General

The Rifles, Part 1: Ascalon

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Ascalon was my third rifle, and first AR project. The name come from the sword (or lance, the legend is unclear) of St. George, who used it to slay a dragon. I began the project after buying a Spikes Tactical lower in 2010 on a whim. Countless hours of lurking in m4carbine.net’s technical forums and agonizing over every piece purchased resulted in a carbine that I deemed to be my ideal “SHTF” general purpose weapon that looked bad ass to boot. After my wife fired it, she happily proclaimed that she wanted her own AR, which drove me to build a second carbine as a more lightweight KISS weapon. That second weapon incorporated all my lessons learned, and ended up being a better all around carbine.

I then went back to the drawing board with Ascalon and did what I should have done from the beginning: built the weapon to suit how I actually use it and not what I imagined myself using it for (there’s that Walter Mitty, again). The only parts of consequence that have remained unchanged on this weapon throughout its various iterations are the barrel, the upper and lower receivers, and the bolt carrier group. That sounds like a good place to start.

The barrel is a Centurion Arms CHF 16” lightweight. I purchased this when Monty at Centurion still guaranteed 1 MOA or better when used with appropriate ammunition (he says it is spec’d to chamber Mk 262, the military designation for a Black Hills 77gr SMK 5.56 load). He has since removed that guarantee, but not because the barrel isn’t capable of it. The barrel features double thick chrome lining and a tapered bore, which is apparently responsible for its accuracy potential. Regardless of accuracy guarantees, I am not a good enough marksman to shoot this barrel to its potential at the moment, so the extra features for longevity make it a great barrel to learn with. On the end of the barrel is a BCM Gunfighter Mod 0 comp. I’ve only used the rifle a few times since replacing the previously mounted AAC Blackout with the comp, and I don’t think my stance and recoil control techniques are good enough to detect a difference just yet. The BCG is a standard Bravo Company USA, not much to add there.

The handguard is a 12” Rainier Arms Evolution, a variation on the Samson Evolution rail. I originally had a 10” BAR from Seekins Precision, but found that I wanted just a little bit more room towards the front. I also wanted to go a bit lighter, and found I had no need for all provided rail-estate in a quad rail. The Rainier Evolution is very light and let me place attachments where I needed them. I currently have a two-inch section of 1913 rail on the 6 o’clock position at the front for mounting a bipod, and a QD sling cup just behind that. I chose this spot because it closely mirrors traditional sling stud positions.

When originally built, Ascalon used a Magpul ACS stock on a standard six position mil-spec buffer tube, carbine spring, and Spikes ST-T2 buffer. This was workable, but I found the ST-T2 caused problems when used with weak ammo in cold weather. The gun now has a Vltor A5 buffer tube, buffer, rifle spring, and Vltor EMod stock. This combination is noticeably smoother than any other carbine configuration I’ve fired. The difference between the EMod and ACS stocks is a wash. They are both just fine for this application; I have just found that I prefer the EMod’s shape a little bit better.

The gun has a Geissele SSA-E trigger. This is the third trigger this gun has had. The first was a Geissele SSA, then an SD-E, and now the SSA-E. The SSA was moved to the second AR once the SD-E was purchased. The SD-E has now found its way into a 308 AR project that has been on hold for a year now due to parts shortage.

The current optic is a Vortex Viper PST 2.5-10×32 FFP MRAD on an ADM Recon QD mount. The gun sported a Trijicon TR-24G (a 1-4×24 scope) from its original completion until two months ago. I liked the TR-24G quite a bit while running local two and three-gun competitions, but I quickly found it limiting once I started shooting at longer ranges. The thick post reticule made holdovers difficult, I also found myself wanting more magnification when shooting past 200 meters. The Vortex was, to put it mildly, a wait. I originally ordered it in April of last year, but sat on a backorder list until it finally shipped in mid-November. I have not gotten the chance to take it to the range yet. But my first impressions are very positive. This is my first FFP scope, and while the crosshairs do get very fine on 2.5x, they are usable, more so when illuminated. On beyond about 5x, and especially at 10x, the reticule is very nice. I will talk about this optic more in-depth as I gain experience with it.

For now I am using a Blue Force Gear padded VCAS sling. I purchased this sling for more “tactical” shooting and carry methods, and it does not lend itself to traditional marksmanship with a sling very well. If I am to replace anything in the near future, it will probably be this sling. While the ability to cinch it down helps a bit with a hasty sling shooting style, I would rather have a full on arm loop to use.

The weight, as configured without magazine, is 8.8 pounds.

As part of my iron sight shooting goals this year, I do plan on acquiring another upper to interchange with the one already on Ascalon. I’m planning on a 20” standard government profile rifle upper with fixed iron sights on front and A2 carry handle sights in the rear. In the mean time, I will just deal with the MBUS sights, or possibly the iron sights on the second AR (fixed front and troy rear).

Also appearing in the photo is an Atlas BT10 bipod on an ADM mount. This bipod serves double duty between this gun and the other rifle which will appear in part 2.

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