose, the receiver (aluminum I think) is badly scratched and has the name Tab scratched into it. Yet, it fed and fired everything Brendan put through it, maybe 6-10 rounds at most. I then loaded it with 15 rounds and it fed, fired, extracted and ejected all but the last round which wound up wedged in the elevator (I am guessing the real name is either the carrier or action bar - one of them likely feeds the round up from the tube into the receiver). That took quite a bit of diddling to remove and as I kept trying to pry it out with the screwdriver on my Victorinox Huntsman, my favorite Swiss Army Knife. I kept waiting to dent the primer and for it to go pop. Luckily it did not and I was able to get it out after several tries and a few minutes. Anyway, it works okay enough for me to consider refinishing it and slapping a front sight onto it and then sending it back to the other LIGC member who donated it for that competition in which I won it. Then again, if it comes out nice enough, I may just send him a photo and keep it!

We spent a couple hours or so at the range and even though we wanted to shoot more, we wanted even more to get out of the heat. It was pretty oppressive at around 97 degrees Fahrenheit with a very high humidity. So we skedaddled When we left, instead of me going straight back to TX, we decided to go to the Bubba Brews on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs. There was another Bubba brews much closer and as I was about to pass to, I threw on my directional and turned into it instead and Brendan followed suit. I told him I did not want to get to the other one and then find no parking in their lot. I had also decided that it was too far out of my way to go there then turn around to go back to TX. Even though the one on the lake has much better food, he agreed and we ate at that one closer to the range. 

We also split a couple of appetizers and each had a drink while we talked about the range and observed the colorful characters in Bubba's. It was packed, mostly with members of the Swamp Riders MC. As we were finishing up, one of them bought the entire bar (a lot of folks were in there and a lot of Harleys in the lot) a round. That was much appreciated even if one more than each of us had wanted to imbibe but it was the better course of public relations, so to speak, to accept it. After that, we soon each headed our separate ways, Brendan east and me west - until we meet again. Regardless of spending our time at the range in a virtual sauna, it was an excellent day doing what we both love to do and doing it in each other's company.

All the best,
Glenn B