Posts Tagged ‘Bushmaster’

Remington Outdoor Company green and white logo

Remington Outdoor Company Surrendered to Creditors

Remington is (was perhaps) one of the most revered firearms manufacturers in the America. Known as “Big Green,” Remington has sadly become Big Red, sinking into massive debt. Although it was widely reported that Remington was having significant financial difficulties, it is still sad news to read that Remington has filed for bankruptcy.

woman learning how to shoot an AR-15 rifle.

10 Top ARs for 2018

Legislators are proposing all sorts of new legislation that ranges from changing the legal age to buy certain to firearms to outright bans on entire types of firearms, primarily Modern Sporting Rifles such as the AR-15. Although no one can be certain what the future may hold, these situations always cause a spike in interest among first time buyers and seasoned enthusiasts alike. It would be an impossible task to whittle any Top AR list to 10, so instead, we decided to pull a handful of favorites that cover law enforcement, home defense, sporting, and hunting, just to get you started.

Savage Model 110 rifle with user-­adjustable AccuFit system

New Rifles for 2018 — SHOT Show Edition

There was little doubt that 2018 is going to be a gun worthy year. Savage Arms alone launched about 100 new models. Weatherby announced that is is done with California and plans to pull up stakes and set roots in the gun-friendly state of Wyoming. Perhaps the most exciting news for many was the announcement of a gun that does not really belong in the Rifles section. However, it is essentially an AR-15 with a 11.5-inch barrel and standard collapsable stock that the ATF does not classify as a rifle or a shotgun! That means no tax stamp or NFA requirements. Read the full details later this week in a future edition of The Shooter’s Log.

CMMG Mk47 Mutant semiautomatic rifle

7 Mutants: Blurring the Lines Between ARs and AKs

At one time, AR-15 and AK-47 designs were black and white. They were easy to identify by sight and sound because they fired their own specific cartridges using their own specific operating system. Today, that clear black-and-white demarcation is gone, replaced with a range of alternative rifles that use varying qualities of each platform to make new mutants, hybrids, mongrels, oddities, novelties, or whatever you want to call them.

Windham Weaponry AR15 SRC M4A4 Rifle

Windham Weaponry — Today’s Best AR-15 or Clone?

Whether or not you could be considered an AR aficionado, Windham Weaponry would not likely be the first manufacturer that comes to mind. In fact, I would suspect most are searching their memory banks trying to recall if they have ever even heard of Windham Weaponry. Rest at ease, the name is not as important as who is behind it and the quality of workers building the guns.

Guns & Gear Quick & Dirty

Recent news about products, people, and politics:

Moss Pawn Jewelry and Guns in Jonesboro, Georgia has Created the Ultimate Mall Ninja Tactical Zombie Destroyer

Based off an M&P15, it features three lasers, three red-dot sights (set for 100, 200, and 300 yards), a magnifier, four flashlights, a massive muzzle brake, a folding bipod, and holds 270 rounds of ammo on board. Fully loaded, it clocks in at 23 pounds. Video:

VEX-SS

Windham Weaponry Spreads Its Wings

When I wrote “We’re Putting the Band Back Together” in October 2011, Windham Weaponry was just getting started. Here’s a quick recap: former Bushmaster owner Richard Dyke came out of retirement and put together a team of talented gun builders who had been left jobless after Freedom Group’s surprise consolidation nearly a year ago. After purchasing Bushmaster, Freedom Group shut down the factory in Windham, Maine, and moved all the equipment away, lock stock, and gun barrels too. The Remington plant in Ilion, New York now builds the rifles engraved with the name Bushmaster. Instead of just giving up and going home, the original Bushmaster crew decided to go back to the basics, building high quality, old school configuration AR-15s at a great price point.

Charles St. George and the Bushmaster M17-S Bullpup

M17-S bullpup with a reflex sight.

M17-S bullpup with a reflex sight.

In Bushmaster’s product line-up, the M17-S bullpup was always the odd one. It shared a few components with the AR-15 rifle, but remained more of a low-volume curiosity for its entire 13-year product run. This rifle has its origins in the Leader T2 rifle mentioned last week. In 1986 the Australian Army invited bids to replace the L1A1 rifle. Charles St.George submitted an improved select-fire version of the Leader T2 designated the M18. The M18 used a short stroke piston and a gas regulator, with the non-reciprocating charging handle, bolt carrier and two action rods of the T2. The plunger ejector was changed to a fixed ejector like the Stoner 63. A folding stock was added. Beta light sighting system was to be standard. The Australian army eventually adopted the Steyr AUG instead and produced it under a license as F88.

The designer with his rifle.

The designer with his rifle.

Charles re-designed the trigger mechanism and converted the M18 into a bullpup rifle named the ART30. Once fully developed it was licensed to Bushmaster as M17-S. Probably to make use of more common parts, the U.S. version used AR-15 type plunger and a further altered trigger mechanism. A heavier extruded receiver added noticeable extra weight. The lower receiver was also altered  in a way which made stripping and removal of the bolt carrier assembly more difficult. Rudimentary emergency open sights were built into the “carry handle”, but it was expected that an optical sight would be used. At the time, the reliance on optics for a defensive rifle was considered a flaw by most.

Partly as the result of those changes, the rifle came out somewhat heavy, with a spongy trigger and tended to retain heat. The heavy weight was mitigated by the excellent balance and very low felt recoil. With right-hand only ejection, it was also an awkward fit for left-handed users. Since bullpups were new, few training materials existed and most shooters viewed the manual of arms as awkward. One major plus of the M17-S was its use of the standard STANAG magazine. During the ban years (1994-2004), AUG magazines were extremely expensive, while AR-15 magazines remained at least somewhat affordable. The rifle itself cost about two-thirds of an AR-15 because the design allowed cost-effective manufacturing.

K&M modified M17S with 1-4x GRSC scope

K&M modified M17S with 1-4x GRSC scope

Recently, I test-fired an M17-S modified by K&M Aerospace. The modification started with ventilating the receiver to reduce weight by half a pound and to improve air flow. Combined with the already thick barrel, the ventilation greatly improved the sustained fire capability. Use of a vertical foregrip further insulated the support hand from the barrel heat. The “carry handle” was removed and replaced with two rails, permitting the use of standard AR-15 optics and other accessories. The longer rail also provided useful separation between the front and rear backup sights. Because of the central balance of the original rifle, addition of accessories didn’t make the gun too front heavy. Fired with GRSC 1-4x scope set to 4x, this modified rifle shot at 2MOA from prone with plain American Eagle 55gr ball. Surprisingly, the mechanical noise of the operating parts was not noticeable at all.

The major issues with the M17-S —weight, trigger quality and awkward take-down—have been addressed in the next rifle designed by St.George. I will cover it in the next chapter of this tale.

The Making of a Gun Designer: Charles St.George

Charles St. George at the range

Charles St. George at the range.

Bushmaster M17 bullpup

Bushmaster M17 bullpup

On the way to SHOT Show last year, I met Charles St.George. I didn’t know who he was, but somehow the Bushmaster M17 came up in conversation and turned out that he was the original designer. It was therefore no surprise that the rifle he displayed at the 2011 show looked like a very brawny M17. The Leader 50, while internally quite different from the M17 used the same basic extruded receiver design as the .223 bullpup. But the internals of the upcoming 50BMG rifle were based on a design of which I had not heard before, the Leader T2.

Charles St.George was born on Malta but moved to England with his parents at a young age. As a child, he had a Colt Peacemaker replica which even came with full-size dummy cases loaded with caps. The gun itself was precision die cast from zinc and Charles played with it until the toy literally fell apart. When his father’s regiment, the First Cheshire, got posted to Libya, Charles tried to replicate the zinc toy in steel. After a month of work with a hacksaw and a file, he had something only slightly resembling the intended form. “The experiment helped build arm muscles, at least!” he joked.

Upon returning to England, he decided to build a .303 semi auto rifle. Scotland Yard sent an Inspector from the Hampshire Constabulary to interview me at home before granting permission. Perhaps having a military father helped. The ammunition had to be kept at the Bisley Rifle Range and used cartridges logged in a register. The rifle he built used a simple tilting lock that locked the breech bolt into the receiver tube. A friend helped machine some of the parts, the rest were fashioned by hand. At the range it would not fire. In retrospect, Charles says that was lucky, for the rifle would have blown up. He knew nothing about metals, heat treatment or the designing of real guns.

As an adult, Charles immigrated to Australia started to tinker again. He built .223 semi auto rifle prototypes until he had a beautiful select-fire weapon with an aluminum receiver somewhat like the AR15 and a non reciprocating charging handle like the L1A1. Long stroke gas system used a piston pinned to a tube which housed the return spring and held to the bolt carrier by a wedge held in place by the cam track in the receiver, a triangular breech bolt and wooden handguards. The design eventually entered production around 1978 as the Leader T2. In use, this gun has particularly mild recoil, especially when compared to an AR15. Forgotten Weapons shows the T2 disassembly process on video.  They also feature photos of a pre-production sample with a wood stock made before the Zytel furniture was ready.

T2 has very mild recoil

T2 has very mild recoil.

Left-hand charging handle does not reciprocate on firing.

Left-hand charging handle does not reciprocate on firing

The Leader T2 production went smoothly because the gun was designed from the start to be extremely efficient. The receiver was based on a 16 gauge steel square tube. Dupont provided the expertise for the Zytel parts, which had not previously been used on an assault rifle. The triangular bolt design (subsequently used on the Serbu rifle, the R4 and Barrett 82A1/M107) simplified the barrel extension and the bolt broaching process. The barrel blanks from Parker Hale were rifled with a simple button rifling machine also designed by Charles. It rifled a barrel blank in about 20 seconds. While T2 resembles an AR180 superficially, it is even simpler inside. All major parts can be removed for cleaning in seconds and stay captive to simplify the take-down. It used common STANAG (M16) magazines.

T2 was shown to represenatives of Italy, Portugal and Oman. About 2000 were eventually exported to the US and a few to Africa. By the time the 1989 and 1994 bans in the US caused the cessation of the production of the T2, Charles St.George had already moved on. His next rifle is familiar to Americans as the Bushmaster M17. We will talk about that design next week.

Windham Weaponry: “We’re Putting The Band Back Together!”

Windham Weaponry MPC

In the spring of 2010, the Bushmaster plant in Windham, Maine closed, and Bushmaster’s tooling moved lock, stock, and barrel to New York, where the “Freedom Group” would assemble new Bushmasters alongside Remington rifles. The move was a surprise to the Windham employees, many of whom had been building rifles together there for over a decade. Although they knew how to build high quality guns and had great connections in the firearms industry, they now faced unemployment and an uncertain future. Then some employees started getting phone calls from their old boss. Richard Dyke, the former owner of Bushmaster Firearms Inc. until 2006, was unhappy with how things had turned out for the Windham crew, and had decided to come out of retirement at age 77 and start a new AR-15 manufacturing company right there at the old Bushmaster plant. As he put together investors and former employees, the word began to spread around; “We’re putting the band back together!”

Freedom Group now owns the rights to all the Bushmaster rifle’s specifications, so Windham started with a clean slate and drew up their own specifications for three new rifles. They decided to go old school, as close to military specifications as possible on metal choice, fit, and finish, because they knew if they did their rifles would work. Windham has released three AR-15 carbine models so far, featuring little mil-spec details like an aluminum trigger guard instead of plastic, hard-coat anodizing on aluminum and manganese phosphate coating on steel, and chrome lined barrels. They designed the three initial rifles to appeal to a wide variety of civilian and law enforcement shooters. Instead of trendy “flavor of the month” guns, they are basic carbines with  features that are tried and true, despite being drawn up on new specifications and having a new name attached to the guns.

The Windham “new old-school” approach shows up in the details of the guns. The Windham “SRC,” or Sight Ready Carbine, is the least expensive version and comes with no sights, just a plain A3 flattop style upper receiver and Picatinny railed gas block. The buyer saves the money that would usually go into the standard detachable carry handle, and then can spend it on whatever custom sights he prefers instead. Picatinny gas blocks are common now and several other manufacturers offer similar configurations, but look closely! The gas block is a critical part, it must line up exactly with the barrel’s gas port or the AR-15 will fail to cycle. Nearly all the Picatinny gas blocks on the market use two set screws to hold them in place, and if these set screws back out (barrel temperatures can melt Loctite by the way) the block may move around, losing its alignment and turning your semi-automatic carbine into a single shot. Even though the Sight Ready Carbine is a new design, they went old school with their gas block, using two taper pins going through the block and barrel the military way.

Windham’s two other carbines are the “HBC” Heavy Barrel Carbine, featuring a heavy barrel underneath the handguard, and the “MPC” Military Preferred Carbine, a classic M4-style featuring a “government profile” barrel with the famous M203 barrel mount cut out. One departure from military specs, in a concession to the civilian market, is that all three rifles use a 1/9 twist rate instead of the military issue 1/7 twist rate. Windham explains that despite a push by some law enforcement and commercial customers to standardize on the 1/7 twist rate, the 1/9 twist is still the most requested and the most common twist rate, so that’s what they went with for their initial offerings.

Windham doesn’t plan on standing pat with these three rifles. They have an aggressive plan to offer more variants in the near future including different barrel twist rates, ban-state compliant models including a California “bullet button” model and a dedicated varmint hunter configuration, and add more calibers next year. They will also start making runs of accessories and spare parts. One thing that Windham hopes will set them apart from the competition is their transferable Limited Lifetime Warranty, which follows the gun and not the owner. A Windham Weaponry gun bought on the used market at a gun show will still enjoy the same excellent warranty and customer service access as a new-in-box gun delivered from the factory straight to your dealer. A buyer who gifts his rifle to his brother knows that Windham still backs up their product. The fine print shows the Windham Warranty to be one of the best in the industry.

It seems like everybody is making an AR-15 these days, and with only three products and a brand new company name, the crew at Windham Weaponry have their work cut out for them. However, they are working together, doing what they do best, and they have faith that their products will speak for themselves. As Mark Eliason, Windham’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing told me, “the name is not recognized, but the experience behind the name is tremendous!”

Windham Weaponry SRC