Red Dawn at 35: The Guns of the Great American Classic

Opening 35 years ago this week, the film Red Dawn brought World War III to a small American town and the town fought back. Written and directed by noted Hollywood gun guy John Milius — legend has it that 1911-toting bowling purist Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski was partially based on him — the motion picture’s opening act involves Soviet paratroopers dropping on an American high school unannounced, looking to turn the Cold War hot. Within the first 10 minutes of the film, teens who managed to give said Russki sky soldiers the slip begin to reach for the glove compartments and gun racks as signs mount that the invasion is on.

(Caution, big-time spoilers below if you have never seen the film, but then again it has been out for 35 years, so just what are you waiting for?)

M1911A1

Remington Rand M1911A1 (9)

Two World Wars…make it a third (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

Other than the invaders’ guns put into action as soon as their chutes collapsed — which are a mix of CZ75 and Tokarev TT-33 pistols and Egyptian Maadi ARMs and Finnish Valmet M78s made up to look like Soviet AKs and RPKs — the first American iron firing back is an M1911A1 GI pried from the literal “cold dead hands” of an armed citizen downtown who played the “Not today, comrade,” card when it came to reeducation camp residency. As the venerable longslide made the first two world wars, it is fitting that it showed up in the opening act of the third.

Colt Single Action

You wouldn't think the Colt Single Action Army would see so much use against Soviets and their Latin American commie allies, but it does (Photo: Colt)

You wouldn’t think the Colt Single Action Army would see so much use against Soviets and their Latin American commie allies, but it does (Photo: Colt)

Former high school football standout Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze), upon grabbing his little brother and assorted soon-to-be-partisan friends from the Soviet drop zone in his sweet Chevy step side, stops off at a gas station/market just outside of town. There, the crew empties friendly shop owner Mr. Morris’s displays of hunting guns and ammo — something increasingly rare in gas stations today. Then, as youth are pulling stumps for the mountains with Mr. Morris cautioning them to not come back, Jed asks his little brother to fetch a vintage Colt 1873 from the truck’s glove box and check to make sure that it is loaded.

“It’s already loaded,” says Matt Eckert (Charlie Sheen).

Oh, you knew it was.

According to IMFDB, aforementioned film-used Colt belonged to Milius himself and in the movie, it is featured prominently, getting more screen time than some of the top-billed actors. Jed, getting “pretty lean on feelings,” even uses it in the film’s final climactic big boss-style showdown, to evict Soviet partisan hunter, Col. Strelnikov, from his meat suit.

Smith & Wesson K-frame Model 15

SW model 15 gunscom

Fill your hands with a S&W Model 15 K38, the next best thing for when your F-15 is on the fritz

Dropping in with shot down US Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew “Andy” Tanner (Powers Boothe) is a classic blued Smith & Wesson K-frame, specifically a .38 special Model 15. An upgrade to Smith’s Model 10 M&P series of swing-out cylinder medium-framed revolvers, the wheel gun was a staple of the USAF as a bailout gun for pilots and Security Police — and is only now being totally replaced in service by the Sig M18.

Despite access to plenty of captured Warsaw Pact gear, Tanner still carries the big Smith in a raid on a Soviet airstrip although he later picks up a 1911. Why not a Makarov? Because nobody wants that Russki stuff in 1984, that’s why.

Remington 870 Wingmaster

Remington 870 Wingmaster 12

The Remington 870 Wingmaster: for those who ask why they should be different.

Among the extensive collection of common sporting guns borrowed by the crew from Mr. Morris in the opening scenes — a Ruger M77, Winchester pump, and Marlin 336 .30-.30 lever action all make an appearance — a Remington 870 Wingmaster is present and gets a non-NFA-compliant trim to make it handier. Hard to submit Form 1s from behind the lines in Soviet-occupied Colorado. The gun comes in handy when young Robert Morris (C. Thomas Howell) springs from a spider hole to zap a pretty rapey Soviet tank crew who were caught in a feint trap.

Honorable mentions

While not as central to the plot, other great guns make cameos such as the FN FAL, M16, and Ruger Mini-14. Of note, Strelnikov even carries a super cool Finnish-made Jatimatic SMG, a gun that had only debuted a year or two before the film was made and a very unlikely choice for a Soviet super-soldier rocking his babushka’s sunglasses.

Besides the cloned AKs and RPKs, lots of other clones appear in the film including an M60 machine gun, mocked up to look like a Soviet DShK HMG and a wild array of aircraft and vehicles that look closer to something from a Mad Max film than actual Warsaw Pact armor. While today it would be a snap to buy a whole platoon of working T-55 tanks and even a few actual MiGs, such hardware was tough to come by in 1984 during the most frigid part of the Cold War.

Either way, remember the days when John had a long mustache next time you visit Partisan Rock and don’t ever mention that “other” Red Dawn movie again.

Red Dawn Wolverines

(Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

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A Pilot’s Best Friend: WWII Remington Rand M1911A1

Remington Rand M1911A1 (9)

This 1943 Remington Rand M1911A1 is striking. (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

SEE MORE ON THIS M1911A1 IN THE VAULT

One of the more interesting guns that have come through the Guns.com Vault in recent months is a World War II-era Remington Rand M1911A1. The gun came to us from the family of a man who was reportedly a B-17 bomber pilot during the conflict. While the golden rule in used firearms is “buy the gun, not the story,” this Government Issue .45 certainly has a lot to say just by looking at it.

Remington Rand, not to be confused with Remington Arms, was a business machine company formed in a merger between the Remington Typewriter Company and Rand Kardex Corporation during the Roaring Twenties. However, as with other gadget and widget makers, during WWII they retooled to help crank out the Arsenal of Democracy and win the war.

For Remington Rand, this meant making M1911A1 pistols, the standard U.S. military handgun since 1926. The company received drawings, gauges and tooling from the Army’s Springfield Armory, which had been previously used to manufacture M1911s and converted their “C” Division typewriter plant and warehouse in 1942 to war production.  While Colt, Ithaca, railway equipment maker U.S. Switch & Signal, and even the Singer Sewing Machine company would produce over 1.8 million of these iconic handguns during the conflict, it was Remington Rand that delivered the most to Uncle Sam.

With a serial number that dates to 1943, the Remington Rand in the Guns.com Vault has what collectors consider Type 3 slide markings, a very crisp “FJA” Ordnance inspector’s mark of Col. Frank J. Atwood, an Ordnance Department wheel, and U.S. Property marks.

Remington Rand M1911A1 markings

Lt. Col. Frank J. Atwood was the U.S. Army Ordnance officer in charge of war production in the Rochester district of New York from 1942 to 1946 and both the Remington Rand and Ithaca factories were under his control. M1911A1s accepted during that time from those makers will have his FJA mark. (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

Remington Rand M1911A1 markings

Remington Rand’s M1911A1 factory was located on Dickerson Street in Syracuse, New York, which is now a parking lot. (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

Remington Rand M1911A1 markings

While the M1911 was adopted before WWI, the “A1” series became standard in 1926. (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

Remington Rand M1911A1 markings

Note the U.S. Property marks (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

Remington Rand M1911A1 markings

U.S. Army Ordnance Corps wheel is one of the oldest insignia designs used by the U.S. Army. (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

Remington Rand M1911A1 markings

Note the condition of the grips and parkerized finish as well as the “P” proof mark by the magazine release and lanyard ring. (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

When it comes to the barrel, this M1911A1 has one produced by High Standard as denoted by the “HS” mark on the lug. This is correct for late model Remington Rands as the typewriter and adding machine maker did not produce their own pistol barrels. High Standard, on the other hand, produced 5-inch M1911 barrels during the war for not only Remington Rand but also for Ithaca and US&S.

Remington Rand M1911A1 (10)

(Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

As for why the gun looks so minty, the story is that the gun was issued to said B-17 bomber pilot who only shot it to familiarize himself with it and returned home with the gun after the war, where it spent the rest of its life largely in storage.

Why would a pilot have a gun?

U.S. Army Air Force B-17 bombers flying through flak on their way to a target in Europe. At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit but the Germans had their own way to keep things hot for American aircrews. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. Army Air Force B-17 bombers flying through flak on their way to a target in Europe. At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit but the Germans had their own way to keep things very hot for American aircrews. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo)

This week marks the 77th anniversary of Mission #1, the first heavy bomber attack on Nazi-occupied Europe by the U.S. VIII Bomber Command, the England-based unit that was to grow into the mighty 8th Air Force. While that initial raid only fielded 18 B-17 bombers on a strike in occupied France, by Mission # 84, the famed Schweinfurt–Regensburg Raid — which was 76 years ago this week and coincides to the “born on” date of our Remington-Rand — the 8th Air Force sent 376 B-17s deep into Germany itself. By Mission # 817 in February 1945, the 8th Air Force was putting an amazing 1,437 bombers into the air over Berlin.

Over the course of the war, the 8th Air Force alone lost a staggering 4,145 bombers on missions over Europe. While aircrew were limited as to what they could bring along on their high altitude flights — for instance, most liquids were banned due to the likelihood of them freezing in the unpressurized aircraft — they were issued basic survival gear such as a special extreme cold-weather uniform, life vest, parachute and a pistol in case they had to “hit the silk” and try to escape and evade Axis patrols to make it to friendly lines, often with the help of local resistance groups.

While Navy aviators had to make do with various revolvers, Army Air Force aircrew were typically issued standard M1911A1s. The U.S. Air Force Museum has an example of one such gun on display carried by a WWII B-17 gunner that caught a piece of German flak on a mission.

The Remington Rand in the Guns.com Vault came from its owner complete with its 1943-marked Boyt M3 shoulder holster.

The U.S.-marked leather holster is imarked "U.S. Boyt 43" (Photo: Richard Taylor?Guns.com)

The U.S.-marked leather holster that comes with the M1911A1 is marked “Boyt 43” (Photo: Richard Taylor?Guns.com)

The M3, sometimes referred to as the “flyer” holster by militaria collectors to set it apart from later “tanker” holster models, was often issued to USAAF aircrews and occasionally to Army paratrooper officers.

"England. The crew of the 91st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, relax beside the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Klette's Wild Hares. They have just returned from a bombing attack on enemy territory." Note the M1911 pistol and holster of the crewmember to the far right. (Photo: U.S Army Air Corps via National Archives)

“England. A crew of the 91st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, relax beside the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Klette’s Wild Hares. They have just returned from a bombing attack on enemy territory.” Note the M1911 pistol and holster of the crewmember to the far right. (Photo: U.S Army Air Corps via National Archives)

In the end, while you can easily pick up any variety of 1911 clones, few are the real thing carried by the members of the Greatest Generation. Even when you do, military surplus 1911s are often “mixmasters,” with their parts swapped out over the years by military armorers and arsenals, leaving such pistols with a lot of character but little in the way of being all-matching. Meanwhile, this Remington Rand has escaped relatively unscathed and intact.

If only guns could talk.

Remington Rand M1911A1 (4)

History is just a clock away. (Photo: Guns.com)

SEE MORE ON THIS M1911A1 IN THE VAULT

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Cap & Ball Revolver Redux: Remington New Army v. Ruger Old Army

The top revolver is a circa 1865 martially-marked Remington New Army while the "identical cousin" below it is a 1999-produced Ruger Old Army. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

The top revolver is a circa 1865 martially-marked Remington New Army while the “identical cousin” below it is a 1999-produced Ruger Old Army. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

SEE RUGER OLD ARMY AT GUNS.COM FROM $650

While some argue that Sturm, Ruger’s Old Army cap-and-ball revolver is a modernization of the Civil War-era Remington New Army, they aren’t totally wrong.

The Original “New” Army

In all, the Federal government contracted for no less than 18 different revolver types during the Civil War with the two most numerous being the six-shot Colt Army .44 (129,730 purchased) followed by Remington’s New Army (125,314) in the same caliber. This impressive number doesn’t take into account the thousands of handguns purchased by private soldiers and officers. The iconic Remington wheel gun had an 8-inch barrel and, unlike the Colt, a solid top strap, making it one of the most powerful and rugged performers of its day.

An unidentified cavalry soldier in Union frock coat with Remington New Model Army revolver. Please excuse the poor trigger discipline. (Photo: Library of Congress)

An unidentified cavalry soldier in Union frock coat with Remington New Model Army revolver. Please excuse the poor trigger discipline. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Firing a 260-grain projectile over a 30-grain black powder charge, it remained popular on the commercial market well into the mid-1870s when cartridge revolvers became all the rage. Still, other copies were sold to purchasing agents working for the armies of the Tsar, the Mikado of old Japan, the King of England, and the Republic of Mexico.

The Rebooted “Old” Army

Building on the success of his line of single-action cowboy guns, such as the Blackhawk — which in itself was a revamped clone of the Colt 1873, Bill Ruger took the proven Blackhawk action and rolled it into the company’s first black powder revolver. Dubbed the Old Army, the updated hogleg looks a lot like the common Civil War-era .44 smoke wagon but internally is very different. Even looking past the cosmetic similarities between the Old Army and its New Army predecessor, the modern Ruger ditched Remington’s brass trigger guard and wonky mid-19th Century ironwork metallurgy for an all-steel construction. This makes the Ruger perhaps one of the strongest black powder revolvers to ever make it into production.

If you look closely at the Old Army, you will note that it has the flat-top and three-screw arrangement such as the original Ruger Blackhawks. Also, the Ruger uses a rounded barrel with much better sights rather than Remington's octagonal barrel.

If you look closely at the Old Army, you will note that it has the flat-top and three-screw arrangement such as the original Ruger Blackhawks. Also, the Ruger uses a rounded barrel with much better sights rather than Remington’s octagonal barrel. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Remington New Army Ruger Old Army compared (1)

Note the difference in thickness between cylinder walls on the Ruger, left. While Ruger recommends that Old Army users start with a 20-grain load of FFFg black powder when firing a pure lead .457-inch diameter ball, others often step that up or down a bit. I prefer to use a 30-grain load over a 143-grain Speer .457 ball. When swapping the black powder cylinder out, aftermarket conversion cylinders by companies such as Kirst Konverter and others allow the more modern wheel gun to fire .45 Long Colt and .45 Schofield black powder “cowboy” cartridges. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Other safety enhancements on the Old Army included the ability to be carried safely with six rounds in the chamber as the Ruger has safety recesses between each chamber for resting the hammer. Further, as the hammer nose is designed to clear the uncapped nipples, it can be dry fired.

Note the stainless steel nipples set deeply into the cylinder on the Ruger Old Army model, left, compared to the nipples on the vintage Remington New Army, right. This helps prevent bits of fired percussion caps from working their way into the mechanism or behind the cylinder and creating a jam.

Note the safety recesses and stainless steel nipples set deeply into the massive cylinder on the Ruger Old Army model, left, compared to the vintage Remington New Army, right. This helps prevent bits of fired percussion caps from working their way into the mechanism or behind the cylinder and creating a jam. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Remington New Army Ruger Old Army compared (10)

The top straps of the Old Army, left, and New Army, right, are very different, with the Ruger having rear sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation. While a fixed sight Old Army model was produced, zeroed at 25 yards, the adjustable sight variant is more common. Both guns are exceedingly accurate, with the Ruger having a distinct advantage when it comes to sights. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Remington New Army Ruger Old Army compared (9)

Note the extra steel present in the frame of the Old Army, right, versus the Civil War-era New Army. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Remington New Army Ruger Old Army compared (8)

While the original Remington cavalry revolver sported an 8-inch barrel, most Ruger Old Armies use a 7.5-inch barrel, with an overall length in both cases pushing well-past the one-foot mark. Some Old Army’s were made with a downright snub-nosed 5.5-inch barrel but they are not as popular. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

The sturdy loading lever/ramrod assembly on the Ruger is much beefier than the setup used by original New Army.

The sturdy loading lever/ramrod assembly on the Ruger is much beefier than the setup used by original New Army. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Remington New Army Ruger Old Army compared (3)

Ruger used the rear frame, sights, coil mainspring, and trigger system of his already proven Blackhawk series single-action revolver, while roughly everything from the cylinder forward was new design drawing inspiration from the classic Remington of yesteryear. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Remington New Army Ruger Old Army compared (6)

Regardless, both models fill the hands and are akin in size to a Ruger Super Redhawk. Weight on the Old Army as shown is 50.5-ounces, while the Remington goes 44.6-ounces even with a marginally longer barrel, a testament to the extra steel used in the Ruger. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

While the author’s Old Army is blued, among the most common models are stainless examples which shrug off the soap-and-water cleanup required by black power guns much better. Odds are, if stainless models would have been made available to Gen. Grant in 1863, he would have chosen them.

Ruger kept the Old Army in steady production from 1972 through 2008, a 36-year run. This makes those big Ruger smoke generators increasingly collectible — another trait shared with the more vintage New Army series.

We currently have a selection of certified used stainless Ruger Old Army models in the Guns.com Vault, all with 7.5-inch barrels and adjustable sights.

This Ruger Old Army dates to 1986 and is in good condition with faux ivory steer head grips.

This Ruger Old Army dates to 1986 and is in good condition with aftermarket faux ivory steer head grips.

This circa 1990 model Old Army has the original rosewood factory panels.

This circa 1990 model Old Army has the original rosewood factory panels.

This 1995 model Old Army also has the standard rosewood grips and comes with the original box.

This 1995 model Old Army also has the standard rosewood grips and comes with the original box.

No matter which Old Army you choose, know that you are getting one of the most superb black powder cap-and-ball revolvers ever made. Also, if you have one to sell, we are always looking.

SEE RUGER OLD ARMY AT GUNS.COM FROM $650

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Smith & Wesson Brings Back Model 648 .22 Magnum Revolver

The Model 648 has been out of production since 2005 but is now back and ready for work. (Photos: S&W)

The Model 648 has been out of production since 2005 but is now back and ready for work. (Photos: S&W)

Massachusetts-based Smith & Wesson on Tuesday announced they are bringing back a celebrated rimfire magnum, the Model 648 revolver, to their catalog.

The K-frame .22WMR-caliber Model 648 first appeared in Big Blue’s lineup in 1989 sporting a full-lug barrel and stainless steel construction. Retired since 2005, the newest generation of the model still brings a 6-inch barrel to the party, which translates to a very commanding 11.1-inch overall length. Weight is 46.2-ounces in the eight-shot .22 Mag, making the gun attractive for both those looking to fill pots and smoke targets.

“Built on the medium K-frame, the Model 648 is back in production to satisfy the needs of handgun owners who are looking to achieve greater distance while hunting or target shooting,” said Jan Mladek, GM of Smith & Wesson brands.

While Smith & Wesson makes a variety of .22LR revolvers, such as the Model 317 Kit Gun as well as the very similar Model 63, the Model 43 snub, the Model 17 Masterpiece and the vaunted Model 617, the 648 is the company’s only K-framed .22 Magnum wheel gun.

MSRP for the Model 648 is $749 and it comes standard with a Patridge front sight and adjustable rear, as well as synthetic finger groove grips.

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For the Love of the MP5: Roller-Locked 9mm Clones

PTR 9KT, a semi-auto send up of the HK MP5K.

The PTR 9KT, a semi-auto send-up of the HK MP5K. What’s not to love? (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

The Heckler & Koch MP5 is a thing of enduring beauty but their rarity on the consumer market has left a void quickly filled by dozens of clones.

Developed in the 1960s as HKs Maschinenpistole 5 by a team led by Tilo Möller, the team essentially started with the company’s proven G3 battle rifle and, in many ways, just downsized the 9-pound 7.62x51mm weapon to a much smaller 5.5-pound, creating a 9x19mm chambered squirt gun.

Both guns share the same basic roller-delayed blowback action. The roller lock design, invented by Dr. Werner Gruner and used in WWII on the very successful MG42 machine gun, creates a durable and effective lock-up that is as efficient as it is reliable. The blowback action fundamentally treats the cartridge case itself like a piston to work the closed bolt, with the gas of the recoil being transferred through a fluted chamber.

A staple of military special ops types and counter-terror teams for decades, the MP5 today evokes the same sort of old-school cool common in Cold War-era SEAL teams.

SEAL Team 8 wielding the iconic H&K MP5 submachine gun in 1991 (Photo: U.S. Navy via National Archives)

Although a few pre-1986 transferrable select-fire MP5s are floating around, and others are hopefully headed to the market as LE teams are increasingly replacing their HK room brooms with M4-ish guns, their cost is upwards of $25K — not including stamps. Semi-auto variants produced by the German gunmaker — the SP89, and the SP5 — are more affordable but almost as rarely encountered at affordable prices. This opens the field for clones.

PTR

South Carolina-based PTR has continued to expand their MP5-style offerings in recent years by introducing the very handy 9KT earlier this year.

SEE AT GUNS.COM FROM $1,681

The American-manufactured semi-auto pistol is an NFA-compliant version of the classic HK MP5K (Kurz = short), a storied SMG that was a favorite of various international balaclava-clad SF types in the Tom Clancy-era. Announced just prior to SHOT Show 2019, the 9KT runs just 13.38-inches overall, largely due to the 5.16-inch, three-lug barrel.

The company splashed into the MP5 clone market in 2018 with the 9C series pistol and 9R series rifle.

South Carolina-based PTR has continued to expand their MP5-style offerings in recent years by introducing the very handy 9KT earlier this year.

The 9C sports an M-LOK compatible aluminum handguard and 8.86-inch 3-lug barrel with push-button and paddle-style magazine release while the rifle has a stock and a 16.2-inch barrel. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

SEE AT GUNS.COM FROM $1,681

Zenith

Zenith markets over a dozen ZP5 series pistols and rifles

Zenith markets over a dozen ZP5 series pistols and rifles (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

SEE AT GUNS.COM FROM $1.999

Located in Virginia, Zenith Firearms imports a wide array of roller-locked designs produced in Turkey by MKE-K, a company set up in cooperation with HK decades ago to make such guns for the Turkish military. One of their cooler new offerings is the Z-5RS, a braced pistol with an 8.9-inch barrel and a classic style forearm and the Z-5RS SBM4 which sports a Picatinny rail and slimline forearm.

Our very own Chase Welch recently reviewed another one of Zenith’s pistols, the Z-5P.

Other makers

Besides PTR and Zenith, who account for a huge market share when it comes to MP5 clones, there are a host of smaller shops that specialize in the platform. These include Pennsylvania’s Black Ops Defense, Brethren Arms in Utah, Dakota Tactical in Michigan, and TPM Outfitters in the Lone Star State. Like the MKE-K guns brought in by Zenith, the Pakistani Ordnance Factory (POF) ships semi-auto MP5ish clones to the states which are brought in by several importers. Finally, Palmetto State Armory has been promising their own domestically made model for the past couple years, so that is on the horizon.

And of course, HK still makes them for the LE and military market, the restriction in place due to the Hughes Amendment. In short, the platform that its original maker describes as “the most popular series of submachine guns in the world,” has a lot of life left in it.

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What Does ‘AR’ Stand For?

AR-15

AR-15 by Springfield Armory. (Photo: Guns.com)

While many are quick to point fingers at the anti-gun demographic for uninformed firearm jargon mis-labelling AR, plenty gun-friendly folks are guilty of it, too. Common misconceptions are that AR means “automatic rifle,” “assault rifle,” and on the rare occasion “absolutely radical.” But the truth is the abbreviation represents the company that designed the platform.

AR stands for Armalite Rifles, the name of the company that designed the rifle in the 1950s. The Armalite company’s design and subsequent ties to the military M16 rifle has led to endless confusion with AR-15 rifles. In fact, civilian sporting rifles like the AR-15 and AR-10 are mistakenly associated with their military counterparts based on looks alone rather than very different operation.

Neither colors nor furniture nor features make AR-platform rifles any more or less dangerous than other rifles. The designation refers simply to semi-automatic, magazine fed rifles that are most often centerfire, but can be rimfire as well. AR-style rifles are sold at American gun stores every day and used for hunting, shooting competitions, and just general range time merriment.

With debate over AR rifles at an all-time high, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade group, has tried to correct the confusion by introducing the term modern-sporting rifle into the discussion. The phrase means ARs and other similar platforms. The NSSF estimates there are more than 16 million MSRs in civilian hands.

While ARs share aesthetics and many features, the biggest difference separating them from an assault rifle is a select-fire option. ARs are semi-automatic only, so a single trigger-pull equals one shot. Full-auto, which covers a burst option, can fire continuously by holding the trigger down.

Since ARs function like any other semi-auto rifle – one trigger pull, one shot fired – they’re regulated that way as well, so any U.S. citizen of adult age can purchase one from a gun store after they pass a background check.

Check out the great selection of handguns, rifles and shotguns inside the Guns.com Vault and collection of Certified Used Guns.

The post What Does ‘AR’ Stand For? appeared first on Guns.com.

The Art of Revolver Cleaning and Maintenance

This cross section of wheel guns covers five manufacturers across three continents and includes a little bit of everything-- but they can all generally be cleaned the same. The spread includes a WWII British Enfield No.2 Mk I* in .38/200, a Colt Detective Special, Smith & Wesson Model 28 Highway Patrol in .357 Magnum, S&W 642 Airweight, a single-action North American Arms .22WMR Mini Revolver, and a DAO 1970s Rossi M720 .44 Special. (All photos: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

This cross-section of wheel guns covers five manufacturers across three continents and includes a little bit of everything — but they can all generally be cleaned the same. (All photos: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

For those with questions on how to clean a revolver, Guns.com has answers to keep that wheel gun ticking like a clock. The neat thing about modern cartridge revolvers that use smokeless powder is that, in general, they can all be cleaned and maintained in roughly the same basic manner. This holds true for both single-action wheel guns and double, centerfire and rimfire, and those with removable, swing-out, or break-top cylinders. With that being said, let’s get started.

First, make sure the revolver is safely and completely unloaded. To be sure you have all the ammunition accounted for, inventory the number of rounds you remove and account for any that are missing. This is important as revolvers can sometimes fail to extract all the rounds from the cylinder — I’ve seen it happen. Remove all brass and ammo from the room in which you are cleaning the revolver to ensure it doesn’t somehow wander its way back into a cylinder before you are ready.

revolver unloaded

You won’t be needing these while cleaning

Next, visually ensure that there is no brass or ammo in the area you are cleaning the revolver in. Be sure to do your maintenance in a reasonably clean area that is well-ventilated and away from distractions and little wandering animals or humans. A cleaning mat with a non-slip and solvent resistant pad is a good idea but not absolutely required.

revolvers with open cylinders

Remember, no brass or ammo while cleaning

Speaking of solvent, I’m here to talk to you about guns, not sell you someone’s new Wonder Product™ and in general, as long as the gun juice you choose is something made and marketed specifically for use on firearms, you are good to go. Steer away from non-gun miracle products. On said product, be sure to read the manufacturer’s guidelines on its use. With that, if it is billed as a solvent, use it as a solvent. If it is billed as a lubricant/protectant, use it as such. If it is a CLP type of product billed as good for both aforementioned applications, hey…

gun cleaning products

Pick your poison, so to speak, just make sure it is something that is meant to be used on firearms

Once you have your unloaded revolver and solvent/CLP of choice, apply a tad to the barrel bore and cylinder and knock away the fouling and debris with a brush. Repeat this anywhere you find a build-up. Nylon or plastic brushes of all sizes and strength are your friend while some advocate copper or brass. Stay away from steel bristles. Wipe away the accumulation of schmutz with a rag or cloth that is at least less dirty than the gun you are working with. This is why my wife has never had to throw away old socks, t-shirts or drawers of mine so far this century.

revolver brushes

Brushes, brushes, brushes. They are cheap so stock up on various sizes and types

NAA revolver burn

A persistent nemesis of revolvers–especially on stainless or chromed guns– are burn rings on the cylinder face of a revolver or the inside frame and the cylinder throat. This is where some solvent such as Hoppe’s No. 9 and a green scrubby pad can come in handy.

When it comes to the barrel, some purists will argue over unwashed and permanently stained coffee cups that many gun owners overclean their barrels, hitting them both too often and too hard. A rule of thumb is that, unless I plan to store the gun and not reuse it any time soon, the barrel can be skipped until next time so long as you can still see rifling when holding it up to the light or if using a bore light. For those who are more fastidious, clean that barrel every time you clean your roscoe. Do this via running a patch soaked with solvent from the muzzle to cylinder, followed by clean patches until they come out clean.

patches cleaning bore

Nylon cleaning rods are safe, although brass rods are also popular

barrel brush revolver

Brass or nylon cleaning jags or brushes of an appropriate bore size can help dislodge extensive lead or carbon build-up in the barrel.

dirty revolver patches

I like to use an $8 stainless medical instrument tray for dirty patches, brushes and the like, so their greasy funky contents don’t pollute the general area or the cleaning mat. You can always go cheaper than that by just using a plastic shopping bag or shop towel.

Be sure to safely dispose of dirty patches and clean your brushes after each use and don’t be too cheap to buy new ones. I’ve seen guys try to use the same worn-out teeth brush (you have more than one tooth, right?) for decades to the point that it is more of a stick with a dirty tuft of plastic than a brush.

Pay close attention to the revolver's cylinder and make sure you have cleaned out each chamber in turn, paying attention to the clear under the ejector star as well as its rod.

Pay close attention to the revolver’s cylinder and make sure you have cleaned out each chamber in turn, paying attention to the clear under the ejector star as well as its rod.

Once you have accomplished the bulk of your cleaning, move on to inspecting the revolver to make sure you don’t have any festering wounds that can ruin your day in the future. This includes checking that the cylinder-to-barrel gap is not exaggerated, or the forcing cone is cracked. While this area doesn’t have to be solid, it should still be tight enough that you would have a hard time sliding even a fortune cookie paper through it.

lockup revolver

Your cylinder lockup should be tight and with minimal movement while the gap between the cylinder and barrel should be too narrow to easily slide anything more than a piece of paper through.

Similarly, check the timing of the cylinder to make sure the chambers line up with the barrel properly. If you find that your revolver is shaving lots of lead at the range — you will see little specks of metal all over your arms and clothes — this is a warning sign. If you have lots of revolvers in the same caliber, buying a $20 range rod to ensure this alignment may be a good investment. Check the lock-up of the cylinder when secured in the frame by trying to rotate it and push it back and forth inside the frame. While a tiny amount of play is acceptable, a lot of movement is not.

On swing-out cylinder revolvers, with the cylinder kicked out, spin it slowly while watching to make sure the crane and ejector rod is still straight.

This rod can get warped over time when users "cowboy" or slap the cylinder shut like is often seen in the movies, which is less than ideal.

This rod can get warped over time when users “cowboy” or slap the cylinder shut like is often seen in the movies, which is less than ideal.

Finally, check that your plate and grips screws are tight. Avoid the impulse to open the lockwork and start goobering around with springs and sears unless you know what you are doing. This is sailing far past basic cleaning and maintenance and can soup sandwich a perfectly functional revolver fast, requiring a shameful trip to the local gunsmith who is often backed up fixing other failed mods.

With the cleaning and inspection complete, lubricate your revolver. In this, the prospect of “less is more” shines through. Lightly apply the lubricant/CLP strategically to areas you have noticed wear and to dynamic working parts that move a lot with metal-on-metal contact. Stay away from soaking the gun to the extent that you see running or dripping lube.

If storing a gun not in use, do so safely with the revolver unloaded and the action immobilized. Single-action revolvers, where the cylinder is easily removed, can be stored in two parts. If your gun did not come with a lock, check out Project Childsafe to find out how to get one free.

If not loaded and accessible for home or personal defense, or otherwise in use, remember to secure it.

If not loaded and accessible for home or personal defense, or otherwise in use, remember to secure it.

If storing a firearm not in use for an extended period, especially in a safe, avoid the impulse to swaddle them in gun socks, zipper cases, mummy wraps and the like as these can often trap or hold moisture. I’ve seen fine classics proudly produced from the old pleather bags in which they have been stored for decades in the back of humid closets only to be shocked with finishes that were nothing but rust. Talk about avoidable tears.

Speaking of rust, before you store that finely blued revolver, give it one final rub down with a rag to remove any lingering fingerprints. These dirty human oils, if left behind on a gun for months or years, can eat away at the bluing.

fingerprint revolver

Don’t forget to get those last fingerprints off

Once cleaned and put away, be sure to revisit these guns regularly to inspect, check for issues and reapply lubricant as needed.

This old snubby picked up in a trade with a friend had been cleaned and put away in a desk drawer for a decade, where it picked up some creepy crawlies.

This old snubby picked up in a trade with a friend had been cleaned and put away in a desk drawer for a decade, where it picked up some creepy crawlies.

In the end, remember that there are plenty of firearms still floating around that are over a century old that are still in excellent working condition. This came from proper care and storage, not by accident. Do your part to maintain your revolver and it can easily do the same.

Since you came this far, be sure to check out our always changing inventory of new and used revolvers in the Guns.com Vault. You never know what kind of deals you may find. 

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