Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Browning ProSteel Gun Safe

Guns make us feel safe right? We keep them on our person, under car seats, in glove boxes, in purses and even on night stands. But what do you do to make your guns feel safe. Do you lock them up or do you just leave them in a range bag on your closet floor?
That’s a dumb question. But what isn’t dumb is being smart with your guns and other personal belongings.
  • Don’t let kids get a hold of your guns! Yours or the neighbor’s kid!
  • Don’t let stolen guns get onto the street to be used in criminal activity!
  • Don’t let your precious heirlooms and other valuables get taken!
  • Don’t let a fire consume these good either.
Getting a good safe is a great idea for more than just gun safety. It’s an actual investment. My wife likes the idea of the safe so we can store important documents and jewelry and I came up with an ingenious idea! The Browning ProSteel Safe I bought has a small hole in the back that lets you run a power cord into it for a dehumidifier. Well this safe will be in a climate controlled environment so I decided that since my safe was within a few feet of my wireless router, I’m going to run a USB cord through the hole (from the back of my Wireless Router) and keep a WI-FI, USB powered backup hard drive drive inside the fireproof safe. How’s that for keeping your data secure?
I went to Sportsman’s Warehouse and looked at several of their models. Then, as I usually do, I surfed the web for some research. What I found out was that most safes are made in the same factory in China. Not a big surprise but that means that the differences are in the models within the brands more than in the brands alone. See for yourself in the photos below.
See any similarities? And even those that aren’t made in the same factory use a lot of the same parts. Yes there are some differences but if you buy a reputable brand like any of those listed above, you’ll be buying a lot of peace of mind and getting a great safe.
I bought a 14-bolt, 60"x30"x25", $1500 Browning ProSteel Copper (versus Gold) with digital keypad for several reasons. Ease, it was at my local store. Function, it had a great interior with TONS us usable space for it’s overall footprint. Price, it was in my price range. Security, I felt it would more than adequately keep my stuff safe (Fire: 60 minutes at 1200 degrees).
Here’s what I mean by lots of usable space. Notice how the door (a spot normally left empty) allows for seven rifles, several hand guns and has pockets galore for anything from knives and holsters to jewelry and passports?
It’s a wonderful idea! The door alone holds the contents of many small safes!
Not only that, the entire interior is covered with a felt-like lining. I have two small hockey puck sized “tap lights” with Velcro on the back and the “hook” side of the Velcro easily sticks to the felt on the ceiling of the safe. Instant interior lighting on the cheap!
Now, I needed to figure out where to put the new safe. According to my wife, it had to be hidden from view, not in the master bedroom but somewhere easy to get to. That didn’t leave may options. So, together we decided to put it in a closet under the stairs. After some tape measurements were taken, we determined it was a perfect fit.
But what effect would a 615 lb. (empty) safe have on my floors? Instead of taking chances, I put two $30 floor jacks in the crawl space under the floor where the safe would live. $60 and a little (I really mean little, those things are EASY to install) work now means no chance of sagging floors later.
Once purchased, I had to get the mid-sized beast home. Sigh. Instead of calling my tough guy buddies, I decided to let the professionals handle it. I called a piano mover that also moved safes. He charged me $250 (about $150 more than the kid at the store) but think of this. The piano mover is insured and bonded! If he scratches you floor or rams a hole into your wall or worse, you’re covered! To me, it was worth the extra money for that peace of mind alone. Isn’t that why we buy safes anyway, peace of mind?
Once installed, I immediately reset the master combination to a crazy number that I hope I never forget (I even reset the fall back combo. The “oops I forgot the combo”, combo). The digital key pad gives you the option of timed delay opening and a cool two series combination that lets you program in two different combinations where both have to be entered for the safe to be opened.
For example, my wife could have a combination that I don’t know and I could have a combination that she doesn’t know but both numbers must be entered for the door to be opened. That way neither one of us could access the contents of the safe without the other knowing it. Overkill in my home but you might have need for this cool feature if you’re a store manager.
Also, enter the wrong code a couple of times and the safe locks you out for five minutes. There are other settings too numerous to be described here but I was surprised by all of options.
After changing the combination to 12345 (just kidding) I loaded the safe with all my firearms. Sigh. While I now have room to grow, I immediately saw that I needed more hardware to keep the safe from looking so empty.
Oh, one more thing, safes need to breath. The doors aren’t air tight. But in the event of a fire, you want that baby sealed tight! So another cool feature is that the seal around the door allows air to pass but when heated up from a fire, it expands to seal the door shut, keeping out some of the heat, smoke and water (from the fire fighters).
Am I happy with my purchase? You bet! When you stack up the incredible usage of interior space, fire-resistance (yes, there are safes with a better rating), overall break-in security and medium sized foot print, the choice was an easy one. The Browning ProSteel Copper is perfect for me.
SPECS (from the Browning web site):
  • 1200° F/60 minute fire protection
  • Attractive wildlife scene available
  • Full DPX® Storage System (on the door)
  • Top door bolts for extra security
Copper Series features
  • 12-gauge steel body
  • 1" formed steel door
  • Force Deflector™ Locking Mechanism
  • Hardened steel pin lock protection
  • 1" chromed locking bolts, three-sided door coverage
  • DPX Storage System
  • UL® tool attack listed
  • S & G® Group II lock with key lock dial and five-year limited warranty
  • Three-spoke handle
  • Available with game scene or scroll graphics
  • Baked on high gloss or rugged textured finishes
  • Elevated floor to facilitate removal of guns
1200°/60 min. Standard Fire Protection
  • 1200° F/60 min. fire protection
  • Three layers of 1/2" fire-resistant insulation in the body and door
  • Palusol® expanding fire seal
No matter what you choose, have a way to lock up your guns. Keep them out of the hands of kids, criminals and please keep them off the streets. We have a right to own and bear arms but that comes with a responsibility. Even an inexpensive, light-weight gun locker bolted to the floor is better than nothing. Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.

REVIEW: Smith & Wesson M&P 15

UPDATED: February 2016
I finally did a trigger job on the S&W M&P 15. 
Details at the end of the article.

March 2009
You want to hear a funny story? Ok, actually I should ask if you want to know how to make my wife really mad? The answer is simple, over the Christmas holiday, go to Sportsman’s Warehouse with your father-in-law to get a bottle of gun oil and come home with an AR15.
Look my wife’ s very accommodating of my shooting hobby. Actually, she encourages it. But spending an unexpected $1100 right a Christmas, understandably, isn’t the best decision a husband can make. BUT...
Oh yea, there’s always a but. But, have you tried to find a buy an AR15 these days?! If you have, then you’ve already figured out what happened to me. I walked in to Sportsman’s Warehouse and the General Manager, Jim Rhodes, and I cross paths just inside the front door. The moment he sees me he waves me over. I know Jim pretty well and he knows I like to buy guns, many have come from his store. He ushers to a side office and whispers, “What if I knew I guy that had a brand new, Smith and Wesson M&P AR15 that he was going to sell...today. Would you be interested?”
What could I say? I’ve seen the shelves there. I’ve looked online. NO AR15s! “Sure, I’d be interested,” I said as I slipped the marital noose around my neck.
He looked around like a spy about to reveal state secrets and flicked his head to the side, “Come with me...” He turned and briskly walked past the gun counter, that was stacked with people, and threaded us into the back room that had an “Employees Only” sign over the door. There were a couple of guys in the storage room that he asked to leave. This confused me but I went along with it. As soon as he, my father-in-law and I were alone, he pulled a box from the shelf and opened it. Sure enough, a brand new M&P15.
He lowered his voice again, “Look, about every salesman here has a buyer on this. It came in about two hours ago and I bet it’ll be gone in about an hour. No big deal, but if you want it, it’s yours. If not, we’ll sell it pretty quickly.” He stared at me. I darted a glance at my father-in-law. He was wincing as he knew my dilemma. My heart started pounding, my palms sweat and I pulled the noose tight. “Jim, I think I’m gonna have to...” I bit my lip, “Dang it, I’ll take it.”
Jim nodded and and walked out of the room without a word. Ten seconds later he came back in with a sales guy. “Bob, sell this guy this M&P, but keep it back here. Don’t take it out and lay it on the counter.”
Bob looked up at Jim, “Are you serious?” Jim patted Bob on the back and said, “Yep. Take care of this young man.” Then waved and winked at me and walked out.
Bob seemed kind of pissed about something. He grouchily took my info and as he was getting my thumb prints muttered under his breath, “I have a guy that’s coming in for this thing later today.” Ah, I get it now. Well your buddy’s going to be disappointed is what I wanted to say. Little did he know that I was going to have to fight an insurgency on the home front.
As we walked to the front of the store, the sales guy was carrying the cardboard box with the big M&P printing facing outward. We passed a guy that pointed to the box and called out, “Hey!” but the sales guy charged passed him. Bob then flipped the box around so the words were hidden from view. “Damn it. I don’t want no one to know we got one of these.”
Why all the fuss? About a month earlier we got a new President that had a political history that wasn’t gun friendly and the day after his election, guns started flying off the shelves at a record pace, especially anything that could be slapped with the “Assault” label.
It’s actually ironic that a President that has a history of supporting gun control laws is actually responsible for one of the biggest runs on firearms and ammo that I’ve ever seen! Anyway, let’s shoot this thing!
The rifle is a standard S&W M&P15. Nothing fancy, no accessory rails or anything. It has a 16 inch, chromoly barrel, six-position adjustable stock, a single stage 6-7 pound trigger and 30-round magazine. I had to throw on a red dot that I use on my Ruger Mark III as a sighting instrument.
The next hurdle was finding .223 ammo. Wal-mart had it but man was is scarce. At the range, we attached the red dot, loaded the mag and with only the slightest adjustments had it sighted in. We started on the torso steels at 75 yards then moved to targets at 100. The gun shot very true.
The trigger was a bit stiff and “gritty” but I attributed it to newness. The recoil was “gentle” and didn’t match the noise the gun made. It felt like shooting a .22 magnum with the noise of a .22-250 rifle. The adjustable stock, while great for tactical situations, served another purpose. It made the gun easy to shoot for me at 5’ 9” and my father-in-law who’s 6’ 1”.
On the second outing, I only shot 50 rounds. Bruce and I were actually shooting our 10/22s for a side-by-side review of a custom built 10/22 vs. an off the shelf model (review here). But while I was there, I set a 5.5” target out at 100 yards and wanted to see what I could do with an unmagnified red dot at that distance. The dot covered 25% of the center of the target and I didn’t use a resting device but did set the bottom of the magazine on the shooting table.
For a regular guy, I felt pretty good about the results but know I can do better. Out of eight shots, I landed 7 in the target zone and had one straggler. The other way to look at it is that four were in the 10 ring and four we’re out of it. Not Quigley Down Under shooting by any means.
I love this gun and now that my wife has calmed down (mind you, I don’t blame her) I think it’ll be staying in my collection. I have big plans for it too and when she’s not looking, I’m going to add about $300 worth of accessories to it! As a side note, my good father-in-law offered me his own version of a bail out plan and offered to buy the gun from me as to ease my marital pain.
There are so many good quality options for AR15s right now. The hard part is finding one that’s not backordered. When you do find one, you might want to buy it. If we do get an “assault gun” ban, you’ll be glad you did. And even if we don’t, you’ll still be glad you did. Take my word it. Even Grandma can shoot it!

Oh and if you don’t think that owning an AR15 can get you killed, you haven’t bought one on Christmas without asking your wife first. Damn, those things are deadly!

I mentioned the gritty trigger earlier in the article. hundreds and hundreds of rounds never made it better so I finally did something about it. I thought about a drop in but some of the ones that I considered were $300 or more and I didn't want to invest that into the basic M&P so I looked into improving the stock, mil-spec trigger. 

I started by ordering a Taylor Tactical AR Trigger Kit. 


I liked the Taylor Tactical solution since it included a super simple over-travel solution and it was very inexpensive. For $35 (as Jan 2016), I got two reduced power hammer springs and two over-travel grip screws. The solution is so ingenious and so simple...simple to install too. 

While I waited for my Taylor Tactical kit to arrive I disassembled my AR trigger and began polishing.

Notice how rough the metal is! The sear face looked the same way!

I used 600, then 1000, then 2000 grit oiled sandpaper then took my Dremel and gently polished the trigger face, sear face and hammer notch to a mirror finish (be careful with the hammer notch!)  I also polished the disconnector and hammer contact points plus the channel that runs down the center of the trigger body but not to a mirror finish, just real smooth. The reason I polished the channel is that I noticed that when the disconnector pivoted it was gritty. To get things mirror smooth, I used Mother's Mag Wheel Polish.

Some things to note. If you use a Dremel, make sure that the polishing bit rotate away from the sharp edge of your trigger face or you could severely damage it by rounding it off. For example, in the image to the left imaging me holding the Dremel in my right hand policing the top of this trigger. You'll want the bit rotating counter-clockwise. Rotate your wrist 180ยบ and make sure you do the same with the sear face. You want that edge sharp for a crisp release.

Out of the box, the trigger started off at a unpleasant, gritty 7 lbs, 9 oz. After the polish and springs the pull dropped to a smooth 5 lbs, 8 oz. And thanks to the over-travel grip screw, the full trigger stroke and reset is half of what it used to be. I went from hating that dang trigger to loving it for only $17.50 plus some elbow grease. 

Things turned out so well, I did the same thing to the trigger on my Father-in-law's DPMS AR. Thus, buying the two-pack. He too loves the result and for $35 bucks for both, it was an inexpensive fix that even I could do.