My Go-To Carbine Setup

So we’re finding ourselves once more with a whole lotta new gun owners. And that evil black rifle-the AR-15- won’t stay on the shelves long enough to pick up any dust. While having one and knowing how to use one are two very different things, knowing how to use one and actually knowing how to set up a purpose-built weapon is another animal entirely.

Here’s the bottom line up front: what are you planning on doing? A so-called home defense weapon is worlds apart from what I’m discussing here. ‘Home defense’ implies that I’m back on my heels, in my so-called retreat, just trying to live my life until ‘they’ leave me alone. Well, they’re not going to leave you alone. You need to wake up to the reality that there’s no magical retreat to skip off to where you’re out of the reach of someone who wants you gone. You’re no longer living in a civil society and the fantasy of the so-called rule of law is null in void. Do you understand that?

So with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s go over my go-to weapon setup. This is a general purpose carbine; a jack of all trades that can perform a wide variety of tasks in my environment based on my combat experience.It is an offensive weapon, capable of killing from zero to six hundred meters.

The barrel is a 1/7 twist FN M4 barrel with a mid-length gas system and a standard A2 birdcage. I run a 1/7 because 77gr OTM does its job. The A2 birdcage works well enough at mitigating muzzle flash at night, which is a major consideration for a patrolling weapon. On night raids we would often simply shoot at the muzzle flashes we saw if we took contact and, as anyone who’s been there and done that knows, the AK can put out an impressive fireball with either no muzzle device or simply the slant break. But the AR does as well, especially if you’re running some type of muzzle break that’s competition oriented rather than combat oriented. In my carbine course we observe the different muzzle flashes that everyone puts out of their weapons at dusk to take note of just how much flash they’re putting out. The A2 does a good job of breaking it up, as does the Smith Vortex, which I had on my M24 and we ran on the M240s as well. The late, great Peter Kokalis noted from his advising of the Atlacatl Battalion during the El Salvadoran civil war that that the Vortex became mandatory due to its effectiveness on night ambushes in the Central American jungle. I share his opinion, having ran it on an AK in the southeastern woodlands for many years now.

My go-to AR wears a rifle-length MLOK floated handguard from Palmetto State Armory. This type of handguard serves a number of functions. It keeps the barrel from shifting zero when I rest the handguard on objects in my environment as well as preventing a point of impact shift from shooting using the sling as a support. It also squeezes every bit of accuracy capability out of my barrel, which is always critical. I use a Magpul RSA for a sling mounting point and it gives me a physical reference point to place my hand when shooting- consistency is the key to accuracy. The sling is my same old tried and true VTAC sling I carried in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nothing fancy, it just works. In front of that sling mount is my Steiner DBAL I2 IR laser to interface with my PVS-14 when I’m wearing that on my head at night. The lower is nothing special, and the rest of the weapon is pretty much bone stock, even having a – gasp – mil-spec trigger. You don’t need a fancy trigger, you just need trigger time to break it in.

Now let’s talk about optics. Its 2020, you should have an optic on a weapon you plan on fighting with. I run an ACOG. There’s not a more bombproof optic out there. And for the people who’ve been in class they know exactly how bombproof mine is. Its a standard 4×32, not the fastest optic if I’m concerned with CQB type stuff, but for rural patrolling and, most importantly, positive identification (PID), the ACOG shines. Its lightweight and effective. There’s other prismatic optics out there that are really good also, including the optics from Primary Arms. But if you want a one n’ done, the ACOG is the one.

The other reason I run the ACOG is for another type of interface with my PVS-14. When I’m wearing them on my head, the laser in necessary for aiming. If I’m in a hide site or final firing position after I’ve stalked to make a kill, my PVS-14 is mounted in front of the ACOG. Lasers point both ways at night, but with a picatinny mount I’m ambushing with little signature.

Room clearing is a tactic only for security forces and what they don’t tell you is that the casualty rate is very, very high. For a skilled guerrilla, this is easy killings. Running lights like this in a building with exterior windows is asking for a nasty surprise. Been there, done that.

So why don’t I have a weapon light??? Because I don’t need one on this weapon, that’s why. If I happen to need a tac light for some reason, I can mount one. Let’s go back to our mission. If its rural patrolling, why the hell do I want a light on my weapon that might accidentally activate and compromise my patrol? Nothing says ‘hey come shoot me!’ like a weapon light on a guerrilla’s weapon. Even in an urban fight, if the next building over has guys clearing it with lights, I don’t even need NODs to accurately engage them. Just aim at the lights where I see them through the windows (fatal funnels), force more of their people in, then bring the building down on top of them. Its a different mindset, definitely not one for the “I’m armed, but nonviolent” crowd.

Last, your weapon is not for show. It is a tool. One that requires constant training for proficiency. It is only drawn when it is to be used. Anything else is an empty threat.

11 thoughts on “My Go-To Carbine Setup

  1. I have some AR-15s. They all have TRS-25 red-dots on them. Rapid sight picture being more important to my probable mission than exquisite marksmanship. For designated-marksman work, I have a 6.5 Grendel on an AR-15 lower, with a 3-9x Simmons tube. It’ll get me out to 400 yards and in the hill&dale terrain of northern VA that covers a high percentage of the likely situations. If I need to get out to 1700 yards, everybody and his uncle are trying to sell me tubed glass just now. On sale…

    I’ve recently had the opportunity (courtesy of my brother in ID) to shoot a CZ Scorpion – a 9mm carbine. He had a 2-mil Holosun red dot on it. He said, “shoot at the plate”. That being a 10” diameter 1/2” thick steel plate 100 yards downrange. Dun/rust color, blended near-perfectly with the dirt&brush in which it was set up at the burm base. To my blank astonishment, I got 6 hits out of 10, including 5 in a row. Bench rest, but even so… So I’m shopping for one – an 8541. I’m winning bid on one in Finksburg MD, courtesy of We’ll see tomorrow at 20:30 if I win. If not, a gun shop proprietor in town says he’s located another, also NIB. They (and two other Scorpion carbines on appear to be the only ones available on the face of the North American continent. Everyone is sold out. Must be the COVID-19 depressing import sales – probably combined with mind-blowing accuracy and word of mouth creating a demand spike. And a Biden presidency will choke those imports off entirely. Buy it now, or mourn later…

    Do you have any advice for accessorizing the Scorpion, other than what’s below in this article? Purchase of the weapon itself will break the bank for at least a month, so no pressure… I want it for an outside gun where its accuracy at 100 yards matters – not an indoors one; The 115gr 9mm’s retained energy will probably not disqualify it either: the 5.56 round sheds energy somewhat faster than the bigger, slower 9mm. And I have an 870 that will work just fine for home defense, and a Springfield XD in 9mm that works fine for EDC personal defense. So they’re Chevrolet/Ford guns (not Oldsmobile/Buick) – they’re guns, and I’m learning how to use them. Dry fire practice is my friend… — Laird Taylor Warrenton VA 20187


  2. nnztg8r

    If I had an AR, I’d kit it just like that. Appears experience is a great instructor. No substitute for learning the hard way. Sharing knowledge is drawing good karma.

    OTOH, y’all that still have ARs take note. Despite a couple sets of beginner swim lessons, mine perished in the lake. Don’t assume they can swim. Monitor them carefully lest you lose them…

  3. Boat guy

    I have found the LaRue triggers to be a great value for $80-ish. Very clean. All of our AR’s except the teaching pieces have them now.
    Love my ACOG. Sent it back to be reconditioned a couple of years ago (at 20-something years) and it’s almost too bright

  4. LP

    Thanks for posting the article and sharing some of your knowledge! With the PVS-14 mounted in front of the ACOG do you have any POI/POA issues? Over the years I’ve read articles and posts advising not to try it because of mis-optic alignment that would affect POI/POA. I have the Primary Arms 3X power scope and mounted the PVS-14 like you have it in the picture and as far as focus goes it’s good to go. What I’m interested in is what if any issues you have experienced with POI/POA. I like that set up!!!

    1. It could cause an issue with parallax if the two aren’t aligned. The mount I use (just the plain old mil-spec one from my days roaming the desert) was designed to work with the ACOG.

      I really should write more on this, because a lot of people are emailing me the same questions you have.

      1. LP

        Thanks!! I have the mil spec mount also, I’ll do some research and see if I can find the specs on the ACOG and Primary Arms heights and go from there. I would certainly be interest with any articles you write on it your mention of it is the first I have ever seen

  5. Tradarcher

    What are your thoughts on AR pistols?

    I think with the 77 gr rounds it should do the trick to at least 300 yards.

    My go-to for the scenario you described and favorite AR is a Larue 12 inch AR pistol carbine length gas tube. Rugged surge can. Sb3 brace. I use a 6x LPVO and a delta point pro on a t-rex arms offset mount. I use the delta point for 0-100, roll the gun over for longer shots. I haven’t got to stretch the legs any farther but it has promise.

    For me it seems to be super fast and I have the lpvo should the dot take a dump. Target ID and recon work. I would like to get an 8x lpvo for even better magnification.

    It is very light weight for what it can do. I am dropping the weapon light after reading your articles. It makes sense that would just turn into a bullet magnet in the world we are about to find ourselves in.

    1. Love em! And I love the 77gr OTM round. The hype is real.

      I actually had a student in the Scout Course who brought basically that same setup and had no problems hammering steel at 450.

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