Monday, July 20, 2015

Equipping the Carbine Intelligently

 I received a sizeable number of positive comments in regards to my blog on how to run the carbine, most of which ad to do with how to “dress it”. But I thought I would do in this article was talk about what features I think are important.  That said, I lament the “passing” of the 12 gauge shotgun as the long gun of choice for personal security. It’s on target power is most impressive!  I have been in the position to see several people shot with the gun (not after the fact but as it happened!) and I remain impressed with its capability. It is still the close quarter combat weapon of choice for me. However, the shotgun is limited in effectiveness in regards to range, while the AR-15, Ruger Mini-14 or other such 5.56 carbines can be used as far as the naked eye can see. With current-generation optics, these guns can be used well beyond their original intended limit of 300 meters.

I mourn the “passing” of the shotgun with a smile on my face because in the AR-15, we now have a gun that police officers and armed citizens want to use, train with and shoot versus the “reluctance” to put the 12 gauge through its paces. Cops and citizens alike buy carbines with their own funds and then “dress” them like a child would a Barbie or G.I. Joe.  There are now so many add-ons for the AR that we’ve reached a level of absurdity. The truth is, the AR-15 is just plain cool and I’m OK with that. Any long gun will be more effective than a handgun, though not as portable.

As most readers know, I currently operate a training school that focuses exclusively on the combative application of the handgun, which is the most difficult of weapon systems to master and the most likely gun an officer or armed citizen will have with them when they need a gun. The handgun is a reactive or reflexive weapon, while the carbine is a responsive one, meaning the carbine is the gun taken when you know what the threat is, while the pistol is the gun you will likely have when the threat breaks out and unfolds in front of you. Since most police operations are investigative in nature, many of the threats cops face will be reactive, happening as a situation develops.  Armed citizens will likely face a criminal attack which will certainly develop unexpectedly. Thus the handgun will always be the primary firearm for American cops and armed citizens. That’s why I dedicate so much time in my regular column to the handgun. The military, on the other hand, works to kill the enemy and a rifle or carbine is much better for this.

The Basics

The primary reason I like the AR platform is that it offers training and manipulation continuity with the semi-automatic pistol. Whether an officer chooses a gas-driven or gas-piston platform is up to them. There are good and bad things with both systems. Regardless of the platform, the AR needs TLC …it needs to be cleaned and properly lubricated regularly.  While the gun will run dirty it will not run dry! If such care is given, both the gas-impingement and gas-piston AR platform will give decades of reliable service.

I’ve owned a number of ARs over the years (in both systems) from a variety of manufacturers. My current go-to gun was built by Templar Custom Arms with both lower and upper of their manufacture combined with a 1-7 Wilson Combat barrel.  From there it’s a matter of personal choice as to which accessories are added.


Because I want my gun to be light and sleek, I’m very careful about how I “dress” it. I don’t need enough rails to start my own railroad, so I chose a Midwest Industries fore-end due to its trim profile and adaptability. The fore-end comes with a top rail for the forward mounting of optics and the capability of adding rail sections only where I want them. In my case, there’s one section of rail at 9-o’clock so I can add a white light. I like the way I can wrap my hand around the trim fore-end to help “drive” the gun from target to target and also help reduce the overall weight of the gun.

Sights & Optics

 I also added a set of Midwest Industries flip up iron sights as they are a must have contingency. As good as optics are in this day and age, they do fail and when it is raining they can be all but useless. That said, an optic of some type is also a good idea and the general rule of thumb is one power of magnification for every 100 yards you expect to use it within. Although anything is possible when working the street as a cop, history has shown most patrol operations will occur within 100 yards, so a simple, fast-action red dot is the way to go. I think this same rule can be applied to the armed citizen as well. The Mini-Aimpoint red dot backed up by their 3 X magnifier meets my needs for fast on target acquisition, sleek profile and simplicity. The magnifier can be rotated out of the way when not needed, but truth be told it usually rides in my gear bag unless I am shooting at long distance.

White Lights

Every long gun needs to have a white light attached, or at least the capability of adding one. Truth be told, I’ve never been completely happy with any of the white lights I’ve tried on my AR. Unless I use a pressure switch (which can come loose and fall off), I’ve never been able to get my support hand thumb onto the light’s pressure switch without compromising my grip. But that’s recently changed. While browsing the Brownell’s booth at the 2013 SHOT Show, I noticed a new light mounted on an AR.  I asked Brownell’s Larry Weeks about it and he offered to send one for testing. I quickly agreed and after using it for just a few weeks found it was the best weapon-mounted light I’ve ever used. Made by In Force, this light differs from others due to its canted rear switch instead of the flat rear switch found on other white lights. This design offers the same ease of use of a tape-pressure switch but without the wires and loose fit found with Velcro mounting.  I have the momentary only model which I am told has been discontinued. Too bad as I really like this unit!

Other Add-Ons

Magpul makes some of the best designed, reasonably priced accessories available. This company never seems to “miss” when it comes to new product development. Their telescoping rear stock (CTR) is the best of the breed in my opinion. It’s light, sleek and locks solidly in place with a dual lever system that eliminates wobble. It’s also set up for mi. spec detachable QD sling swivels, which I use on my preferred Magpul quick-adjustment two-point sling. I also prefer their MOE pistol grip. Its design pulls the hand back for proper finger placement on the trigger face as well as Magpul’s  P-MAG magazines due to their incredible level of reliability.

I replaced the factory flash hider with a model from Battle Comp, which I’ve found it not only reduces muzzle flash, but also helps hold the muzzle down during recoil better than anything I have ever used.  Shooters next to me do not like its blast so I try to shoot on the end of the line. Too bad for them but great for me! Although the Battle Comp model is expensive, I really don’t mind paying for something that really improves my shooting ability. Few add-ons really do.

Choose Wisely

hat’s truly useful for you, however, it’s important not to get distracted by all the add-ons. It’s not enough that you want to take it out of the cruiser, car or closet. Your AR-15 must also be configured to be the most effective gun for your needs. 

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