June 10, 2023

(Continued from Part 1.)

Ammunition For Your Rifle

Ammunition selection is an important topic to discuss. M193 55gr  5.56mm NATO ammunition was the early military-issue ammunition. Back then, M16 rifles had 20” barrels and the 55gr bullet did devastating damage yawing and tumbling after the initial impact. However, after the 20” barrel was retired for the 14.5-inch M4 barrel, the effectiveness of the 55gr M193 decreased. This was due to the decreased muzzle velocity from a much shorter barrel on the newer variants of the M16. I have no problem with using 55gr ammo. However, I would suggest using at least 62gr or higher like the M855 “green tip”. One major point to make with ammo selection: If possible, choose only one brand and cartridge loading. Whenever a different cartridge loading is used, the point of impact of your rifle will shift. This is due to differences in muzzle velocity and differences in bullet weight. These factors will change the trajectory and cause your rifle to not be zeroed for the new ammunition loading. The bullet impact can be inches off at distances as close as 100 yards. If I had to pick just one loading, then I would pick M855. It is not the most accurate ammo. As a side note, the M855 was developed to have the same relative point of impact as M193 out to about 300 yards. Personally, I have a mix of M855 and M193 ammo, as well as some 69gr bullets to reload.

Rifle Accessories

Sights or a scope are important choices for your rifle. For the tightest of budgets, use Magpul MBUS sights. They are a mostly plastic peep sight that works well for the price. A peep sight uses a front post and a rear hole. Your eye naturally puts the post in the center of the rear peephole sight. Peep sights can be more user-friendly than a front post and rear notch. In my opinion, if you can afford an optic, I would get one, especially if you have older eyes. First, determine your primary usage. Is this a rifle for long-range hunting, close-quarters home defense, or an all-around “do everything” rifle? The usage will help determine the style and magnification necessary for your optic.

For close quarters/home defense, I would suggest a red dot or 1x micro prism. There are many good entry-level red dots on the market that frequently go on sale for around $100 or less. My suggestions would be the SIG Sauer Romeo MSR or Holosun HS403B. Better feature and higher-priced options would be the made in America Trijicon MRO with a larger field of view and the Primary Arms 1x micro prism. The 1x micro prism has the added benefit of an etched reticle that is visible without batteries as well as an adjustable diopter to adjust reticle clarity for those who don’t have 20/20 vision. One downside to the micro prism is that it will have a relatively short eye relief. This will necessitate its mounting on the farthest rearward slot on your Picatinny rail. You won’t be able to mount a backup rear sight, but I personally think backup sights are unnecessary and just cause the rifle to be heavier. Personally, I don’t care for Eotech holographic sights. They are expensive, relatively heavy, and take expensive CR123 batteries. Eotech was at its peak 10 years ago with its design and reticle. In my opinion, there are now sight options that are overall better or better for your budget.

For medium-range or all-around usage, I would suggest either 3x or 4x magnification. Why only 3x magnification, you might ask. The best advice I have heard for how much magnification you need is that you only need 1x magnification per 100 yards of target distance. I am calling medium-range 300 yards for the AR-15. Keep in mind, your target won’t be some little dot on a piece of paper. Your target will be a human sized target, where you will be aiming at center-mass of the torso. You don’t need to see some tiny dot on a target. Just like when using open sights, you will be aiming at the center of your target. You don’t need a giant 10x scope for 300 yards. A 10x scope might be necessary for small game like prairie dogs at 100-300 yards, but here, my recommendation is for the two-legged creature size.

For medium-range or all-around usage, I would suggest the new 3x Primary Arms (PA) micro prism. This new Primary Arms 3x micro prism optic sets the new standard in compact size, minimal weight, and features for price point. In my opinion, Primary Arms has surpassed the Trijicon ACOG for the consumer market. The Trijicon ACOG 4x32mm was what I would consider the gold standard for medium to long range AR-15 shooting. However, it was created for the military so it might break your wallet at around $1000. Additionally, it hasn’t changed much since it came out 25 years ago. If you can afford the ACOG, you won’t be disappointed, it has an etched reticle, radioactively illuminated reticle with backup light tube illumination, relatively low weight and a “bomb proof” design that a jarhead can’t break easily.

Returning  to the 3x Primary Arms micro prism: this thing is tiny even compared to an ACOG. The Primary Arms micro prism is less than 3” in length not including cantilever mount and has a weight of just under 8 oz. Yes, you heard correctly under ½ lb for a 3x magnification sight. The ACOG is just under 6” in length and weighs just under 16oz. As I mentioned previously, weight should be a higher consideration than people normally factor in. Additionally, the PA micro prism has an excellent reticle with a chevron encircled with a horseshoe. The chevron is my personal favorite because it does not cover up the point of aim like traditional crosshairs or dot would. The upside-down horseshoe is perfect for helping center the reticle on an up-close target similar to the “doughnut of death” found on the EOTech reticle. The reticle has markings for bullet drop compensation at longer distances. The reticle is etched so you can use it even if your battery is dead. After you run out of all your batteries in SHTF it will still work unlike a red dot. Is the micro prism “bombproof” like the ACOG? Maybe not, but it seems that the design would be fairly rugged. The best part is when Primary Arms runs one of their 12% off site-wide sales, you can get one for only $282 before tax.

For “long range” usage, which in reality is only 500 yards for the AR-15 in 5.56 or .223, I would suggest a 3x – 9x variable or 5x fixed optic. Any more than 9x magnification will severely limit your ability to find a target in the optic. At that magnification, the field of view is limited to as low as 15 feet wide at 100 yards. This can make it very difficult to track your target at distances of less than 100 yards. You may lose a target in the scope if they walk out of picture and you don’t follow closely. Buy a scope from a reputable brand such as Vortex or Leupold. Alternatively, you could get a 5x fixed power prism optic like the 5x Vortex Spitfire Gen 2. The prism optic provides a much smaller and compact package with less weight. Even more weight is saved from not needing a scope mount. Unfortunately, prism optics suffer from a small distance for eye relief. This forces you to place the prism scope closer to your eye, making some people uncomfortable. However, with the low recoil of the rifle round you shouldn’t have any issues with it contacting your face/eye.

Accessories

Accessories are an important addition to your rifle. Every rifle should have a sling. Personally, I like QD slings and mounts because you can easily remove the sling when putting the rifle in a safe. Most MagPul stocks have a QD mount. For a front mount, you may have to add a QD M-LOK mount or KeyMod mount depending on your handguard’s mounting system (KeyMod is slowly dying because the military did testing showing M-LOK is significantly stronger). A two-point sling is best for most situations. A nice sling that converts from a two-point to a one-point sling is the Magpul MS4 QD sling.

Upgraded Triggers

If you wish to upgrade your rifle trigger you must consider a few options. First, you must decide if you want a single or two-stage trigger. The standard Mil-Spec trigger is a single-stage trigger. A two-stage trigger has two pull points. The first pull takes up part of the total trigger pull weight. It is almost like taking “slack out of the trigger”. Your pull hits a wall when you get to the second stage. The two-stage system allows for a much lighter final trigger pull and can possibly help you take more accurate shots. A typical two-stage trigger might have a slightly higher first stage and a slightly lower second stage. Of course, if you are in a combat situation, you can pull both stages in a continuous motion. If you have a high budget, I would go with a Geissele trigger. They are the highest quality on the market with precision wire EDM’ed sear surfaces. You have to be careful not to get one of their super light pull triggers. I prefer their SD-C (Super Dynamic Combat) trigger with flat trigger surface. It has a first stage of approximately 3lb and a second stage of approx. 1.5lb for a total of 4.5lb. The curved trigger surface version is called the SSA (Super Semi-Automatic) trigger. If you time a sale, they can be found for around $180. If budget is a concern, I would consider a LaRue 2 stage MBT trigger. They are arguably the best 2 stage trigger on the market for under $100.

Buy Quality Magazines

Quality magazines are essential to not having malfunctions. Low quality magazines can cause failure to feed and other issues. Every magazine needs an anti-tilt follower. The anti-tilt design helps prevents binding in the magazine and ensures proper cartridge movement upward during bolt cycling. Most new manufacture magazines come with this type of follower. Some aluminum GI-style magazines or old magazines need to be upgraded. You can buy anti-tilt followers specifically to upgrade old magazines that do not have them. My personal favorite magazine choices are the Magpul M2 and M3 PMags and the Lancer magazines. If you are on a budget, then buy Magpul M2 magazines. They are one of the less expensive options.

The Magpul M3 magazines are compatible with more oddball 5.56 STANAG magazine pattern guns that the M2 doesn’t quite work with and they are slightly stronger than the M2. It probably isn’t worth the extra cost unless your rifle only likes M3 mags. With either magazine, you can get a window version so you can see some but not all of the rounds. MagPul PMags come in 10, 20, 30, and 40 rounds. I prefer a couple 10 rounders for sighting on a bench due to their shorter length and standard capacity 30 rounders.

MagPul also makes a 60-round drum that works well. However, drums are not very practical because they are difficult to carry on your person. I do like Lancer mags because they come in translucent colors so you can see exactly how many rounds you have left. Additionally, they have steel feed lips that will not distort. Magazine feed lips that distort can cause feeding issues. The Lancer magazines are similar in cost to the Magpul M3.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.)