All posts by Andrew Betts

What If YouTube Gun Channels Were 100% Honest?

What If YouTube Gun Channels Were 100% Honest?

 

Look, as the Geico commercial reminds us, not everything you see on the internet is true. YouTube gun channels are no exception. While many are honest and forthright, many others are dishonest shills who will say anything to get more free stuff.

 

 

YouTube posters do not earn as much as you might think. The amount earned for each view varies, depending on a variety of factors such as view duration and engagement, but it looks as though most channels earn somewhere in the neighborhood of about one dollar for every thousand views. That means that, unless you have an extremely popular channel, you probably will not even recover the gas money you spend driving to the range. That’s okay for many of us. We are not in it for the money. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great if I was someday able to get enough from YouTube that I could buy a new gun, but for the time being, I spend more on making test videos than I get out of them and I’m fine with that.

 

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As you can see, I get about $30 a month from YouTube and about two bucks a month from my most popular video. Not time to quit the day job yet. Some YouTube channels treat their channel as a business, though. They have invested in advertising to promote their channel and have enjoyed a significant return on their investment in subscriber count. Channels like this usually aggressively pursue manufacturers for test and evaluation samples and may even receive monetary compensation. The latter is of questionable legality under consumer protection laws. If they do receive compensation and do not disclose the fact, it is most likely a crime. On the other hand, they will shatter their illusion of impartiality if they do tell their viewers that they are promoting paid content.

 

In some cases, it is painfully obvious, such as TWANGnBANG’s videos where he simply tells us everything that a manufacturer put out in their press release over the manufacturer’s publicity photos without fact checking any of the manufacturer’s claims. Other times, it is more subtle, such as MAC’s pervasive use of ZQI ammunition in all his videos, right after the trip he took to their plant in Turkey that I’m sure he paid for out of pocket. Or his detour to tell us about the 3M electronic earpro in a video about a 9mm carbine.

 

Now, T&E samples are an important part of the gun industry. Reviewers get free samples and sometimes are allowed to keep them and we get to see new stuff. The Manufacturer gets free advertising and the YouTube channel gets a way to make content that generates revenue. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with paid advertisements, either, so long as it is clear that is what we are seeing.

 

The real problem comes into play when viewers believe they are watching an honest, unbiased product review when, in reality, they are watching what amounts to a paid endorsement. Even when actual cash money does not change hands, it can be difficult to maintain an entirely unbiased perspective if you are getting free stuff. Moreover, the manufacturers are not likely to give you things to review if you have a reputation for tough criticism. This pressure to be gentle is usually somewhat subtle but can occasionally be explicitly stated. Another YouTuber told me about an interaction with a manufacturer where they explicitly stated that they would not send ammunition for testing unless they could be assured that they would have the opportunity to review the video before publishing.

 

I know from personal experience that some manufacturers react poorly to negative reviews of their products. A while back I posted an article here that was highly critical of DRT ammunition on the grounds that it fails to meet, or even come close, to FBI penetration recommendations. I have often used DRT as an example of worthless gimmick ammunition because it is. In response, the president of DRT emailed me to invite me to shoot animals with his ammunition. I am a meat eater and I am happy to kill an animal for food. Moreover, I am confident that the animals used in his testing are not wasted, but it seems unnecessarily cruel to shoot the animals solely to determine the effects of the ammunition. I cannot rightly articulate why it rubs me wrong, it just does. Aside from the ethical consideration, the fact is that his ammunition does not meet established standards using the established method of testing. Apparently, he hoped to distract from the failure in standardized testing by subjecting animals to his idea of “testing”.

 

DRT screen shot

 

He declined to answer when I asked him whether the deer would be moving rapidly, using cover, and shooting back, but the exchange went downhill from there. Shooting an unsuspecting animal in relatively controlled conditions is obviously not the same as a desperate fight with a human being who is also desperately fighting for his own life, which is why a shallowly penetrating projectile works fine for hunting, if the shot is carefully placed. When fighting a human being, though, you do not have the luxury to decide not to take a shot if you think it will not produce a humane kill. You must shoot to stop and your rounds will likely impact the torso at an angle after passing through a limb or other intervening obstacle.

 

It is pure speculation on my part, but in light of this interaction, and given the conversations I have had with other folks in the gun community and in the industry, this sort of “gentle” pressure is likely common. And why wouldn’t manufacturers want to aggressively promote a positive image of their products?

 

The bottom line is that you are encouraged to exercise discretion and take YouTube reviews with a whole fistful of salt.

 

Editor’s/Owner’s note –   While I have no idea how things likely work on the youtube gun community.  Gun writers with few exceptions get to keep any guns for free.  It is true that we are mostly offered the “writer’s price”  and that price is often very hard to say no to, we get no guns from any companies for free.  Obviously they do send them out for demo free of charge, but they do want them back or want you to buy them.  Some writers do indeed get stuff for free to keep and we all obviously know them as what they are. Shills. 

As far as companies wanting to  look at a review before it goes up, only one company has ever said that to me and it was KAC.  And that was after I had to justify and explain in detail what I wanted to do with the gun in questions.  Obviously since you have never read a review of the KAC  EMC carbine on looseorunds, you know how that turned out.  – Shawn

 

 

 

 

Highcom 4SAS7: a Seriously Tough Ceramic Plate at a Great Price

For a long time “ceramic” meant “expensive” when it comes to body armor. Either pay at least $500 at a minimum for a ceramic level IV plate or settle for a less expensive and less effective steel plate. As more regular folks buy armor for just in case, market pressure has forced manufacturers to adapt. Some manufacturers are producing tougher, “level III+” steel plates that can stop some of the high velocity .223/5.56mm threats that regular level III steel plates cannot. At the same time, ceramic plates have also become more affordable.  Highcom Security actually offers a level IV ceramic plate at a price lower than some steel plates. It is available in a variety of sizes, curve options, and cuts, but in the 10″ x 12″ shooter’s cut, single curve style that is so popular, the price is $159.

At that price, one might reasonably suspect how effective the plate is. As the sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein was fond of saying “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” It is quite reasonable to be suspicious of the quality at such an attractive price, but the plate has far exceeded any reasonable expectations.

Everything done in the test above shatters expectations, if you’ll pardon the pun. The hammer impact far exceeds anything you could reasonably expect to encounter in field use and the .358 Win is also something the plate was not designed to stop. Bear in mind that when this test was conducted, the plate had already stopped a 405 gr .450 Marlin at almost 2,000 fps. The plate then went on to stop a round of 7.62x51mm M61 AP.

Again, it is important to bear in mind that the plate had already sustained some ridiculous abuse before stopping the armor piercing round.

As tough as the plate is, it is also a little heavier than other plates with the same NIJ rating, but at 7.2 lbs for the 10″ x 12″ shooter’s cut, the difference is not huge and still lighter than steel plates of similar dimensions, while providing a great deal more protection than steel plates.

As always, the burden is upon you to do comprehensive research and determine your own priorities before purchasing any personal protective equipment. It is likewise important to stress that training matters a great deal more than equipment. No amount of gear, no matter how cool can make up for poor training. The more you sweat in training, the less you will bleed in a fight.

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M855A1 EPR: The Armor Piercing Round That Wasn’t

The Army does not actually consider M855A1 to be armor piercing ammunition, but it is capable of some really impressive penetration. Standard M855 is stopped easily by ¼” AR500 level III body armor, but M855A1 can penetrate even level III+ steel armor.

Bear in mind that the plate in that test was able to stop 5.56mm M193 and 50 gr TSX, .450 Marlin 405 gr JSP, and even a round of 7.62x51mm M61 AP. This plate is seriously tough.

Let that sink in a bit: a standard 5.56mm “ball” round was able to penetrate a target that 7.62x51mm armor piercing ammunition could not get through. Of course the old farts will complain about how their beloved “thuty cal” will carry more energy down range and that is absolutely correct. 7.62x51mm will likely be better at getting through thicker, heavier obstacles like trees and possibly better at multiple layers of light barrier like car bodies. It will definitely be better at chewing up concrete barriers with multiple rounds. Still, at close range, in this narrow use case, a 5.56mm “ball” cartridge outperformed 7.62x51mm AP and that is really saying something. How far away does M855A1 EPR keep that performance edge though?

It is not particularly surprising that it loses some steam and is unable to penetrate at 50 meters, given the light weight of the projectile, but the fact that it can still get through the plate at 25 meters is notable in its own right. There is some limit to the capability of this new round, but it is nevertheless impressive. It is not simply some icepick penetrator, either.

Even when fired from a short barrel, M855A1 shows immediate upset and dramatic tissue disruption. In comparison, M855 shows a much longer “neck,” about four to five inches, actually. The “neck” is the portion of tissue that is relatively undamaged by a projectile’s passing before the bullet begins to yaw, fragment, or expand.

Even when fired from a 16” barrel, the M855 showed a longer neck and less tissue disruption than the M855A1 did from an 11.5” barrel. In other words, the M855A1 is more terminally effective at a lower velocity than M855. There is every reason to believe that it should continue to demonstrate excellent down range performance too, based on the light, three part construction of the bullet. It is refreshing to finally see an effective loading fielded for our soldiers’ 5.56mm rifles. For decades, civilians have enjoyed high performance loads that take full advantage of the 5.56mm cartridge’s potential but our service men and women have made do with an obsolete answer to a question no one cared to ask. The M855 was not particularly good at anything. It was not terrible, of course, but it was far from ideal. At long last, it looks as though the Army has a load that is actually better at penetrating cover than M855 but also produces better tissue damage.

Is Ceramic Armor Really “Better” Than Steel?

Some things really are better. Cold beer is better than warm beer. Empire Strikes Back is better than Return of the Jedi. But in most cases, one thing is not really better than another thing, just different. As much as it pains me to admit, PCs are not better than Macs, just different. Depending on your priorities, one or the other may be a better fit. This concept applies to body armor as well. There is a perception that level IIIA soft armor is “better” than level IIA because it is rated for higher energy threats. Level IIIA armor also tends to be heavier, stiffer, hotter, and generally less comfortable than level IIA. Anyone who has worn armor for a living knows that comfort isn’t nearly as superficial as it might sound to someone who has not worn armor for long periods of time. There are a number of other factors that should be considered when selecting armor such as weight, thickness, threat rating, and of course, price. There are some other factors that may be overlooked, though.

One factor is the fact that different types of body armor might perform differently with specific threats, even if they have the same threat rating. By way of example, this level III steel plate was able to stop a round of M61 7.62x51mm AP.

When shot with the same ammunition from the same barrel length, a ceramic level III plate was perforated, though.

How can this be? Every internet operator worth his keyboard will tell you straight up that ceramic armor is “better” than steel, so how is it that the steel can stop a round that gets through the ceramic? The fact is that the real world is not a video game. Ceramic armor is not a +10 damage resistance over steel armor. Different armor types perform differently across a spectrum of velocities, bullet weights, and types of projectile construction. The materials used in each plate work differently to stop bullets. That does not mean that the steel plate is superior, either, though. The same plates had opposite performance when tested against the Army’s new M855A1 62 gr EPR.

In this case, the ceramic plate stopped the round but the steel plate was perforated.

Both plates carry the NIJ level III rating. Shouldn’t that mean that they will stop the same ammunition? In a way, that is precisely what that means, but we have to put a very fine point on that statement. It means that they will both protect the wearer from 7.62x51mm M80 at 2,780 fps by preventing the round from reaching the wearer but without deforming more that 1.7″. This last bit is often overlooked as well. Soft body armor and composite rifle plates deform when struck by a projectile. Often, that deformation is substantial, as seen in the video below:

The NIJ specifies that the degree of back face deformation should be measured by measuring the depression left in a clay block placed behind the test article. In this informal test, the clay used is not exactly the same type and consistency of the clay specified by the NIJ, but it gives a general picture of the difference between the back face signature produced by these two plates when struck with the same projectile.

Although they are the same threat level and were struck with exactly the same ammunition, the degree of back face deformation on the ceramic composite plate was profound, while the steel plate showed virtually zero deformation.

Please understand that this series of tests should not be taken to indicate that steel is “better,” either, just that steel and ceramic work differently. The two plates shown here vary substantially in price, thickness, and weight as well as the factors discussed in this article. They perform differently, but one is not necessarily “better” than the other. Both plates will still protect the wearer against the vast majority of small arms munitions, though.

As always, it is your responsibility to do extensive research before purchasing any personal protective equipment. Also remember that training is far more important than equipment. There is no amount of gear that can make up for a training deficiency.

Can Milk Jugs Stop a Bullet?

An empty milk jug seems like a pretty flimsy thing, but when you cut several milk jugs into pieces and melt them into an homogeneous block, it starts to look a little more substantial. Still, can plastic stop a bullet? High density polyethylene, or HDPE, is used in a variety of products because it is strong, light, and cheap. Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE is used in some rifle plates because it is tough and light. While the two are not the same, they are chemically similar and although HDPE is not as tough as UHMWPE, it is tougher than you might expect.

This seems silly and it is, but there is a more serious purpose to this test. Every few years, some dullard statist politician gets it in his or her tiny head to place restrictions on body armor because banning the things for the children has worked so well in the past. There already exist some jurisdictions where body armor is regulated. Some countries do not allow private citizens to own body armor at all. The purpose of the Open Source Armor Project is to establish a standard for homemade body armor that is effective, cheap, easy to make, and constructed of easily sourced materials. It is not intended to be an alternative to proper body armor, but rather an option for those who may not have access to “real” armor as well as a counterpoint to any arguments in favor of banning personal body armor. The goal of this test was as a proof of concept. Further testing will explore the stand alone capability of a 1 1/4″ thick slab like this as well as its usefulness as a backing material for floor tiles. In previous testing, we have established that porcelain floor tiles are more than up to the task of stopping intermediate rifle cartridges when backed by a tough material.

The questions that remain to be answered are:

  • How effective can the HDPE slab be on its own?
  • What is the optimum thickness?
  • How many tiles is optimum to achieve a favorable balance of weight and protection?
  • What adhesives are both inexpensive and effective?
  • What material works best to contain fragments?

Once these questions are answered, we can establish a standard configuration or set of configurations that can then be independently tested. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact The Chopping Block on YouTube.

How Many Keyboards can a 12 ga Slug Shoot Through?

By Andrew Betts

As gun owners, we often get wrapped around the axle about how serious guns are. It is true that they are inherently dangerous tools and it is true that, with proper training, a firearm makes a formidable defensive weapon, but they are also ridiculously fun to shoot. As fun as it is to shoot paper, clay, and steel, sometimes it is a real hoot to shoot other things, too.

 

 

Who knew that there was sheet metal and thick wires inside a new style membrane keyboard? Who would have thought a keyboard could stop a slug so quickly? This sort of “test” doesn’t really teach us anything we didn’t already know, but it does remind us that shooting is supposed to be fun.

If you are blessed to have access to places like this to shoot, though, please bring along a few trash bags and always leave the site cleaner than you find it.

M855A1: Beyond the Hype And the Hate

M855A1 (one)

Many articles have been written about M855A1 since the US Army first announced plans to adopt a new “green” 5.56x45mm cartridge to replace M855. Often, those articles have been highly speculative or have referenced results from earlier versions of the M855A1 cartridge, before it was fielded widely. There has been a reflexive tendency to look poorly on the new cartridge because of its supposedly environmentally friendly design. It is popular to denigrate anything labeled “green” as being inferior to the original flavor, non-filter, leaded, trans fat version, but that is not always accurate. “Electric car” sounds like some sort of weak, hippie nonsense, but a Tesla Model S can do 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. As the ammunition filters out into the public, and independent testers get hold of it, some remarkable results are coming to light.

This test used a chrome lined, 14.5”, 1:7” twist barrel to match the M4 barrel that this round will be fired through most commonly in combat. The most immediately apparent result is the almost complete absence of a neck. Typically, when a projectile enters tissue, it travels some distance before it begins to yaw, expand, or fragment. This leaves a relatively narrow wound channel visible in the gel before the upset begins and this narrow portion is referred to as the “neck”. M855 is notorious for having erratic performance in this regard, with the neck sometimes being somewhat reasonable (4”-5”) and sometimes being so long that the projectile is likely to exit a target before beginning to upset. This erratic performance is due to a variety of factors including muzzle velocity and in-flight projectile yaw, but the end result is that it can sometimes produce the ice pick wounds that we often hear of anecdotally. The extremely short neck exhibited by M855A1 in this test is very encouraging in that it seems to indicate M855A1 is more able to reliably produce incapacitating wounds than M855.

The question that remains is how M855A1 performs out of short barrels or at longer range. Does it continue to produce an extremely short neck at lower velocity?

The answer appears to be “yes”. It retains the practically nonexistent neck seen in the longer barrel test. This gives us a peek into what the performance could be at about 100 yards. It is important to remember that it is a sample size of one, so it is by no means conclusive. It does present a rough idea of what we could expect, though. As mentioned above, M855 can perform adequately at close range, but as distance increases and velocity decreases, fragmentation occurs deeper in the target, if at all. As velocity decreases beyond 2,700 fps or so, fragmentation may not occur at all. The fact that M855A1 was able to fragment almost instantly, even when fired from a short barrel is very encouraging.

M855A1 (two)

As good as the performance in tissue looks, it is irrelevant if the projectile cannot even make it to the tissue because of intervening obstacles. M855 was adopted in part for its ability to penetrate Warsaw Pact steel helmets at 800 meters. M193, which was replaced by M855 can penetrate level III steel body armor, when fired from a 20” barrel at 50 feet or less, due to its relatively high velocity. M855 typically cannot penetrate that same armor. M855A1 has an exposed steel penetrator that is pointier and about twice the weight of M855’s penetrator, so it looks as though it was designed with penetration in mind, but how does it actually perform?

The test does show that M855A1 can penetrate steel armor, but it isn’t quite that simple. The armor used in this test is not just level III, but an improved version the manufacturer refers to as level III+. The plate used in the test stopped M193 in a previous test so M855A1 is seen here penetrating a plate that neither M855 nor M193 could penetrate. This does not mean that this armor is inferior in any way, it simply means that M855A1 is significantly better at penetrating hard barriers than its predecessor.

M855A1 might be considered “green” because of its lead free design, but it appears to be a dramatic performance improvement over M855. Rather than compromise performance for the sake of environmentalism, as some critics have claimed, it seems very likely that the Army used the political desire for environmentally friendly ammunition to develop and field a more effective replacement for M855. Time will tell, but it appears that American soldiers finally have a better small arms cartridge.