Hello and welcome to a special edition of The Rimfire Report! As you can expect from the title of this article it will be on the American 180, specifically hands-on experience with the American 180 at TFB Gun Fest 2021. While at Gun Fest, Blue Force Gear Director of Medical Programs Brad Gilpin brought his own personal American 180 to range day and a few of the TFB writers had a chance to shoot the elusive .22LR submachine gun. Today, I’ll detail our experiences and reactions to shooting the American 180 as well go over a few observations about the gun.
The Rimfire Report: Hands-On with the American 180 Submachine Gun
If you’re familiar with the American 180 in any capacity, you’ll first notice that Brad’s particular submachine gun is a little different than a “standard” American 180. The Barrel in this instance has been shortened and threaded to allow using a suppressor without lengthening the overall package.
According to Brad, when he purchased the gun it needed to be worked over and tuned-up. Brad worked with the guys at E&L Manufacturing, the self-proclaimed “Home of the American 180″ to purchase the 9” threaded barrel assembly and to have the feed ramp polished up. All the work that was poured into the American-180 showed when we all had a chance to run the gun.
Before we proceed I think most of you would understand that this particular experience for me was a highlight of my year. As both a gun enthusiast and a rimfire enthusiast, having the chance to shoot the legendary American 180 has been somewhat of a goal I have now achieved due in no small part to the amazing team at TFB and TFBTV and Brad from Blue Force Gear. Thanks for making a rimfire junky’s dream come true!
Loading the American 180
By far the most laborious part of running a gun like the American 180 is loading up the magazines. To put it bluntly, there is no easy way to load these pan magazines up and even though there are accessories out there that make loading it easier, even then it is still a 2-5 minute job per magazine depending on the size.
Brad brought a small rig that locks into the winding tabs of the magazine that assists in the loading process, in the video below you’ll see him get through about 30 rounds of CCI clean subsonic .22LR. I’m sure he could have loaded more in that short amount of time if I hadn’t been asking him questions constantly but it just goes to show how much work has to be put in before the fun can start. Handloading does seem like an efficient way to load the magazines up given enough time and practice as you’re both loading rounds and rotating the drum which takes a lot of coordination.
Once the American 180 magazine has been fully loaded it can then be placed on top of the gun and wound up. The magazine requires several turns for each layer of ammunition contained within it. A cool note about the wind-up mechanism is that once all the rounds are expelled from the magazine, the remainder of the spring tension is taken out automatically and the resultant sound is entertaining to hear. See if you can catch the sound in some of the footage.
The first thing I noticed about shooting the American 180 is that it’s incredibly controllable despite its absurd 1500 rounds per minute fire rate. The combination of the weight of the gun and the minuscule recoil of .22LR makes for an extremely accurate lead hose. To be honest, I was expecting there to be more recoil but it never came and I was able to work my way through an entire magazine without having to put much thought into mitigating recoil.
I polled fellow writers Adam Scepaniak, Nicholas C, and Austin R to get their reactions to firing the American 180. here’s what they had to say:
I was astonishingly surprised at the complete absence of recoil. This ‘giggle-switch’ gun is a bar above because of the traditionally cheap rimfire cartridge and it’s nostalgic look.
It takes lot of foreplay to get it ready. A lot of fine motors skill fingering (loading mags). And it’s a quick shot to blow your whole load. But soo worth it.
I spotted a pan magazine and asked Brad from Blue Force Gear if he had an AM-180. To my surprise, he pulled out this AM-180 fitted with a 2x AGOG and explained the history behind the gun. The weight and caliber of the rifle make it feel like you’re shooting something out of a Sci-Fi movie. There’s essentially no recoil and for about 5 seconds straight all you can see is targets explode followed by the winding down sound of the drum magazine as it runs out of ammo. It’s truly a surreal experience to shoot.
If it wasn’t readily apparent by the comments above, we were all extremely impressed by the performance of the American 180. The insane rate of fire combined with the controllability made for such an enjoyable and memorable experience that I think it will be very hard to top it in 2021. Once again, I’d like to thank Brad from Blue Force Gear for bringing out the American 180 and giving us all a hands-on experience with it. As always, thanks again for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you again shortly!