A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Speaking of ARs

From the comments:
Awhile ago you did a post on purchasing ones first 1911. Any chance on doing the same for a AR?
I honestly don't think I know enough about ARs to do that. While I speak from personal experience regarding the 1911, that experience is widely varied, and it's something I studied pretty deeply.

If I were to attempt to do the same with the AR-15 and it's many variants and uses, I would be doing my readers a disservice. Officer.com has an excellent AR-15 buyer's guide up. The Brownells videos I linked to give a lot of expert info on how to build one. There are many more people out there that give solid recommendations. It seems Colt and Bushmaster are the ones to save up for.

For my money, if I did not own one, I would acquire one now. I would keep things simple, an open sighted carbine, with plenty of magazines. Use tactics to gain advantage so you may use the carbine effectively. Tactics trumps equipment any day of the week.

My two pesos.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Xavier, I'm a bit of an AR nut, building my own, and can add in a little if you don't mind.

First, most any AR is built to mil-spec or very close. That's why most accessories don't say things like "Fits S&W M&P only". Some companies are manufacturers, and some are just assemblers, but all will be made well these days. For instance, I've been really put off by Smith & Wesson since they put the ILS in their revolvers, but their AR clone is so well made they've won me over.

Second, even though they're all made well, some will let you pay a little to much because of the name. In my humble opinion, the two worst offenders are Colt and Bushmaster. Colt is still making '94 AWB legal carbines, and Bushmaster marks up even their stripped lower receivers. One of the better balances of quality vs. price seems to be Stag- and for the record I don't own one.

Third, what to buy before anything changes. Magazines are obvious, but don't forget the other "evil features". Threaded barrels and flash hiders, telescoping stocks, and the evil bayonet lug under the A2 sight/gas block.

Finally, if you want an AR, there's enough variation these days that you need to know what your intended use is. Long range accuracy/varmint hunting? I recommend a 24" stainless steel barrel, free floating handguard, flat top upper for mounting optics, fixed stock, and a nice 2-stage trigger. SHTF, use-and-abuse rifle? Shorter, chrome lined chrome moly barrel, and everything else is your choice.

Last thought- twist ratios. You'll see a lot of 1/7 vs. 1/9 debate online. 1/7 is definitely better for heavier bullets, like 77 grain. However, it will spin lighter 40 grain bullets way too fast, they won't stabilize, and groups will open up tremendously- like a paintball whizzing off to the side after enough distance. 1/9 will stabilize as light as 40 grain, but not 77 grain as well. However, the groups you can get with 77gr through a 1/9 twist ratio are still better than a 40gr through a 1/7 twist, so that's my personal choice.

Either will shoot a 55gr, the most plentiful load around, just fine. I hope this answered more questions than it raised!

10:18 AM  
Blogger Boomerator said...

What is the deal with all of these people waiting until *after* the great leader got elected to buy a rifle and then wanting to know which one is right for them?

If you are buying something just so you have one, *anything* will do. If you want to get something cheap, try a AK. A bonus if it has a strait barrel and some sort of sights. Continuing with Xavier's thought, you are just going to get yourself in trouble if you don't know how to use it. Seek professional training.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So for the iron sights, should be get a fixed carrying handle, or a flat-top with a detachable handle? Or a flat top with a flip-down rear sight? If we get a flip-down rear sight, should we get a railed gas block and have a flip-down front sight too?

Nothing is ever simple with an AR!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a great guide to the AR15 at officer.com (you do not need to be a member to view).


It does a great job explaining how these rifles are different and gives some recommendations. There are a lot of pictures of the inside of these rifles with the different options and features.

It is a useful resource.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a billion opinions on the internet but here's one more. I bought my first AR a couple years ago and am building a second in 6.5 Grendel now. I'm no expert on the platform, but am working to become an accomplished hobbiest. ;)

A first AR should be a working gun vs a bench queen. You can always make the bench queen later.

CMMG, Stag and Bravo Company can also get you into good stuff for reasonable prices. I have a Bushmaster and like it just fine. Colt is spendy, and runs a few odd sizes for what should be standard parts. I wouldn't start with a Colt.

A 16 inch, carbine with a fixed front site and flat top receiver (A3) with a carry handle is a good base. With the flat top, you have far more optic and other options than a fixed handle A1 or A2 receiver.

Regular hand guards are fine. You don't need to free float your first AR.

With a looming AWB, make sure the barrel is threaded or already comes with a flash suppressor. I can't think of any 16" guns that don't come with an A2 flash suppressor right now.

Stay away from heavy barrel profiles. "Mil" or light/medium profiles are lighter and are fine for heat. You're not running full auto.

A collapsible stock up front would also be smart. MagPul's CRT is a good mid range model. The basic collapsibles, shipped stock on most rifles, rattle. The CRT is a worthwhile upgrade.

For a working gun, get a 5.56 chrome lined barrel. They'll run both 5.56 and 223 ammo.

After that foundation, the rest is personal.

Figure on spending around $1000 (more in today's market?) for a good foundation with the options above, plus six or so mags to feed it. You can go cheaper of course, but you should know what you're doing before trying to cut corners.

Another very viable option is SIG's 556. At $1500, it costs more, but it comes ready to go, is a quality unit, and takes advantage of most AR after market items.

And finally, don't forget about the used market. Many used ARs I've seen on shelves were shot very little. If somebody really runs the AR, they tend to keep 'em as spares so the used ones you see in shops are the guys that tried it and found they liked their bolties better.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Thanks anon, I added your link to my text.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're paranoid and live in a state where you can do face-to-face non-retail transfers, find a buddy who also wants an AR-15. Buy the one he wants, and he does the same. Then sell him yours for cash and buy his, also for cash.

As for brands, any of the major manufacturers are fine. Avoid Vulcan Arms, but Armalite, Bushmaster, Colt, Double Star, DPMS, Olympic Arms, Rock River, S&W, and Stag are among the commonly-found ARs that are quality.

2:30 PM  
Blogger MauserMedic said...

A quick thought from a former unit armorer-

Learn How To Properly Lubricate.

Don't do this by asking random people who have been in the military. You will get everything from none to a couple ounces of CLP dumped into the action. There is a right way to do this for most conditions, buy a manual and follow it for user maintenance. The AR is accurate because it has much finer tolerance than many military rifles; to take advantage of the accuracy, you need to do good PMCS and user-level maintenance.

If you want to get some good, practical instruction on AR-15 care, buy a -10 level (unit armorer) maintenance manual. You'll learn some things you won't see on the gun boards, and save your self a lot of frustration.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Mark Horning said...

ARs are the most modular weapons platform out there. It's a lot like a 1911, except that the parts do not require fitting, they are all really "drop in".

I started writing up a blog post on how to pick the AR that meets your needs, but I haven't finished it yet.

Considering the choices for barrel length, twist, profile, gas system length, and material. And that's just the barrel.

3:23 PM  
Blogger "Tarak" said...

In all the discussion of AR's, I have never seen anyone mention Del-ton. You can put together a 16" AR there for under $600, add in a few options and you're still under $700. A buddy of mine who is an avid AR guy and who has built about 6 says they are as good as any bushmaster he's used.

6:32 PM  
Blogger dropdownstairs said...

Well if you just wants one in case
hard to beat 99 bucks.
dans in pittsburg

also what do you think of a p38?
is this a fun 38 to have?

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best answer to the question is, don't wait too long to find out which make is the best.

Next, do a search to find H.R. 6257. This is a bill that was introduced on June 12, 2008 to committee, the first step in becoming law, to reinstate the semi-automatic assault weapons ban of 1994. Read it and find out that there are some "changes" from the original ban.

That should be enough to have someone do fast research and move quickly toward a purchase.

My 2 cents; check out Rock River Arms a-2's and A-4's.

7:55 PM  
Blogger mike's spot said...

I have 2 ARs- A free floated 20 in govt that is done up for high power, and a flat top 16in del-ton kit.

if I could only have 1- it'd be a bone stock 20 in govt. the sights are intuitive and natural to use, as is the the rifle itself. A good AR will point fairly naturally.

If you have the ability, once you get your AR join your local gunclub's hi-power rifle league. you'll learn more in a month of shooting that then years of range plinking.

I second Del-ton, I have had nothing but positive experiences with them.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

The P-38 is a 9mm. They are fun, unique, high quality surplus pistols.

These appear to be aluminum framed P-1s. Make sure you research them and that you get one with the frame reinforcement.

4:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I mentioned in the previous post I'm very partial to The simple IDF type carbines. Key feature is the A-1 upper receiver and 14.5" barrel


8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI Bought two DPMS lowers two weeks ago form a supplier that had over 3000 in stock. Tried to get two more yesterday all gone.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came to recommend the same officer.com link the other anonymous did. I see I don't need to. Everyone who want a "fighting" AR, that link is the end all, be all.

1:20 PM  
Blogger tom said...

You can spend as much or as little as you want.

I'm a Grendel fan but I have both 5.56 and .223 uppers and a number of lowers I've built up.

If you were to only build one for defensive purposes, I'd go 1:9 or 1:10 5.56mm barrel with front sight and a flat railtop with detachable carry handle and a detachable A2 rear sight.

That way it can be a scoped or iron or holo or red dot gun with no need to re-zero much of anything switching in between and it will eat every form of .223 and 5.56mm known to man.

My main AR for shooting rifle is based off a high-endy Alexander Arms upper, but with the pushing and pulling of a few pins it could be a carry handle 5.56 if need be.

My two pence.

4:18 PM  

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