04 November 2011

Gun Design Decisions

A long time ago I was reading about how the AK was so much better than the M16.

One particular item stuck in my mind: The selector.

On the AK the selector is a large lever on the right side of the gun.  The topmost position is "SAFE" and that also covers the slot for the charging handle.  The middle position is "AUTO" and the bottom position is "SEMI".

The theory went that an adrenaline soaked conscript is going to slap that lever HARD when he takes it off "SAFE" in a firefight and that will naturally land the gun on "SEMI" where it will be more effective than panic firing the whole magazine.

The M16 selector is a small switch on the left side of the gun, where your thumb naturally lands if you're a righty.  9 O'Clock is "SAFE", Noon is "SEMI" and 3 O'Clock is "AUTO".

Does our adrenaline junky slap that selector straight to "AUTO" every time?

Probably not.


How your hand is constructed.  The 90˚ from "SAFE" to "SEMI" is a very natural flick of the thumb.  The 90˚ from "SEMI" to "AUTO" is not and requires shifting your grip a bit to achieve.

A bit of trivia, the original arrangement of the selector on an AR was with "SAFE" at Noon and "SEMI" at 9 O'Clock.  Field testing showed that the selector would move to the "SEMI" position after the soldier dragged it in the mud for a while.  It should be noted that the 90˚ from Noon to 9 is just as natural as 9 to Noon.

The handedness of the AR has come up from time to time as well.  I've found it to be remarkably sinister friendly!  The controls are operated differently with the left hands than right, but they are all accessible and readily operable.  Remember, ambidextrous design doesn't mean it has to be symmetrical.

Right Handed:
Mag Release - Right Index
Selector - Right Thumb
Bolt Stop - Left Palm

Left Handed:

Mag Release - Right Thumb
Selector - Base of Left Index
Bolt Stop - Left Index

The charging handle is already ambidextrous.

Where it sucks to operate left handed was you'd be eating brass on many guns (but not all depending on how fast the action was running on a particular example).  Modern upper receivers have a brass deflector molded right in.

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