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  #1  
Old 10-18-2013, 02:21 PM
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Gentlemen, I need your professional opinions once again! In the DISTANT future I will be looking at purchasing my first AR-15 rifle platform (preferably in 5.56). AR-15's are new to me but fit my interests (tinkering with guns) exceedingly well. The purposes for this particular AR-15 would be a defensive weapon, project gun, and all around fun gun. The questions are as follows...
  1. Would I be better off buying a complete rifle or build my own?
  2. Is there any advantage to building an AR-15 over purchasing a complete one?
  3. Should I follow only military guidelines for an AR-15?
  4. Is there a specific brand that I should look into for pre-built guns?
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Old 10-18-2013, 04:34 PM
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There is no real "fits all" answer when it comes to AR15's. Any of the factory built guns are fine for most people. If you make a living with your gun then you need to be a little pickier about the manufacturer. Building your own saves you money due to tax and allows you to build it exactly the way you want it. Cost of tools and skill level is very minor, the biggest drawback is you cant build just one.
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  #3  
Old 10-18-2013, 05:06 PM
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bsn gave a good answer, my turn however.
  1. Would I be better off buying a complete rifle or build my own? Shooters choice, but building for parts require a few specific tools. Better resale with factory however.
  2. Is there any advantage to building an AR-15 over purchasing a complete one? You get it specifically your way and no federal firearm tax that the manufactuer passes on to you
  3. Should I follow only military guidelines for an AR-15? Only if you run them hard and put away wet. Thats the route I went but it was a retirement gift to myself.
  4. Is there a specific brand that I should look into for pre-built guns? Since you are in Kentucky check out Double Star in Winchester, KY. Nice to have a gun built in your state. I carried a DS carbine right after I retired in Iraq. Bravo Company USA is highly recommended by professionals.
Good luck and have fun with it.

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  #4  
Old 10-18-2013, 06:10 PM
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Thank you gentlemen! I always get better answers on this forum verses glocktalk and ar15.com. Bunch of Call of Duty players and people who were disappointed when they found out that the U.S. military has a minimum IQ requirement.

What do you think of Bushmaster Rifles?
Buy Bushmaster Rifles for Sale
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  #5  
Old 10-19-2013, 01:50 AM
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Bushmaster isn't what it once used to be. but they are still fine for the average user.
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  #6  
Old 10-19-2013, 04:34 AM
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Some good well stated answers.

So, first, most people would be happy with any AR they get from the LGS. The average AR is really that good. There are some no-no brands, but I have never seen one except at a gun show.

1) buying will be easier. Building will generally be cheaper, especially if you want a specific configuration. Also, people say factory AR's have higher resale. That really isn't true. It looks true because a guy will n build and AR with an R Guns lower and discount upper parts and wonder why it doesn't sell for Colt 6920 money. Well, it's not the same.

2) the advantage of building is you put money where you want it and you don't have the cost of buying one config, taking the parts off, then buying more new parts to build your config. Then, often your take offs are hard to resell for good money. This can be a little or alot of wasted money.

3) mil spec is overstated. It is a spec for machine guns. It also is a selling point that people use to sell parts, but often the words don't really mean full mil spec compliance. Frankly, I would not hang my hat on milspec and use good parts.

4) Colt
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  #7  
Old 10-19-2013, 08:15 AM
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I've had three Colt ARs and still have one that I shoot some. It will squeek out 1 inch groups at 100 yards with select handloads. However my son's Bushmaster will outshoot it any day of the week even with factory loads.

I've often been told barrel quality will make or break these rifles.
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  #8  
Old 10-19-2013, 09:54 AM
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My experience is with the Smith & Wesson M&P-15. I looked carefully at the latest Sig Sauer offering and the Bushmaster. Bushmaster appears poorly made today. Not like they used to be. The S&W of high quality. I purchased one in OR form--Optics ready, which means there are no sights and that I would have the opportunity to equip it as I wish. I believe that if you buy one ready to go you are ahead of the game. Many of the 'builders' wind up having issues that make them less reliable at a bad time. I assume, as with any firearm, you want reliability, without question.

I chose an Armalite rear sight with integrates the rear handle in the fashion of the M-16 to which I am very accustomed. I have not had a feed problem nor a firing problem with either factory ammo or the stuff that I have built myself. (55 grain).

I must say that the S&W build quality is very fine.

dan
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  #9  
Old 10-19-2013, 10:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt45 View Post
Gentlemen, I need your professional opinions once again! In the DISTANT future I will be looking at purchasing my first AR-15 rifle platform (preferably in 5.56). AR-15's are new to me but fit my interests (tinkering with guns) exceedingly well. The purposes for this particular AR-15 would be a defensive weapon, project gun, and all around fun gun. The questions are as follows...
  1. Would I be better off buying a complete rifle or build my own?
  1. You will not save any money building your own per se. But you will spend less over all. If you build it yourself you build it the way you want it with the items you want. If you buy off the shelf you end up buying twice. You buy what the maker puts on then again when you change things out. In the end you spend more than if you had built it the way you want it from the ground up. However, you will never get the money you put into it if you sell it, normally. Frankenguns will not fetch the price of an off the shelf gun because there is no guarantee that the builder did the build correctly and that is always a risk future buyers take into account.
    Quote:
  2. Is there any advantage to building an AR-15 over purchasing a complete one?
  3. As above.
    Quote:
  4. Should I follow only military guidelines for an AR-15?
  5. Do you want a pure mil-spec rifle? If so, buy a milspec rifle but most of the rifles you would want to have with the items you might want are not mil-spec. So if you want free floated handguards and advanced trigger FCG, fine tuned buffers and springs, then you will not get that with a pure mil-spec rifle. A perfect example is the trigger. Do you want a mil-spec 7 pound single stage trigger that is gritty as all get out? Or do you want a NON mil-spec two-stage target trigger that is light and crisp as breaking glass? Get my point?
    Quote:
  6. Is there a specific brand that I should look into for pre-built guns?
Don't get hung up on the big brand names. If you think you are getting a better built rifle by buying, say a Colt, think again. My two factory Colts are the loosest rattle traps you can find in my collection. And they are also the least accurate. My builds will shoot rings around those factory rifles and are just as, if not more reliable. The smaller shops produce top notch rifles and IMO you get more for your money, and often with more the custom items you might prefer to have. Places like Spikes, Bravo Company, Hamlund Tactical... the list is too long to type. You might want to visit AR15.com and do some reading. You will find name brand fan-boys for sure, but if you want a top quality rifle at a reasonable price and not pay big bucks for the name brand only, look at the smaller shop's products. No Colt or LaRue Tactical combat rifle will ever compete with a White Oaks Precision rifle for putting bullets in tiny little groups down range.
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  #10  
Old 10-19-2013, 12:18 PM
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Price is a big factor for me. I can't afford a $1,500 AR and would not feel well if it were to get damaged by heavy use. Even if the gun can take it, I would die a little inside when the rifle that cost more than the car I drive gets worn from abuse.

If Bushmaster is not worth the money, the M&P looks like a sweet deal. I was fortunate to examine one at the store and it felt solid. Just as solid as the $1,400 Daniel Defence sitting right next to it.
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  #11  
Old 10-19-2013, 02:11 PM
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Bushmaster is worth the money, so is the Smith and Wesson I have both-buy what you like and don't worry.
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  #12  
Old 12-08-2013, 08:50 AM
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I researched and sat on the fence for several years before buying an AR type. This info is good for wading through all the techno-speak (even if it is from AR15.com);

So You Want to Buy an AR-15 - Features to Consider

The info is a bit dated regarding newer small scale buiders...there are a LOT of them. I too didn't want to pay for a Colt $$. I ended up going with one of the PSA (Palmetto State Armory, SC) built ARs, optics ready, for about half the price of an equivelent Colt. It is every bit equal in fit, finish, and function to the Colts, if not better.

...I have 22 years experience with Colt (and licensed derivatives) while in the Army. Ran an arms room for one year, and am very familiar.

Last edited by 60DRB; 12-08-2013 at 08:57 AM.
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  #13  
Old 12-08-2013, 09:42 AM
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I said Colt for a pre-made brand as I see pre-made buyers often wanting guns to run for a few years and sell for a like new price. A Colt will do that.

I should have clarified. Almost every AR you see on the shelf at the LGS will be fine. Most internet ordered AR's will be fine.

Many great deal used AR's will be fine, but I would caution you here. There are many people whom fancy themselves AR builders. Often the have cool wildly painted short, long guns. Often these "AR Builders" really don't know how to modify the design to their dream gun. Then they have issues and try to sell the gun. It would be hard to buy a broke AR and make it right since they generally run! Maybe a FTF buy at the range is the best way to buy this gun. You supply the ammo.
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  #14  
Old 12-08-2013, 01:48 PM
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"I said Colt for a pre-made brand as I see pre-made buyers often wanting guns to run for a few years and sell for a like new price. A Colt will do that."

I agree absolutely. I have no intention of implying Colt or any other reputable company is not of high quality. I've only parted with two firearms in my life though (and regret both), so I personally just don't feel the need to pay for the pony engraving. If I had the extra $$, or thought it was likely I'd need/want to resell, I would opt for a "big name". I DO buy American fire arms...
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  #15  
Old 12-08-2013, 04:49 PM
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"Mil-spec" is often misunderstood. The 1-7 barrel twist is a great example. 1-9 twist is actually optimum for the SS109/M855 projectile, but 1-7" was needed to stabilize the much longer M856 tracer projectile, so "mil-spec" in the M16A2 became the 1-7 twist.

The major downside of a 1-7 twist, particularly in 20" barrels, is with 55 gr and 62 gr FMJs as the excess twist increases the precession that occurs with less than perfect bullets, increasing group size. The velocity loss in a carbine helps reduce the spin rate and offsets the problem partially, but if you are mostly going to shoot 50-62 grain bullets a 1-9 twist barrel will serve you better.

Similarly, "mil-spec" includes a chrome lined bore and chamber and that's nice if you live in a swamp or fire flu auto, but it's over kill for the average civilian user, and making a chrome lined bore that produces accuracy equal to a normal steel barrel costs a lot more. But the accuracy spec for the M4 in particular, is pretty low, so a barrel that only shoots 3-4 MOA can still be "mil spec".

----

The reality is that every non Colt and non FN made AR-15 is reverse engineered rather than following the original technical data package, so no matter how upscale other companies want to project themselves, they are still building reverse engineered AR-15s. Yet the internet is full of fans of various brand names. Those are the guys who answer the "what should I buy?" question with one word answers.

The reality is that mundane and very mainstream companies like DPMS, Rock Rive, Armalite and Bushmaster all build pretty decent AR-15 that will function just fine.

In terms of building it yourself, it's not really rocket science and if you stay with the original design elements (avoiding piston driven operating systems, radical bolt carriers, composite receivers, excessively short barrels, etc), the rifle or carbine you build will run just fine, provided it is properly assembled. But that will take a few specialty tools such as am armorer's tools, action wrench, headspace gauges, etc.

----

Configuration is key. The two most useful AR15s I own are 1) a varmint rifle with an A3 upper, a 1-9" twist 20" bull barrel, free float tube and set trigger, and 2) a regular M16A1 clone. The former is a half MOA capable rifle with 52 grain match bullets and the latter is a very nice handling, lightweight and accurate AR-15 capable of 1.5 MOA with inexpensive 55 gr FMJ or SP bullets, and about 1.0 MOA with 52 gr match bullets.

You'll have to decide what you want and what you want to do with it.
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  #16  
Old 12-30-2013, 09:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt45 View Post
Gentlemen, I need your professional opinions once again! In the DISTANT future I will be looking at purchasing my first AR-15 rifle platform (preferably in 5.56). AR-15's are new to me but fit my interests (tinkering with guns) exceedingly well. The purposes for this particular AR-15 would be a defensive weapon, project gun, and all around fun gun. The questions are as follows...
  1. Would I be better off buying a complete rifle or build my own?
  2. Is there any advantage to building an AR-15 over purchasing a complete one?
  3. Should I follow only military guidelines for an AR-15?
  4. Is there a specific brand that I should look into for pre-built guns?
Walt,
Along with building your own comes a certain amount of pride in ownership. I just finished building a pistol and found it to be an easy to do, fun experience. I didn't have to buy any special tools, but I didn't have to put a barrel into an upper receiver, I bought it already installed. The nice thing about AR type rifles, there is a myriad of after market parts you can buy to customize your gun and make it a one of a kind. If I was going to buy from a company that makes AR's, I'd go with Olympic Arms, you should visit their web site and see what they offer, the variety is amazing. I would also advise you to get a Brownell catalog, or a Midway catalog, these two companies offer many custom parts. Good luck with your build.
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  #17  
Old 12-30-2013, 10:19 AM
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After shopping around I should be getting my S&W M&P Sport soon.

The Sport comes highly rated by people who know ARs despite its lack of dust cover and forward assist.

Quote:
Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport | The Truth About Guns

Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport
By Benjamin T. Shotzberger on June 13, 2011

There’s innovation, and then there’s beating a dead horse. A few firearms have fallen into this latter category, like John Moses Browning’s 1911 design. At over 100 years old, the 1911 has been done, redone, re-redone, and retro-redone with anniversary editions released that hearken straight back to the original weapon. I say that lovingly as an admitted “1911 guy.” More recently, the “Modern Sporting Rifle” has begun to fit the same bill. When it comes to accessories, my Prada and Gucci-loving cube-dwelling co-worker has less choices than your average AR owner. Some observers have gone so far as to call the AR “Barbie for men.” I couldn’t possibly comment. But I can tell you this: Smith & Wesson have introduced another AR variant called the M&P15 Sport . . .


The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport rifle is not your mall-ninja AR dripping with rails and oozing tacti-cool. It’s not meant to be. Smith’s aimed its rifle at AR newbies looking for a quality firearm at a bargain price..



Unboxing the M&P15 Sport isn’t much of an event. You open the cardboard box and strip back a layer of foam. Laying in front of you: a black rifle and Magpul 30 round magazine. Taking a closer look, you can see that Smith & Wesson shaved costs where they could. But they didn’t skimp on the important stuff.



Smith & Wesson have done away with the dust cover and forward assist. Smith Marketing Maven Paul Pluff told TTAG that sacrificing the dust cover in the name of cost-savings was a no-brainer. The target market is less likely to need an AR to fight terrorists in sandstorms and extreme weather than use that funny shell holder thingie to eat snails [paraphrasing]. The M&P15 Sport will likely live out its days in a case or safe, with semi-regular forays to the range or the woods.



To check out the rifle’s reliability, I ran the rifle for a week out at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona.

I spent the week putting rounds down range in arid, sandy, dusty conditions – begging the Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport to show me that it needed a dust cover. I fired standing, kneeling, and from several variations of the prone position, including rollover-prone where the bolt of the rifle was less than two inches from the dust, rock, dirt, and grime the ejection process was kicking back up into the rifles action.



Did nastiness get in to the action? Ohh yeah it did. I made sure of that by peppering the rifle with a few small handfuls of Arizona high desert when the Smith and Wesson folks weren’t watching. By the end of the week I had one gritty feeling charging handle, one rough trigger, and one dirty as all-heck action. I was also holding a rifle that continued to function without a single hiccup.

The forward assist (err . . . forward “scallop”) on the M&P15 Sport is a throwback to the rifle’s original design. The cylindrical slap-assist found on most other black rifles is no-where to be seen on the M&P15 Sport.

For a beginning AR shooter, the manual assist has the same likelihood of turning a minor and easily correctable malfunction – such as a double-feed – into one that could require gunsmithy assistance. Newer users tend to follow the Hollywood example of hitting the forward assist with the force of Thor’s hammer rather than giving it the gentle smack that’s needed to bring a round into battery if it hasn’t seated properly.



So what’s an M&P15 Sport owner to do if their rifle doesn’t charge properly without a forward assist? Simple – use the scalloped section of the bolt itself and a finger on the support hand to gently nudge the action closed (demonstrated in the above video). This isn’t a new idea; it’s an homage to pre-forward assist designs. Even with dirty rifle with a gritty action, I could easily seat rounds after a manually-induced malfunction.

The M&P15 Sport’s barrel isn’t an M4 cut; if you’re looking to mount your M203, look elsewhere. The Smith sports a full-profile barrel of American 4140 Steel. The bolt carrier and gas key are chromed, and the barrel sports their Melonite coating. Smith claims that the bare bones approach has no effect on durability. They’ve fed two M&P15 Sport test rifles a combined ~170,000 rounds of various brands of ammunition without any [visible] damage to the Melonite finishing process.

The M&P15 Sport’s barrel also incorporates 5R rifling, an innovation Smith added after they acquired Thompson Center Arms. The M&P15′s 5R rifling is a 1/8” “gain twist.” The twist starts longer and tightens to 1/8” towards the end of the barrel.

In theory, the bullet stabilizes before fully engaging the rifling. Shooting Remington’s Disintegrator 45gr frangible ammunition in shoot-house drills and testing on steel, the rifle didn’t have a single failure-to-feed or fire. Given that mag failures account to many of the issues shooters encounter with their AR, Smith & Wesson “got it right” by spending a few extra dollars on the factory-standard 30-round P-mag. Gunsite instructor Dave Starin (20 years LE, 12 years SWAT) also reported—and I can confirm—that accuracy wasn’t an issue, either.



The rifle ships with a flat-top Picatinny style rail with an adjustable / removable dual aperture rear, and adjustable A2 post front sights. Removing the factory options to mount the EOTech EXPS2 (review to follow) was a breeze. The muzzle brake is standard A2 style. The M&P15 Sport’s threading is also standard; shooters can swap out for common muzzle accessories should they desire.

The rifle’s lower and upper receivers are fashioned from 7075 T6 Aluminum, fully-forged in-house by Smith & Wesson. Included with the lower: the single piece, solid-forged, non-removable, over-sized (for gloves) trigger guard. A typical six-position telescoping stock is standard, along with sling mounts allowing for single or double-point sling attachment. A bayonet lug is under slung – just in case. All of the M&P15 Sport’s parts are interchangeable with the rest of their AR product line.

For those of you living in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia – fear not. Smith’s making a California-compliant version to satisfy your political overlords. For their Cali-compliant “bullet button,” Smith & Wesson’s mag-release can be engaged with a round of .223/5.56 ammunition.

The M&P15 Sport is a perfect entry-level AR. With stock sights, the rifle is amazingly accurate. Equipped with an expensive optic like the EOTech EXPS2, gratuitous mag-dumping onto targets from 50 – 110 yards was child’s play. I engaged various targets on Gunsite’s Scrambler course while the OFWG’s decided who was going to shoot next. Point of Aim quickly became Point of Impact. I was eventually instructed to stop wasting ammo for the sake of the sweet-satisfying PING! of steel. Sad, I know.



Testing at Gunsite was less about ranged engagement or precision shooting and more about carbine drill and functionality. Maximum distance shot during the evaluation in Arizona: 50 yards (not including the Scrambler targets, which extend upwards of 100 yards). The gun’s back on the East Coast with me; I’ll be firing out to 100 yards from a rested position and beyond, and report back.

With night vision and thermal gear (hey, why not?), I was able to use the M&P15 Sport to hit pie-plate steel at 50 yards. More importantly, in head shot and non-standard failure drills extending from three and out to 25 yards, I consistently placed rounds in the T-zone within seconds of being instructed to fire.

The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport is all yours for $709 msrp. That’s $600 – $650 in real world dollars. If the gun is as reliable as our initial impressions indicate, that’s tremendous value-for-money. It’s taken Smith a while to get here, but it looks like they’ve finally brought the same no-nonsense quality and functionality to the AR world that made their revolvers so justifiably famous.

SPECIFICATIONS

Caliber: .223 / 5.56 NATO
Barrel: 16″ Melonite coated – 1/7″ twist according to S&W rep. Thompson Center 5R rifling.
Overall Length: 32 inches collapsed, 35 inches extended.
Weight: 6.45 pounds unloaded.
Action: Semi-automatic.
Finish: Melonite barrel, hard coat anodized 7075 T6 Aluminum receivers.
Capacity: 30+1 using standard AR magazines (ships with a Magpul 30 rnd).
Price: MSRP $709 – readily had between $640 – $690.

RATINGS (out of five)

Accuracy: * * * * – Final star TBD
Excellent accuracy in carbine drills. Rounds consistently placed in a 3″ T-zone from 25 yards while standing. Minute of bad guy observed during all firing events. Further accuracy testing pending.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
It’s an AR carbine with all the controls in all the standard places, and adjusts to fit the user in all the standard fashions. Easy to manipulate, easy to bring on target.

Reliability: * * * * *
One feeding issue—traced to the cheap aluminum magazine I was using as a back-up. Not a single failure with the factory-issue Magpul. I shot well over 1000 rounds through the rifle without cleaning (with additional lubrication).

Customize This: * * * * *
It’s an AR. Kit it up! Check out The Barbie for Men.

Overall Rating: * * * * *
The price is right, the product performs, and America’s second largest arms manufacturer stands behind it. What’s not to like?

Special thanks to Manassas Guns and Ammo Warehouse for handling the transfer to bring this rifle back to Virginia for further testing. Stay tuned for updates.
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Old 03-07-2014, 10:50 PM
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Nice pictures...

Those are nicely-composed pictures. I am still trying to get all of the rifle with minimal background into my pictures. Must be my tiny Canon S3-IS camera. One zoom lens (fixed to camera) and 6.2 megapixels. Got it in 2007, so it's well-eclipsed by what's out there today...
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