23 January 2024

Never Ending Projects - The 9mm AR (ProjectPDW) and the Winchester 94

I've worked on a fair few hobby projects over the last 15 years. Some have worked out really well but some of them just never really seemed to stop changing. I have said before that I suffer from a disease. I call it Can't Leave Well Enough Alone syndrome. There was always something I felt I needed to change. Maybe the project worked fine originally but later on I wanted it to do something different. For example, ProjectPDW, an AR15 pistol in 9mm, had some teething issues but in the end, it worked out exactly the way I had envisioned it would. Then I learned more and found problems. I had wanted a range toy and as long as I ran round nose ammo through it, it ran just fine. I knew it was supposed to be suppressed when I started the build but when I started looking for subsonic ammo for it, I found quickly that no flat nose or hollow point ammunition would work in it. Immediate jam. The bullet will get stuck on the feed ramp of the barrel. That limited me to very few subsonic loads like PPU's 158 grain loads. Getting that load got very difficult so shooting it became difficult. I wanted to start handloading for it but getting a round nose, heavy weight mold is very difficult and has to be specially made. There are many 147 grain flat nose loads available that I just can't use. It also means that I can't use the gun for anything other than as a range toy. I can't use it for defense. I figure I want to change that.

This was the deer slaying lever scout configuration.

The Winchester 94 is the same way. It started off as a hunting rifle. I tried several different sighting options. First was the Marbles bullseye rear sight, then a side mount scope mount. I didn't like either. Then I got the No-Drill scout mount with a Vortex Crossfire II. That worked out just fine but I wanted the traditional look back of the Winchester design. The rifle also had a William's rear aperture sight. After a few deer seasons, I removed the scout mount and zeroed the William's sight. Then I tried to rezero the William's sight for longer range and wasn't happy with it. The adjustments just didn't seem to have that fine tune that I was looking for. I ordered a Turnbull Restoration barrel mounted red dot mount. I figured that if I can't get the distance I wanted from the open sights, then I'd try a red dot. I didn't like the blocky way that looked so I replaced the red dot mount with a used rear sight. I harvested the elevator and rear sight to build the replacement body and installed that into the rear dovetail. 

The only front sight I had for it, a Marbles fiber optic front, was broken. I replaced it with a 3/8 gold bead from Marbles. Well, it turns out the sight was too tall for the sight hood so I tried to replace it with another Marbles gold bead. Those were too wide and I can't install the front hood. I have no idea what height the original sight was supposed to be so ordering a replacement factory sight is tricky. There are 21 different part numbers for the different front sights for the Winchester 94. I have no idea which one to use. 

At this point, I'm leaving the Winchester alone as I don't want to bang on it more and more. I'll zero it for some Winchester brand 170 grain .30-30. If I really need a little more then Turnbull Restoration has a receiver mounted option for red dot. That would work fine. It's a backup hunting rifle at this point. 

The current version is pretty much back to factory configuration.

The Winchester is pretty much back to its original configuration but the AR9 is a total mess right now. 

Y'all remember when braces were legal, then weren't, then were sort of, then weren't again then were again?

In an effort to correct the feeding issues with flat nose, I looked at two options; both are feed ramp related. The first is the barrel's feed ramp. The second is a frame mounted feed ramp. Replacing the barrel requires a possible change in handguard depending on what barrel I get. Most of the barrels aren't the correct length so I'd likely have to have one cut down. The Ballistic Advantage barrel seems to have a wide enough chamfer but maybe it needs a wider one. Instead of modifying or replacing the barrel, the first option was to try a different lower. I found a CZ Scorpion magazine based lower that has an integrated feed ramp. After getting a new New Frontier Armory S-9 lower and a bunch of magazines, I found the bolt from NFA didn't work with the new lower. I had to have it cut. Thankfully, Moss Pawn was able to fix that so now everything matches. Ray was able to confirm the weapon runs with round nose. I did find that there was a slight improvement with feeding flat nose bullets. 

At this point, I have stripped some of the parts from the project and used them on a more reliable build in .300 Blackout. Having a travel gun that works is far more important these days than having a range toy. All of that has left me with two receivers and a complete upper unused. I've also had time to think over new information that I garnered with the Henry Homesteader. Direct blowback is not the best for suppression. I didn't know that when I build ProjectPDW at first. Experience is king. 

So, what corrective action can we take to make this mess work again? First up, I need to pick one of the lowers and just work with that one. I think I'll stick with the S-9 lower for now. The next part is I need to check the barrel's feed ramp alignment compared to the lower feed ramp. If they don't match then having a smith chamfer out the barrel ramp further is a quick fix. If that doesn't work the let's change the barrel. CMMG offers a radial delayed blowback kit that is fundamentally different than the current barrel setup. The biggest difference is that the barrel uses a more normal barrel extension and bolt similar to a regular AR bolt. This gives us room to work with to get the feeding issue sorted. The nose of the bullet won't immediately impact the feed ramp and stop. 

The BA barrel has the small feed ramps. 

The radial delayed system would also make the suppressed operation quieter. The Homesteader likes to port pop and the whole affair is somewhat loud even with subs. The AR9 always seemed to be a little quieter but still things can be better. 

I don't know if I'll ever really get either of these guns completely sorted out to where I don't want to mess with them but it would sure be nice. Maybe it would be better to sell them and get something that fills the rolls better like replace the Winchester with a Marlin 336 and the AR9 with a Stribog SP9A3.

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