Guns & Gear Review: Building the AR15 Bookshelf
Today we have a back-to-back review of two recent releases from the good people at Gun Digest: old friend from my college days Patrick Sweeney’s Gunsmithing the AR-15: The Bench Manual and Tiger McKee’s AR-15 Skills & Drills.
Gunsmithing the AR-15: The Bench Manual
First, a word of introduction: Patrick Sweeney is a retired gunsmith and prolific author, and current Handguns Editor at Guns & Ammo magazine.
On the book: TBM, as I will refer to it for short, is essentially a Chilton or Haynes manual for “America’s Rifle”: how to maintain, upgrade and repair it and even assemble one from a pile of parts. (If you’re scratchbuilding, jump straight to Chapter 19, then flip back to previous chapters as they come up in the assembly instructions.) There’s a lot of technical material in here, but it’s presented with a lot of helpful illustrations and an easy, laid-back writing style and plenty of snarky humor to break the serious stuff where you could almost imagine yourself holding a cup of coffee and pulling up a stool at Sweeney’s bench. If you can imagine it, this book probably covers it: everything from tearing down and rebuilding an A2 “carry handle” rear sight to wire- or 550 Paracord-wrap sling attachments–I’d personally like more about what to lubricate when, but there’s so much in here that maybe I just missed it. You also get experience-forged “inside tricks” like the “pinch method” of installing the hammer, which makes fighting with the spring on that part a lot easier.
AR-15 Skills & Drills
Tiger McKee is one of a younger generation of instructors, not contemporary with the Old Guard like legendary Jeff Cooper but trained by him. I’ve had no personal correspondence with him to form my own opinion, but folks I’ve known a while and respect a lot speak highly of him, his books and his school, Shootrite in northern Alabama.
After learning to build an AR, the next step is learning to operate it, and after reading Sweeney’s book for the former McKee has you covered on the latter. Everything from how to carry the rifle, setting up your slings, all the way to practice accessories and magazine carriers, even scanning your environment and keeping Situational Awareness.
A minor quibble: McKee talks about the importance of maintaining a Data Book and maintenance log for your rifle–I wish he would have included a more readable sample in the text for inspiration, more than just two small hard-to-read photos of his own logbooks. Concepts and techniques are not only discussed step by step, with McKee and others visually modeling “this is how you do this.”
These are not cheap books–they’re at a price tag most of us would not consider “casual spending.” But they’re worth every penny–and if you sign up for Gun Digest Store’s newsletter they’ll keep you posted on sales and package deals which help a lot. Also, the digital editions (what I bought) both take the price down further and give you access anywhere with an Internet connection and a screen big enough to read it. (So no, not on your phone trying to fix a broken AR right on the range, but if they have Wi-Fi maybe on at least an 8″ tablet–I keep mine on an external hard-drive dedicated for gunsmithing and shooting references and projects.) Worth Full Price, which is high praise from someone like me who has a rule about “NEVER pay Full Price.”
The author was not compensated for this review, and the review samples are courtesy of his own wallet.
Archive of previous Watercooler Guns & Gear Reviews
- FAB Defense AGF-43S Folding Grip for AR-Pattern Rifles (Feb 22, 2017)
- Back-Up Iron Sights by Diamondhead and Matech (Mar 29, 2017)
- April 2017 (no review)
- The Lunch Hour Lower: EP Armory 80% AR15 Lower Receiver & Jig, Part 1 (May 17, 2017) and Part 2 (May 24, 2017)
This Week In History
- Sunday, 6/25: Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876; first aerial refueling, 1923; Berlin Airlift begins, 1948; Korean War begins, 1950
- Monday, 6/26: Christmas declared Federal holiday, 1870; Battle of Belleau Wood, 1918; “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, 1963
- Tuesday, 6/27: Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, 1864; Nixon goes to Russia, 1974; last R&D Shuttle launch, 1982
- Wednesday, 6/28: Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, 1778; Congress authorizes Panama Canal, 1902; first Corvette built, 1953
- Thursday, 6/29: First flight to Hawaii, 1927; Interstate Highway System created, 1956; first Shuttle docking with Mir station, 1995
- Friday, 6/30: Michigan Terr. established, 1805; Lincoln grants Yosemite Valley to California, 1864; Cherbourg liberated, 1944
- Saturday, 7/1: Privateer raid on Lunenburg, 1782; Malvern Hill last of Seven Days Battles, 1862; ZIP codes introduced, 1963
Today’s Birthdays: Aviator Carl Spaatz, 1891; actors Mel Brooks, 1926 and John Cusack, 1966; football legend John Elway, 1960
Holidays Around the World: It’s Constitution Day in Ukraine, Family Day in Vietnam and Poznan Remembrance Day in Poland.
This Week In History is compiled with assistance from History.com and Wikipedia. Something interesting not listed here? Please share in the Comments section–this is an Audience Participation Encouraged featurette.
Gratuitous Gun Giveaways
- *American Handgunner magazine, for a Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P45 Shield, Taurus Air-Lite .38 revolver or EAA Witness Pavona .380 pistol package: http://americanhandgunner.com/giveaway/
- *Guns Magazine, for an Honor Guard HG9SC subcompact 9mm pistol, Mossberg 930 shotgun or Glock 41 Gen 4 pistol (ends Saturday!) package: http://gunsmagazine.com/giveaway/
- Davidson’s Gallery of Guns, for a Mossberg 500 TALO Cruiser or 590 Shockwave shotgun (both end Friday!): https://ggg.galleryofguns.com/
- Aero Precision, for a custom AR15 (ends: http://gvwy.io/snmyelq
- GrabAGun, for a DPMS Panther AR15 (ends Friday!): http://grabagun.com/giveaway
*Note: FMG Publishing giveaways require you to provide an FFL dealer’s info at entry. Aero Precision and Primary Arms giveaways give me one entry each per person who uses my referral link.
Quote of the Day
A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.–Sir Barnett Cocks
As always, the Watercooler is an Open Thread. Now that I’ve started recovering from the flashbacks to junior-high book reports *shudder*, time for me to pipe down and yield the floor to your daily gossip and news nuggets…