Preparing a Pressure Washer For The Winter

Whether you call it them pressure washers or power washers, these are darned handy machines to have around. For portability, we use models with a gasoline engine and are on our second one. The first lasted for a few years until one wither the water in the pump turned to ice and finally cracked the housing. As they say “and that was that”. I thought about just buying a pump but for a little bit more we bought a whole new unit. My friends also cautioned me to always winterize the unit to make it last through Michigan winters. That was 6-8 years ago and I have learned a few tips to share.

By the way, the photo above really is of our pressure washer. I don’t have space to store it indoors so I really do need to Winterize it. Regardless of the brand you buy, there are three things I would tell you to do.

Drain the gas and/or use a mix with Stabil

Assuming you have a gasoline pressure washer, you might want to drain the gas from the tank and run the unit until it stalls. There are two reasons for this – gas can spoil if left untreated and also, when it evaporates out of the carb it will leave a gummy residue that may need to be cleaned out. In my case, my washer only sits idle a few months so I don’t always drain it. I’ve not had a problem so far. I always drain my chain saws because they may sit an unpredictable amount of time.

The second recommentation that you can do along with the first is to always add Stabil, a gasoline conditioner, that keeps it from breaking down for at least 12 months. I always add it to all of my gas cans when I fill them.

Blow out the system and disconnect the gun/wand and hose

What did in my first pressure washer was not draining the water out of the pump. I made a small air fitting by taking an old piece of hose and a 1/4″ air fitting that I can screw into the pressure washer and blow all of the water out of the pump, lines and wand. It works great.

I just use junk hose to make the adapter. You just need a male hose fitting on one end and a way to connect your compressor on the other.

If you really want, you can buy pre-made winterizer fittings for $12-20. The above fittings were all made with old stuff I had laying around.

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Drain The Soap Tank

Don’t forget to drain the soap tank also. You don’t want it to freeze and crack anything. I did forget this one year and had to rebuild the fitting that cracked with epoxy.

Don’t forget to drain the soap from the plastic soap tank.

Add a Winterizing fluid

I then use an aerosol based pump winterizer. It can blow the water out by itself technically but I’m paranoid. I use my compressor to blow out everything and then I disconnect the air lines and wand/gun. I then connect the Briggs & Stratton 6151 Pressure Washer Pump Saver Anti-Freeze and Lubricant to further protect against freezing and to lubricate the pump and prevent the O-rings and seals from drying out. This works great for me and one can will last me 2-3 years at least.

This is what I use and have never had a problem.
All you do is connect the hose assembly to the hose inlet and push the trigger. The foam will come out pretty quick – it doesn’t take a lot. Note, stand to the side or you will wear the foam. I kid you not that it took me two years of wearing foam until I remembered to stand to the side when filling the unit with foam. Also, remove the hose and wand/gun before doing this or you will use a lot of material to purge them also. You can blow them out or even hang and drain them vs. using this stuff unnecessarily.

Now a ton of reputable companies sell some form of pump protector / winterizer. I suspect one or two companies actually make it and then applies different labels – Generac, Briggs & Straton, Stabil, etc. Just go with a name brand and I bet you will be fine.

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Summary

I hope this helps you out. My current pump is still going strong even though it is out in the winter weather every year. The paint is fading but it is mechanically solid.


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Replacing the Drive Belt On A 1998 Simplicity Broadmor 16HP Tractor

This fall we had a ton of leaves to mulch as usual. This means every week I mow our acre and a half for about two hours at a time. Long ago, I replaced the OEM Simplicity blades with Oregon Gator blades in the tractor’s 44″ mowing deck to help with this. At any rate, I pushed on the parking brake and all of a sudden heard a weird rattling sound so I turned the tractor off expecting to see a branch stuck underneath – no such luck. I started feeling and looking around and the drive belt felt loose and the idler assembly was as far as it could go. I looked closer and could see the cracks in the 21 year old original drive belt. Argh …. it needed a new drive belt and I really didn’t have the time but what are you going to do?

Finding the Belt

Simplicity did me a favor by having a decal under the hood that identified the drive belt part number along with a few other belts:

The top one is the drive belt – the 1717932 part number.

The correct drive belt part number for the tractor is the 1717932. If you look that part number up, it is an 84″ belt with a 4L profile. “4L” means that the top of the V=belt is a 1/2″ wide and from top to bottom, it is 5/16″ tall. The “L” means the belt is for light industrial or lawn & garden use.

Now, one could argue the original belt lasted 21 years so just get the same thing – either an original Simplicity part of a good 4L-84 belt. I tend to like safety margins and when something is a bear to do, I really just want to do it once and not worry about it again for a long time if ever. I have no idea how long the tractor will last – I’m replacing parts like the ignition switch and starter and even more recently torquing the motor mount screws back down. More concerning is that it smokes just a tad after it starts (wearing valve stem seals I bet) and has a slow oil drip (seals). At some point it will die on me but I do hope it is a long way down the road plus a friend pointed out I like tinkering and it gives me something to do – as if I ever have free time anways.

At any rate, let’s get back to the drive belt. All belts deteriorate over time. The question becomes how fast will they break down? There are many factors including the rubbers and fibers used plus the strain placed on the belt. 21 years was really a good run but I wanted to up my game and move to a 4LK belt – the “K” means that that Kevlar fiber is used vs. polyester or whatever.

Ordering The Belt

Once I knew the Simplicity part number, it was easy to do the searching and I found a Kevlar belt on Amazon that I ordered. Amazon’s delivery speed is astounding now – I have Prime, ordered in on 11/21 and receiver it on 11/22! I like Amazon because I can see the ratings and the delivery speed is fantastic.

I did take a bit of a gamble on the D&D PowerDrive belt – it had one good review and one complaint that it was the wrong size. D&D belts get mixed reviews but seem to be more positive than negative so we’ll see. I’ll post updates about how well it lasts because it definitely will be installed correctly.

If you are wondering why I didn’t get a Gates or a Dayton – I tried to go with an easy purchase experience. Hopefully it sorts out in the long run and time will tell.

How to Install the Belt

The installation went pretty well with two notable exceptions that I will cover shortly. I did some digging on the web and found a PDF of what to do that I then converted into a screenshot for you:

My two biggest headaches were unplugging the PTO clutch snd the moving the damn cotter pin on the brake rod. For the PTO clutch electric fitting, slide a blade up under the locking tab and then keep working around the block with a small screw driver to try and loosen it up. I suspect that fitting hadn’t been disconnected since the factor and it did not want to come loose. Be careful to pull the fitting apart by focusing your efforts on the plug and the housing – if you pull on the wires, they may pull out. Eventually it did come apart and when I reassembled it, I applied silicone di-electric grease to both seal the connections and ease disassembly in the future.

The hardest step was removing the cotter pin (C) that secures the brake rod (A) onto the brake lever (B) in Figure 42 above. It is an absolute pain in the ass to get to and I had to work blind because I could only get one hand back in there. How they made it a pain was that the closed end of th pin was facing towards the inner rear meaning I could not hook it and pull. What I did was to take and hook the flared ends and pulled them relatively straight. I then shoved one jaw of a pair of needlenose pliers into the eye of the pin. To remove the pin, I then rotated the pliers and wound/curled the pin around the jaws until it was out of the hole. Sheeesh. When I reassembled it later, I put the eye facing the front of the tractor so I can grab and pull it way easier. By the way, I did not use a Dremel to cut out the pin because the plastic reservoir for the transmission oil was too close for comfort.

Before you remove the old belt, pay careful attention to the belt and how it passes around the brake assembly, through the idler assembly and around the arm. The illustration above is pretty good but the devil is in the details and the belt must not rub on anything when reassembled. My tip would be to take a ton of digital photos to refer to. In the old days you had to sketch stuff and the photos are way easier.

Here’s the original bet relative to the brake assembly.
Idler view one
Idler view 2
Clearing the steering arm
The electric PTO clutch
The original belt was in tough shape
The new belt was just a tad bit shorter when I stretched them out side by side with my hands. I learned years ago to confirm the belt as best you can before you install it. I double checked the part number on the bag before I even began just to cut my risk. It sucks to have stuff apart or be in a real awkward position and then find out you have the wrong part.

In Conclusion

Kudos to Simplicity for a good illustration and guide. Re-assembly went smoothly and I then mowed/mulched leaves for two hours including some really thick areas so it passed the first trial by fire. Looking up under the tractor, the belt looks solid – no fraying or cracks. We’ll see how it holds up over time and I’ll report back but so far, so good. I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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I thought My 1998 Simplicity 16HP Broadmor Tractor Had Bent A Crank – The Real Problem Was A Surprise!!

We bought our Simplicty 16HP Broadmor tractor back in 1998 mainly because my dad had a Simplicity that he kept running for almost 30 years. So here are in on 2019 and the tractor is starting to show its age plus the dealership is long gone so a lot of self-service and tinkering happens now.

I was mowing leaves a few weeks back on out acre and a half property when I had to turn the tractor off to pick up branches and move stuff around. I went to start it up and immediately heard thud, thud , thud, thud … so I turned the tractor off. Oh crap … the last time I heard a sound like this a car had bent a rod. I immediately checked the oil and it was almost empty.

Now I was really pissed off at myself. I knew it was burning oil but why had I let it get so low? I thought it had a low oil level protection device to stop it running … Needless to say,I was mad and I knew the fault was all mine. It was the worst possible time also – we simply could not afford to replace the tractor.

So, I filled the oil and figured I would run it until it failed. I had to get the leaves done and that’s just what I did. I ran it for another hour and put the tractor away while feeling like an idiot the whole time.

A week later we had a ton more leaves on the ground so I went to get the tractor out of the shed fully expecting it not to start. Much to my surprise, it did start and I made it half way through the yard when I had to turn it off to eat lunch with my wife.

When I went back out I started it up and it was really clanging away and the tractor was really vibrating but the engine sounded good. I turned the engine off and thought about it. I assumed it was a rod because of the low oil but what if that was not the problem?

The exhaust was tight and not rusted out. The oil level was good. So I started it with the top open and put my hand on the engine to feel for vibrations and the thudding stopped …. Holy Crap???? I took my hand off and it started thudding. Put it on and it stopped. I turned the ignition off and found that I could move the engine on the frame!!

I looked under the frame and one motor mount screw was in the hole but loose. Another was cocked in the hole ready to fall out and the other two werre missing. As luck would have it, I found one screw in the yard. Looking at it jogged my memory of a screw I found a few weeks earlier and couldn’t figure out where it came from. To this day I am not sure if I threw the screw out or tossed it somewhere in my shop – I thinkI threw it out.

So, after almost 21 years, the motor mount screws came loose. It never occured to me to check them. Now, here’s what I want to share with you – the screws are M8 diameter x 1.25 pitch x 30mm long. You can find them at hardware stores, etc. The original bolts also have a washer and lockwasher. I bought the replacement and was good to go.

Say hello to Mr. replacement bolt, washer and lock washer. After torquing things down, the tractor was running smooth again. Duh.

The torque spec is 40 foot pounds and if you want to never deal with them again, put a bit of blue loctite on the screws. Note, I would highly recommend that if the engine is hot, let the engine cool down before torquing on aluminum. I’ve watched threads strip on hot aluminum way too many times and have learned to be patient although a floor fan pointing at the engine will help it cool down a lot faster.

When I started the tractor again after replacing the bolt and torquing down all the bolts it was a huge relief to see and hear the tractor operating normally. I figured it was a good story to share.

Moral of the story – don’t assume and check before you jump to a conclusion. I did make a big assumption based on the sound and freaked myself out before I started the process of elimination that I should have started with. I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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How To Find Out Torque Specifications for Screws and Bolts: An Outstanding NASA Reference Guide

We’ve all been there – you’re working on a project and wondering how much to torque something so either we don’t bother or just take a guess. What I only found out recently was that in 2017, NASA published a really cool guide called “Installation Torque Tables for Noncritical Applications” – with the document ID as NASA/TM—2017-219475.

The document provides the torque specifications for a ton of general purpose fasteners that do not have an exact specification assigned – hence the term non-critical. As you can imagine, they get very specific in critical/risky situations.

At any rate, given the size of the bolt or screw, the thread pitch, the material and the depth, they provide a reference torque specification you can follow for both metric (M6, M8, M10, etc.) and SAE (#8, #10, 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, etc.) fasteners. Note, they provide an assembly torque (which is a 65% load from failure) and 100% torque. I use the assembly torque spec.

They also recommend that the depth of thread engagement be 1.5x the diameter of the fastener. So a 1/4″ (0.25″) fastener should have at least 0.25″ x 1.5 = .375″ (3/8″).

Here’s an example table. This is for fasteners going into 6061-T6 aluminum with a thread depth of 3/16″. If we go down for a 10-32 UNF screw, the assembly torque is 22.2 inch pounds. I’d use that lacking any other detailed information. I could go up to 34.2 inch pounds but I have stripped so many fasteners I don’t risk it. I’m a huge fan of Loctite so I go with that and the assembly spec.

Kudos to the two authors and to NASA for making it available. The PDF is a cool reference document and one I use whenever I can’t find a specific torque value for a given application. All you machinists and engineers – you know way more than me so please let me know if you have other resources you recommend.

To access this cool guide, click here for the NASA link or click here for the copy on our server.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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The Fastest Way To Convert Aluminum 5.56 AR Magazines For Use With .50 Beowulf

Back in 2018, I documented how to convert a basic aluminum AR magazine using a Dremel and a small drum. With the new Alpha ‘Wulf build, I made four new ones real fast using a slightly new method.

With the Alexander Arms (AA) .50 Beowulf DIY Upper comes one actual Beowulf magazine built to AA’s specifications by E-Lander Magazines of Israel. This gave me a chance to see what they did differently to support the ‘Wulf and it comes down to a relief in the front of the otherwise normal AR magazine. This allows the shoulder of the cartridge to pass by without hanging up on its way towards the chamber. Everything else appeared the same in terms of the feed lips and the follower.

E-Lander of Israel makes the Beowulf magazines for Alexander Arms. One is included with the DIY Upper Kit.
This is the top front of the E-Lander magazine. Note the notched out area. On a normal AR magazinet his goes straight across,

So, armed with how basic this was, it immediately hit me that a flap sander could make a quick angled surface faster than the drum mag. So, I loaded up a 3/8″ 120 grit flap sander with a 1/8″ shank into my bench rotary tool.

The first step is to remove the floor plate of the magazine. On these D&H magazines from PSA, I just use a screw driver to lift the floor plate for the tabs to clear the magazine body. Pull the floor plate off while trapping the magazine spring. Remove the floor plate, spring and follower so they are out of your way.

I slide a small screw driver between the magazine body and the bottom plate to then lift and remove the plate from the magazine. Note, the magazine spring will come fling out.
See the tabs/ridges stamped in the floor plate? That is why you need to use the screw driver to lift the plate so those tabs can clear the magazine body.
Any rotary too will use. This is my benchmounted unit that I use on grips and what not, Any Dremel or other rotary tool would work.

So you basically use the flap sander to to cut a ramp on the inside edge of the magazine. You do not need to replicate the notch – just use the flap sander to quickly remove the material.

The left magazine is an original unmodified magazine. The middle has the ramp cut and the right unit has been reassembled. Be sure to blow out the mags before reassembly.

Using the flap sander can get the job done in 30 seconds or so – it’s literally that fast. Be sure to blow out the magazine bodies to remove all of the grit before you reassemble them. Failure to do so may cause you problems later either with the magazine failing or getting into the rifle.

The final step is to test each magazine to make sure it feeds properly. Load two rounds to test chambering in a safe place with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Never take a risk.

That’s all there is to it. You can convert a magazine faster than the time it took you to read this post. I hope it helps you out.


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If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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Building The Alpha ‘Wulf – Part 3: Observations On Building the Upper, Lubrication and Vortex Strike Eagle

So things were going together really well for the Alpha ‘Wulf and no, I’m not going to say “and then I hit a snag.” I was impressed by all the parts so far. In the last post I talked a bit about the lower assembly and the upper parts I picked in addition to the Alexander Arms DIY upper. In this post, I’m going to share a few observations on the handguard, brake and lubrication.

The MI Combat Handguard

I don’t recall exactly when I first found out about the Midwest Industries (MI) Combat series of rails but used one this past Spring when I built a 10.5″ 5.56 AR Pistol. The biggest thing I like is the barrel nut. Now that may sound like a crazy thing to get excited about but there’s a reason. Look at the MI Combat barrel nut – it is a knurled circle with a groove in it. The reason this matters is that the handguard can rotate however it needs around the nut and is secured by a steel key and clamping onto the knurling. If you don’t have this kind of a design, you need to use shims or do some combination of filing and potentially crazy levels of torque to get the handguard’s top Picatinny rail to “time properly” (or align properly) with the rail on top of the upper receiver and also to get the gas tube to pass through into the upper receiver’s bolt carrier channel.

This is the MI barrel nut that the combat rail uses along with a small tin of AeroShell – 33MS/64 Extreme Pressure Grease, MIL-21164D and an acid brush to apply it.
The key shown just to the of the screws is part of the cool design. The small nub sitcking out goes into the groove to lock the handguard into position front to back. The two screws go into the handguard to both secure the key and to provide the clamping pressure onto the knurled surface of the barrel nut – it is a very elegant and effective design.
Here the key is inserted and the two screws were just inserted. They have blue Loctite on them and will be torqued down to 55 inch pounds.

I do have a few tips for you to bear in mind. Bear in mind the Beowulf has a kick. Bring everything to a torque spec and use Blue LocTite 242 or 243. Both are “medium” formulas that can be readily disassembled with the right tools and 243 adds a bit better oil resistance. I’m moving to 243 as I use up my 242 supply but it’s up to you one which you want to use.

Install the Barrel Nut First

First, just back out the set screws and the low profile gas block will slide right off the barrel. You need it out of the way to install the barrel nut.

Next, secure the upper assembly in a vise. You will need to use a fixture to hold the upper when you do this. Absolutely do not use your lower to hold the upper. You will bend things. My tool of choice now is the Magpul Barrel Extension Vise (BEV) Block. It very securely holds the upper by engaging the barrel extension. It’s the best tool I’ve found. Some guys swear by the Geissele Reaction Rod but I simply have no first hand experience with it.

This is my BEV Block along with a spare bolt carrier I use to secure it into the barrel extension akong with a cross pin.

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The following is the approximate process for installing a barrel nut:

  • Degrease the receiver threads and the barrel nut. The Combat rail comes drenched in oil.
  • Apply the AeroShell – 33MS/64 Extreme Pressure Grease, MIL-21164D to the receiver’s threads – I use an acid brush to get an even light coat.
  • Torque the barrel nut down to 35 foot pounds (yes, this is foot pounds unlike the gas block) using the spcial MI torque plate they provide and your 1/2″ torque wrench
  • Loosen the barrel nut – ideally not with the torque wrench to save it from wear and tear.
  • Torque it again to 35 foot pounds again and loosen it again.
  • Now, this is the final torque – take the MI nut down to 35-80 foot pounds. I took mine down to 40 foot pounds and called it even. Why the huge range? Well, if you have an old school barrel nut, you may need to torque it quite a bit to get things to align but in our case we just need to apply enough torque to call it even.

Installing the Gas Block

The gas block set screws do have a torque spec if you hunt long enough. Alexander Arms (AA) does not provide it in their general purpose Beowulf manual or instruction sheet that comes with the DIY upper. People cite 25 inch pounds (not foot pounds) with one drop of 242 Loctite per “echnical Repair Standard (TRS) SOFWEP-07-G12P-00032-00 Rev 1 Appx H” that I have yet to locate a copy of that manual. With that said, that is exactly what I did but I used the 243 formulation of Loctite.

Also, AA has done all the machining and used centering set screws to go into the divots in the barrel. You do not need to worry about needing to measure a set back from the barrel’s step lip – just slide the gas block on, put a drop of Loctite on each screw, carefully align the tube and then torque down the screws.

One drop of 242 or 243 Loctite and then torque each set screw to 25 inch pounds – I used my Vortex torque screw driver to tighten mine down.

Timber Creek Heart Breaker Brake

Based on my first Beowulf, it’s very critical to get a good muzzle brake. If you want to reduce felt recoil, the best things you can do in order are: 1) install a good brake. 2) have a good recoil pad 3) make the rifle heavier. Now, I do all three plus I use a hydraulic buffer that helps a tad but a good brake is absolutely critical. For me, it is absolutely my first priority and I knew I wanted to use the Timber Creek Heart Breaker again.

Here’s the Heart Breaker from the side and you can immediately see the heart shapes that give the brake it’s name. Also note the jam nut behind the brake.
A view from the top with the ports shown. The bottom does not have ports – just the top to reduce climb.

The AA barrel uses a unique 49/64-20 RH thread. If you are not using an AA barrel, confirm the thread before you order a brake.

To install the brake, I run the lock nut to the bottom of the thread and then thread the brake on as far as it will go, rotate it into final position and then tighten down the lock nut to 20 foot pounds using a crowsfoot head on my torque wrench. I’ve not used Loctite but you can if you want extra protection – I would still go with the medium strength 242 or 243 formula.

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Lubrication

To lubricate the whole rifle, I use SuperLube grease and oil. I know it sounds like an infomercial name but it actually works really good. The base is a synthetic lubricant with “micronized PTFE” (think tiny Teflon particles) added in.

If it slides, I apply a light brushed on film of Superlube grease. If something rotates, I use drops of the Superlube oil. Now some folks will disagree with me and go with all CLP or LSA or some secret blend they like – fine. This is just what I do.

After lubricating it, everything was nice and smooth plus I did function testing to make sure everything was working properly in terms of the selector, disconnector, trigger, etc. In fact, Brownells has a nice page on attaching the upper to the lower, lubrication and function testing.

Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24 Optic

Before I pick an optic, I think about how the firearms it is going on will be used. For the Beowulf, it will be hunting and target shooting typically within 100 yards and maybe out to 200 max plus low light situations might well occur.

Armed with that, I decided to use a Vortex Optics Strike Eagle with a 1-6 power magnification, a 24mm objective and a lit reticle. My eyes aren’t so red hot any more so I knew I would need some basic magnification while still having a wide field of view at 1x. Also, I am a huge fan of Vortex due to their quality and no BS warranty. If anything goes wrong with a Vortex optic, they will repair or replace the unit and not run you ragged.

I also opted for a quality offset Vortex mount. You need a solid mount and not something that is going to constantly shoot loose or break under strain.

How Does It Look?

I haven’t had time to take it to the range yet, but am definitely liking how it turned out. The Alexander Arms DIY upper was great to work with as were the Geiselle trigger and MICombat handguard. The PRS stock helps balance out the rifle and adds weight plus the great recoil pad that comes with it. Now, If I can just find some time to go to the range 🙂


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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Building The Alpha ‘Wulf – Part 2: Observations On Building the Lower and Upper Parts

As mentioned in the last post [click here] – building a Beowulf is pretty much like building any other AR15-class rifle. I put it that way because the AR10s are different and the Beowulf uses the AR15 platform with the notable exception of an enlarged ejection port. The modular capabilities of the AR platform are what make it versatile.

Lower Build Comments

First, I’d like to point out I ran into one small snag with the Spike’s lower. The detent spring and pivot pin hole had some kind of debris in it or maybe a bur. I had to chase it to clean it out. Other than that, it went great.

Normally, installing the front pivot pin is pretty easy with a tool like the one shown that helps you trap the deternt and spring. Because of somethign obstructing the hole inside, the deternt didn’t push down and actually scored my relativelyt soft tool. So, I chased the hole and it installed no problem. Two lessons learned – #1 chase the holes first. #2 – I decided to mve to a stainless steel install tool.

My second comment is about the Magpul PRS Gen 3 stock. Wow. It is really cool. First, I went with the rifle buffer tube because I assumed the Gen 3 needed it – in fact, it does not. When you look at the Gen 3, it has a modular front nose that comes apart just behind the front swivel hole. It comes from Magpul all set to use a carbine buffer tube! Now it is a fixed stock and will not adjust but you do not need to change tubes. Had I known that, I would have used a carbine tube to avail of all the different buffers that are out there.

By the way, the PRS is an expensive stock. It pays to watch for sales. I bought mine from PrimaryArms for about $189 on sale vs the $217-244 prices you normally see. Also, this is specifically then third generation model – you will see older stocks pop up on eBay, etc. The older ones will not have the really thick recoil pad or the ability to use a carbine tube.

The PRS Gen 3 is sweet! Note the really thick recoil pad and modular front end that can accomodate either a carbine buffer tube or be swapped out to support an A2-style rifle buffer tube. This gives some nice flexibility.
The carbine modular front end is to the left and the rifle is in the right.

By the way, I took the time to torque down everything including the rifle buffer tube in this case. The Magpul wrench makes it real easy to bring the nut down to the torque spec of 35-39 ft lbs.

Screwed in the rifle-length buffer tube with just a bit of moly grease on the threads.
Used the Magpul wrench and a toruqe wrench to bring the receiver extension / buffer tube down to a 35-39 foot pound torque spec. In general, I set my wrench at the lower end of a scale unless there is something very specific.

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I think I will stick with the basics going forward. In other words, I’ve tried extended head pins, bolt catches with giant heads, ambidextrous selectors and in the end, I find I really don’t need them. The takedown pins and controls are all mil-spec in this build.

Upper Build Parts

The upper is the actual DIY (Do It Yourself) upper from Alexander Arms and they do all the engineering and machining for you. I also need to point out that it is really well done. I have zero complaints on the fit or the finish.

The DIY kit includes the upper receiver, bolt, carrier, charging handle, barrel, and the gas tube has already been installed in the lowe-profile gas block. The unit arrives assembled including their already divoting the barrel for the two gas block set screws. What you will need to do is to add your own barrel nut and handguard plus whatever you want to do for a muzzle brake. The DIY comes will a thread protector for the 49/64-20 right hand (RH) threads.

Here’s the upper fresh out of the box.
They already drilled the divots in the barrel an are using centering set screws so you can just remove the gas tube, install your barrel nut and then slide the gas block back on and tighten it down.

Folks will tell you I am either particular or eccentric (maybe both) when it comes to my builds. I knew there were some parts I wanted to use on this upper:

  • MI Combat 15: M-LOK handguard. These are very nicely done with all edges beveled plus I like the barrel nut they use. It simplifies aligning the handguard and receiver rails. Also, I really like having the flexibility to add rails or accessories where needed while having a slim profile where I don’t. Keymod has pretty much died out and M-LOK seems to be the lead attachment method now.
  • BCM Mod 3 charging handle greatly simplifies working around optics to charge the rifle.
  • Timber Creek Heart Breaker muzzle brake. This is an excellent choice for taming the Wulf. I was so impressed by it on my first rifle that it was my automatic choice for this second rifle.

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Upper Build Instructions

A Beowulf upper is very much like any other AR with the exceptions of no ejection port cover and a screw on gas tube block.

Here are some third party resources on assemblign AR uppers in case you are interested:

Here Are Some Videos For Building Uppers

I always like to combine stuff I read, like the above, with videos I can watch. I always pick stuff up both ways and think the two perspectives are very valuable. With that said, here are some build videos.


Brownells also has a ton of training videos online that cover building the AR-15 overall. If you click here, you can then select whatever videos you want to watch.

Closing This Second Post

Hopefully this post gave you some insights into what I actually did with the lower and thoughts on the upper. In the next post, I’ll share some of my observations from when I actually installed the handguard, brake and ortex Strike Eagle Optic.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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Building The Alpha ‘Wulf – Part 1: The Alexander Arms .50 Beowulf 16″ DIY Upper Kit and Lower Receiver

Okay, so I built my first .50 Beowulf rifle in 2018, spent a lot of time planning out the recoil mitigation and documented the adventure – click here for the post. At any rate, I sold it to move on to fund other projects but ran into a problem – I missed the ‘Wulf. There are some bragging rights when you say you have a .50 caliber rifle even when you explain it’s not the .50 BMG round. So, I decided to build another one and make it pretty unique.

The first thing I want to point out to folks is that the 12.7x42mm is the generic designation of the .50 Beowulf round and is mainly used by firms who don’t want to get into intellectual property issues with Alexander Arms (AA). If you look on Gun Broker and do some searching with Google you will turn up tons of listings for complete 12.7x42mm uppers starting just over $300. … Let me put this delicately – I would recommend that you avoid them. You will get what you pay for either in terms of performance out of the box or over time. If you do some searching you will read that I wasn’t the only buyer who had issues with Radical Arms uppers for example because of the wrong bolt being used.

If you do buy a cheap 12.7×42 upper, I’d recommend you test it right away before the warranty expires. I’m sorry – I just don’t have much faith in them.

Started With an AA .50 Beowulf DIY Upper

This time around, I decided to use an actual Alexander Arms (AA) upper and not screw around with cheap stuff. The only problem was that I wasn’t really sold on the handguards of their complete units. That and the prices were a turn off the last time. As I looked down the AA page, I saw they now sell a “.50 Beowulf Upper Kit DIY” that had everything except for the barrel nut, handguard and brake of your choice. They have both 12″ and 16″ barrel versions of the kit. As much fun as a 12″ howitzer would be, that didn’t interest me as much as building a new rifle using a 16″ barrel.

As with many manufacturers, you can buy direct from them or go to the aftermarket. I did some shopping around and found a good deal for one on Gunbroker sold by TheGunDock for $603 — Alexander was asking $735 + S&H for the same unit at the time. So you know, I had a very solid experience with TheGunDock – good communication, quick to ship and I received exactly what they listed. I value service like that.

Here’s the 16″ DIY kit from Alexander Arms. It is very nicely done. Fit and finish were excellent. The manual is for their Beowulf rifles in general and doesn’t help much with the assembly. They do give a bit of guidance with a sheet of paper that comes with the upper. A person new to ARs will need to research how to assemble an upper – I’ll give a quick summary of what I did in this post.
Here’s the upper receiver assembly – good finish. No ejection port door as the port is enlarged. I thought about making one but I really don’t need the cover.
This is their low profile gas block. All the machining work has been done for you. They already fit and pinned the gas tube plus dimpled the barrel for the two set screws on the gas block to center on.
They do include a muzzle nut over the threads. AA threads their barrels 49/64-20 RH for brakes and you definitely want a brake for a ‘Wulf. A brake is essential for reducing felt recoil – weight of the weapon and a good recoil pad help as well.
A view of the bottom of the upper – again, want to point out the nice fit and finish. Nothing gritty like you feel with cheap parts – these are very well done. They need lubing certainly but that is to be expected. Cheap parts can be so bad sometimes that it feels like two pieces sandpaper rubbing together. Everything in the AA upper slides/moves smoothly.
Here are the two set screws for the gas block. Mine were very lightly tightened and thus easy to remove. I’ll mention this again later but when you install use medium blue Loc-tite (formula 242 or 243 if you want the numbers) and tighten the set screws to 25 in/lbs each.

To sum up the AA upper, they make this build real easy. For me, building an AR is like building with Lego parts from different kits to make something unique, which was exactly my plan with this new ‘Wulf. Next, I am going to skip the upper for a minute and tell you what I in terms of the lower receiver. Why? Well, I’m a creature of habit and always build the lower first and then the upper.

An Overview of The Lower and Parts Used

The stripped Spikes Tactical lower I picked is pretty cool! You have the Crusader Cross up front and then look at the selector markings – Pax Pacis (Peace, Truce, treaty)), Bellum (War) and Deus Vult (God Wills).

I thought about using an existing AR lower from another rifle but I decided to build one from scratch. In case you didn’t know it, a Beowulf upper is actually designed to work with any 5.56 AR lower without any modifications being needed to the lower itself – same trigger, buffer, etc. The magazines are slightly modified but we’ll return to that later. So here are the parts details for the lower assembly:

Building the Lower

A Beowulf uses a standard lower so there really isn’t anything special that you must do. Thus, I’m not going to do a complete part by part instruction just for this rifle. Here’s a write up I did a while ago while building an AR pistol, which is pretty similar other than the use of a brace with a pistol vs. a stock with a rifle:

I always found having multiple perspectives to draw on can help. Here are two excellent written resources for you if you are new to building lowers:

If you would like to see it being done as well, here are some links. First, here is Larry Potterfield at Midway with a solid video on building a lower:

Brownells also has a ton of training videos online that cover building the AR-15 overall. If you click here, you can then select whatever videos you want to watch.

Closing This First Post

Okay, so you have an idea of the Alexander Arms DIY .50 Beowulf Upper upper I bought and the lower parts plus assembly. In the next post, I’m going to give you some tips/observations that I had when assembling my lower. I’ll add a link to the new post here as soon as it is complete.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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November 10, 2019 – Russia Celebrates Kalashnikov’s 100th Birthday

On November 10th, 1919, Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (Михаи́л Тимофе́евич Кала́шников) was born in Kurya, Altai Governorate, Russian SFSR (now Altai Krai, Russia). He grew up from humble beginnings to be known as the father of a very famous rifle, the Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947, or AK-47 as we know it in the West.

Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947 Type II
Photo from Wikipedia

While he died on December 23rd, 2013, at the age of 94, he is still revered as one of the leading small arms designers in history. In memory if him, Russia is celebrating his 100th birthday today. Being a student and fan of his designs, I would like to also say, Happy birthday Mr. Klashnikov.

You definitely need to visit the memorial website that the Kalashnikov Concern is hosting – it is in Russian and your browser can translate some of it but not the videos. Click here to visit the site– knock on the door and click on various items in the study to learn more.

Click here to go to the Klashnikov Media site for the 100th birthday
Image copyright is Kalashnikov Media

Want to learn more about Mikhail Kalashnkov? Then I would suggest the following:

There are a lot of books on the rifle that also discuss Mikhail as you need to understand the designer (really the most publicized of the designers involved) to understand the evolution of the rifle. There is one book that I really like gets into more detail about the man and he even authored the introduction. That books is “Kalashnikov: The Arms and the Man” by Edward Clinton Ezell.

If you want to learn more about the rifle, the best reference source is “AK-47: The Grim Reaper” by Frank Iannamico, now in its second edition.

Videos

There are a few brief videos on YouTube that touch on Mikhail’s life and let you hear different perspectives and see a number of different photos and videos of him at various events:




Without a doubt, Kalashnikov was a superb designer and it does seem very fitting to take a moment and remember him on his birthday. As always, best wishes to all and hope you find this interesting.


Please note that all photos used are the copyright of their respective owners or public domain. The stamp and rifle photos are from Wikimedia and the website screenshot is from Kalashnikov Media’s website.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon. With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.

Customizing An IWI Galil Ace Pistol – Installing a RS Regulate Handguard, SBA4 Brace & Vortex Optics

In my previous posts, I covered a bit of the history of the Galil Ace, did two posts about the differences between the Ace and an AKM that I observed (click here for the first and here for the second) and now that leads up to me making a few tweaks of my own to my 7.62×51 Ace pistol.

Moved to a SB Tactical SBA4 Brace

My Ace came with a SB Tactical SOB brace mounted on a proprietary IWI tube with a very heavy hinge. While the SOB is rugged, it is not adjustable so I installed and SB Tactical SBA4 brace.

The SOB4 brace is what comes with GAP51SB pistols. Palmetto had a great deal on this model and that’s why I bought it. If I could have found the pistol model without a brace cheaper, I would have done that.

Now some may wonder why I didn’t just file for a short barreled rifle (SBR) tax stamp and run a normal stock. I may very well do this in the future but I didn’t want to deal with it right now.

The Ace design allows for very easy changing of a rear block by simply driving out one roll pin. The block can the be lifted straight out and whatever you want installed in its place.

The Ace is resting on a green bench block and I used a roll pin punch to tap out that single pin. That’s all you need to do and then the rear plate of the receiver that holds the hinge, or anything else for that matter, will lift right out.
With the pin removed, it literally lifts out. Notice how the “plate” or “block” sits in a groove and that’s what provide the bulk of the strength. The roll pin is just stopping vertical travel and is more than enough.

Since the SBA4 is ATF approved, I opted for a modular adapter block from KNS Precision going to an Ace Limited (owned by Doublestar and not IWI) folding M4 adapter – the FSM-AR. Note, if you install a folder, buy one with the boss – the raised oval shape. It will fit into the groove in the KNS Precision adapter and make for a very solid connection.

This is the external face of the KNS Precision adapter. The groove is where the boss from the FSM-AR adapter will sit to limit movement. I’d recommend always getting adapters with the bosses unless you intentionally do not want them. The two screw holes allow for variations in mounting.
This is the back side of the KNS adapter. The one roll pin goes through one of the grooves to hold it in place. It is very nicely done – kudos to KNS Precision.
The KNS adapter just slides right in and is secured by the roll pin.
This is the Ace Limited (owned by Doublestar and not IWI) FSM-AR adapter. You can see the oval boss on the left part of the folder. This gets flipped over and screwed into the KNS adapter. Also, oil the hinge at some point before you close it. Sometimes they can be a bear to actuate when dry — personal experience talking there. Also, use blue Loctite on all screws or they will shoot loose.

Special note – the charging handle for my Ace pistol is on the left side. In my case, I was not worried about operating when folded. If you want to fire with the stock folded, you must go with a right side folding mechanism. If I had it to do over, I would have used a right-side folder but I simply used what I had in this case to cut cost plus I don’t plan on folding it much.

Here’s the Ace folder open to the left and the brace assembly does interfere with the charging handle. If you want a weapon that will operate with the brace folded, then go with a unit that folds to the right.

The SBA4 comes with a Mil-Spec receiver extension (buffer tube) and I used a generic castle nut that I had in my tool box along with an end plate that has hoops to connect a sling.

The SBA4 comes with a Mil-Spec receiver extension/buffer tube. You will need to supply your own castle nut .

I only use my Magpul wrench now for installing castle nuts as it enables a very positive/sure connection. I’ve done my fair share of scratching stuff with tools that used older methods and the MagPul is the way to go. I also used an automatic center punch to stake the nut.

For dealing with castle nuts, you simply can’t beat the Magpul wrench. I don’t use the combo wrench below it any more because I have scratched a ton of tubes accidentally with it.

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All in all, it was a very straight forward swap and allows for some adjustment now. In case you are wondering, the SBA4 is very beefy. I do not like the SBA3 as the end is soft and and ears that go around the shooter’s forearm just kind of bend and flop around. The SBA4 is very well done.

I definitely will SBR it at some point down the road but am happy with what I have for now.

Installed a RS Regulate GAR-9M-N Handguard

I was not fond of the original handguards and was pretty sure I would like the GAR-9M-N handguard from RS Regulate based on photos that Scot Hoskinson had posted. Let me tell you, it is a huge improvement. First off, it’s way longer and second it uses a M-LOK attachment method for accessories so you don’t have unnecessary rails bulking up the girth like you do with the originals.

This is the RS Regulate GAR-9M-N handguard for Ace pistols. It’s machining and finish are excellent. Installation was very easy.

Scot Hoskinson, the owner of RS Regulate, has put together a real nice installation guide with plenty of illustrations. The one thing I’ll tell you is that the two original handguard screws from IWI have threadlocker on them.

Just behind the mouth of the gas tube & front sight block is the mounting point that holds the two screws that retain the original Ace handguards. They do have threadlocker on them so warm them up to make removal easier.
I used a 1/4″ ratchet with a 4mm allen bit and the retaining screw on each side came right out. Note, you will see two rivets on each side – one rivet head is visible between the wrench handle and the bit. You don’t need to do anything to those. You just need to remove the two screws. You can see one of the above just forward of the bit.

You can heat them up and make them easier to loosen, use a 1/4″ ratchet with a 4mm allen/hex head to break the screws free or, what I did, was a bit of both. With the gas tube off and out of the way, you can see where the two screws mount on the barrel. I heated that up and backed them out with the ratchet pretty easily.

Once the screws are removed, slide the handguard forward slightly and pull the rear down. It will come right off.

From there, you basically pull the stock handguard down nose first and pull forward. Then, follow Scot’s instructions. You will need to pay attention and install a small spacer between the barrel mounting point and the handguard when you install the new screws. I applied blue Loc-tite and torqued them down to 25 in/lbs per Scot’s instructions. You also have to install one long screw at the rear that you’ll want to use the blue Loc-tite and torque to 25 in/lbs also.

The RS!Regulate comes with the three screws, two spacers and an allen wrench. I applied medium-strenght Blue Loctite and used my Vortex Optics torque driver to tighten the screws to 25 in/lbs.

The installation instructions where spot on and I did not encounter any surprises at all. The unit bolted right up with no fitting needed.
The fitment is really superb. Here the rail is sliding over the rear block and will be secured later with the long screw that squeezes the rail’s walls together further locking it in place.
I like the RS!Regulate unit far, far more than the original. It’s longer and it fits my hand way better in terms of girth.

This is a slick handguard – the fit and finish are superb. I’ve come to expect that from all RS!Regulate products. Scot’s created another great product in my honest opinion. His AK scope mounts are the best hands down in case you aren’t familiar with them.

Opted For a Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Optic and 3x Magnifier

I figure this will be a close in weapon – certainly within 200 yards probably – and will figure that out when I get it to the range. With that in mind, putting a high power optic on it just does not make a lot of sense but I also wanted magnification just in case so I checked out what Vortex Optics had to offer.

I’ve now used a boat load of their red dots and scopes on all kinds of firearms including 12 gauges, .50 Beowulf and .338 Lapua. They’re solidly built, good glass and back by a no-nonsense warranty. So they are my go-to for optics and have been for several years. Yes, I do actually have to buy them and no, they do not pay me to say that.

At any rate, I’d been eyeing the Razor AMG UH-1 for a while. Now that is a mouthful and I notice a lot of guys just refer to it has the “Huey” due to the UH-1 helicopter. It’s a true holographic sight which means a laser image (a hologram) is projected into the viewing window. The benefit of this is that regardless of the angle you look through the lens at, if the dot is on the target, it’s going to hit there.

The Razor AMG UH-1 or “Huey” mounts easily with its quick release lever and is ruggedly built.
It has a large viewing window that makes sight acquisition very fast.
The controls are well laid out and easy to use.

Battery life is somewhere around 1,500 hours and there are a lot of variables that can influence that including the brightness of the reticle (there are 14 levels), whether you are using a CR123A battery or a rechargeable LFP123A. Note, Vortex found that recoil kills the basic rechargable RCR123 batteries in 2-300 rounds. They stopped testing the LFP123A at 10,000 rounds and it was still working. I’m using the supplied CR123A still at this point and will likely use Surefire CR123A batteries going forward as I keep them in stock for lights.

In short, the Huey is very slick and it’s getting great reviews. I’ve been a long-time red dot fan and the UH-1 is my favorite at this point.

To get a better view at 100-200 yards, what I did was to pair the Huey sight with the Vortex V3XM Micro 3x magnifier. What this does is give me the ability to install, remove or even swing the installed optic out of the way when I need or don’t need the target to be magnified 3x.

Some assembly was required and I applied medium-strength Blue Loctite to the screws.
Here’s the Vortex Micro 3x magnifier paired with the Huey.

The V3XM is small, light, has a quick release lever also, just like the Huey, and pairs very nicely with it.

Here’s the end result with the SBA4 brace, RS!Regulate rail and Vortex Optics combo.

Summary

The pistol really turned out slick. It balances well and ought to be a blast. Now just to find some time to get to the range before it really gets cold 🙂 Here are some photos for you:


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon. With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


When Strength and Quality Matter Most