Sunday, July 24, 2016


By Nathan Wolanyk
Of all the semiautomatic firearms that one can build, the  STEN has to be the easiest to and requires the least amount of investment in both tools and time to complete
As an example, the author actually built his STEN using a carpenter’s vise bolted to a Pepper Tree stump (trimmed appropriately with a tomahawk), cut all the slots with with a Rotozip and filed everything to fit with a set of rusty files. The only expensive tool required for the process is a MIG welder. 140 Amps is recommended.
All said though, the author’s build was completed with a lot of mentoring and collaboration from his good friend  bplvr  (true name withheld for privacy reasons), a retired and very talented machinist with a knack for reverse engineering history. It was bplvr that lead the author into the STEN building project and selected Indianapolis Ordinance for the 80% receiver tubes, bolts, spring kits, ejectors and trunnions necessary to complete the project(s) within the scope of existing laws, both federal and state.
For the purpose of illustrating the necessary details of this build, various images from other builds will be shown. The learning process for building these guns has come from a mix of six different STEN projects encompassing multiple MK2, MK3, pistol, German MP3008, and MK2/MK3 hybrid variants. Despite the differences between these STEN variants in overall layout, the basic principles of drilling, dremeling and filing will remain the same.
While it is far quicker and easier to complete the STEN using a milling machine, this tutorial is focused on the budget-conscious builder, or maybe someone that desires to feel somewhat like a backwoods partisan behind Nazi lines. Thus, the only tools required for this build will be a dremel (or other rotary tool), a set of calipers, a set of drill bits (make sure they can cut through 4130 S/S ), thin metal blades for the dremel (.020 thick, not the .060 thick ones), a vise (wood grips inside the vise to prevent marring and crushing the tube preferred), a spring-loaded center punch and files. Try not to break the dremel blades and do not wear the blades down to nothing since as the blades wear down, the smaller diameter remnants will be needed for the smaller slots that need to be cut.
Before starting to cut all the slots, use  your automatic center punch to punch six witness marks down the length of the tube at 12:00/3:00/6:00 and the 9:00 positions. You will need these when the paper is off the tube.
Next, you are going to prepare the corners to be drilled and either squared or rounded off.  To do so, mark the corner diameter center lines with a center punch, drill a pilot hole and then drill a with successively sized drill bits until the slot ends are made. For instance, use a ⅛” bit to start a hole, then a 3/16”, then a 5/16”, then a ⅜” and so on. The pictures below will illustrate this point.
In these photos you will see bplvr’s notes written on the tube. Notice how in photos 1-3 that the corners have been marked with a center punch to allow the pilot hole to be drilled accurately.
Photos 4-9 show how each slot to be cut has a hole in the corner. Each hole was started with a ⅛” drill bit then increased in size so the corners were taken out in a perfectly rounded fashion.
Before you cut anything ,using your automatic center punch, punch 6 witness marks down  the length of the tube at 12:00/3:00/6:00 and the 9:00 positions. You will need these when the paper is off the tube.
Start with the long charging handle slot. Run the entire length .010 deep on one spot and repeat until the whole slot is cut. The goal is to connect the ⅜”diameter drilled hole at each end of the slot and 2 x ⅜” holes for the safety slot to form one continuous slot. At this stage of the game, the slot will not be a perfect ⅜” width, but this is what drill bits and files will be used for at a later stage. The finished slot should be .375 +.010 /-.000. This slot is what determines the angle of the location of the semi-auto bolt to the ejector. (see image 10 and 11 for what the slot looks like before and after)
Next, you will cut the magazine well slot going from front to rear. The same will be done for the ejection slot.  After both slots have been cut,  change out your cutting blade for a fresh one and save the old one for cutting the smaller J-slots and the like. (See image 10-5 to see the J-hooks that are cut with the used, smaller cutting blades)
Next up is the sear lever slot, as seen in image 5. This will be cut in the same way as all the other slots and sized all the way down the channel with a .125-.140 drill bit.
STEN sear lever slot .125-.140 drill hole. Size with drill bit. Square or round end. Ideal width is .015 wider than the sear lever.
The dimension for the location of the sear from the rear of the tube will most likely be shown as 3.750”. It is best to change this dimension to 3.850” and file later to match your sear location.
Most STENS were made  with VERY liberal hole locations, and if you cut the sear slot too short your tube is junk.
Next up are the J-slots to hold in the end cap. Use a big cutter to start the J-slots and finish the corners with a ¼” drill. Use the smaller cutting wheels saved from before to make some of the finer cuts, as there are some tight working spaces in this area. If you don’t have any small cutters, then you will have to take a big cutter and grind it down on a sacrificial piece of metal to get it small enough to get into those small slots and cut them right.
After all the slots have been cut, it is time to file everything (and I mean everything) to fit. For all the channels and slots, you should use the shank (the non-drilling portion) of an appropriately sized drill bit to size the slot from one end to the other. Wherever there is a snag, examine the area and determine which direction one needs to file. Before filing cut some long pieces from a soda bottle and slide them into the tube. This will keep the file from dinging the inside of the tube. All file strokes should be spread out and not concentrated into one part, as this will cause issues with unevenness. The easiest way to tell is to look at the paper glued to the tube and see where the black lines are. The black lines should disappear with the right amount of metal removal, assuming that they don’t catch fire first.
Deburring the inside of the slots is also critical, as the bolt won’t ride in a tube full of obstacles. File down the inside of the tube at an angle to get rid of all those burrs on the inside.
Next article: Trunnions, welding
Good luck and enjoy your build!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gear Review: 5.11 Tactical Stryke pants with Flex-Tac

When I think of tactical pants, I pretty much only think of pants from 5.11 Tactical; they are versatile, durable, and I can go anywhere in them and use them for anything. I am no stranger to the other 5.11 brand products. I used the 5.11 Select Carry pack as my LUCC (Locked Unloaded Concealed Carry)* bag until it was stolen and I regularly wear a pair of the less “tactical” and more streamlined 5.11 pants to go to semi-formal events like church, work or even weddings. All of these clothing items have been nothing but exemplary in quality and they fulfilled their designated roles quite well. But after trying out the new Stryke pants, the same can be said for them!


(Please excuse the wrinkles, I just took them off when this photo was taken)

When I first got my pair of Stryke Flex-Tacs, I was rather impressed with the quality of construction and materials. All the seams are double stitched, there aren’t any rough stitching spots that could annoy one’s skin and the fabric is a low-maintenance rip-stop fabric consisting of 41% Flex-Tac® polyester, 24% polyester and 35% cotton (don’t quite know what Flex-Tac® is myself but it seems to work well!). As many people already know, a poly/cotton blend doesn’t require ironing (if hung straight away from the dryer) and doesn’t require extra work to eliminate tougher stains like oil. Add on the ability for polyester cotton blends to stretch, dry quickly and respire, and you get a pair of pants that can be used for just about anything.


Pocket flap detail


When I tested them out for a few hours just around the house, I noticed several very cool features that aren’t typically seen on run-of-the mill pants, at least in my experience. For one, I noticed that I didn’t have to adjust my nether anatomy quite as much, if at all (one of my greater annoyances). I came to find out that is because instead of a normal crotch where the seam runs the entire middle of the pant, the Stryke pant is “gusseted,” which adds breadth to the fabric and breaks up the seam, making the garment just… well, fit better. You will notice in the photo below what I am talking about. This might not be a completely revolutionary idea but it is something I haven’t come across at all in all my clothes and it makes the fit really, really comfortable.


Another thing that got me stoked about these pants are the pockets. The back pockets are deep and practical and are attached with Velcro, making access quicker than normal buttons and more comfortable than snaps. The leg pockets have Velcro closures as well and have internal pockets or dividers for tidily holding important objects like magazines and cell phones. There are even pockets in the front for magazines. If someone were to get frisky enough to need it, you can literally pack six 30rd magazines in these pants, with two in each leg and two in the front. Of course, at over one pound per loaded magazine, things could get annoying rather quickly. Trust me, I drove 60 miles and went to a shooting range with four fully-loaded 30rd AR-15 magazines in my leg pockets and while I accomplished it in relative comfort, it was interesting slinging around that much weight on the legs for a few hours. I think it is safe to say that these pants aren’t necessarily for long-term transport of magazines; for tactical drills or real-life scenarios, it would be just fine. The side pockets are standard fare but there is a reinforced area for knife clips in the lower corner, which is always appreciated for those that use knives with the “wave” feature like the Spyderco Endura 4 Wave or some of the Emerson blades.


A hidden but welcome feature of these pants is the pair of hidden kneepad insert pockets. Being hidden, you can’t get to them from the outside so you have to turn the pant leg inside-out to gain access these pockets. I didn’t have a chance to utilize this feature during my review but for those that kneel or slide around a lot, I can see this feature as being really convenient and even necessary. What I appreciate most about them though is that there isn’t a zipper or other unseemly fastener to cause irritation in the knee area.


Like my “dressy” 5.11 Tactical pants, the Stryke pants have a sort of elastic harness system that fits the pants to your waist. Seeing as how every once in a while I do go off the caloric deep-end and binge (my garden has been quite prolific so I have been experimenting), the stretch feature is really nice for giving a bit room for weight variation that tends to occur in normal day-to-day life. The only downside to this elastic feature is that sometimes your undergarments can show through the side pockets so keeping your weight to the lighter end of the spectrum and your waist closer to your true size will prove to be more comfortable.

Some other small features of these pants that I appreciated are the bilateral badge holder slots (I used my EMT badge for pictorial purposes), the wide belt loops (up to 1.75” belt!) and the sturdy snap for front closure. The belt used below is my Simply Rugged Real Man's Belt (1.5" wide)


Overall opinion: These pants are well-made, comfortable, and above all, very functional, practical and easy to maintain. I haven’t owned these pants long enough to say anything about their durability but being a 5.11 Tactical product it is backed by an excellent reputation so I cannot imagine anything these pants as being less than durable.

Click here to see some tactical pants

Click here to see more tactical gear.



*For the uninitiated, LUCC is a concept that is, as far as I know, unique to California. It basically allows us peons to carry a firearm with us anywhere a firearm isn’t otherwise prohibited as long as it is unloaded and in a locked case.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Esco cops don't like bows either...

A small blog post for the sake of some humor...

So I spent today in Escondido with my older brother while his truck got fixed over on Escondido Blvd. Knowing that it would be a while, I brought along my bow and some arrows so I could walk over to Willow Creek Archery to get some new fletchings and a peep tube. The distance from the auto shop to WCA is about 3.2mi, so 6.4mi round trip.

During the whole time walking (4hrs) we saw about 10-12 cops. On the return trip, I noticed one cop look out his window like he just saw Mila Kunis in a mini skirt. Knowing this would probably initiate a contact not directly related to tea and crumpets, I turned on Cop Recorder 2 on my phone (If you do not have this app, get it. One of the best apps ever.)

Sure enough, about 2min later, the cops rolled up about 30' behind me. Here is how it went:

Officer: Sir, SIR! You with the arrows!
*I turn around*
Officer: Can we talk with you for a second?
Me: Am I under arrest?
Officer: No.
Me: *Salute* See ya!

These two cops followed me for a few blocks, probably radioing frantically to dispatch trying to figure out how to stop someone in possession of even a college campus legal weapon. After we passed them near Peterson's Donut Corner ( or maybe it wasn't... in any case, the reference alone is hilarious!) they turned back north and left us alone.

I have audio of the encounter but they were too far away to be picked up by my phone so it is just me with my two lines.

So yeah, that's my story for the day.