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Setting up the Defensive AR15
by Kim Foster

This is my opinion on how an AR-type rifle should be set up for defensive purposes. You may have a different opinion, and that doesn’t make either of us wrong.

THE BASIC GUN: I recommend a 16-inch barreled flat top with a 5.56 chamber, from a quality manufacturer. You want a flash hider, not a compensator.

BUTT STOCK: I like collapsible stocks because I can get the same stock fit whether I’m in a T-shirt or winter clothes and body armor. Also, I like my stocks fairly short. Typically, the second or third hole. Stocks like the Vltor and LMT sopmod provide an improved cheek weld that may be beneficial for precision accuracy. However, I find the generic 6-position M4 stock to be perfectly sufficient.

SIGHTS: The old days of "irons only" for combat are gone. The military issues Aimpoint, Eotech and the ACOG with good success. Most confrontations happen in reduced light and dot sights make low light shooting much easier. I’ve been pleased with both Aimpoint and Eotech. They are similar but different and dependent on your needs, I would recommend either. Every defensive rifle should have back up sights. I prefer a fixed front sight and an optic mount that gives me a 1/3 co-witness.

LIGHTS: I consider a light to be a requirement for a defensive rifle. You can spend a lot more on fancy tactical lights but they won’t be noticeably better from an application stand point than a Surefire G2 or G3 LED. If most of your application requirement will be indoors, the G2 is enough. If you intend to use the rifle outside much, go with the G3. A standard (cheap) 1" scope ring will mount these lights to a rail. You may want to use both rings. If you want an ‘offset’ mount, Viking Tactics has a good one. I like mine mounted at 3:00 or 6:00 but your milage may vary. I dislike pressure pads (tape switches), they aren’t reliable and the cords are always in the way.

SLINGS: I also consider a sling to be a requirement for a defensive rifle.

I’ve found Three Point slings to be over complicated and tend to bind up any equipment you have on your chest. They can get in the way during magazine changes and malfunction clearance.

The Two Point, Vickers’ style is a very workable concept, the only down side is, like the Three Point, it can get in the way during magazine changes.

Single Points are very good for manipulating the gun. You can also quickly move the weapon to the off side shoulder, should the need arise. If you have to transition to a pistol, while moving to cover or have to drag a team member or family member to cover, it can beat the crap out of your knees.

HAND GUARDS: I don’t like a lot of weight on the front of my rifle so, any rail system I use has to be light. If you aren’t going to use PEQ lasers, vertical fore grips or other things, you probably don’t need one. Free Floats are nice but not needed on a defensive carbine. If the only thing you are mounting is a light, there is nothing wrong with a plastic hand guard and a bolt on accessory rail. You can mount a light on the front sight tower, as well.

MAGAZINES: Magazines are a wear item and should be discarded, or at least stripped for parts, when they become worn. USGI mags are fine but I recommend replacing the follower with MagPul’s self leveling follower. P Mags have been problem free for me. They are the only plastic magazine I recommend. HK mags are heavy, expensive and they rust.

VERTICAL FORE GRIPS: I’ve never been able to warm up to these. I have a Tango Down stubby grip that I use more as a hand stop then a hand grip. (7 Feb 10)




Kim in the early days with one of his first AR15s, a Colt HBAR.  His tastes and recommendations have changed dramatically!

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Uploaded: 2/10/2010