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Notes on Setting Up the Modern Fighting Rifle

November 9, 2012

(This conversation is not intended to instigate a debate on the merits of the Stoner platform versus anything else, nor is it intended to foment discussion on 5.56 versus 7.62. The first has been completely dispelled, in the realm of this blog at least, by the refusal of all those opposed on principle to Stoner’s design, to accept my standing challenge on the “Last Word” page. The second is simply not open to discussion here. I KNOW 5.56 kills people, dead. I know 7.62 kills people, dead. I choose 5.56 because it kills people, dead, plus I can carry more of it, meaning, when necessary, I can kill more people, dead. Additionally, because it has less felt recoil, I can kill them faster, because shot-to-shot recovery is faster. Are there guys out there that can recover from 7.62 as fast, or faster, than I can from 5.56? Perhaps, but those guys don’t need any advice on setting up their fighting rifle. Most guys can’t recover from 5.56 as fast as I can from 7.62. I choose 5.56 because it works, for me. I don’t moderate comments, but I WILL delete comments that hold no merit to the conversation, on this article, if the only thing you have to say is along the lines of “Stoner was stoned!” or “Mouseguns are for pussies!” –J.M.)

I get asked a lot, during classes, about why I set up my rifles the way I do, and what I recommend for others. In the last Combat Rifle class, I was specifically asked to write an article for the blog on how my rifles are set up (for the record, with the exception of sniper rifles and SDM rifles, every M4 in my household is set up the exact same way, even if they come from different makers. HH6 was taught/is being taught, to run an M4/combat rifle by me, so there’s no deficit in having all of our rifles set up exactly the same way –J.M.).

To start with, I prefer rifles with a 14.5-16″ barrel. This gives ample ballistic energy to ensure maximum performance of the 5.56 round’s engineering out to the common combative range of <200M (i.e. specifically, yaw of the round, upon impact, leading to fracture at the cannellure, leading to massive hemorrhage due to multiple wound channels, or at least a larger, more catastrophic wound channel), but still ensures the weapon is handy enough to not “get in the way” in tight confines, whether those are the trees and brush in the forest, or the doors and windows in a built-up area.

I also prefer a 1:7 twist, which pretty much rules out most commercial grade AR-15s, with their 1:9 twist, except Colt. The reason behind this is, a) we run 62-grain, M855 “green tip” exclusively. The round, engineered as SS109 by the Belgians, for performance in the Minimi machine gun, while not as apparently “devastating” as the lighter, 55-grain M193 that preceded it, offers improved penetration. It was specifically designed to penetrate Soviet soft body armor of the era, and a steel helmet, at 600M (1/8 inch of steel). While some (most notably, in my mind, Paul Howe), have pointed at it’s failure due to overpenetration of malnourished individuals such as confronted in Somalia during the Battle of Bakara Market in 1993, others have noted that it does the job just fine, if you do yours. Personally, I’ve never had the round fail to kill people when I did my part and shot them where they needed to be shot. Additionally, and of equal importance, is the 1:7 twist offers me the ability to load up to 77-grain MK262, if I so choose, further improving the range of the caliber, if for some reason I can no longer get M855 to to the trick.

Some really well-regarded instructors, including some I consider friends and all-around good guys, prefer a muzzle brake over a flash suppressor, because they run suppressors on all their guns. If you are going to ask permission to mount a “can,” or blow off the permit system and run a can without the permission slip, a muzzle brake offers a lot of advantages over a flash suppressor, in the recoil mitigation department. I don’t do either, yet, so I run flash suppressors (an important note that apparently some people just don’t fathom, the flash is suppressed from YOUR point-of-view, not the enemy’s. That would involve putting something in front of the muzzle……think about it for a moment….), to protect my night vision. Further, well designed flash suppressors can actually function like a muzzle brake by reducing muzzle flip during the recoil cycle. We run either standard -A2 style birdcages or the YHM Phantom flash suppressors on all but one weapon (that one has a Noveske “Flaming Pig” device, for a very specific reason that is irrelevant to this article). For my money, these two designs, or variations thereof, are the best choice. A lot of guys really like the various 3-prong type flash suppressors, but I’ve never been a fan of the harmonics involved. That’s a ME thing though, in all honesty.

As far as barrel profiles go, I prefer either a government profile, or a pencil barrel (sniper platforms and SDM rifles excepted, wherein I prefer a medium-heavy barrel), for the weight advantages. Are there trade-offs in accuracy? Maybe, but the fact that all my guns will shoot MOA or better tells me it’s negligible.

All of our fore-ends are either free-floated, or on the way to being free-floated (we have one rifle that doesn’t have a free-floated fore-end, and that is solely an economic shortcoming. As soon as I can afford to replace it, I will….probably this weekend actually, since I finally got the rails in and just need to put them on). The accuracy difference is relatively minor, until you start looking at realistic practical shooting considerations, such as resting the rifle on something like a position of cover, to enhance accuracy. I am a HUGE fan of Troy Industries rail systems, specifically the Viking Tactics variants, from SGM Kyle Lamb. I’ve tried YHM rails, and had really lousy luck with them, although I know guys who love them too. My problems have involved difficulties in getting the rails lined up on their proprietary barrel nut, to the whole fucking thing twisting in my hand, in the middle of a shooting drill…..I haven’t completely written them off, but I doubt I’ll be paying retail for another one, any time soon.

For sights, I’ve previously advocated for a 1-4x variable-powered optic. That hasn’t changed, but just like then, it’s a METT-TC consideration. In most of Wyoming, 300 meters is rock-chucking distance, so 4x gets used, a lot. In western Montana or northern Idaho, 300 meters is a LONG, LONG way in the timber, and while the advantages of target identification are inarguable, the speed of a red dot sight may overwhelm it. On the other hand, there’s really no excuse for NOT running an optic. I don’t care how fast you THINK you are with your irons, or how accurate you THINK you are with your irons, it is a scientific, inarguable reality that, with proper training, you will shoot faster and MORE accurately, with an optic than with irons, all other things being equal. No, the optic won’t make your shooting fundamentals better, and it won’t overcome shitty trigger control or body position. It will allow you to acquire the sight picture faster, and in most cases, to aim more precisely. I don’t have a preference, as long as the optic comes from a serious, well-known, proven manufacturer (I bought a Vortex Sparc on a whim once, because I’d just set up HH6’s M4 and needed a red-dot for it, and that was the ONLY one I could find locally. It started shorting out after less than 100 rounds, so it got given to a friend’s son for his airsoft rifle…and even THAT made it short out). Aimpoint obviously has a well-deserved reputation for quality, considering the tests they have passed as the M68 Close-Combat Optic (CCO), and a lot of guys really like the T-1 and H-1s. I know I kind of like them too, but can’t afford one currently. EoTech’s I’ve always been really, really, REALLY ambivalent about. For awhile, they had a bad reputation because the battery terminals would work loose under recoil. SF legend Mike Pannone developed a cheap, easy fix for that, and it really works well (although having to add a field-expedient fix to a $500 piece of equipment should NEVER have to happen!), and EoTech has apparently remedied the situation with their new generation of sideways mounted batteries. I will say, the more I use the EoTech, the more it grows on me. With the 1MOA center dot, I can literally shoot a 15-round, one-hole, smoking fast, at CQM ranges. With that 65-MOA outer donut, getting a CQM sight picture in the center of the upper thoracic cavity or hips is stupid fast.

I’ve been a fan of the Trijicon ACOG since I was first introduced to it as a young Ranger private, in the mid-1990s. The sight is ridiculously tough, needs no batteries (although tritium only has a 12-year half-life), and has a ranging reticle out to 800+ meters, meaning hold-overs are retarded simple. That’s assuming though that, a) you’re running the round it was engineered for, and b) under the same environmental conditions it was engineered for.

I’ve also been an advocate of 1-4x optics with ranging reticles, even recognizing the same shortcoming in them. A lot of that is laziness on my part, because I hate doing the math to develop new range cards every time I move. A 1-4x with a mil-dot reticle works just as well, assuming you’re not the lazy piece-of-shit I am.

I don’t care how robust your optics are (and let’s face it, modern, well-made optics are damned near as robust, if not more so, as the weapon they’re mounted on), you need a back-up sighting system. A lot of guys have started doing the 3-gun gamer thing and mounting a miniature red-dot sight on their gun as well as their primary optic. There’s nothing wrong with that, but traditionally, and to most of us, still, back-up sights means back-up iron sights. I’ve used chopped-down -A2 style carrying handles, MagPul’s MBUS, and a host of others. We’re currently running the MBUS, but I just got a smoking deal on MaTech rear irons, courtesy of a class participant, so as soon as they arrive, our primary rifles will have those mounted as rear BUIS (they work, because we’re at a modest elevation now, and we run the M855 the aiming marks were engineered for. Minute-of-angle accurate? Maybe not, but it’ll put me within 2 or 3 MOA).

A fighting rifle had better have a white-light mounted on it. Show up at my class without a white-light mounted, of AT LEAST 80 lumen (and really, 200 should be your minimum. I’m with Pat Rogers that 500 is more efficient, but can’t drop $600 on a flashlight right now, either), and I will give you shit about it for the duration of the class, since you’ll be ineffective for 3/4 of the time right now (winter in the northern Rockies means LOTS of low-light/no-light). I prefer to mount mine with the VTAC off-set mount, on the right side of the gun, in the 2 o’clock position (I run a very aggressive c-clamp grip on my rifle, meaning I can activate it with my support side thumb), but HH6’s rifle has it mounted with a simple scope ring, at the 9 o’clock position, so it can be activated with the first knuckle of the support hand (her thumb doesn’t reach all the way across).

The last vertical grip mounted rifle in our arms room just lost it’s VFG today. It was HH6’s gun, and was used as a reference point for her, where to mount the gun. The “dildo” grip firing position has been obsolete for years, as we’ve learned the realities of what allows you to shoot quickly and accurately. Even Army SOF has gotten away from mounting VFGs from the reports I’m hearing from guys I trust.

I prefer the M16 bolt-carrier group (BCG), if for no other reason than, when the time comes to do so, I can drop my uppers onto the bad guy’s select-fire lower and still have it function reliably. That having been said, most of our guns still have AR-15 BCGs.

All of our fire-control group parts are bare-bones mil-spec stock. I dropped in lighter springs on my personal rifle for a little while, but went back to the mil-spec because I didn’t trust the tolerance stacking issues. I really, really like the Geisselle triggers, but don’t run them for a couple of reasons, which will be discussed below (and the cost is a prohibitive issue for me). There’s nothing stopping a guy from getting expert with a stock trigger, if he’s willing to do the work and get it done.

Our stocks are all mil-spec style M4 collapsible stocks. I dig MagPul’s basic MOE stock, but I absolutely HATE the SOPMOD stock from LMT. I just run the M4 stock because of familiarity.

Slings….ah, slings…I fucking hate slings, and 90% of the time, I don’t even bother using mine, except when I’m teaching a class and need my hands free a lot. That having been said, slings have an important place, when used properly. I don’t know of any serious gunslinger or instructor who still advocates a three-point sling. I’d go so far as to say, if a guy is advocating the three-point sling, he’s full of shit and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Run away, as quickly as you can, from any such instructor (I‘d be willing to be proven wrong, but I doubt it’ll happen). Single-points have been popular for a long time, and I’ve been a fan. I ran one for a long time. I think the biggest selling point for single-point slings, for most people, is the cool-guy CDI (chicks dig it) factor. Guys see Chris Costa, or Travis Haley, or Kyle Defoor running them, and want one. The reality is, I HATE single-point slings. Every time I drop the gun, whether to transition to my sidearm (doesn’t happen nearly as often as a lot of training courses make it seem like does), or to go hands-on with someone, the fucking rifle nails me in the nuts. Ever tried to run forward getting slapped in the dick at every stride?

A quality two-point sling, such as Larry Vickers’ design, available from Blue Force Gear, or the VTAC two-point from Viking Tactics, are the way to go (we run the VTAC version, because it’s smaller, thinner, and lighter. If I was running a SAW again, I’d go with the padded version), in my opinion. I can transition easily to sidearm, edged-weapon, or hands-on, without worrying about TMO’s future siblings, I can sling the weapon all the way around behind me if I need to squat or kneel down to provide aid to a casualty, or to crawl up a wall, and with the good designs, they’re easily adjustable whether I’m wearing my plate carrier or simply walking around the guerrilla base camp. Additionally, while I’ve NEVER seen a sniper actually sling up with his rifle in the field, I’ve seen (and used), a tightly adjusted two-point sling to stabilize my rifle for precision shots.

I tape a CAT-T to the stock of all of our rifles. While we run them on our war belts and plate carriers as well, the stock of the rifle is a really convenient place to keep one more, and I’ve got it, even if, for whatever reason (bump in the barnyard, in the middle of the night), I don’t have the war belt or PC on.

One of the biggest draws of the Stoner platform, is it’s inherent modularity, and the ability to do some really “cool” stuff to it. Drop in enhanced triggers, heavier or lighter buffers, different length gas systems, or even piston systems, rails on top of rails, lights, lasers, grips, bipods, scopes and more can be aded….

The problem is, as any first-year engineering student will tell you, is tolerance stacking. A machine, any machine, is engineered to run within certain parameters. As soon as you change something, such as increasing the suspension lift on a pick-up truck, you’ve changed the engineering of the machine. One change isn’t that big a deal, and probably won’t negatively impact the performance of the machine greatly. But, as you continue to change the original engineering (let’s stick with the truck example), by adding different sized tires, and you start impacting fuel mileage and roll-over characteristics. Then, you change something else, such as pulling off the body and replacing it with a different body style. Then you pull the motor and throw in a different motor. Pretty soon, you’re no longer driving the same machine that the original engineers designed. When it gets a shitty 4MPG, and rolls over on a highway turn at 25 MPH, you’ll still blame the engineer though.

Same, same with a rifle. Stoner designed a rifle. Colt and the Army Ordnance Board changed the design and the weapon failed. When it was put back together the right way, it ran. Further engineering changes have been well-thought out, well-engineered, and tested changes. You can change anything you want on YOUR rifle, from drop-in triggers, to different barrels and adding whatever doo-dads you want. Just recognize that, whatever changes you make, you’re changing the design of the weapon.

Secondly, look at what you’re training and preparing for. It’s cool to have say, an AK47 with a left-side charging handle (Travis Haley recently had Jim Fuller build him one, reportedly). That’s cool. Except….where else, in the entire world, are you EVER going to pick up and run an AK with a left-side charging handle…….?

I preach, and practice, to run your weapon as bare bones stock as possible, because, I want to be able to pick up the same platform, from anyone, anywhere, and run it, with the same manual of arms, as I’ve trained with. Yes, this applies to southpaws too. I know it’s easier to run a Stag-L than a regular AR, but how many people do you know run one? Where are you going to get a replacement when yours dies?

In essence, what I look for in a rifle set-up, is a weapon that is as light as possible (seriously, the only other thing I would consider adding to my rifle would be an IR laser for use with PVS-14s, if I could afford it), because I know I will be carrying it for long periods of time, and I don’t want to carry a weapon so heavy it impacts my performance. Additionally, I want to run as stock as rifle as I can, without impacting my performance.

Finally, it is a machine, made of metal and plastic. Machines wear out. Stockpile replacement parts for your rifles. I had an extractor go out on a loaner rifle at the last Combat Rifle class. That rifle has somewhere around 30K rounds through it, and the extractor finally just shit the bed. It happens. It’s not a failure of the rifle, but a failure of my preventive maintenance schedule.

While this article is Stoner-specific, the principles apply whether your choice is a Stoner, a Kalashnikov, an M1A, or a FAL. Keep it as light as possible, run a sling when necessary, have a white light mounted, and keep it as stock as possible.

Nous Defions!

John Mosby

Freezing his ass off,

Somewhere in the MountainsEdit to Add: Since it evokes commentary in every class I do……I lubricate my rifles with copious amounts of whatever motor oil happens to be on sale at the gas station when I’m enroute to the class, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t cleaned any of our primary rifles in at least five months…..somewhere in the vicinity of 7000-8000 rounds per weapon….and they still run flawlessly……motor oil is designed to do what? Protect and lubricate high-velocity, reciprocating pistons in a machine (your car)….what is your bolt carrier group? A high-velocity, reciprocating piston…’s interesting to me though….I change the oil in my Jeep more frequently than I clean my rifle…..shit. Now I have to spend some time this weekend cleaning rifles.

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  1. Tater Salad permalink

    I think most of the better commercial gun makers are doing the 1:7 twist barrels now. I see a lot more than a few years ago even. I don’t have any uppers here that are 1:9 anymore.

    Bolt Carrier Groups are getting harder to find it seems. maybe I am just looking in the wrong places. Came across a full auto BCG on a local board that was used recently and bought it even though I don’t need it. You are right on about keeping parts stocked and we had probably better start getting them quickly. Folks are scared and, just like 4 years ago, it is going to be difficult even finding a lower parts kit or field repair kit.

    Removed my VFG after the class and talking with you about it. Realized it was one more thing I don’t need. I am seriously having withdrawls from my BAD lever though. I’ll work through it. I see and agree with the reasoning behind it.

    Question: I know you like and run the M855 green tip. Have you run the PMC version of that (the XTAC green tip) and had any reliability issues? I got a good deal on some so just picked up a bunch. Had pretty good luck with the PMC Bronze 55 grain boat tail stuff, so I don’t expect troubles. Going to redo the zero on the EOTECH with the 62 grain stuff soon.

    • I’ve run the PMC XTAC, and not only did I not notice any issues, I didn’t even notice a POI change from my zero with M855……I’m guessing, but I really think they’re loading it to M855 spec.

  2. JMB permalink

    This is actually something I’ve been thinking of sending you an e-mail on. Right now, I’ve got a 7.62×51 semi-auto “AR10″ with two uppers; 20″ & 16”. I’ve set up the 20″ as a precision piece, (Viper PST 4-16x, Vtac LR sling, BUIS, waiting on the bipod) and I figure I should be setting up the 16″ to be effective out to 600m. I’m looking at a TA11 or PST 1-4x. The rifle came stock with a rifle length buffer and a Magpul PRS. The 16″, with sling, is weighing in at 10 lbs unloaded. Any specific advice?

    • I’d switch the barrels out for 18-inch barrels, and set both up with 3-9X variables, with mil-dot reticles (or the Horus reticle. The more I check it out, the more it turns me on). Then, you’ve got 800 yard counter-sniper rifles, easily, and arguably 1000 yard guns, if you can do your part. Otherwise, I think your set up is fine, but I’d go with the 1-4 on the .308. I’ll run a .308 gun as a primary fighting rifle if I have to, but never by choice.

      • JMB permalink

        Yeah, I had my reasons for getting .308, but the more I use it, the more I love the AR-15. I like my rifle, but it’s like comparing a rapier and a claymore.

  3. Aesop permalink

    I have no doubt that 3000 years ago, there were idiots arguing with David about the penetration of round stones vs. the velocity benefits of oblong ones, and finger lop vs. wrist loop slings. But I’d sooner debate cellos with Yo Yo Ma than dispute with you about this stuff. Thanks for the insight.

    About the motor oil, cheer up. Even dividing by 8, your engine is cycling the equivalent of 30-40 rds/min. X 3000 minutes(miles, if you’re going @60MPH), right?
    So a car-level motor oil change on an AR platform should be every 90,000-120,000 rounds, whether it needs it or not, and more in stop-and-go city driving.
    So every 10K rounds would be like a twice-weekly oil change on you family’s urban assault vehicle. One presumes you’d burn your barrels out long before the oil.

    But henceforth, when the inevitable internet mall ninja debate crops up over specific brands, and natural vs. synthetic, you and you alone will be wholly and absolutely responsible, all because of this post. And it’s going to happen sure as little green apples.

    So thanks for letting us all in on history in the making.

    Talk to you latter, I got an early AM conference call to pitch an idea with Pennzoil and MagPul.


  4. Dombro permalink

    500 lumens check out $100

    • Thanks for the link. I’ll check out the website, but chances are, I’ll stick with SureFire and Streamlight, because both have a solidly built reputation for working well under combat conditions. I’m hesitant to stray too far from life-saving gear that I KNOW works…..

  5. Disciple of Night permalink

    I’m going to be switching out my YHM rail for the traditional hand guards very soon. The weapon weight is out of balance, particularly noticeable when attempting reloads.

    • Check out the VTAC from Troy. They’re the lightest system I’ve found. Even with a 12-inch tube on my 14.5 inch, it’s lighter than the standard carbine drop-in rails, and actually moves the COG back closer to the buffer tube more, facilitating a reload with the gun in my workspace.

      • Disciple of Night permalink

        I tried searching VTAC but it keeps showing a tube with only one rail. Did you mean to say the Troy MFR-C? It weighs 3 ounces less than the Daniel Defense Omega. Thanks.

  6. Adam permalink

    Excellent article as usual. I hate seeing people with a lot of crap hanging off their guns. My primary is a BCM midlength with a BCM BCG, magpul furniture and mbus, Eotech 512, and a surefire M951 light. Nothing else.

  7. Matt permalink

    How long of a rail do you run? Is something the same size as the M4 handguard too short?

    • Because I run my rifles with an extremely aggressive C-Clamp, as far out the rifle as I can, I run rifle length free float tubes on my carbines. The VTAC allows me to only have rails where I need them, even on a 12-inch tube.

  8. Shorty permalink

    With a grip at the front of the rail (Vertical or Angled) and a white light at 2-3 o’clock, where have you traditionally mounted a PEQ when you have access to one?

  9. Why would anybody argue with solid reason? While my rifles are 1-9 twist I can shoot the heavier bullets as good as I can shoot anything else. Maybe I don’t shoot good.

    I recently bought a 50 round box of the Hornady Steel Match with a 75 gr bullet. In my Savave Predator with a 1-9 twist it’s shooting better then it ever has? go figger. I’ve yet to shoot any of them thru the AR but will soon.

    I agree with all the crap hanging on rifles these days. I see the poor grunts in the ME packing more rifle weight then my old M1 had. They must be making kids tuffer now days.

    Good read!

    • Some guys get along just fine shooting heavier projectiles with 1:9 twists. I can’t explain it, but I know the “ideal” is a faster rate for the heavier projectiles, so I go that route.

  10. RegT permalink

    I bought Smith Vortex fh’s for my 7.62 and M4. The reviews I read sounded great, but what is either your experience or word from those who know what they are talking about as far as the Vortex is concerned?

    Also, I understand the fact that _some_ flash will always be visible with a flash hider, but if it reduces the overall size and shape of the flash, might it not still be useful (presupposing it doesn’t interfere with mounting a can if you so desire)?

    • As I mentioned, I won’t purchase another Vortex RDS, based on shitty luck with the SPARC. I don’t know anything about their traditional optics, other than a lot of guys really like them, for the price point.

      • RegT permalink

        Sorry, MG, but the Smith Vortex is a flash hider, not a red dot. Guess I should have been clearer than just “fh”.

      • I’ve never heard anything but good about the Vortex FH. They’re really effective at what they do. I just don’t like three-prong FH, for no particular reason, beyond I once got one caught on a vine and wrenched the piss out of my wrist…. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  11. I’ll share a short story here, since it’s related. I built up an AR10T SDM/sniper type platform about 7 years ago. It was 21″ Lothar Walther polygonal barrel, suppressed, Larue free float forearm, Nikon scope, blah blah.

    It was a seriously accurate rifle. I was shooting at a long range spot a guy owns and he left me to do as I pleased. I got in my mind some accurate rapid fire, and was shooting at steel at 500 yards from prone. With the suppressor, the Ar10 had very little recoil- close to an Ar15. I fired 5 rapid shots at the same target at 500 yards and got 5 hits around 2MOA. In the middle of the string, before the last rounds was fired, I realized that I had fired my thrid round before I saw the bullet splash on target from the first round, so I had three bullets in the air at the same time, all making COM hits at 500.

    I made pretend that I was receiving incoming fire and needed to bug out of this firing position, so I hopped up, grabbed the rifle and started to run back to my truck, as if beating it out of the AO. I could hardly run with this gun. With just a rail, suppressor, bipod and scope/mount, the rifle weighed over 20 pounds. I think it was 23 as it stood.

    Within a week, the rifle was for sale and I made money on it, the scope relegated to another build, the suppressor was sold as well.

    I ended up building a close clone to the Mk12Mod0 and it was the most accurate rifle I’ve fired to date (and that includes some fine stuff from McMillan 300WM sniper rifles, KAC M110’s, $5,000 custom .308 bolt guns and then some). I’ve revised the AR15 to a lighter forend than the PRI one (a Daniel Defense) and it lost a little weight. Now its down under 13 pounds with scope, suppressor and a full mag.

    It’s as accurate as the AR10, lighter weight and still reasonable range with the 77gr sierra OTM’s. I’ve shot it to 750 yards with success and have made head shots at 650 yards with it, and if it was time to go, I can carry it. I have hunted with it for the past 3 years, hiking 4-5 miles without fatigue or wishing for something lighter.

    Point is, a .308 is great and has it’s uses, but the weight savings of an AR platform trumps a lot of range concerns, at least in my area.

    • Colorado Pete permalink

      Dang kletz. A 23 lb. AR10?? A 12+ lb. AR15?? Wow. Everybody says they like them because ‘they’re a light platform’. Not when you hang 5 lbs of stuff on them! And I get looked at funny by some AR-toters because my non-AR old-school rifle weighs 9.5 lbs. empty…and has nothing attached but a 1907 sling. And I can easily hit a rock the size of my 6 MOA NM front sight (3 feet) at a true 600 yds. from tight-loop-sling sitting with irons (even though I am now entering the needs-glasses-for-irons stage of life). Not as good a performance as your 2 MOA rapid prone bipod, but I can run a loonnnggg ways with it (especially if I were chased). And I’m an old fart.

      Why not an 8-lb stripped AR15 or 9-lb stripped AR10? I think that was somebody’s idea in the first place, long ago…

      I mean, I’ve seen & handled those GI M14 EBR’s, and they make me want to puke. What were the designers thinking?? A designated SDM rifle could be cleaner, simpler, and lighter than that.

      Not meaning to start an argument, just sayin’…I don’t get it.

      • The AR10 was a sniper set up. It was good out to 1,000 yards for Man sized and <700 yards, it was a laser, certainly sub MOA. The SPR type is heavy for an every day rifle. With scope and suppressor and bipod, it's close to 13 pounds, but if I pocket the can, it's closer to 10-11 and manageable. Lose the scope and bipod and I'm under 10.

        I have another AR with irons only and it's close to 5 pounds. It's more of an every day rifle, whereas the other two were/are specific platforms for a specific purpose.

        The thing I realized with the AR10 is if heat was on my ass, I'd have dumped it to run faster. Also, the suppressor was 9" on top of the 21" barrel, made for a very long package. It was very quiet. Quiet enough to get the attention of one of Advanced Armaments big boys. Quiet like 175gr. Sierra MK at 2750fps with less noise than a unsupressed 10/22 shooting subsonic ammo. I have a crappy video my son filmed comparing the AR10 to a Walther P22 on youtube.

        My AR15 with the suppressor is still quiet, weighs much less, and it'd be easy enough to install the lightweight upper and pack the SPR upper on my pack.

        No argument here, and wasn't meant as a suggestion for anyone, more that both rifles are capable of great accuracy. If I had to choose between the two, the lighter rifle would always get grabbed.

  12. Weetabix permalink

    “But henceforth, when the inevitable internet mall ninja debate crops up over specific brands, and natural vs. synthetic…”

    That’s funny. I’m a cheapskate who runs motor oil, too. Right now I’m working through some Mobil 1. It was on sale, and I use so little of it, I figured I could afford the additional help of the magic in synthetics.

  13. rule308 permalink

    One thing you should think about is in your area, how far of a shot are you realistically going to make. In the forested areas of the country, 100-200 meter shots are VERY rare especially in warmer weather. Also the 223 gets bounced around on the branches and brush up here.

    • I’ve heard the “a twig will deflect a 5.56 round” since I was a kid in the thick hardwood forests of the South….Yet, I’ve seen 5.56 punch through trees (we used to “accidentally” cut down trees with our crew-served weapons, just for shits and giggles….), punch straight through a vehicle, and blow through cinder blocks……I think THAT concern is highly over-rated, but that’s just me.

      • Colorado Pete permalink

        I’ve seen a 147 .308 ball round go sideways just a couple feet past going through very light brush. That surprise the heck out of me.
        Interesting that 5.56 will go through a cinder block. M855? What does it do to engine blocks?

      • Don’t know. Don’t care. If I need to stop a vehicle, I’ll shoot the driver.

        Let’s say you walked out to your truck right now, started it, then pulled the oil pan drain plug out, AND punched a hole in the bottom of the radiator……then got in and started driving. How long before the vehicle stopped moving? Instead of that, let’s say you got in, put it in gear, started driving, then suck-started a pistol…….how long before the vehicle stopped moving?

        Lots of guys use the “.308 will stop a vehicle, because it’ll poke holes in the block” argument….it doesn’t fly though, since you really just need to smoke the driver.

  14. Diesel oils, like Rotella 5w40 synthetic should be the best, designed to hold more soot in suspension than gasoline engine type oils. I study stupid things like that, hazards of being a mechanic for to many years. Thx. for all you do.

  15. Trung Si Ma permalink

    Good article. I have set my carbine up similarly, but different. Of course, my METT-TC is different than yours (your mountainous wooded versus my open semi-arid farm land). I’ve spent far too many resources getting the AR to where I want it, and I thought I’d add my reasoning to the discussion.

    Since my AO consists of longer sightlines, I went with an 18” barrel as my compromise length since it seems to give me the best tradeoffs between extending the range and not getting in my way. I used the Stag 3G upper as the base, replacing the good Sampson FFT with the better (in my opinion) JP Rifles VTAC FFT. I’m not a fan of full length rails and the JP FFT allows me to add rail sections only where I need (want?) them.

    I paid very little attention to the “fast twist – slow twist” debate of several years ago and decided to split the bracket and FFE so I ended up with a 1:8 twist. It shoots well with every type of 5.56 round that I’ve run through it and, based on my experiences, I would do so again. BTW – all of my “run” ammo is Federal XM-193 55-gr and my reloads duplicate it’s performance.

    I like the compensator on the front of the rifle for both its controllability and the fact that it doesn’t seem to kick up must dust from the prone position. Recently, while doing some night fire, I shot my usual hand loads with no problems (that new Hodgdon CFE powder has a very low flash signature in my rifle) but then shot my “real” ammo. The difference was, literally, night and day with respect to the flash signature. Now I’ve replaced the 3G comp with an A2 flash suppressor while researching flash hiders.

    I’ve tried various optics and keep coming back to the EOTech. Currently, that’s an EXPS 3-0 with the G-33 3.5x magnifier when needed. The MBUS backs that up because they work for me. And I like the color coordination aspect.

    A Streamlight TLR-1 at 160 lumen sits on the rifle, but that will also change after the night fire. It’s also very prone to a white light AD. Not sure where I’m going to end up, but it should be a lot of fun getting there.

    Still have a VFG for proper hand indexing on the Stag, but it is the removable one made by VTAC. Yep. It’s a crutch – but its my crutch.

    I changed out the trigger for a CMC curved one that a friend had on his and I really like it. The only other changes to the lower are a ambi selector from BAD (the BADASS) and an ambi mag release due to my left-handedness.

    Although I am left handed, I went back to the right hand eject because it makes malfunction clearing so much easier. How so? Mount your rifle normally and then simulate a stoppage. Rotate the rifle to look at the ejection port. Kind of awkward. Now do the same drill, but imagine the opening on the other side of the gun. Feels better when you rotate the gun to get at the double feed in the chamber.

    So that’s what I’ve done to mine. It works for me and I practice with it a lot.

    • I don’t have a problem with 1:8 twists.

      I will say, this comment, “And I like the color coordination aspect,” is rife with gayness…….

      It’s a fighting rifle, for God’s sake….it’s a simple tool for killing bad people. It’s not a fashion accessory, it’s not a financial investment (other than in the way a safe is a financial investment). It’s designed to get beat up, scraped up, and generally, well-used. Color coordination in a rifle should only matter when it comes to coordinating with your operational environment.

  16. Colorado Pete permalink

    Mr. Mosby, would you please elaborate on the following for me:

    “I don’t know of any serious gunslinger or instructor who still advocates a three-point sling. I’d go so far as to say, if a guy is advocating the three-point sling, he’s full of shit and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Run away, as quickly as you can, from any such instructor (I‘d be willing to be proven wrong, but I doubt it’ll happen).”

    What, exactly, is the type of 3-point sling to which you are referring? The only one I’m aware of is the Ching sling, for hunting rifles. I am a huge fan of it for that purpose, and use it for almost every shot except fast offhand (I’m an old NRA bullseye-position/Jeff Cooper practical-field dinosaur). A one-second loop is a great help to fast accurate field shooting. I am aware that its center strap gets tangled up with long protruding magazines, but I do not own any such things (AR or otherwise). Could you please post a link to a picture of what you mean (preferably mounted on a rifle)?



    It’s an airsoft site, but that was the first pic that popped up that showed the 3-point clearly. I don’t have a problem with the Ching Sling at all.

    • Colorado Pete permalink

      Aha, thank you sir. Way to complicated for a simpleton like me. I’ll stick with the Ching or the 1907 (which I’ve figured out how to use as a speed loop as well).

      Keep up the good work.

  18. Squid permalink

    Love the wisdom here as I’m a newby to the shooting sports. Since I’ve only recently felt the need to have any guns other than my Ruger M77 in .243 Win, I have purchased “some” since my “great awakening” in 2008. I need to get training in my area (SE coast), but because of time and job, won’t be able to until late April or May. Can anyone give me some pointers on what training I can do myself (have only have about an hour a day at most) at home? I’m gessing mag changes (with speed improvement goal), simulated stoppages with snap caps, use of a sling to go from firing to carrying and back, and dry firing drills. One other thing is that on my mind is purchasing an indoor device that attaches to a long range scope so that you can focus at 30 or so feet. If anyone can address that as a reasonable training option, please comment. I think I read about it first on the “Western Rifle” blog.

    Finally, I got Dvds from Thunder Ranch and all of Magpul’s training videos. The one on Precision Shooting with Todd Hodnett (Travis and Chris are students) is simply great. I’m studying MOA and Mils now to see how I can make that knowledge work with my rifles at longer ranges. Second request for info: Is there a “text” book I can buy that would exercise all the range, target size estimation using MOA and Mil measurement and would include probelm solving with all the formulas involving wind and range corrections?

    Sorry if this request is too tall an order, but I’ve dropped in here on more than one occasion and found very impressive discussions – the one I’m responding to is one of the best sources of to-the-point information I’ve seen on the web about functional AR employment. Bravo Zulu!

    • The Ultimate Sniper by John Plaster is a go-to training reference for the B4 designated guys I know and trust. Magpul’s videos are definitely entertaining, and the Hodnett one is by far the best of the bunch for educational purposes. Hodnett is a scary dude….getting solid hits, on demand, at one mile, with a .308.

      • Squid permalink

        Hodnett sold me on the Horus (H58) reticle, but I spent too much and bought too soon and got a 3.5-15X50. I did buy Plaster’s book and he convinced me that to go over X15 was not a good idea because of mirage. That seemed to ring true in view of the modified M1A rifles being provided to the Marines with Leupold 2.5-10’s in Afghanistan. By the time I got to the third (or fouth) dvd, he was explaining why he thought a 22 or 25 power scope was actually better…because of mirage. Hodnett could read the wind in it and never had trouble burning through mirage to hit the target. But I know you’re not concerned about those distances and I really appreciate the knowledge you are providing about ARs. I bought a Ruger SR 556, but I may have paid too much for a heavy starter. Oh well, I need the exercise….
        Thanks, again.

    • Colorado Pete permalink

      Wouldn’t hurt to attend a Project Appleseed (Google it) shoot, if you haven’t already, to get some position and firing skills down. Everybody runs to the equipment first, but having really broad and good shooting-the-shot skills is what underlies everything else. And it will give you plenty to practice in dry-fire.

      • I would second Pete’s recommendation to attend an Appleseed if you’re a new shooter, or not familiar with basic fundamentals of marksmanship. That having been said, the focus on formal range marksmanship firing positions that I’ve seen from Appleseed “Riflemen” is pretty far from what I use and teach for field firing positions. Both work for accuracy, but the traditional positions were never developed for really rapid shot recovery, in my experience. If you can’t shoot 4MOA or better though? Damned straight, an Appleseed will get you onto the right path.

      • Colorado Pete permalink

        JM, I think the traditional positions were developed far enough back that guys were shooting .45-70 single-shots and .30 bolt guns before muzzle brakes were invented, so yeah, I think “really rapid shot recovery” back then was not quite what a guy with a braked .223 semi-auto thinks it is today….
        But, knowing your full set of fundamentals is still good, even with this newfangled smokeless powder stuff.

    • Dave permalink

      Sniper 101 on You Tube. Mathew Tibor’s video series is second to none in the long range shooting world. After watching the entire series (50+ hours) you will understand more about extreme long range than you think might exist. Art of the Precision is good and entertaining but it is barely an introduction.

  19. Sirius permalink

    In your opening statement you said that a 5.56 round does what it is intended to do and that is kill its target. By this statement, I assume you are convienced that the the 5.56 has been proven itself on the modern battlefield. My concern however is that the round has not truly faced a “modern army” and may come up short when most needed. The enemy in the wars of Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan, has doned nothing more than what I’ll call “fighting pajamas.” These are the wars where the 5.56 round has been tested and exalted. On the other hand, a modern warfighter from a standing army such as Russia, China, etc will be wearing some type of body armor, carrying an 80lb pack and other equipment. It seems that a light round, especially at 200 yds, could easily be deflected by a 80lb pack or other equipment. Perhaps field testing proves otherwise.

    Is my concern unfounded? I shoot a 5.56 platform as well, but wondering about this for some time now.

    Regards to all…

    • I think you have a somewhat valid concern…..unless you consider that a) M855 is SS109, which was specifically designed to punch through Soviet-era soft armor, and has been shown to punch through a lot of Level III plates that stop .308 cold. Further, if it really comes down to it, M995 is available, and production could be ramped up….or we could teach better failure drills (shoot em in the chest. If that doesn’t drop him, put a couple in his hips, and when he falls, walk up and plant one in his ear. Gross oversimplifications, but you get the point, right?

  20. anon permalink

    Surefire Fury 500 lumens about $108 and change…

    • You can get them that cheap? Holy crap, I’ve not even price-checked them for fear of sticker-shock induced heart failure…….

  21. Thanks a lot for this article. I was stuck between a few options for my gear/ gun $$$ an this helped me out. I pulled the trigger on a VTAC surefire and mount combo today. The magpul illum kit should mount it onto my rifle. Also it gave me something to write about today over at my place.

  22. S.C. C.M. permalink

    I currently run a mid 90’s factory Colt A-2 NATO 5.56 1/7 H-BAR with a Med. Harris. I know it’s prob. heavier than recommended, but what are your thoughts about switching the upper to a Colt flat top and a quality adjustable rear stock ? I hate the carry handle, but it does allow the sights and optics to align with my check weld. Changing over to the flat top seems like it might mess up the sight alignment and become problematic.

    • I guess I don’t understand your concern? The sights on a flat-top end up being the same height over bore as the sights on a carrying handle…..

    • robroysimmons permalink

      I run a mid 90s government approved AR and since I am cheap instead of buying an upper I bought the Troy slip in hand guards and put an Aimpoint Patrol optic on it, happy so far, the irons being about 1/3 up to the dot, also a RRA 6 position not because I like the feel of a adj but for the carry aspect with my 2 point Blackhawk sling.

      As for gun minutae in my dreams I want Remington to take the new sniper rifle platform put it in .308 size with stock and barrel, handguard options. I’m calling it here, modular is the new flair for turnbolts.

  23. S.C.C.M. permalink

    It just appeared to me that the flat top config would be much lower than the handle. I didn’t want to go to the trouble and expense if there was new challenges to over come.
    Thank You for your reply, and thank you for your willingness to help those of us who need to be brought up to speed. The storm is upon us…….

  24. I have 150 lumen lights on both rifles but wanted to move up due to the flat long distances of my AO. Do you think there is a limit that should be used mounted to a weapon? I’ve seen some lights advertised at 1200 lumen. Thanks for another great article.

  25. Dave permalink

    You basically set up my 3Gun rifle with a few very minor differences. Obviously the TLR 2 comes off for a match but otherwise it rides on the front rail. My backup optic is a T-1 with QD mounts that I carry. I cut off the front sight when I put on the 1.25X4 VXR Patrol (also on QD’s.) I use a Battle Comp flash hider which is pretty effective at flash suppression and it is very good at mitigating muzzle jump. The recoil is straight back. I hate comps on AR’s and all those that shoot them around me. They are just too damn loud even with fitted hear pro.

    I use a full contour 1-9 16″. The additional weight is not a problem because I do my fucking PT and it stabilizes the 69g Noslers and 77g SMK’s just fine. +1 on the Vickers sling, it holds the rifle securely against your chest while running or crawling through the swamps while hog hunting and it is very quick to loosen up to shoot.

    My most important accessory is probably a can of CLP. I keep the action wet and have never had a malfunction in 7500+ rounds. This gun might have been cleaned twice. A wet gun is a happy gun.

    Rock River with their two stage trigger.

    I take that back, I did have one malfunction. I was shooting around the back of a car on the left side and had the rifle pressed up against the car. One of the ejecting brass bounced back into the action as the fresh round was trying to chamber. (Just something to keep in mind.)

  26. choice of the rifle depends on your own choice and you can choose best rifle for yourself.

  27. Alfred E. Neuman permalink

    Reblogged this on The Dixie Traveler.

  28. Jonathan permalink

    What are your opinions on mid length carbines? Would it be better to just run a standard M4 carbine?

  29. jwf permalink

    so whats your opinion of the Primary Arms 1×6 and Bushnell elite compared to the Burris MTAC?

  30. jwf permalink

    what BUIS are you running with your optics?you said the magpul flip ups are shit and i dont think my set of fab defense sights are any better. i was contemplatin just going with fixed iron sights but all this damn logic has changed my mind lol and thanks for all the info you put out there in both your books and on here.

  31. jwf permalink

    so you just run an MTAC without any secondary optic?

  32. jwf permalink

    Whats your opinion on the AKM platform? ive got a couple ar15 rifles and im trying to decide if i should keep to the AR plaform or buy a couple ak’s next. i

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