Setting Up a Practical Combat Rifle


I don’t typically like writing about firearms on this blog, as there’s a lot of other outlets that do that, and I think that guns get WAY too much focus in the Survivalism and Preparedness community. They’re important and fun, but other stuff, like growing food and having a good store of tools, is just as important. That being said, like with all things, a baseline must first be recognized and then built upon, never detracted from- in order to maximize our capabilities.

Hanging out on the sidelines of a public range can be a hobby all to its own; watching the tacticool budget gun bunnies, the 500lb know-it-all benchresters, and even the undergrad Hipster, replete in leather buckle shoes and skinny jeans mastering his fundamentals with a .22. I’m not here to knock them at all, I enjoy the company (it beats the snot out of my other option I would have been doing that day), it’s just an observation. But another parallel observation was the sheer number of AR-15 type rifles on the line- every stall had at least one- and I think, at this point, it’s safe to say that Eugene’s garage project, once a taboo kinda-deal everyday folks thought ‘put you on the list’ has firmly cemented in its place as ‘Murica’s gun.

The fascination with the Stoner platform is largely due to it’s efficiency and ease of use, coupled with the fear of suspension of niceties and social issues reaching critical mass at some point down the road. A fear that is certainly not illogical. Regarding this however, there’s a few guidelines that don’t exactly transition from the hunting/range gun to a weapon you plan on defending yourself and posterity with- in fact, there’s a tremendous difference. Recognizing this need while honestly evaluating your skill and role within the Group/Tribe is paramount to building an efficient platform without dumping lots of money finding out what you thought worked in theory actually really sucks in practice.

The Rifle as a System

Much of the thinking (and writing) concerning combat-oriented weapons get hung up on the platform itself- and that’s a problem. The thing that goes Bang! is one part, but each component of your weapon is a piece of a larger system, each having a specific place and purpose, not there for winning the cool guy contest. The weapon, optic, ammunition, magazine, and sling are each interdependent- and this is a tough concept to learn just sitting on a square range. Some require more attention than others, with a few components being a matter of preference, but that preference only comes with experience built on an established baseline. All of this however is predetermined by our mission, and in this context, that’s a simple, reliable general purpose carbine that could be pressed into combat service from 0-600M.

The Rifle

If you’ll notice from the rifle pictured above, the weapon is kept pretty slick. Save for a couple of small add-ons (more on this in a second), it’s basically a bone-stock mid-length gas system gun. I strongly encourage a 1/7 twist barrel to stabilize both common 55gr and heavier 77gr SMKs. The mid-length gas system runs a little slower and cooler over the shorter carbine length. This means a little less wear on the bolt lugs in the long run, meaning a little more reliability. The maximum barrel length needed on a fighting 5.56 is 16 inches- there’s nothing a longer barrel will do for 5.56 that stepping up in caliber would do better. Everything else is basically what you’d expect from an off-the-shelf rifle. This is done for a couple of reasons. The first is that more modifications lead to shortcuts in training- bad, bad, bad. These take away from the muscle memory of running a stock weapon, and should the need arise to run one that’s not yours, you’re gonna have problems. The second issue is that modifications to the manual of arms or internal components leads to unpredictable reliability. This is the major qualm I have with homebuilt guns- if they’re sourced from a variety of makers, then there’s no established standard. Issues will result, being far harder to isolate and remedy amid various tolerances. So in short, every weapon of that type in an arsenal should match, both for interchangeability and mastery of the manual of arms.

Along with the focus on barrel twist is the need to wring the most accuracy possible out of our platform. To do this, while minimizing weight, I prefer a slim free-float tube (I can feel a certain former Sniper Instructor is slapping me in the back of the head as I wrote that…I can hear him screaming ‘Auto rifles CAN’T BE FREEFLOATED!!! ONLY ACCURIZED!!!’ while ‘helping’ us naturalize our ghillies) with a machined rail at the 12. I’ve never seen much need to go beyond 12 or 13 inches on a tube- everything longer, in my opinion, is just weight, as is extra rails. But to each their own in that respect, I like keeping as light of a weapon as possible for something I may have to carry long distances- even the diminutive M4 starts feeling like a cinderblock after multi day long range patrolling up and down mountains. It’s slick, but I can add rails if need be (I don’t ever foresee that need, unless someone has a AN/PSQ-23A STORM system they wanna donate). Generally I like everything centerline to the bore no matter the weapon, as close to the center of gravity as possible. This keeps the weapon balanced and the same when fired from either shoulder.

The Optic

Notice the AR pictured doesn’t have iron sights. I haven’t used AR irons since my days of rolling in PT pits at Sand Hill, and in this day and age, with the overwhelming number of quality optics out there even at relatively low prices, I don’t think they’re relevant. Now in saying that, there is a value in training with irons. Not too long ago MSG Paul Howe did a video of a shoot and move drill of varying distances with only irons. A lot of the youtube comments were hilarious- filled with apparent tacti-range nozzles ridiculing him for using irons, while failing miserably to realize the point. If you could run that drill with irons, doing it with any sort of optics would be a breeze. And MSG Howe, by the way, is not a man I question when it comes to training, and sure as hell is not a man you’d ridicule to his face.

Most people running red-dot sights maintain irons as a backup, and that’s understandable, as I’m not running to chop the irons off my AKs with red dots mounted. But the AR-15, at least in my experience, is a different animal. If the round allows my engagement range to go to or beyond 600M, which heavy match 5.56 does, a magnified optic, even low powered, is the way to go. I like as simple and rugged as possible- and that’s Trijicon’s engineering marvel, the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG). So while the ACOG may be a bit dated in some circles, I know for a fact the ACOG is bomb-proof. As in, blown up in an IED along with me, and still holds a zero. It’s a fixed four power, has very few points of failure, and requires no batteries.

TA-01.jpgI’m partial to the TA-01 reticle v. the TA-31 or the others since,  because I have lots of experience with it, it’s fast, efficient, and I can rangefind with the reticle. The stadia lines of the bullet drop compensator (BDC) represent 19in (the average size of a man’s shoulders) at the associated ranges, allowing the shooter to rapidly rangefind and engage. The system works very, very well in practice, and while the BDC is tuned to 62gr m855, it’s perfectly acceptable to the heavier bullet weights with training on a Known Distance (KD) range to verify the drop.

On a general purpose weapon, a simple, rugged optic beats the tar out of irons, and is far easier for new shooters to master. If you don’t feel like coughing up Trijicon cash (the TA-01 actually is not that expensive for what you get, with the TA-01 being around $800, but, I digress), Burris makes a great prismatic optic as well, in 3x and 5x varieties. I owned the 3x for a few years, selling it to a buddy to fund another project (the  rifle I bought it for was stolen in a break-in, so I used it on an AK with a TWS top cover after that). I really liked it, and would have no reservations about buying another one. Vortex makes one that looks identical, and given that its Vortex, is likely good as well.

The optic placement is very important. Not only is the eye relief/eye box critical to shot placement, it should be set right for your eyes with your nose to the charging handle, so that when you bring it up there’s no shadow at all keeping both eyes open. This is different between optics, so knowing where yours will be, repeatably, is critical. Associated with those fundamentals is bringing the weapon to your head, not vice versa, so training with someone beyond Bubba the Benchrester (or the clown spotting for Bubba claiming his shot went over the 30ft berm…think about that one, and yes, he really did say that) is recommended. A combat optic differs from any other in employment, so keep that in mind.

The Sling

A sling’s just a sling, right? Well, yeah, technically. They are however a requirement for a combat weapon. I like to keep them simple- I absolutely hate anything other than two points of attachment. A single point sucks for anything other than in and out of vehicles, and a three point sling gets hung on gear, loosens up on its own, and pinpoints you as a clown (seriously, you’ll look like that cherry Joe who’s trying WAY too hard). A two point, with a simple tension slide to tighten it on the fly (helps with steady aiming and keeps your weapon from flopping around during movement), works great. Viking Tactics, run by CSM Kyle Lamb, and Larry Vickers, both veterans of CAG, have their marketed versions that are good quality but the basic design has been around for a long while. I bought the one pictured many years ago before attending a school, used it in Afghanistan on both the M4 and M249, and since have picked up a couple more for my other weapons.

Speaking of Afghanistan, there’s a little story. Once upon a time there was this TL who was 100% squared away, 100% of the time. He had one of those push-in QD sling swivel thingies, just in front of the delta ring on his M4. Then one fine day, about day three of one of our multi-day Long Range Patrols, the little rollers keeping the swivel in place broke. Thoroughly PO’d at this cheap POS, he slung it into the desert of Afghanistan, never again to be used, replacing it with a hasty 550 cord loop. Since then, him and all of his associated miscreants (us) discovered the Magpul one piece sling rings, which bolt on and are infinitely more rugged. It is the only add-on thing, besides a simple sling, I really think is essential as the GI-standard M4 sling ring, 1 each, causes shifts in zero if yanked on hard enough and usually gets thrown out when you put a 12in rail to accurize (yep, there we go, I can climb out of the cold mud now) your rifle. On my weapons it gives me a memory point for hand placement as well, and I placed it far enough behind the first rail to mount my tac light ( Surefire G2 in a Vltor offset mount I’ve had for eons) in order to maintain that muscle memory and sameness across platforms. While I don’t look like some sorta Chris Costa wanna-be range knob, the manipulation is efficient and repeatable.


In the tens (maybe hundreds, I dunno) of thousands of rounds I’ve shot in training (and the handful while deployed), the source of malfunctions I’ve observed from the AR platform have been overwhelmingly from magazine issues. To the contrary, there was one catastrophic bolt failure (two sheared lugs), but that was during a 5 day high round count class, at the very end, resolved by simply swapping the bolt. Getting back to magazines though, the AR mag was originally designed to be mostly expendable; and without a doubt, the first time one gets into a firefight, they will be. So have a lot of them. The aluminum GI mags have always worked well for me, as they’ve always been free and when the feed lips get bent on them I can throw them away and not shed a tear. The plastic ones from Magpul and a few others are ok too, but not above issues and are not the second coming, as the marketers would have you believe. The Magpul 7.62×51 SR-25 mags for example, suck (but that’s another topic, on a whole other animal), and the HK steel mags are neat, but I’ve always just kept with what I have boxes full of from my time in. The point is when a magazine starts giving issues, trash it…like the stuck up girl who turned you down for a date, it ain’t worth your time.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a baseline- something to be added to, but never detracted from. My experience has taught me that like everything, simplicity is best, and quality is King. For a general purpose weapon that one intends to use, the parameters are certainly different than those filling other roles. You’d certainly be very, very capable in keeping a stripped down rugged weapon that is practical for most purposes versus a rifle at home only on the range, provided you do your part in training. Because of this, it might be a good idea to take a step back and reevaluate the purpose behind your weapons, and reevaluate how to maximize your potential. You were granted a temporary reprieve, but socially as well as economically, things are not looking rosy. If you’re still fence-sitting, or still in need of that all knowing clue-bat, get on it. Simple, rugged, reliable, effective.

116 thoughts on “Setting Up a Practical Combat Rifle

  1. I’m no hi-speed operator, but decently competent, and the only thing I would add is…

    a) spend money on a good mount if it’s not integral like the ACOG and make sure the bolts are torqued properly and have some loctite on them (the grease monkeys among us will nod knowingly at proper torque and elimination of slack/back out of bolts)

    b) You are what you can do today. Nothing more, nothing less. Use your stuff. Abuse it. Know what it does…and never, ever put your stupid sights on backwards. Read the manual, idiot, and know your equipment, how to adjust it and how it is designed to operate. Otherwise you risk being rick rolled by some red headed chick who didn’t and becoming the running joke for the next week, or another ear for her trophy necklace. 😎

    1. The sights on backwards….now where, oh where, did I see that before? 😉

      Mighta been the same knob shooting over that berm. 😀

      1. It would be funny if it wasn’t at least the fourth time I’ve seen someone fail to manipulate their sights correctly. I have seen a scope on sideways, the windage turret on top and the elevation on the weak/selector switch side. Whoops. Seriously, it doesn’t hurt to read the instruction manual, know what your equipment does and how many MOA/click and how to even use a BDC. Kind of like having a tourney and not knowing how to use it. Doesn’t do you a whole lot of good if you need it. I see ears…ears everywhere.

      2. But…but, but…if my red dot is on sideways, at a 45, then if I need to shoot somebody from a long ways with my 25×56 on my 16in AR, and then up close, SHTF…derp, derp…

    2. Thanks JJ’s,

      I learned the loctite trick one day at MVT camp. We were running buddy drills and at one point of hollering “MOVING” I and my rifle went one way and the optic went the other. No worries once I got to my set point I flipped up my rear sight and continued the drill ………BUT……..

      I was made an example of by the trainer once our run was done.

      1. PR

        Weaver makes some of the very best telescopic sight mounting kits. Lapping bars, torque screwdrivers, ring alignment tools, proper hardness Locktite, the works. Anyone with telescopic sights should have at least one of these excellent kits (from Brownell’s, etc.).

      2. Weaver is ok. Their rings, the Burris XTR rings, and the Vortex aluminum rings are all the same.

        Loctite, to my knowledge, is very much its own brand. Use blue and not red. Blue simply secures the threads in place, but you can still remove them without damaging the mount. Red is very much more permanent.

        Having a good torque screwdriver and scope level for non-integrated mounts is very important.

      3. PR

        Re my comment on Weaver telescopic sight mounting kits. I don’t endorse the use of Weaver or any other manufacturer’s aluminum telescopic sight mounting rings. Leopold makes some of the better steel rings and those may cost in excess of $150/pair. I like the top end Leopold telescopic sights especially as they can be equipped with Tenebrex flash hiders, plano clear glass lens covers, and magnetically latched and quiet flip up aluminum lens covers.

      4. Leupolds are nice, but there’s nothing wrong with the XTRs (it’s what I run on another weapon). Warne makes outstanding rings for heavy recoiling weapons.

  2. honeycomb

    The best sling set-ups I’ve transitioned all of my weapons to is THE WAY OF THE GUN by Frank Proctor .. very simole & robust .. and did I mention super lightweight!

    Other than the ACOG we have the same phil’us’oh’fee on an AR .. I do run TENNESSEE ARMS poly’more lowers and pencil barrels though on all of my patrol AR’s .. they shoot great .. without “free-floating” (aka acc’your’sizing handguard).

    Have you run the SUREFIRE 60 round mag’s? I love’em .. my 3 gun buddies are always running mine to try them out .. lol .. they are pricey though .. even on sale.

      1. honeycomb

        Even on my budget I can’t buy anymore so I know what yiu mean. 20 and 30 rounders by lancer are my 1st choice in mags. Followed closely by usgi style mags and then in last place p-mags (no window) .. unless I can get them at a great price.

  3. Pingback: Brushbeater: Setting Up a Practical Combat Rifle | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  4. Excellent advice all around, thanks again for sharing. I fully agree with using the gi style mags. The pmags always hang up too much on each other in mag pouches, especially in a 3 mag pouch. I’ve trained in alot of cold and wet weather, and never had an aluminum mag go flying out of my hand while reloading.

    1. I’m not completely trashing P-mags, they’re ok. But they’re definitely NOT what everyone seemed at one point to make over them.

  5. Well said.

    Given current platform prices, this is a place where “two is one, and one is none”.
    And a small (8″x10″-ish) Plano-style tackle box, with half a dozen@ spares of the most used/lost/broken replacement parts/springs/widgets, should be right behind the cleaning kit(s) for same.

    At that point, walk away from the battle carbine problem. You’re done.

  6. CB

    Having trained exclusively with the M1 Garand and knowing completely Zero about the AR/Stoner platform, this is the post I have been waiting for you to write.
    This is relevant to the “unscrewing the top of my head” comment I made previously. My former source of knowledge (brother-in-law, CSM (ret) ) has moved away to the Appalachians. So you are much appreciated for your writings.
    My “toolbox” inventory is about to increase.

  7. Pingback: Brushbeater: Setting Up a Practical Combat Rifle | The Defensive Training Group

  8. I love the Burris 3X on my go-to carbine. If I could afford an ACOG, I’d get one, but the Burris is terrific, and compact. I also have a much bigger name-brand 1-4X, but I prefer the smaller and lighter Burris set at 3x.

    1. keypounder

      GMTA. I am with my fellow UVa alum; I run a Burris MTAC 1-4 on my AR. I do like the 20″ barrel over the 16″ for most purposes.

  9. PR

    I agree that there is an abundance of Stoner platform forums. I’ve used the black rifle since 1968 and both love and hate it. Having so disclosed, I’ve discovered that the gas blowback system is one of the simplest and easiest to fix when malfunctioning. I love my M14 gas piston platforms for the larger caliber but hate the complexity of the operating system, especially when trying to improve accuracy. The very best optic system I’ve found from both ruggedness and effectiveness is the dual illumination (tritium and daylight) Trijicon ACOG. This sight along with a reticular obscurator (flash hider) and a removable rail mount AN-PVS-14 NVG is hard to beat. This sighting combination turns even the most pedestrian AR platform into an awesome battle rifle.

    My thoughts,

  10. ragman

    Thanks for the great article! After 68yrs spent in South Florida, Mrs Ragman and I had finally had enough and moved to Avery County, NC and never looked back. On topic, I too have been looking for this type of advice. Can you recommend a brand of AR that fits the bill? Also, did you apply the camo paint yourself? I always enjoy your articles and any response would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Welcome to NC!

      As for brands, there’s a few I’d stay FAR away from- Anderson for one, Moore Machine & Tool, and anything ‘homebuilt’ that shows up on Armslist, unless the guy is either A) a reputable gunsmith or B) obviously has trigger time in bad places using the AR platform or preferably C) both.

      For the first two brands, I’ve seen some awfully shoddy work come from those brands. In fact, Anderson is far and away the worst offender for out of spec junk. MMT has a long and well known past of cranking out turds too.

      Being that this is far and away the best buyer’s market ever for the AR, I’d pick up a Ruger (made in Rockingham County NC, BTW), a Colt, S&W, Windom, or even a Radical Firearms (they had a couple hiccups with bolt components being too hard, but seem to have it fixed now).

      As for the camo, that was all me. Krylon tan, plain mesh bag, krylon OD green. Light to dark, introduces shadow (Probably should be a post, huh?).

      1. Mike Hohmann

        As to brands, I’ll add a good word for DPMS. Ownership has changed in recent years, but I’ve not heard any negative rumors as to the change.

      2. honeycomb

        I like BCM uppers and build my own lowers.

        They sell a 16″ pencil barrel and 20″ A2 profile barrel upper at very reasonable price.

        I build all of my hunting and wildcat uppers. Which I run suppressed therefore require tuning (ie gas block or buffer / spring) depending on my handloads.

      3. honeycomb

        re: Thin Barrel Profile POI shifts ..

        Long answer ..

        Inside 300 meters and a red dot of 2 to 2.5 MOA it isn’t noticeable. I know it does .. it just doesn’t show-up on paper or steel inside my vision limitations and cape’uh’bill’eye’tees. I am almost 50 years old .. so .. I am now transitioning to 1-4x and 1-8x scopes (eg new Trijicon).

        I run a 1-4x Atibal Velocity (very nice) scope on an 18″ pencil / lightweight /gunner profile barrel and I never get it warm enough to see any changes. And I run a supressor on it.

        As a side note I run supressors on heavy thru thin profile barrels .. and they all have some form of POI shift (if you add or subtract a suressor). It may be more barrel concetricity than anything else but they are all different so I pair a supressor to a rifle / pistol. I sight the weapon in for the operations intended and have a crib sheet for the weapon without the supressor for a quick transition of the sight back to no supressor shooting if that became necessary.

        Short answer ..

        No (ie not noticeable for my type of work).

  11. ragman

    Thanks for the quick reply! We have been visiting Western NC for 35yrs so it’s not like we were new to the area. Sounds like there are many fine rifles to choose from and I’ll start looking. Definitely a post on painting is in order(please).

  12. sauerofkraut

    lovely article. I have been a 20 inch guy for a while. mainly due to the added velocity, reliability, and the flat terrain of western kansas. The extra weight of the 20 inch is noticable on the long marches and bounding exercises my group does. While the 20 inch is do able the 16 inch makes those activities better. It has come down to ego that is that last thing keeping me to the 20 inch till that falls. I’m really happy with the fixed powers. I have primary arms 2.5, 3x, 5x. and vortex spitire. The primary arms reticle is more user friendly in my opinion.

    1. For prairie hunting, absolutely. In the woods though, 20 doesn’t offer a lot and like you say, definitely adds a bit in the weight department. Going from an M16 to the M4 was like night and day.

      Primary Arms’ stuff is of very good quality. I’ve heard rumor that their prismatic and Vortex’s budget lineup are made in the same factory. I don’t know if that’s true, but I wouldn’t doubt it. And that means its of reasonably good quality. PA really stands behind their products too- and that ACSS reticle they offer is very practical in the same way the Soviet PSO reticle was/is.

  13. RHT447

    Some brief background. My MOS was 45B (1974). NRA Highpower Rifle master (1994) so obviously lots of known distance time on iron sights. 17 years as an FFL, much of it building AR platforms, and have been re-loading ammo since 1977. I have used a number of red dot sights, but have next to zero experience with any of the current crop of range finding reticles. That said, I really like the layout of this one–

    +1 on understanding the system, all the way from sear release to target impact. I am reminded of the following story—

    Before BG Chuck Yeager learned to fly, he was an aircraft mechanic, and a good one. One of the things that made him such an outstanding pilot was that he knew every aircraft he flew inside and out. On one of his missions over Germany, the engine in a squadron mate’s P-51 quit. Fortunately they were at altitude and had a little time. The pilot dropped his nose to glide while trying to figure out what next. Yeager chopped his throttle, matched the other pilot’s glide, and began to talk him through check lists by radio. The finally got to the fuel valve he had forgotten to switch in the heat of battle. Turned the valve, hit the starter, and presto, we’re back in business! Yeager said that by that time they were starting to take small arms fire. They probably set a new record for time to altitude.

    This site is always one of my first stops. I very much enjoy frank discussion about what runs (and why) and what doesn’t (and why). By all means, carry on.

      1. RHT447

        Here’s another bit about BG Yeager. The personalized plate on his pickup reads “Bell X-1”.
        I know this because I worked for a few years at Huntington’s in Oroville, CA (yes, that Huntington, the one who founded RCBS). Yeager would stop by now and then to visit with Buzz Huntington. I had the honor to meet Yeager, albeit briefly. (The late Fred Sr. was the founder. His son’s are Fred Jr. and Buzz.)

  14. Atlas Shrug

    Simple is good! 1/7 twist, 16″ midlength gas carbine, slim rail, sling, robust optic, quality tactical light. Full stop there.


    Slings: VTAC and WOTG both good. Newer Magpul not bad.

    Irons: Understood on potential lack of need, but I’ve gone to Magpul Pro 45 degree sights on my ARs. Out of the way, light, but can be quickly deployed if your optic has issues (even something benign but nonetheless problematic like splashed with mud, etc.).

    Lots of decent lights out there. I’m growing fond of the Inforce WML/WMLX. A lot in a small package. The Gen2s in particular.

    Magpul stocks are tough to beat. MOE/CTR/STR. UBR if you need Beast Mode.

    I do go to the expense of two “upgrades” though:
    1. Triggers. I’m kinda a trigger snob due to a background in Anschutz target rifles. So inside is usually a Geissele SSA/SSA-E or RRA NM. Or an ALG ACT in my bare bones loaner. They are robust though, so no reliability issues.
    2. Charging handles. I’ve installed BCM Gunfighter Mod. 4 (“medium”) charging handles in all ARs. Same function as GI, just a bit more robust and a bit easier to operate alongside a low mounted optic. Just right.

    That’s it. That and good ammo (I’ve grown fond of the 77rg IMI Razor Core lately).

    Keep your powder dry,
    Atlas Shrug

  15. PRDos

    In a previous post, you said you thought modern combat might take place in urban terrain and showed the example of a guy pulling out a pistol and another firing an SMG in what appeared to be Lebanon.

    Why isn’t something concealable more important than a carbine? You have mentioned the suburbs are wastelands for survival, but in the nation-states that have collapsed into low-grade criminality and warfare, most people move to be around people in the suburbs and cities so they can call to their neighbors for help.

    I’m also curious about how to create or source ammunition when you’re not allowed to buy it.

    1. Something concealable is more important, if the mission requires such.

      ‘Pistol’ carbines are quite concealable.

      As for the devolution of nation-states, getting out while one has the means trumps hanging out to watch the show.

      To the point on ammunition, what is legal and what can be purchased are two VERY differing concepts.

      1. PRDos

        Thanks, NC. I was in the navy, so most of what you talk about is new to me.

        As for “getting out,” looking at this map it appears one nation-state is as good as the next. No Western state is headed in the right direction. I wouldn’t move to any Eastern or Mideastern one either. Is this why you advocate moving somewhere rural within the US.

        When we say, “what can be purchased,” we’re talking about making some shady connections to people who can get ammunition regardless of the laws. I am probably not alone in saying I am pretty uncomfortable with this. Obviously, in Europe right now, law-abiding citizens are starting to decide they no longer care what the law says and are arming. I saw video the other day of a ‘refugee’ firing a pistol into the air in the middle of an intersection in gun-controlled Germany, so the Muslims don’t care either. I guess what I’m saying is far more important than stockpiling reloading supplies, smokeless powder, and primers is the ability to manufacture what you need. I read the story of the native American tribes who had to beg ammunition from Federal troops and it isn’t pretty.

  16. Ed

    Very enjoyable and informative piece. You wrote: “The Magpul 7.62×51 SR-25 mags for example, suck.” I would appreciate more info on this since I am involved in a project with the SR-25.

    1. It’s the topic of a upcoming post, but long story short, the plastic locking indent on the magazine is easily sheared…and it causes malfunctions.

  17. Paraclete

    Primary Arms has a nice unit with their 5x prism scope.
    All the desirable features one needs at an affordable price.
    I encourage all to investigate…..
    Such a good unit I bought a second one for my other rifle.

    1. I’m *reasonably* certain those are made in the same place as Vortex’s prismatic sights, and possibly Burris’ as well (both optics look very similar) so I wouldn’t hesitate to run it.

      The ACSS reticle they have is awesome.

      1. My experience with the Burris on the AR is mostly limited to square range position shooting, with some close range drills. I have no experience with using this on the sharp end. With that said, what I like about that reticle is:

        -VERY quick for close range center of mass multiple targets, with surprising precision. Surprising at least to an old former high-power shooter.

        -Precise and accurate at least out to 300 yards. Past that deponent sayeth naught.

        -Have not had time to check the longer distance ranging but if an 18″ target fits inside the bracket, put the center dot on and squeeze. Very fast.

        – if the batteries go, you can still use the reticle, an advantage over the dot sight.

        Seems to tolerate the bumps well, and to hold zero tenaciously. I like it.

        So far, I mostly run 55 grain ammo, but according to Burris, this reticle works well for both SS109 and for the Hornady 68 grain match loads. Caveat- These results are with a 20″ barrel. Can’t speak for what a short barrel will do.

  18. Paraclete

    Also, ncscout, if you’re with-in reasonable driving distance to the
    S.C. upstate Greenville area I’d be willing to buy you a steak lunch at
    the Texas Roadhouse for the opportunity to talk to you about comms.
    I believe you have my email when I submitted my replys to this article.

  19. Let’s get to the one glaring point that stood out in this otherwise thorough article. ” the rifle I bought it for was stolen in a break-in, “. I’m going to take a leap of faith here and guess you were not at home, otherwise the perp would not have gotten out with you rifle much less with his life. Which leaves the question, was it not secured in your absence? We can obtain and set up the best equipment but if someone else can take away from us, it wont be worth a damn to us. NO BODY TAKES YOUR RIFLE/FIREARM !
    Former Nam Vet 68-72

  20. Kolt

    While I agree with you 100% on the robustness of the ACOG (I’ve used one in combat which caused me to purchase one), I have to disagree on your point that it will not break negates the requirement for iron sights.

    It is just my opinion, but also based on experience in some bad conditions when I was in the infantry, that while the ACOG will not fail (no batteries like you mentioned) and will not break (IED blasts like you mentioned), the lenses will become occluded. Muck, mud, snow, etc. has a habit of making it difficult to see through the lenses of an ACOG or any other optic. This is why I believe all optics should have QD mounts and BUISs are not irrelevant.

    Just another opinion. Think about this in relation to “naturalizing your ghille’ :). and other similar environments combat infantrymen find themselves in.

    Great article and perspective though. Thank you.

    Take care,

    1. I appreciate your input but-

      Remember those terrible backup irons that came standard on the M4? The flip up one? The one that Joe broke or lost 90% of the time?

      Troys are even worse.

      1. honeycomb

        Though I have some disagreement with Larry Vickers on some of his training .. I do like the way he sets up a fighting carbine. And his gun history telling. Or just shooting really cool stuff for me to watch.

        His set-up is ..

        Aimpoint red dot and a Daniel Defense fixed sight(s) (or just a rear sight with an A2 front post in my case).

        It’s lower 1/3rd co-witness so it’s not always in the way and available to check zero or take aim when / if required. And it adds very little weight.

        The light is 12 O’Clock on the rail for ambi use.

        I like The Way of The Gun slings to top it off instead of gis LAV sling (to which I own a few).

      2. His training weapon is set up that way due to the majority of classes being CQB based. (been there, done that)

        I’m certain I also stated that with red dots, irons are needed. And I am not generally a fan.

        For a general purpose weapon, understanding that I may not be able to run to the battery store or source another optic, something with an etched reticle takes the cake, all day long.

        It’s a fairly different training philosophy.

      3. honeycomb

        You did .. I just like what is fast and light. As for CQB .. I’ll pass .. house fighting in my case would be from outside the door .. looking in .. not going in. Hence why I disagree with most trainers.

        I wished the Elcan was lighter and cheaper .. because to me a 1x that you can switch to maximum magnification with one switch seems very useful. Minus the expense and weight.

      4. If you’ve ever run an ACOG, in a stripped down weapon, it’s very light.

        And bulletproof.

        And rugged. And requires no battery to work.

        And I have years of experience running it on a two way range.

      5. honeycomb

        I have been looking at the Trijicon TA-44 .. it will probably slowly replace my red dots.

        I do love Trijicon products .. I never thought I’d ever run their RMR on my pistols .. until I tried one .. and now .. after trying them out .. I own 5 of them .. boy it makes pistol craft so much better.

        BTW .. dry firing with those RMR’s really exposes your trigger press in a way you can’t see without one mounted. Plus quality shots beyond 25 yards and head shots just became routine with them.

  21. GD82

    NC Scout,

    Great stuff as usual!

    What simple rifle drills/skills would you recommend to an individual?

    Also, what rail do you have on your rifle?


    1. Thanks!

      Individually, I’d start with dry-fire ready ups. These consist of placing a target at a distance (25, 50, 100m, etc) and practice rapid target acquisition. Go slow, get used to finding the reticle with your eye, acquiring the target, keeping both eyes open, and firing.

      As you get faster, mix it up by turning to different sides and then multiple targets.

      The next drill to tackle is reloading. Both the combat reload and admin/mag retention reload are widely taught these days, and CSM Lamb has a great demo of it on youtube.

      These drills take a LOT of repetition to master- it’s all muscle memory, which is why the bulk of formal CQB training in the beginning phases lay with hours of only doing ready-ups and reloads.

      As for the rail on the weapon, it came with the rifle. It’s extremely similar to the Troy rail on a couple other rifles. The rail at the 12 is machined. So far I’m very happy with it.

  22. My wife wants a red dot for her AR so I am planning on giving her my EOtech XPS2 and replacing it with a magnified optic so your recent blog got me checking out the Burris AR-336 but I can not find anywhere. I can find the AR-332 and AR-536 though.

    Was the 336 replaced by one of the other two I can find? If so which one?

    Thanks again for the blog you write. More times than not I am starting research on a direction I am planning on taking and VOILA! There you go and write an article about it.


    1. I misspoke. The 332 is the correct label for the Burris 3x prismatic optic, and the 536 is the 5x.

      I highly recommend both.

  23. Lance Sauer

    You did not go into detail on the flashlights. Do you keep it on the rifle? Brand/model?

    1. For rural/wooded patrolling, I don’t recommend a tac light on your rifle.

      1. You can hit it during movement and it’ll get you compromised.
      2. There’s not much need for it.
      3. It’s an unnecessary risk, as the people advocating tac lights are usually teaching classes either to or for security forces scenarios (.mil, .gov, LEO) which have a designated need. Guerrilla thinking is a bit different.

      That being said, for a defensive weapon, NOT being used for sneaky patrolling but rather checking the property lines, I use a SureFire G2 mounted in a Vltor offset mount. Light, inexpensive, simple, out of the way, and effective. VTAC’s light mount, although plastic, is pretty nice too.

      1. All good points as usual ncscout. If the SHTF then I will leave the light off. Currently though it is nice to have when the coyotes come roaming around the cabin at night which they seem to do this time of year looking for food – AKA outside cats and newly dropped lambs.

        I found if you shine the light on ’em they freeze for a second or two just staring at you. Gives me plenty of time to help them meet their maker.

        All good stuff. Thanks

      2. PR

        I’m careful of all projections on tactical rifles. Remember how the open ended flash hiders on the early M16s would catch on vines? Flashlights mounted toward their center/rear fall into that category as the area between the front of the light and rifle is also prone to catching on vines and the like. A pet peeve is having a bipod fold toward the muzzle – certainly a made for exercise in frustration when running through dense vegetation. PR

      3. Yeah, they were LONG before my time but I did happen to run an M16A1 once (willfully forgetting where) and that’s very true regarding the old three-prong.

        The best all-around flash hider still, and this is probably best answered in a standalone post, is the Smith Vortex. I read Kokalis as a kid talking about mounting the S-V FH to all their weapons in El Salvador, and since, have used them on both the AR and AK. They REALLY tame the flash at night on the AK.

    2. Great question Lance. When I set up my primary AR back in 2009 I included a light on the starboard side of my forearm The light is operated with a pressure switch mounted on my forward pistol grip. When NCScout mentioned putting a light on the side of the Burris AR optic that same question flipped through my gray matter.

      Looking forward to what folks post!

      1. LOL ncscout…You never did mention putting a light on the optic. In Burrs literature they suggest you can put a light or laser on the optic.

        Personally, I would not put anything on the optic even the suggested red dot in their literature. I would buy an offset weaver type mount for that. The light would still be on the starboard side of the forearm, up front for me.

      2. Nah- what we used to call Doctor optics (because IIRC, that’s the brand name of the one piggy-backed to the ACOG) used to be the first thing to get sheared off accidentally. So, I don’t bother with anything like that.

        But a little birdie did tell me that currently Burris is offering a free fastfire (their version of the Doctor sight) with the purchase of one of the prismatic scopes. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

  24. PR

    NC Scout,
    How about a round table link up on 20m? Many folks including me would like to discuss ‘things’ in an easier to use forum. I know if MB would join in there would be a lot of interest. We might even talk about radio on the radio.

      1. PR

        NCSCOUT, JM – How about 7.170 or 7.188Mc this Friday evening at 8:00 PM CST and if no contact by 8:10 shift to 14.180 and if busy, 14.270? Let me know what works best for frequency and date/time.

      2. Awesome! I will be there. I only have a general so it will have to be north of 7.175 on 40 and 14.225 on 20. Looking forward to listening even if I can not participate.

      3. PR

        Johnnie Mac,

        If NCScout and I link up on 40, I’ll ask to move on up to the general frequencies so you can join in with us. Didn’t get fully engaged when I proposed the extra bands. Apologies to all.

      4. Yeah- you heard me- but I was down in the noise floor.

        QSY 7230, much, much less traffic, and a little less noisy right now.

  25. Great article! I’m still new to the AR platform having owned one for less than a year (S&W M&P15 Sport II). I have both an Trijicon ACOG and a Burris AR-332 (the Burris because of the great offer of a FastFire3 free).
    Which Magpul sling mount is the one you are using? I’m having difficulty matching it to the Magpul website offerings.

    1. Thanks Brother! That Burris deal is pretty sweet, huh?

      The magpul sling mount is called the RSA (rail sling attachment). It bolts right onto the rail, and you’re gtg.

  26. ralph k


    Sorry for the late entry. Question, how is the durability of your Burris 332 scope? I got two, one after the other, replaced as the reticle in both were canted. So now I have the 3rd, and I am reticent to even use it for fear of it will go out of whack. I had no issues with Burris replacing them, but the theme exists nonetheless. Thanks.

      1. Ralpf K,
        Don’t hold back- Run it! By brother has had the AR 336 for a couple years and loves it. He isn’t gentle with it either. I always swore if I got a $ or 2 ahead I would buy one.

        Well I finally had a few extra $ so bought the AR 536 with the fastfire.

        On another note ralph K, as you have already stated, “I had no issues with Burris replacing them”. So go ahead,and run it.

        Boy this article sure does have legs. LOL. All good.

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