This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine…

I’ve never been a gun collector.  Each gun I own serves a specific purpose.

They are tools, some better suited for solving specific problems than others and most with overlapping capabilities. The two AR15’s in the picture demonstrate this point very well.

Both are “built by me” guns and both have been 100% for over 10 years using Wolf Classic 55gr, 62gr (2k in a 2 day class) and reloads from 55gr-77gr bullets with various powders.

Anyone that says you can’t build a quality rifle from quality parts is full of it.  The key is quality parts!

Since building these guns, there have been leaps and bounds in the area of railed forearms and various parts that all would make them lighter and just as reliable.  My advise is that if you are going to build your own, go as light as your pocket book will allow without sacrificing reliability.

The AR15 platform is truly plug-n-play, just do your homework.


The SBR on the left is my primary and favorite rifle by far.  It’s a cut down 16″ LMT upper that I shortened to 12.5″, crowned and threaded on an old Clausing lathe.

Barrel Length:
I chose a 12.5″ barrel length over shorter lengths because of it’s added compactness and velocity retention.  It looses about 200fps over a 16″ barrel and requires NO modifications to a standard carbine gas system.

Even with the 200fps loss, it’s easy to match the BDC on my ACOG with 55gr-77gr bullets without getting into extreme pressures.

One reasons I chose the 12.5″ length is my friend had a 10.5″ AR that was way too finicky (as I read a lot are) and the 12.5″ length left a shoulder of about 1/4″ for muzzle devices to butt up against.  It’s just in front of the step down for the M203 attachment on an M4 barrel.

With the 12.5″ length you just “cut and shoot”, after you get your Form 1 approved of course.

The 3.5″ difference doesn’t seem like a lot, but in use it’s night and day between a 16″ barrel.  I would even go as far as building a “pistol” gun using something like the SIG brace as a butt-stock to keep the OAL down if I didn’t want to do the Form 1.

Lighter is always better!

At some point though you have to accept that even an AR15 is going to weigh more than 7lbs loaded in any configuration, including an “irons only” gun like the Colt 6920, a fine example of an out of the box gun.  If you need lighter than that, you might want to consider the Kel-Tec SU-16 (6lbs loaded) as an alternate.

Th SBR weighs in at 10.2lb fully loaded, with a 30 round P-Mag filled with Wolf 55gr bullets which weighs about 1lb on average.

While it is only 1.4 lbs lighter than my other rifle, it feels much lighter when worn due to the short barrel and better balance attributed to the lighter optics and forward vertical grip which improves the feel and control of the gun.

Trust me when I say… “This is the way to go!”


Muzzle Devices:
I’ve tried several devices ranging from Surefire brakes to the Troy FS you see on the right rifle in the pic and the Wilson brake on the left.

I’m of the opinion that brakes should be avoided completely for a SHTF gun.  I bought the brakes when I was in my 3Gun stage and got caught up in the “arms race” that those competitions encourage.  Go shoot one at night and you will quickly agree that the amount of flash is unacceptable.

By the time I publish this,  I will be using a standard A2 Birdcage FS on the primary rifle and in the future on all others.

Tests have shown over and over that the A2 @ $10.00 is at worst only marginally “flashier” than the best $80.00+ models and the money is best used elsewhere IMO, like on 8-10 Pmags!

Every rifle needs a quality light.

My primary does not sport one though because I’ve gone with the Streamlight TLR-1 setup for it and my pistol.

Running a light on a dual sight setup like the ACOG/T1 setup like I have on my primary or the 1-6X/Irons on my secondary, causes it to be in the FOV at the 12:00 or 1:00 position.

On the 1-6X setup I chose to run it at 11:00 as I want to have a light attached to all my rifles at all times if possible so I can hand it out ready to go, even though I prefer the 1:00 for an over the top activation.

On my primary, I will always have support gear with me and keep one TLR-1 in my chest harness and another on my G17 with my battle belt for redundancy between the rifle and pistol.

Vertical Fore-grips:
I’ve gone back and forth on this item several times.  They do give you better control over the gun and make packing one slung in front of you much more comfortable by creating a shelf to rest on your weak hand.

They  also allow for minute elevation changes when shooting over barricades and can be jammed against them (objects) for more support.  That being said, they also add weight and can hangup on stuff so shorter is better.

The primary reason I run one on the SBR is for hand placement memory.  I’m less likely to reach out in front of the forearm rail and grab a hot barrel with it there.

The light on the longer gun prevents this from happening so I don’t run one on it.

Cleaning Rods:
Don’t leave home without them!


I attach MILSPEC rods to every AR15 I own.  One separated case or stuck bullet has the potential to put you down hard without them.  I have had to use them on my own and others guns, once it happens to you, you will not be without, don’t wait for it to happen.

I started out with the Aimpoint T1 as a primary optic with iron backups many moons ago, but shooting 3Gun matches soon showed me the failing logic of this setup.

When I got to 15″ plates down in the grass at 300 yards, it’s was impossible for me to see them on 1X.  A human head is ~8″, think about it…

I know it’s still popular with people who go to gun classes and shoot at < 100 yards on full size targets, but meanwhile back on the homestead, targets are small and out to 300 yards is common.

Outside of room clearing, a full size target at < 50 yards is a rare bird.  People tend to get behind cover when the shooting starts and like to “get small” fast.

Having a primary optic like the ACOG TA01NSN that is at least 4X is mandatory IMO for a SHTF rifle.  Not only for the magnification, but because a primary optic should not require batteries, they need to be always on.

Although a T1 on level 4 will last 7 years on one CR2032 watch battery, so as long as the optic is not a battery hog and can be left on at all times, I would make it an acception to the rule.  I still sleep better knowing I’m not reliant on a battery to get hits on target, YOMD.

On the secondary I just could not justify the coin required to get a top end scope ($1500+) but wanted something proven and wanted 1-6X as a minimum.

The two choices where the Vortex Strikeforce 1-6X and the Primaryarms 1-6X with ACSS reticle.

At first I was really drawn to the ACSS, but the no BS warranty of the Vortex won out in the end, and hindsight shows I made the right choice for me as I think the ACSS might be too busy after all.

I’ve had and used top glass from USO and S&B and can tell you that while the Strikeforce is nothing like that, it is better than some of the old Leopold stuff I had in terms of brightness.

It’s very usable and proven tough, just don’t expect to be able to drag it behind a truck like a USO scope without damage.

With only one optic, I found a set of offset irons on Amazon for $25 that are actually quite good quality to use as backups.  Two is one and all that.

Pistol Grips:
Since the debut of the more vertical BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Grip  I have ran nothing else and replaced all my previous grips with this model.  They truly make a difference when shooting and carrying the rifle in patrol mode, one of those “have to try it to believe it” items.

I’m not a Lefty so I don’t need an ambi selector, but the BAD-ASS Selector  is a very nice upgrade on any rifle.

It allows the gun to be snicked on safe with the shooting finger in one fluid motion and is another item like the BCM pistol grip that has to be tried to appreciate it’s value.

IMG_2983.jpgAnother benefit is that when your rifle is on your gear (where it tends to flick the safety off) you can know if the safety is on by looking / feeling the weak-side lever.

I bought the LMT SOPMOD after a buddy let be try his and the cheek weld was so much better than a stock M4 version that I made the switch.  There are many out there these days to chose from, but I will stick with this model in the future (BCM is making a version now) as they just work and I’ve not found a better cheek weld.

As far as customer service goes, LMT can’t be beat.  When I improperly mortared my rifle on a stuck case (hit it at an angle, repeatedly as hard as I could) and cracked the SOPMOD, they sent a replacement in the mail on the promise I would send my back.

LMT got me back up and running in less than a week so I could attend the Super Dave carbine class I had scheduled with a new stock. Even though it was total abuse on my end that caused the breakage!

For the longest time I only ran a classic MILSPEC single stage trigger.  It’s all about the shooter, not the trigger, right?

While a great trigger will mask poor fundamentals to a point, a poor trigger will also limit a good trigger puller.

If you can afford one, the Geissele SSA-E (~$200.00) is the one to have.  If not, then do yourself a favor and get the ALG Advanced Combat Trigger (~$55.00) at the very least.

I run the SSA-E in my primary gun and someday hope to add another to my secondary rifle also.

My secondary is now running the Spikes Battle trigger (the pre-cursor to the ALG being developed, and it’s improved break is enough to put another SSA-E on the low priority list for now.

I did have trouble (trigger catch slipped causing a misfire after a few K of rounds) with the original Spikes and would not recommend them though.  Get the ALG.

I have Pmags and MILSPEC metal mags.  The Pmags have never given me an issue, can’t say the same for the MILSPEC.

Don’t go cheap, buy the Pmags when they are on sale (Bi-Mart had them at $9.97 last week) or you can usually find them all these days in bulk (buying 10 @ $100) on the internet.

You can’t have too many.

Two-point is the only way.

I’ve used Frank Proctors sling and a few single points in the past, but usually settled on the Viking Tactics padded sling.

When VT came out with their bungee version I tried it on my SBR and loved it.  That is until my new Perenes Pup decided it tasted too good to pass up!

This gave me a chance to consider the perfect SHTF sling before replacing it.  What I came up with is the (hybrid between the simplicity of the Proctor sling and comfort of the Viking sling) I will save for another post.

That about cover the two rifles I have and how I set them up.  I could go on, but I’ll be surprised if anyone made it this far into the post and leave it open for questions if there are specifics anyone wants to know, feel free to ask in the comments.

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