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If your frequent any M14 forums, you've probably already seen this, but thought folks over here might like it.

It's been a couple of months since I was on the phone with Frank hammering out the final details that would allow U.S. buyers to get the right importation permit from the BATF. I was even the first to submit my own application, but wound up at the bottom of the stack as the BATF was swarmed by others like me that had already paid in advance of the Blackfeather release. In the end, the BATF took every bit of the six weeks they told me to expect, and then there was another three weeks combined for me to send the permit to Canada and for the parcel services to return by Blackfeather RS. The sucky part? I was out of town on business when it arrived! I wouldn't get home to see it for another four days. It was worth the wait!

In addition to my finished pictures, I wanted to give an account of my own installation. I think it's worth restating that this is not a drop in rifle stock (unless you are extremely lucky) and that would lessen the value that comes from a properly fitted piece of furniture. The Blackfeather will represent something different to every buyer, and something more to the team that designed it, but for me, it was the accuracy potential and modular flexibility of the aluminum chassis, but without the bulky "spacegun" ergonomics of the Sage EBR or the weight of the Troy MCS. It retains the profile of a conventional stock up front, but allows the myriad of M16/M4/AR15 accessories out back. The adjustable barrel tension and mechanical bedding seem to be second to none, after having completed the installation.

Before I detail my experience, I must say two things: 1st- Every variety of M14 and M1a can expect difference in actual fitment that I may not have experienced. For that reason, novice beware. Frank and the team have done a great job of detailing potential concerns in their instruction manual. READ IT AT LEAST TWICE! I didn't, but learned my lesson. The manual saved my ass. 2nd- I've owned many rifles, and have built a few of my own. This is the first that I can say I have confidence to take anywhere, into any situation, fully prepared to take any shot that I can compose from the driver seat. While I need to take it out for a shakedown run, from my experience in mechanical engineering over the years, I can say it is well capable of outperforming me in any application I can imagine.

Now about the install... it wasn't as easy as I had expected, but after seeing, handling and installing the system, it wasn't unreasonably difficult. Professionals will have little trouble with it, and the prepared amateur will manage just as well as I did.
First off, i should have read the instructions. Don't get too excited here. Take the time to digest the information, EVERY WORD. I had no issue with disassembly, except that I always forget the set screw on the castle-nut holding the muzzle device. I pay my dues for this mistake in having to fix my boo-boo with a new castle-nut and cold blue to touch up the scars. (read the manual!) Removal of the old op-rod guide was un eventful, drifting out the roll pin and drifting off the guide. I found that my guide had been installed after the barrel boss was knurled heavily. I expect this was a standard practice when SAI rebuilt the M14 into and M1a (mine is a 1995 vintage, still all GI parts). The rest of the installation boiled down to 3 more points (for me, read the manual!). 1. Fitting the new op-rod guide, 2. fitting the fire control assembly, 3. adjusting the barrel tension.
In fitting the op-rod guide, I used the included emory paper on the barrel and inside the guide, though it was eventually necessary to knock down the knurling with a file. I took care to keep the fil on the knurling so as to prevent any change in shape of the barrel boss. I fit this extremely tight. Resist the temptation to grab a bigger hammer on this job. Take the time to fit the parts. Once located according to the original roll pin bore, I installed the new pin provided. This was not exactly aligned with the position required to bolt the op-rod guide down into the stock, but it was close enough to allow trouble free assembly. Read the manual carefully here. Options on fitting this in a more correct position, without the roll-pin, are detailed. As tightly as mine is fitted, I was not compelled to dismount it since i had no obstruction to final assembly. The stock allows room to move here, given the wide variations in these rifles over the years.
The next big concern, in my case, was the lock-up of the fire control assembly. I found that I could not close the trigger guard. Again, this is detailed in the manual. My rifle was built on a GI fiberglass stock, bedded with epoxy at SAI. Because they assembled the fire control and receiver into the stock before the epoxy cured, it allowed a measure of fitting without doing any work on the metal parts that interface when you latch the trigger guard closed. I found mine had never been touched by a file or stone. When I tried to latch things down in the new stock, the hooks on the trigger guard were too low and/or the slots on the receiver lugs were too high. If you look carefully at both, you will find a round tooth of sorts in the opening where the two parts meet. It's most noticeable in the trigger guard. The notch made to create the hook is comprised of a hole with one side removed. The notch is not as wide as the hole. It creates a narrowing of the notch. This is where you remove metal to resolve a situation like mine. The trigger guard notch is filed higher, and the lug notch is filed lower. Work slowly here. A dozen strokes is a lot. File both hooks and lugs together, so the left and right stay even. After a few tries, I found I could reliably latch my trigger guard, however I left it very tight. I may have to revisit this point.
Tensioning the barrel is optional (as detailed in the manual). I went with the basic recommendations and made only a couple of trial fits to get a light tension that I could achieve by hand, before installing the bolt into the bottom of the op-rod guide, through the fore-end.
Lastly, I assembled my Magpul furniture and made final adjustment, added my sling swivel sockets for QD swivels from GROVTEC, etc. I even squeezed the critical parts of the cleaning kit into the VLTOR shotgun receiver extension and the compartment on the ACS-L butt-stock. With my scope mounted, an empty magazine and no cleaning kit, she weighs in just short of 12 lbs. I am stoked and may find my way to the range this afternoon!

One note about break-in. (WTF? Break-in?) Yes, break-in. All these parts are under tension. They will settle. Many years ago, I was in school for automotive collision repair. I had a truck with bent frame rails on the frame machine. One of my first lessons was about strain relief. We pulled the frame in all the right directions and left many thousands of pounds of pressure on the chains. My instructor handed me a hammer and told me to work up and down the frame with a few dozen modest whacks, not to leave marks, but to make sure my presence was known. To my surprise, the pressure on the chains dropped with every hit, as the metal was relieved of the stress I had put it under. This meant the rails didn't rebound when we removed the force, but instead they settled where we wanted them. I expect this same stress relief as I fire the first hundred rounds or so, settling the parts that I have persuaded against their will. Don't go out and expect perfection from your rifle, until you allow it some time to get acquainted with it's new home.

Oh, and I only have one point that I consider a shortcoming on the Blackfeather. The trigger reach is perfect for me. I have somewhat smaller hands, but not at all dainty, so I expect few will have a problem with the position of the pistol grip. It is back a bit from some other designs, a point that worried me until now. I'm satisfied with the reach to the trigger, however, the gap between the trigger guard and the pistol grip is pretty wide. I am already finding it distracting and that my grip slips up into it. I will be fashioning a filler block to go here, though it would have to be removed to unlatch the trigger guard. This isn't really a big deal as it seems more practical to dismount the butt-stock assembly at the adapter block before trying to pull the receiver from the stock. Just a thought.

Now, without further delay...
My Springfield Armory M1a (1963 TRW M14 demilitarized circa 1995) cal. 7.62x51/.308, w 22" TRW barrel and SEI Coast Guard brake in a 1st run Blackfeather Rifle Stock from, dressed in Magpul furniture (ACS-L on a VLTOR tube, MOE-K grip & AFG-2 fore-grip), topped with a Bassett Machine mount supporting a Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25-4x 30mm scope in Warne rings

I finally drug my pal to the range today. We wanted to do two things. First, he has a box stock Polytech M14s with the post ban flash hider (no slots) that we wanted to shoot beside my Coast Guard brake. It was astonishing! I am glad I spent the money on it.
Second, I just don't have the skills to extract all the accuracy from any rifle, so I wanted him to give it a go. He's a former Marine, having served in Iraq in 1991, and earned his expert marksmanship rating every year he was in. I try to shoot at his level, but he has a bad habit of embarrassing me.

Tonight, we took several boxes of Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr ammunition with us. I have used a lower cost 150 gr. reman ammo almost exclusively until now. The range was quiet when I arrived, but by the time I was set up, and Art arrived, there were maybe 50 to 75 shooters in line for a lane. There are only 2 dozen lanes, split between handguns and long guns, so it was a mad house. I think many were in a women's shooting league, and they seemed to have their token male in tow, but there were quite a few fellas shooting bolt guns, a Garand, and then a guy that was doing rapid fire and reload drills with 12 ga slugs. I would sum it up as something near combat conditions!

Anyway, I warmed up on some cheap ammo, then shot for groups with the match load. I ran on par with my previous performance, but didn't feel at all on my game. Art took a turn, starting with the cheap load, then settling down with the match load. The group below was the best of the bunch. I've added his remarks from my FB page. (he swears he isn't kissing my ass, and while he isn't a SOCOM operator, he has a good deal of experience)

We are planning a day trip to the long range to really test this rifle.

" Absolutely the finest large caliber shoulder fired weapons system I have had the pleasure of shooting. In my defense of the avg. grouping the conditions were suspect. I think there is another .5 MOA that we will achieve next time out." A. Ascencio, USMC
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