Duke Strolls Down The “Other” Side Of The Road
Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos: Yvonne Venturino
Yes, the title is correct. Even me, a lover of Winchester lever guns, Colt SAA’s, Sharps and Remington buffalo rifles, has decided to have a keeper AR. It’s not my first. I had a Colt H-Bar once but didn’t like it. Who wants a black rifle weighing as much as a Garand? Also, over the years companies have sent me a few types of AR to shoot for articles. Never have I had a real “keeper” AR.
Twenty years ago while attending a Thunder Ranch rifle class, Yvonne used one of Clint Smith’s AR carbines. Afterwards she told me to find her one. I did. It is a Colt AR-15 Model SP-1 which I am told is “pre-ban” although I’m not sure how relevant this is today. It has been here since the summer of ’98, and I shot it to help her sight in, but otherwise I seldom mess with her guns.
Due to my almost legendary gun buying/trading ability, in 2016 I ended up with a used AR at zero expense. It came with a cheap Asian made 4X scope so on a whim I fired it and, wonder of wonders, I liked it. There must be now (and have been in the past) enough AR manufacturers to fill a phone book. I had never heard of my new one’s maker. It was Essential Arms of Krotz, Louisiana, and is marked Mod-J-15-F. By the miracle of Google I discovered this company went out of business back in the 1990’s.
With an 18-inch barrel counting flash hider, exactly the same as Yvonne’s AR, it is obviously a carbine. Yvonne’s carbine has a collapsible buttstock but mine is fixed. Her carbine has an integral carrying handle with peep sight on top but mine has a Picatinny-type rail. Both have the front sight arrangement of an adjustable-for-elevation post on a tall triangular-shaped base. However, my AR’s previous owner removed whatever rear sight came on the rail to mount the scope. I didn’t get an iron sight in the deal but didn’t think much about it either because I had given no thought to keeping it. Yvonne’s Colt is black but mine has a green buttstock, pistol grip and forearm.
As said above, I shot this Essential Arms .223 on a whim and was surprised when it kept bullets in about 2 inches at 100 yards, sometimes less. That same day I drove out to our hayfield where a plethora of ground squirrels (locally called gophers) had moved in unbeknownst to me until a few days previously. Their holes are a serious danger to Yvonne’s horses’ legs. My AR’s accuracy was well proven that day because this year we have no ground squirrels there. (A long, severe winter helped too.)
Duke’s Essential Arms AR .223 with Leupold scope (above, left) serves yeoman duty for
defense against pests alongside Yvonne’s older Colt carbine (right). Clint Smith advised
Duke to get this GG&G Accucam quick detachable scope mount (below). It works.
Something I have heard Clint Smith say many times and he reiterates strongly in his new Urban Rifle, goes like this. “If you have an optical sight of any sort on your rifle, do not strip off its iron sights.” Otherwise, when your life depends on a dot-type sight its batteries will be dead or when your life depends on a scope it will be fogged. Your iron sights will always be there. Over the winter I left my AR alone but when warm weather finally arrived it was time to get things arranged to make it a keeper. First, its cheap scope was discarded in favor of a Leupold 3X. Next I went to Clint himself for advice. He said my best bet was to get a quick detachable mount named Accucam from an outfit GG&G. It fits on top and has a Picatinny rail itself. It clamps on between my scope rings and the rifle’s rail. A pull on its lever and the Accucam with scope pop right off.
Scrounging about in my box of scope accessories I found some tall rings and, coincidentally, set the scope so its field of view clears the front iron sight and is the perfect height for my eye. Then Clint dug around in his stash of AR accessories and swapped me a back-flip, aperture rear sight to set near the end of my carbine’s rail made by Samson Mfg.
This lash-up works perfectly. One afternoon I sighted both optical and iron sights in at 100 yards. At the end a group was fired with scope mounted. Then the scope on its GG&G mount was removed, remounted and another group fired. Group centers were within an inch or so of one another. That satisfied me.
Hornady’s Rapid Rack, empty chamber indicator is an AR accessory Duke uses regularly now.
But there is one other AR accessory I found necessary. It is Hornady’s Rapid-Rack empty chamber indicator. It has a cartridge shaped portion that sets inside an AR’s chamber and a red handle sticking out. There is no mistaking your AR’s chamber is empty yet it’s easy to rack the bolt when it needs filling.
Why do I consider it necessary? Because even after a half century of handling firearms almost daily I can still make mistakes. After ignoring my AR all winter, come spring I picked it up and automatically checked it. Its magazine was full and a cartridge was chambered. That scared me so bad I now have open chamber indicators in all my autoloading rifles and carbines.
3602 E. 42nd Stravenue
Tucson, Arizona 85713
P.O. Box 1848
Grand Island, NE 68802
32 Optical Avenue
Keene, NH 03431
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