A Fightin’ Rifle for a Modern Marksman

Lothaen, of The New Rifleman, recently published a post on Loose Rounds that caught my interest. His piece serves as a counter point to a previous posting on the same blog explaining why the M16A4 is an inferior weapon compared to the M4. Lothaen very nicely explains the benefits of a longer barrel and the overall great general purpose capability of a longer rifle equipped with a collapsing stock and better furniture than the old KAC M5 RAS.

He also posted an accompanying thread on that was an entertaining read, drawing out quite a few opinions on the subject. I could tell the older guys were all for the 18″ to 20″ configuration shooting m193. Others were declaring, rather definitively, that all one needs is a 10.5″ to 12.5″ SBR to take care of any and all needs of a modern fighting gun.

I don’t want to rehash those arguments, as they are done to death. I also do not want to take away from Lothaen’s work, as I largely agree with him (except that I would probably stick closer to the 20″ over the 18″ due to the need for a larger gas port on the 18″).

My vision of a modern fighting rifle for modern marksmen is not to dissimilar from Lothaen’s. I would want an adjustable stock, and the ability to fire a wide variety of readily available ammunition (M193, M855, Mk 262, or whatever). What trips me up is the barrel length.

I’ve become a big fan of the 20″ barrel, as evidenced by my continued appreciation and enjoyment of the PMR. But such a configuration is limiting in a lot of ways. The most limiting, of course, is being more cumbersome in both weight and size. I have to be honest and ask myself if the velocity gain of an 18″ or 20″ barrel is significant enough over a 16″ to really warrant the extra weight. For most people, I’m not so sure.

Now, I’m not usually one to participate in TEOTWAWKI/SHTF/OMGZOMBIIEZZZ lines of thinking. But if I had to configure one rifle to issue to all of the “survivors” of my tribe, it would be a lightweight 16″ middy with a red dot and a flashlight. But we’re not talking about those kind of scenarios. We’re talking about a rifle that could effectively be used to a reasonably trained marksman to defend their home, town, or homeland against some perceived threat. History has shown that most firefights take place well within 100 yards. Does a modern marksman’s rifle really need to be capable of regularly making lethal shots at 500 and 600?

I would argue yes. Our nation’s experience in Afghanistan shows that you just never know.

I once read Monty (of Centurion arms) talk about there being a very good argument for having three rifles: a 12.5″, a 16″, and a 20″. And, when you think about it, this makes sense. The image of the lone survivor roaming the wastelands with his one trusty rifle is just fantasy. In any real homeland defensive scenarios, you will have the opportunity to tailor the weapon to the situation.  I see no reason to doubt the man, as his experience FAR outweighs me or just about any other blogger out there.

3 thoughts on “A Fightin’ Rifle for a Modern Marksman”

  1. Actually….one AR15 lower with 3 different uppers….
    As someone brought up in terms of accurate position shooting to 600 yards, I find it hard to accept the idea of a military rifle/carbine of any type/cartridge that gives up too much range capability in terms of either velocity (short barrel) or accuracy (crude sights). But then I have the background to put such capability to use, so I don’t want to lose it. The fellows with limited marksmanship skills (who struggle to hit past say 200-250 yds) might just as well have a 300 yd useful weapon/sight combination. Me, I like the idea of being able to hit from beyond my probable enemy’s likely range limitation.

    If I ever get around to building an AR (a more and more likely event) it will probably have a standard weight 18″ barrel (I mean, how much more weight is that over a 16″, plus it’s out where it dampens tremors) for a compromise of velocity and iron sight radius retention vs. compactness.
    Oh, with a flat-top and a low-power variable optic with either aiming tree reticle or BDC.

    1. The one lower with three uppers would absolutely be a good thing to go for…though I might add one more lower just in case 😉

      You have a valid point; if you are able to take advantage of a rifle configured for positional shooting at longer ranges, then why not have one? I do find that the extra bit of weight out in front does help with allowing the rifle to hang better from positions than my lighter weight options.

      But what I keep coming back to is that there are plenty of professionally trained military shooters that have made kills at 600 yards with a 16″ AR and a 2.5-10x scope (the so-called recce configuration). That said, if you’re talking about going up in caliber at all, then I think we enter a new realm of discussion.

      In any case, I don’t have an 18″, but I’ve been toying with the idea forever. If I didn’t build the 20″ government last year, I probably would have ended up with a stainless 18″ barreled and rifle gassed upper.

      1. It’s the scope that makes the big difference at that range.
        That said, chopping 4″ off a 20″ musket does give up something in ballistics. The round will have more drop and wind drift, requiring more skill from the shooter. The 18″ is a compromise.


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