The AR-15 is the most popular centerfire rifle in the United States because its modular nature has inspired various tinkers, tweakers, and theorists to modify it in a ways Eugene Stoner likely never imagined.
Ingenuity has given us Peterbilt-stopping full-auto .50 Beowulf PDWs, scary-accurate long range 6.5 Grendels, every flavor of .223 Remington/5.56 you can think of, true “modern sporting rifles” that try to make a clean break into the world of Zumbos, and improved calibers for every possible need.
You’ve got lasers, NVGs/NODs, CQB optics in every possible configuration, scopes of various flavors, iron sights both fixed,collapsible, and offset in plain iron, fiber-optic, and glow-in-the-dark radioactive flavors, weapon lights both visible and infrared, and even the ability to attach other complete weapon systems via picatinny rails. The AR-15 was never imagined as a 10-12 pound gun… but here we are, all too often.
Shortly after I acquired my first AR-15, a BCM Mid-16 Mod 2, I developed a terrible urge to weigh it down with the cheap red-dots I could afford at the time, single-point slings, lasers, foregrips, and huge weapon lights.
Fortunately, a tight budget got me from getting too stupid. It wasn’t until I was a little more involved in the game and on my second and third ARs that I started spending a little cash on accessories, but even then I was still trying to nickle-and-dime my way through the teething process. I ended up with crap products to grasp the theories behind them. The theory generally seemed to be “there’s a sucker born every minute.” I gave some of the stuff I acquired to others that wanted it, and threw out the worst of it. The problem was simple.
I knew I liked the AR-15 platform, but I didn’t know what I wanted out of it.
Slowly but surely, I started watching knowledgeable shooters more, was blasting away in my own experiments less, and began adopting a sort of ethos for my particular beast, which suffers from triple-personality syndrome.
At the moment, “Gretchen” is barreled with a 18″ .223 Wylde, with which she spits 55-grain FMJ into sub-MOA holes with disgusting regularity out to 300 yards. She is almost certain capable of more than that, but the piddly little pellets I’ve bought in bulk for target practice don’t move steel very much beyond that, and so she stays in close. I’ve made the mistake of putting cheap Chinese red-dots on her in the past, but won’t make that mistake again. I’m currently leaning towards running her “nearly naked” with the Wylde barrel, with just a good set of YHM iron sights and my newly acquired Inforce WMLfor domestic duties. I won’t even add a sling until it’s time to hit the range.
Eventually, I’m going to make slight tweaks to “Gretchen” to perform with my two other barrels, but I don’t think they’ll be drastic.
The 16″ 300 AAC Blackout is a short-to-mid range cartridge, and if I glass her at all, it will be with my existing Leatherwood CMR. I’ll use a standard GI web sling as an accuracy aid, and it will be good for deer hunting that out to 400 yards or so once I’ve put in the time to develop my dope card on the cartridge/scope combo.
A scope really worthy of the 18″ progressive-twist 6.5 Grendel, which easily reaches past 1000 yards, is going to take a while to acquire. I’ve noticed several instructors at Appleseed seems to be gravitating towards the higher end Vortex Viper PST and Nightforce NXS series scopes on either LaRue or American Defense mounts with a 20 MOA Q/D base. For this set-up, I’ll likely use my trusty GI sling out to 500 yards, or a bipod beyond that.
If I get my technique with the iron sights and WML mastered, will I really need an EoTech or Aimpoint and lasers and a single-point sling to transition to a sidearm? In my non-Hollywood world, I’m thinking probably not. Here in reality, I’m most likely to be reacting to shattering glass in my PJs, not waiting around, kitted up for war. I’m going for simplicity and reliability with as few potential failure points as possible.
With my mid-and long range set-ups, I’m again looking for as much simplicity as I can. I’ll use a GI sling for stability at mid-ranges and perhaps a bipod at extreme ranges. I’ll use iron sights when possible, and only transition to scopes when the range and target size dictates that I must, and even then, those scopes with be in QD mounts.
No lasers. No foregrips. No funky slings. No on-rifle magazine/spare parts storage. No modifications or parts added to the basic manual of arms when it comes to loading/clearing/unloading. No pads or wires for my WML, and that is momentary-on-only to reduce the likelihood of it even being bled dry in storage or transport. No optics dependent on electronics, and all optics must be in QD mounts to get them off the rifle as soon as possible if they do find away to fail.
It’s taken me a long time to get past the glitz to get back to the basics if marksmanship and practice instead of gadgets, but I’m getting there.