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The AR-15: Practical, Tactical, and Versatile

For an off-the-grid, self-defense, and survival situation, there is perhaps no firearm more well-suited to the job than an AR-15. There is no need to bore you with the history of this firearm; so instead, you will find a discussion of “practical-tactical” uses and some must-have accessories that can put this weapons system over the top for you.

The AR-15 isn’t the finest piece of equipment ever made, certainly not the most accurate or reliable, and definitely not the coolest looking, though it can hold its own in these categories. The true beauty of this weapon is its versatility, adaptability, and the vast array of quality aftermarket accessories that can really enhance the capabilities of the gun.

Surely anyone who owns a long rifle within earshot of the gun industry knows what this weapon is and why it’s so good at what it does. Simply put, the billions of dollars spent on the OICW project and the XD series of infantry weapons has failed to usurp the prodigious AR-15 chassis (M-16/M-4 in this case).

What are the most useful items to add on? And which will really give you the upper hand in a true survival or defensive situation? In no particular order, here are some of the best.

A .22LR conversion kit could be the best item you can have for your rifle for any number of reasons, including:

  • Cheap training ammunition.
  • A cheap and plentiful option for small-game hunting and for last-ditch defensive protection.
  • Allowing any small person to handle the gun without recoil fears (though the .223 is a relatively mild round in its own right).

It could be a game changer in a long-term scenario. It may cost you the same amount of money to buy fifteen cases of ammunition for a .22LR as it does for one or two cases of the .223 military rounds. In an extended survival or off-the-grid situation, this could provide food for you for up to fifteen times longer than your rifle would, and it leaves the high-powered ammunition for threats that require more firepower.

The conversion systems have been built to be foolproof and are fast to change in and out, giving a gun owner a truly versatile product. Whatever you have to pay for one of these (usually $250 to $450 for super high quality), it’s worth it.

Another accessory to consider is a forearm with attachment rails (Picatinny rails). You don’t have to replace the forearm completely for this modification, but you are probably better off doing so, as you will get better stability, a cleaner function, and better looks if you do. This will allow you to add anything from sighting systems to grips, flashlights, and quick detachable modifications like slings and bipods. It’s quite simply a “must have” because it gives you the ability to tap into the versatility of the AR-15 like no other modification. For the price (under $250), you cannot beat the functionality. This is a no brainer if the AR-15 is your ONLY weapon. Can you do without it? Yes, but you will regret not having it when it counts. Don’t install this item if you aren’t willing to look into parts to attach to it, however, because it’s a modification that screams out to be utilized.

A forearm pistol grip can attach to your newly installed tactical Picatinny rails and provide a more stable CQB (close quarter battle) gun. It shortens the time to bring targets into view, and the positioning keeps you locked into an engagement position. It lowers felt recoil and brings you on target for repeat shots faster. It will also steady the sight plane for longer shots where prone position is not an option. It’s cheap and easy to install, and for around $40 and ten minutes of time, you are in business.

Brass catchers are indispensible to the reloader. They also help those with no desire to reload but need to collect their spent casings for whatever reason by saving them the time to pick up their spent casings. It definitely makes collection easier for possible resale to a reloader. Essentially this item is for training or for when you want cut back on debris exiting the weapon. Cheap and relatively foolproof, brass catchers will make your life simpler and prevent smashed up casings for usage in reloading. With the recent price spikes on ammunition, it may be more than just a convenience, as brass can cost upwards of 30 cents apiece for high-quality brass.

Accu-wedge inserts are the cheapest modification you can make to your AR-15 and at most will cost you $12 to $15. It will eliminate the rattle and play between the upper and lower receivers and will give the cycling of the gun a better, more solid feel. It cuts noise considerably and makes the gun feel tight. It’s so cheap and easy to do that it’s a definite “must-have.”

A QD (quick-detachable) bipod is excellent to put on when you are hunting or making long-range defensive shots, as it makes a built-in rest for your gun. It’s simple: If you want to make excellent shots, to steady your gun, and have the versatility of a bipod but not having to always have one, buy a QD setup.

QD) Sling mounts are the most utilitarian simple accessory for most any long gun. It gives you a way to keep your gun safe and out of the way and also helps steady the gun when you’re ready to shoot. They are cheap ($35 for a very high-quality one), easy to use, and provide infinitely more value for their cost than just about any other accessory. Functionality is the key here: Look for adjustable and customizable slings and fit it onto the weapon with QD swivels so you can remove it when unnecessary.

An ACOG or other multipurpose quick-view scope is another great accessory to consider. The ACOG is a quick-detachable, easy-to-use, tritium-lighted reticle scope. The mouthful that describes it does it no justice, as this is the premium scope for the AR-15 since the optics introduction many years back. It allows you to go out past 300 yards (with small calculations), and provides a tritium (nuclear-glowing green) reticle, which can be bought as a traditional crosshairs view or with a post-range finding view for real customization. It’s such an easy scope to use, and the technology is still incredible 15+ years after its introduction. Made of lightweight aluminum, the body gives off a sci-fi vibe, but the characteristics and specifications are all the real deal—there’s nothing fiction about this piece of gear. It will get you on target in a CQB fight or when you need to make that 100+ yard shot count. It can keep up with the best optics as they are released and is truly a timeless design. The ACOG is perhaps the most utilitarian sight available for this weapon.

This article covered only a few key items, and with the plethora of available manufacturers and accessories available for the AR-15 chassis, it is by no means a definitive list. There are plenty of other items someone might think are “must haves,” but pay particular attention to these for their utility.

In the end, aside from the absolute minimum requirements to keeping your gun functioning (below), having something that will swing the momentum of the situation into your favor is very important. These items above will do just that.

Minimum to keep your gun functioning:

  • G.I. cleaning kit or equivalent with a nylon chamber brush
  • Quality extra magazines
  • A spring kit
  • Extra extractor, gas-tube, and firing pin
  • Field stripping equipment

If you haven’t considered an AR-15 for your setup, look at the many benefits you gain by adding such a universal and versatile piece to your arsenal. Large caliber hunting rounds can also be put to use on such a chassis with the proper setups, so don’t discount the potential of this firearm. It’s important to be realistic though; with add-ons, this system can tie up financial resources as well, so be prudent in your decisions of aftermarket accessories, and make sure you are getting great value for your money and time.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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