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03/08/2004 Archived Entry: "Ian McCollum celebrates Evil Black Rifle Day"

TWO FALS AND AN AR-10. Ian McCollum and friends went to the range yesterday and celebrated Evil Black Rifle Day. Ian gives Wolfesblog an exclusive report on how his friends' collection of these rifles handled and performed.

Ian's report from the range on Evil Black Rifle Day

Yesterday was another interesting day at the range for a couple of my friends and me. The focus this time, rather than old guns, was Evil Black Rifles. Between us we had three brand new weapons to try out: a DSA Stg-58A FAL, an Ohio Rapid Fire standard FAL, and an Eagle Arms E10A4BM (it's a flat-top AR-10). The two FALs were professionally built from Austrian parts kits onto new recievers (the DSA used a new-manufacture American receiver, while the Ohio Rapid Fire one used an imported Imbel receiver). The AR-10 was of brand new manufacture. MSRPs for the guns are $550 for the ORF, $995 for the DSA, and $1000 for the Eagle Arms. But enough of specs and designations.

We'd spent plenty of time handling and dry-firing them over the past week, and had some initial impressions. The two FALs were nearly identical in outward appearance. The DSA had a few extra bits - an integral bipod (and handguards cut for it) and a tweaked safety, namely. Let me take a moment to expand on the safety thing - the Austrian parts kits these guns were made from were full-auto rifles, and their safety catches have positions for safe, semi-auto, and full-auto. The rifles aren't full-auto after being assembled onto new receivers, but their safeties can still swing into the full-auto position (firing them that way results in a single shot and subsequent malfunction). But the DSA rifle had a pin added to the receiver to prevent the safety from moving beyond semi-auto, and thus prevents a shooter from accidentally pushing the safety lever too far and malfing (which I've seen happen before). Moving on, both rifles had pretty heavy triggers (none of us have a trigger pull gauge, so I can't provide specific numbers). The DSA was crisp but heavy, while the ORF was longer but a bit lighter. Their balance was a bit awkward, thanks to their 21" barrels, chunky muzzle brakes, and the bipod on the one. Still, the controls were well situated and easy to use - better than the AR-10's, in the case of the bolt handle and bolt hold-open.

The AR-10 was a very sweet-looking and sweet-handling piece of work. While it weighs a pound or two more than an AR-15, that weight is virtually unnoticable in handling. The balance is great. The trigger is also really good compared to the FALs, and not too bad in general. The sights are definitely better as well - the FAL rear sites were a bit wobbly on their mounts. One downside to the Eagle Arms was that its owner only had the single 10-round magazine that it was shipped with, and spare 20-rounders cost a pile of money. One of the FAL owners, on the other hand, picked up fifteen 20-rounders for his rifle for $50 shipped.

We were, needless to say, pretty excited to try out these beautiful new acquisitions. We had a bunch of surplus .308 (Portugese and British, I believe), rifles, one AR-10 mag, a handful of FAL mags, and some paper targets. To the range!

The first out was the Eagle Arms AR-10, and it was about then that our enthusiasm dulled a bit. After loading the mag up, things sounded like this: BOOM! ... *click*. The first shot fired, extracted and ejected, but the second got stuck nosing out of the mag and into the chamber. After going through the whole mag one and two rounds at a time, we stripped the rifle down in annoyance. The whole bolt assembly came apart, and everything got a good scrubbing and then a bit of oil in the appropriate places. After a couple reassembly hijinks too detailed to go into, we loaded up the mag again and the exact same thing happened again - we never did get more than two round in a row before it malfunctioned. And not just a "malfunction," but a "wow, that's a nasty malfunction." Lots of failures to feed, partial feeds, and some double feeds. No failures to eject, though.We are hoping that the problem was the magazine, but since we only had the one, we couldn't be sure. Needless to say, the owner is rather peeved at Eagle Arms. I'll report back with an update after it's been checked out by a good AR gunsmith.

Fortunately, the other rifles worked better. The next to come out was the DSA FAL. It was a dream. The recoil was heavier than the AR's and the balance not as good, but by gosh when you pressed the trigger it went boom! Shooting prone with its bipod was great fun. Once the gas system was set we had no malfunctions at all (out of about 100 rounds fired). I don't recall exactly what the final setting on the gas port was but I believe it was approximately halfway open. There's really not much to say about it, because everything worked exactly like it was supposed to. We didn't do any serious accuracy testing, because we were all shivering too much to shoot very well (wind gusts hit about 35mph out there).

The Ohio Rapid Fire FAL was the last one out, and nearly as good as the DSA. It didn't have a bipod, so it balanced a bit better, but wasn't as stable when shooting prone. It had a few pretty minor glitches - if we inserted a new mag and pushed the bolt release, it didn't have the oomph to chamber a round. But if we instead inserted the mag, pulled the bolt handle back and released it, it worked fine. I think a replacement spring might fix this right up. It also was finicky about holding open after the last shot in mags. This might be solvable by opening up the gas a bit, but it was a minor enough issue that we didn't bother to work on it and focused on shooting instead. Again, our shivering and numb hands prevented any useful accuracy testing, but we were definitely hitting where we pointed it (as with the DSA).

All-in-all, I came back from the range very impressed with both the cheap and expensive FALs, and thoroughly disappointed in the AR-10. Hopefully the AR's problems can be solved with better mags, but for the time being I remain highly skeptical of them. It's really a shame - the AR handles soooooo nicely... but until a smith can get it working (if any can), there are the no-nonsense, rough-and-ready FALs.

(Thanks to all the guys who let me play with their new toys today - you know who you are - and best of luck to you with the AR, K.)

Posted by Claire @ 08:46 AM CST

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