In this video I discuss a few basic AR15 handling techniques for muzzle control during rapid fire.
In this video I discuss a few basic AR15 handling techniques for muzzle control during rapid fire.
OK, this might piss off a few people. Does it matter which brand of AR15 you buy? The AR15 has become the most popular rifle in America and it seems like everyone, except King Barack and Hillary, wants one. With so many brands out there, the natural question is “which one is best” and “which one should I buy?”
I’ve got a can of worms here on my desk, so lets go ahead and open it by trying to answer those questions! First I think we need to divide the playing field into three basic groups; Imports, Standard Grade, and High End. We’re starting to see AR-15 clones made overseas or at least made from a lot of imported parts. Take the Century Arms C15 rifle for example. I’m pretty sure it’s made in Poland and I know you can get one new for less than $700. I don’t have any experience with them so I’m not going to say much about them. I will say this though, I think I’d save an extra $150 and get an American made AR-15. So let’s move on to Standard Grade AR-15s.
I’m going to let you in on a little, not so well known, secret on AR-15s… most of them are not made by the brand name stamped on the side of the lower receiver. Multiple brands are made in the same machine shop, stamped with the appropriate name, and shipped off. LAR Manufacturing, just across the mountain from me in Salt Lake City, Utah is a prime example. They’ve been making, actually making – not assembling, AR-15 parts for 47 years. I’ve seen with my own eyes crates of AR-15 parts in their shop sitting side by side for top brands like Bushmaster, DPMS and many others. That’s right, Bushmaster and DPMS are made in the same shop. Do you think Smith & Wesson makes their M&P? Think again. It’s made by Stag Arms. S&W says they do some finishing work, but they don’t actually make the gun. In fact, the the Standard Grade AR15 class, I’m not aware of anyone making their own gun entirely. What do I mean by Standard Grade?
It’s not a Black and White definition, but when I say Standard Grade, I mean the guns you’re finding on the shelves in most shops across America… Bushmaster, DPMS, Stag Arms, Smith & Wesson, CMMG, Rock River Arms… Typically the AR15s selling for under $1300. And that means Colt as well.
So does it matter if you buy a Bushmaster or Rock River? No, not really. I don’t think it does. The quality is going to basically be the same because so many of the parts are made in the exact same shop on CNC machines and forges. What you see is different features. The brands offer different styles of rifles, but the quality is going to be about the same.
I know, I know… that sends some of you guys into orbit. I know of people who will fight you on the fact DPMS is the “best damn AR money can buy”. Well, not in today’s world of just-in-time inventory and out-sourced manufacturing. Because that DPMS was mostly made in Salt Lake City, Utah by the same machines and technicians that make Bushmaster and many of the others. That’s not marketing hype. That’s just the facts… and I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
In the last few years, a new group of High End AR15s has emerged. These are your JP, Noveske, LWRC, LaRue Tactical, and a host of others. They are more of a “Professional Grade” than anything else. Think of it this way, you can buy a really nice Jeep of the dealer’s lot and you can have a lot of fun off-roading. But if you were going to enter the Baja 500, you would need to seriously upgrade that Jeep or probably just buy or build a vehicle for that specific purpose. Now you could get into an argument over whether the Baja 500 vehicle was better than a regular Jeep, but what’s the point? Sure, the Baja 500 vehicle is probably “better”, but how many of us really need that kind of vehicle? Maybe you’ve got the money and you want the toughest vehicle you can buy? Great… go for it.
That’s how I see AR-15s. The Standard Grade weapons work excellent for most people. Some guys have a couple thousand, or quite a bit more, to drop on a rifle and they just want a high end rifle. Standing on the line at your local range, you probably aren’t going to see a big difference between the regular guns and the high end guns. It’s kind of like driving a Jeep and the Baja 500 vehicle down the highway. But when you get into the mud, snow, ice, dust and extreme conditions of combat, you’re going to see the high end guns out perform the regular ones.
In closing, I guess I’ll wrap this up by saying that Brand doesn’t matter for the most part. It comes down to which rifle has the features you want? The only other consideration is if you have the money or the need for one of the real high end rifles out there.
Rules For A Gunfight by Drill Instructor Joe B. Fricks, USMC
1. Forget about knives, bats and fists. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns. Bring four times the ammunition you think you could ever need.
2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammunition is cheap – life is expensive. If you shoot inside, buckshot is your friend. A new wall is cheap – funerals are expensive.
3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.
4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough or using cover correctly.
5. Move away from your attacker and go to cover. Distance is your friend. (Bulletproof cover and diagonal or lateral movement are preferred.)
6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a semi or full-automatic long gun and a friend with a long gun.
7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running. Yell “Fire!” Why “Fire”? Cops will come with the Fire Department, sirens often scare off the bad guys, or at least cause then to lose concentration and will…. and who is going to summon help if you yell ”Intruder,” “Glock” or “Winchester?”
9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun.
10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
11. Always cheat, always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
12. Have a plan.
13. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work. “No battle plan ever survives 10 seconds past first contact with an enemy.”
14. Use cover or concealment as much as possible, but remember, sheetrock walls and the like stop nothing but your pulse when bullets tear through them.
15. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
16. Don’t drop your guard.
17. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees. Practice reloading one-handed and off-hand shooting. That’s how you live if hit in your “good” side.
18. Watch their hands. Hands kill. Smiles, frowns and other facial expressions don’t (In God we trust. Everyone else keep your hands where I can see them.)
19. Decide NOW to always be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.
21. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet if necessary, because they may want to kill you.
22. Be courteous to everyone, overly friendly to no one.
23. Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.
24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with anything smaller than ”4″.
25. Use a gun that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an Angel blows the powder from the flintlock of your musket.” At a practice session, throw your gun into the mud, then make sure it still works. You can clean it later.
26. Practice shooting in the dark, with someone shouting at you, when out of breath, etc.
27. Regardless of whether justified or not, you will feel sad about killing another human being. It is better to be sad than to be room temperature.
28. The only thing you EVER say afterwards is, “He said he was going to kill me. I believed him. I’m sorry, Officer, but I’m very upset now. I can’t say anything more. Please speak with my attorney.”
Finally, Drill Instructor Frick’s Rules For Un-armed Combat.
1: Never be unarmed.
As I’ve said before, the question we get the very most is, “What scope should I buy for my AR-15″. I decided to do a “Top 10″ list of AR15 scopes. I’m doing the list in terms of price, starting from lowest to highest. I’m also trying to show the best scopes at various price ranges. Like I say a lot, “Not everyone has $1200 to spend on a scope.” So this is a list of what I consider the 10 Best AR-15 scopes spread across price points from $120 to $1500! Also, this list is only for “scopes”, not holographic or red dot sights. Comparing holographics like EOTech to magnifying scopes is apples and oranges… two different applications. Ok… so here we go!
Here’s a great “all purpose” AR15 scope. It offers fixed 4x magnification and built in back-up sights on top. It has a glass etched reticle and illuminates in green and blue. The reticle is calibrated with bullet drop marks out to 600 yards – well beyond what is realistically effective for the .223.
This scope has 3.5 inches of eye relief so it’s very fast and easy to acquire your target when looking through the scope. The glass is very clear and provides a super crisp field of view. With 4x magnification you’re limited to around 250 yards. On man-sized targets you’d be good to around 350 yards. On smaller targets like prairie dogs and beer cans you’d be covered out to about 100 yards or a bit further.
The back-up sight on top is fully functional. It’s adjustable for windage and elevation and has a red fiber optic tube on the front sight for increased visibility. This sight is designed for targets under 25 yards and very practical for self defense situations.
It comes with an integrated rail mount so nothing else is required for mounting it on picatinny style rails. Two rail platforms for accessories are mounted at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. This scope is built very solid and as soon as you pull it out of the box you’ll be impressed. It’s built like a tank and holds up well over years of use.
I’m really impressed with the optics on this little scope and the reticle. Selling under $150, you just can’t beat it. We have very few returns or problems with this scope and our customers have been very happy with it. I think the back-up sight is very appealing. Not only is it there for close range, self defense type shooting, if something ever did go wrong with the scope at a critical moment, you still have that sight on top that will get you through the situation. If you’re looking for a basic scope for target shooting, hunting, self defense, and just general plinking, this is a great choice.
Of the thousands of AR-15 scopes we sell every year, this one out sells all the rest. It’s a 3-9×42 Tactical Scope with a mini red dot sight mounted on top. With the MOD 1 upgrade you can now choose between the standard mini red dot sight or upgrade to the Burris Fastfire Sight. This scope, with the Burris Fastfire on top, is probably one of the best scopes you can buy under $500! The 3-9x magnification lets you get those longer range shots and the red dot on top is perfect for close range, self defense style shooting. The scope has an illuminated MilDot or Sniper reticle (your choice) and a bullet drop compensator calibrated for the 55 grain .223 bullet out to 500 yards. Quick release mount also comes standard on this scope.
Some of you may have read reviews on this scope that show the standard mini red dot in poor light. I’m the first to admit that it has had some problems. About 5% of the regular mini red dot sights come back to us and we replace them. That’s a higher return rate than we’d like, but the manufacturer is working on it and we like to tell everyone that 95 out of 100 work perfectly! This is a great scope package. We’ve sold thousands of these scopes and we have thousand of very happy customers! You can’t go wrong with the Ultimate AR-15 scope!
The Burris AR-332 is one of my favorite AR-15 scopes! I just can’t say enough good about it. If I had to choose one AR-15 scope under $500, I think this would be it. It’s a fixed 3x scope designed specifically for tactical rifles. It will mount to picatinny rails as well as AR-15 Carry Handle without any additional hardware.
It has a Circle Dot reticle with “holdover” points that can be used for a variety of .223 AND .308 bullets out to 600 yards. The reticle illuminates in Red and Green and appears black when not illuminated. If your battery dies, you can still see the reticle and use the scope. There are Picatinny mounting platforms on top and both sides for additional accessories.
The eye relief is perfect when mounted on your AR-15 and target acquisition, even at close range, is very fast. If you’re shopping for AR-15 scopes, you should take a real serious look at the Burris AR-332.
New for 2012 is the Burris AR-536. It’s basically the same as the AR-332, but in a 5x configuration with a 36mm objective lens. If you like the AR-332 design, but want a little more than 3x magnification, then the AR-536 is a great choice. On the AR-332 I don’t see the need to add a Fastfire type sight on top, but with the AR-536 I think I would add a Fastfire sight on top for quicker target acquisition.
The Burris MTAC gives you a little more flexibility over the AR332 at it has variable magnification from 1-4x. The MTAC is new for 2012 and is the next generation of AR type scopes from Burris. A lot of companies make great scopes, but few seem to understand the “AR15 scope” market as well as Burris. As much as we promote them, you might think we’re getting some kind of “kick-back” (I wish!). Well, we’re not getting anything from them and the reason we promote them so much is because we are impressed with their designs for tactical rifles like the AR15. A lot of the other scope manufacturers just don’t get it.
The MTAC has long eye relief, about 4 inches, so getting lined up on target is really fast and you don’t need to crane your neck around trying to see through it. The 1-4x is nice as you can adjust magnification for the situation. I recommend leaving it on 1x and then adjusting up from there if needed. The MTAC has the same reticle at the AR332 and works equally as well for 5.56 and .308 rifles. It does not come with any mounts and we recommend the Burris PEPR mount. You can get the MTAC in a package with a mount and the Fastfire, but I really don’t see the need for a reflex sight on top when you have a scope that can be set to 1x.
OK, so what do you do when you need a lot of magnification, but you don’t want to give up your ability to make fast, close range shots as well…..? That’s a question we’ve been working on for some time. We also wanted to keep the price reasonable enough that most shooters could afford it.
Well… we call it the Longbow Package using the Burris 4.5-14×32 Timberline scope, a Quick Release Burris P.E.P.R. mount, and the Burris Fastfire on top. (and just for the record, we at Valhalla Armory originated this package. I guess Cabelas and a few other copycats are offering now.)
This is for you guys who want to shoot out to 500 yards, but still need to make close range, rapid reaction shots. Think about rural law enforcement, military designated marksmen, or just plain old coyote hunting. You never know where the target might pop up… 15 feet or 400 yards! This scope package covers it all!
The 4.5-14×32 Timberline offers 3.75 to 5 inches of eye relief! And combined with the PEPR mount, it places the scope perfectly for fast target acquisition and comfortable shooting. It also features an adjustable objective so you can focus the scope specifically on your target and comes with Burris’ Ballistic Plex Reticle so it works equally as well on .223 or .308 rifles.
The Leupold VX-R Patrol is my favorite choice of a mid-priced scope for the AR-15. I saw it at the Shot Show and was very impressed. The illuminated reticle is battery powered but uses fiber optics to adjust brightness. Additionally, it as a motion sensor built into the scope so as soon as you pick up the scope, the reticle turns on. After 5 minutes of no activity, the reticle turns off by itself.
With 4 inches of eye relief, the VX-R patrol is fast on targeting and comfortable to shoot. The VX-R Special Purpose reticle instantly puts you on target. It’s only 9.5 inches long so it makes a nice, compact package on M4s. The MARK AR was Leupold’s first step into lower priced AR15 scopes, but I think this VX-R really hits the mark. The MARK AR is OK… The VX-R is really cool!
I look at the VX-R Patrol as a scope for the serious shooter who wants quality and performance, but just doesn’t need one of those “Navy SEAL” grade combat scopes that cost twice as much as you spent on the rifle.
This is really an “all-purpose” AR-15 scope. It features a true 1x to 4x magnification so the target acquisition is super fast. I love the ballistic reticle as well. Burris offers a package with this scope, a PEPR mount, and a Fastfire II, but I don’t see the need for a mini red dot mounted on top of a scope that has a 1x magnification as well. It just seems overly redundant. Maybe on a 2-8x or something with more magnification, but on a 1-4x I just don’t see the need for the extra red dot on top.
The XTR is Burris’ top of the line tactical scope. It’s built to withstand harsh, rugged conditions and continue performing. With 3.5 to 4 inches of eye relief, it’s perfect on an AR-15. As soon as you bring the gun up, you’re on target. If you need a scope that can take a beating, this one’s a great option.
You see how hard it is to just pick a few AR-15 scopes?!!! I really like the Leupold MARK 4 MR/T scopes. You can get a 1.5-5×20 or 2.5-8×36. Each is available with different reticles and options for illumination. On the 2.5-8x, you have the choice between the M1 style (tall) turrets and the M2 (low-profile – as shown above) adjustment turrets. I prefer the M2 low profile turrets as it allows you to mount a mini sight on top like a Leupold DeltaPoint or Trijicon RMR. I know, I know…. I’m a big fan of putting mini red dot sights on top of scopes, but I believe that’s how you get the most out of your AR-15. It’s such a flexible rifle and you can do so many things with it, you might as well get all you can out of it.
Anyway… back to Leupold scopes! I’ve never been a big fan of the Leupold CQ/T. It’s a great scope, but I just don’t think it’s worth $900. If you’ve got $900 to spend on an AR-15 scope, there’s better options – like this MR/T 1.5-5x – might as well get the extra magnification for the same money. And I’d take an ACOG over the CQ/T any day.
The Leupold MR/T series is a great choice for someone needing variable magnification in a professional grade scope.
The Trijicon ACOG is synonymous with AR-15 scopes. Besides the Colt 4x scope, you might say the ACOG is the original AR-15 scope. Within the ACOGs, I prefer the TA11 series for the longer eye relief. The TA11 ACOGS have 3.5x magnification with about 2.5 inches of eye relief. Compare that to the TA31 series with 4x magnification and only 1.5 inches of eye relief. You can probably tell from this article that eye relief is a big deal to me… and it is! I admit it. It’s one of the factors that really determines if I’ll use a scope or not. For me, longer eye relief equals faster target acquisition…. maybe it’s just me.
Anyway… I’ll give up the 1/2x magnification for the longer eye relief. With ACOGs you really have a lot of choices when it comes to reticles, but as I’ve used a few, I prefer the Chevron found on the TA11F and I also really like the Horseshoe reticle on the TA11H. Here’s a side by side comparison of these two reticles:
I can’t really decide which one I like best. I like the Chevron as it gives you a very precise aiming point, especially at longer ranges. The Horseshoe reticle is designed for CQB, or Close Quarters Battle, and is supposed to have faster target acquisition. For me it might be a little faster, but it’s hard to tell. ACOGs are available now with either Red or Green illumination. Green has become very popular, but I prefer red. I think red stands out better and easier for the eye to pick up. I know… some scientist says the human eye detects green faster, but red works better for me. Maybe that means I’m not human. I don’t know….
The TA11 series is worth the extra money over the TA31 series. If you’re buying an ACOG, what’s an extra $100 bucks? You can also get the TA11 with an RMR sight on top. It comes with a crosshair reticle so I would just buy the TA11F or TA11H and then add the RMR on top. Speaking of the ACOGs with RMR sights on top, I don’t know why Trijicon uses the battery powered RMR sights on them. I prefer the dual illuminated RMRs because you don’t have to worry about turning them on/off or batteries. My personal pick for the best AR-15 scope in the world would be the Trijicon TA11F or TA11H with the RMR 08 mounted on top. This setup isn’t offered by Trijicon. You would have to purchase each item separately. For me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
It used to be if you wanted a very high end combat scope, the Trijicon ACOG was your only choice…. no longer true. The Leupold HAMR now gives you another option. The Leupold HAMR is a 4×32 combat scope. As I said in the beginning, this list is not organized by what I think it the best. It’s organized by price and the Leupold HAMR actually costs a little more than the Trijicon TA11 series. Everyone wants to know if the HAMR is better than an ACOG. “Too early to tell”, is my answer. The HAMR is brand new. While its made by Leupold, we expect it to be nearly perfect, it doesn’t have a lot of field experience like the ACOG has. I believe it will prove to be just as reliable as the ACOGs.
Unlike the ACOGs, it does require batteries for illumination. Without batteries, the reticle appears black like any other scope. Under daylight conditions, this isn’t a big deal, but at night, it could be a problem if you lose battery power. Eye relief is slightly longer than the TA11 ACOGs at 2.7 inches. It’s also shorter than the TA11s. The HAMR is 5.5 inches long, while the TA11 ACOGs are 8 inches long. The TA31 ACOGs are 5.8 inches long.
The HAMR has a mounting plate on top for Leupold’s DeltaPoint mini reflex sights and you can purchase the HAMR and DeltaPoint in a combination kit. Here’s a picture of the HAMR with DeltaPoint mounted:
I think the HAMR is a serious competitor to the ACOG. I must say that I still lean a little towards the ACOGs just from years of working with them. Maybe I’m a little biased toward the “new kid on the block.” One thing I can’t figure out is why it’s so expensive. Why does a 4x scope, without Tritium or Fiber optics, cost $1300? I called Leupold and asked them this same question. Their answer was “You can drive your Ford F150 over the top of this scope and it will stay zeroed!” Well, I don’t know if that’s really true or not, but a lot of the cost is because it’s built so incredibly tough. Additionally, the optics and clarity of the HAMR are better than anything in its class.
Think of Leupold’s LR/T series of sniper scopes. Take that kind of optical clarity and resolution and shrink it down into one tough little combat scope and that’s the HAMR. Mount the DeltaPoint on top and it might just become my favorite AR-15 scope over the TA11 with RMR mentioned above.
I hope this gives you more insight into the murky topic of AR-15 scopes. It’s really hard, if not impossible, to define what is the BEST scope for the AR-15. There’s some great scopes out there for less than $300. As I always say, you don’t have to spend $1200 to get a great scope. If your life depends on a scope, $1200 is cheap! But most people’s lives don’t depend on their tactical scope so I’ve tried to include other options as well. Please comment and give your opinions of my list. I’d like to get your feedback.
Trying to choose from all the AR-15 Scopes out there? Here’s a video that will help you make sense of tactical scopes and understand more of what you might need. Lot’s of “experts” in the forums will tell you that you need a Trijicon ACOG, but that’s not the case. Not everyone has $1500 to spend on a scope.
If you’re new to AR-15s and tactical scopes, this video is for you.
Almost every morning the Disney Channel runs shortened versions of their “golden oldies” between some of their modern day cartoons as a way to fill time until the next scheduled show begins. One morning recently my kids were watching the Disney Channel when they featured an old Mickey Mouse classic called ‘Mickey’s Parrot‘ which was originally released back on September 09, 1938. In this episode, a parrot belonging to an escaped killer wanders into Mickey’s basement. Mickey hears it talking and thinks that the parrot is the killer who is on the loose who he just heard about on the radio. Mickey then goes and grabs his double barreled shotgun off of the wall and prepares to defend himself.
Well, wouldn’t you know it… in the version they presented on the Disney Channel the other day, they had digitally removed the shotgun and replaced it with a broom. Yes, Mickey grabbed a broom off of the gun rack, shouldered it, and prepared to defend himself with his handy, dandy tactical… broom.
Do you think we have come to the point as a society that we can’t even allow guns to be seen by children for fear that it will cause them to become crazed, blood thirsty psychopaths? Do you really think guns are so evil that the mere sight of one will cause blood to run in the streets? Give me a break!
Disney cartoons from that era have featured firearms literally more times than I can count. They’ve depicted firearms in terms of being a legitimate means of self defense, as a means to take game animals, and they have shown firearms as the indispensable tool that they are for every cowboy and cowgirl of the old west. Several generations have now been brought up with Disney cartoons that have depicted firearms as an integral part of their plot, and now you are telling me that we as a society can no longer handle it?… That our children must be completely isolated from the mere sight of a cartoon gun? Ridiculous!
No one outside of Disney can definitively say why they would choose this extremely misguided approach to self censorship, but I find it very disturbing. Did they choose to do this because they are anti-gun? Did they do it because they actually believe that kids seeing firearms would be detrimental? Perhaps they are just so afraid of the loony liberal soccer mom’s that might email them about it that they felt it was just the easiest path to take.
If Disney is actually concerned about child safety with regards to firearms, then I would suggest they team up with the NRA and devote some significant airtime to letting Eddie Eagle educate children about what to do if they find a gun. Not allowing children to be exposed to even the sight of a gun is not the answer. In fact, that’s what gets kids killed. The responsible thing to do is to talk to kids about guns. Tell them about the dangers, and educate them about how to be safe. Disney has a captive audience to say the least, and they should be doing everything they can to educate children (and parents) in our nation about gun safety. Disney should be doing their part to give children the knowledge that they need to keep them safe if they do ever happen to find a gun. Spreading the message of “Stop. Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.” is the path they should be taking. If Disney actually wants to make a difference when it comes to the safety of children, then they should be providing the millions of children that watch their network with useful information about firearms that will actually prevent accidents.
Disney sticking their heads in the sand and hoping that kids never see what a gun looks like is not the answer. Talking openly and honestly about gun safety is what will actually help children. How great would it be if an entire generation that is going to grow up watching the Disney Channel could be exposed to such valuable information about gun safety. What Disney is currently doing is misguided and extremely dangerous. They are not helping to keep kids safe, and they are being extremely counterproductive towards preventing gun accidents in America.
By: Ammoland News
Like I’ve said before, because there are so many different versions of AR-15 rifles out there, a lot of guys don’t really know what they have. They know they have an “AR-15″ or an “M4″, but those are pretty generic terms these days. One of the things I run into in my business is people ordering Picatinny Rail Forearms that don’t fit their gun. One of the most basic things you need to know about your AR-15, or the one you want to buy is what length gas system it has.
“Gas System”, you say, “This is a gun not a car!” Well, AR-15s are “gas operated”! They use the gases released when the bullet is fired to cycle the action. There is a tiny hole drilled in the top of the barrel that allows the gas to vent up into the gas block, into the gas tube, and then blasting back into the gas key on top of the bolt carrier thereby pushing it backward to eject the spent shell casing. OK, that’s about as technical as I’m going to get! (And by the way, when you buy those cheap parts kits out of Shotgun News, etc, the gas hole in the barrel is typically screwed up. Those cheap kits are made up from factory rejects!)
There are basically three different length gas systems; Carbine, Midlength, and Rifle. Carbine is found on 14.7″ and 16″ barrels. Midlength is also found on 16″ barrels (and 18″). See why there can be some confusion. Rifle length in found on 20″ and longer barrels. The real confusion is on guns with 16″ barrels. Most have Carbine length gas systems, but some have Midlength.
On the picture above, you can see the basic differences. Carbine uses forearms about 7 inches long, Midlength uses forearms about 9 inches long, and Rifle uses 12 inch forearms. If you want to switch out the forearm, you need to know what length you need. Now it doesn’t matter what Brand AR-15 you have. What matters is the length of your gas system.
So what’s the difference? Why do they even make Midlength? Well, look at the picture above, but this time look at the distance from the front sight to the muzzle end of the barrel. You’ll notice the Carbine barrel is much longer from the “Gas Hole” to the end of the barrel where the bullet exits. In fact, its about 2 inches longer. Midlength and Rifle are about the same. Once the bullet is fired, and passes the gas hole, it begins pushing gas up into the gas tube and back into the gas key on the bolt carrier. The longer this happens, the more blast and force there is on the gas key and therefore more of a “pop” of recoil. The bullet is in a Carbine barrel for 2 inches longer than the other barrels, therefore pushing more gas back into the action. This is why Carbines seem to have a sharper recoil, not that the .223 produces much recoil, than Midlength or Rifle barrels.
If you fire them side by side, you will feel the difference. A 16 inch Midlength gas system is smoother than the exact same rifle with a Carbine gas system.
Does it really matter? It’s really a matter of personal preference. It’s not a big deal to me. To some people it is. Some people will only own Midlength guns. Here’s an interesting parting note… 14.7 inch barrels, with fixed flash suppressors, are about the same length from Gas Hole to muzzle as Midlength and Rifle systems and thereby give you the same smooth recoil in the Carbine length gas system. Hopefully that doesn’t utterly confuse anyone!
I know a lot of you guys are new to the AR-15 so I thought the best way to start off this BLOG was to provide some standardized nomenclature. Maybe it’s just the military still coming out in me. I don’t know, but here we go…
One of the biggest problems with the AR-15 is all the different variations. If you really want to open a can of worms, just as some a fellow rifle shooter to describe what an AR-15 is or “what is an M4″? You could get a million different answers to this question. AR-15s are so easily customized and changed that there is no one look for an AR-15. But knowing some of the correct terms will go a long ways in helping us all speak the “same language”.
Above I’ve shown a basic M4 style AR-15 rifle and nomenclature for many of the external parts that get changed out and replaced thereby drastically changing the appearance of the rifle. No, I didn’t point out every single part so some of you overly anal guys can just chill out a little. We’re covering the basics here!
Below I’m showing another very common variation so you can see some of the basic differences in style and accessories.
One of the most common differences in AR-15s is the Upper Receiver. Basically you have the A2 Style with a Carry Handle or the Flat Top with a Picatinny Rail. It’s very common to have a removable Carry Handle, which when removed leaves a picatinny rail (flat top).
I’m not going to explain every single feature on the AR-15 as most of them are self explanatory, but I will cover a few of the less understood aspects.
1. Forearm – OK, there’s about 2 million different forearms available for AR-15s. Everybody from Knight Armament, who originally made the one for the military SOP MOD M4, to Martha Stewart is making AR-15 forearms (Well… I don’t know if Martha Stewart is actually making them, but you get my point). The big deal about the forearm is you need to understand what length gas system your rifle is using. There are basically three types; Carbine, Mid-Length, and Rifle (or Full Length). Measure the forearm on your rifle. If it’s about 6 inches long, then it’s a Carbine, about 9 inches and it’s Mid-Length, about 12 inches and it’s Rifle. Again… don’t get overly technical on the measurements because you don’t have to be exact. It’s one of the 3 and they’re obviously not close to the same size.
Now the only other variation you will run into is an AR-15 with a gas piston. Gas pistons require specialized forearms. So if you have a Gas Piston gun, make sure you buy a forearm that is gas piston compatible. If you don’t have a gas piston, then don’t worry about it.
2. Front Sight or Gas Block – All AR-15s have a gas block. Even the guns with pistons have a gas block. On rifles with that “A-Frame” front sight post, the gas block is just built into the sight post. You can have a “flat top” or “Picatinny” gas block, like the one shown in the second picture above, or you can even have a “low profile” gas block so you can install a longer forearm that extends over the top of the block and beyond it.
I hope this helps you understand common AR-15 terms.