Guns and Shooting: Setting up your AR15 (carbine)

“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.” Sun Tsu

If you ask some people there are only a few ways to set up an AR15 (carbine); however, like good music there are many ways to adjust or change these objects. Within the given space on a carbine the number could range from 120 various positions through infinite. As an individual I am of the mind that each person should be as efficient as possible for their body type, location, climate, experience, training and physical limitations. This being taken into mind with any martial art there are always basics that are without deviation.

This is where things get fun, you see the basics are essential, for instance a carbine must function flawlessly with the ammunition chosen for 500 through 1000 rounds without cleaning or fixing or failure of ANY type. This requires extensive testing, for myself it took a little over three years and 42,000 rounds of .223 Remington / 5.56×45 from over 20 manufacturers and 100’s of sizes, loads, types, etc., from 50 grains through 79 grains. I tried out barrel configurations from 14” through 20”, pencil through bull barrel and twist rates from 1/7 – 1/12. I figured out that what worked best for MY needs as an individual, with my physical limitations etc., a 16” 1/9 twist nitrided barrel was best. Though I have been known to use cold forged, carbide, chrome plated, chromium steel etc., approaches.

There is no perfect set up, however, there is always the setup most appropriate for job and person completing the job. Myself I chose two approaches, one set up for intermediate distances, it is over 12 lbs and worth every ounce. With a specialty muzzle brake (notice I didn’t say flash hider), TipTop Tactical bipod, 1x-4x .223/5.56 drop zone power scope, 45 degree angled backup iron sights, Magpul ACS stock, 1000 lumin Nitecore led light, and a Radical Arms 1/9 nitrided barrel etc., this setup allows sub moa (that is under 1.04 inches) 10 round groups at 100 yards from the bi-pod- and has easily put repeatable holes in the A zone at 500 yards. For the house I have a selection and the one I will use for the articles purpose is an inexpensive yet solidly built AR15 from Diamondback firearms. I put magpul mbus II backup sights on as primaries. With a solid inexpensive (tested thoroughly) bright light (around 600 lumins) and a magpul straight foregrip, two point sling it is a very solid useful, LIGHTWEIGHT and accurate firearm. It weighs 8 lbs loaded with a 60 round surefire magazine. Its reliability is amazing with either winchester 62grn otm federal overrun or any number of ammunitions ranging from 55 grains through 77. Again I prefer replacing the barrel with a Radical Arms 1/9 nitrided barrel- or the Radical Arms 1/8 .223 wylde barrel – both of which have seen vastly improved overall accuracy regardless ammunition used.

So this article is meant as a guide to helping you set up a firearm that you can rely on to protect your family and will fit your abilities both physical and mental (resulting from solid training).

A quick list of do’s and dont’s.

  1. Always purchase mil-spec/cnc basic uppers/lowers or firearms themselves.
  2. Always test them thoroughly before relying on them to save yourself or family- I can offer suggestions (Olympic Firearms, Delton Firearms, DPMS sporter, Diamondback rifle) which are based on my having owned, used and tested with a vengeance (I drop test them, run them dirty past 1000 rounds and much more.) However, my suggestions should ONLY be taken as suggestions not as absolute truth. One can have a bad steak from a good steak house.
  3. Never go overboard in pricing or product. You don’t need to have every single new fun thing on the market. Train basic and you can use anyones version. If you must make changes or shifts do so to fit a purpose. For instance, in the high desert I prefer a rifle that rattles a bit versus one that fits tighter than a married womans (or straight mans)…well you get the point. This allows the dirt and or sand that WILL get into it the ability to filter out and for function to occur regardless.
  4. Always lubricate, but do so based on location and climate. I love ballistol, it is a green, water soluble extremely well put together lubricant that has been around for over a century. In cold environments grease may be necessary and so on. However, again, I have never had a failure based on lubricants with my firearms while using Ballistol. DO NOT overuse lubricants, a little in the right spots works perfectly and wont attract extra unnecessary dirt.
  5. Always train, TRAIN, god almighty your second cousins first sisters cop or soldier boyfriend taking you out back with a case of budlight is NOT practice. Lord knows the average badge or uniform has less ability than the average hunter who brings home the bacon every year (so to speak). Spend money or if your in Arizona look me up. I don’t cost anything except what you think the class is worth, BUT I will show you what I know- just let me know a bit in advance and please, make the time for a full couple of days- an hour here or there is fine, but wont really do much to ensure continued ability. If you ask I can give you some suggestions for firearms schools in different locations. I don’t always agree with their politics, but, I wont send you too front-sight or some other overpriced time share approach firearms school.
  6. A solid optic is an essential part of your carbine IF you only have one. If you have more, one or more should have SOLID optics, this is absolutely essential. Place your backup sights as far apart as possible from each other behind and ahead of the optic, and ensure they are co-witnessed. This means that the point of aim you have with the iron sights lines up exactly with the point of aim the optics has. (Contrary to current myth most modern optics are far superior to iron sights, and in fact will outlast many of them.)
  7. Your sling is also essential, a single point sling is for mall ninjas and a three point sling for their fat cousins. A solid two point sling is an essential part of kit and can be used to stabilize shots, hold firearms behind or in front of you giving you access to your hands and in a pinch can be used to James Bond the heck out of a situation. I personally prefer quick release points of attachment as it allows me to switch positions easily.

As always, if you have any questions ask. If you have advice I am always open to it. And by all means, if you are a grammar nazi, please, offer to edit for me- I write allot, and quite simply will make mistakes regularly. Writing is not something I put enough time into learning properly though with time I have become better at it.

Free the mind and the body will follow


About Jesse Mathewson

Jesse Mathewson is the author of the popular blog, and provides commentary to many varied places based on a background that includes education in criminal justice, history, religion and even insurgency tactics and tactical training. His current role in his community is as an organizer of sorts and a preacher of community solidarity and agorism. He also runs Liberty Practical Training, a self defense school specializing in the practical applications of defensive approaches versus the theoretical. As an agorist, voluntaryist and atheist his life is seen as crazy and wild by many, though once they get to know him most realize he is a bluntly honest individual who will give you the shirt off his back if he believes it is necessary to help you. Very simple, "That which is voluntary between all individuals involved is always right, if it is not voluntary, it is always wrong."
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