Thinking About Rifle Configurations

The last year or so has given me a lot to think about concerning how I shoot, what the average person really needs, and what kind of rifle would I want to use for “defense of the homeland” as Lothaen, of The New Rifleman, once put it.

I have been up and down and back and forth on 18 inch barrels. I have, on many occasions, told myself that my “next” build would be with an 18″ rifle gassed barrel. That next build never comes along, though. I recently had a small exchange with Lothaen on a message board (I’m 50/50 on whether or not he knew it was me…but I know his pictures and weapons pretty well, so it was definitely him). I expressed interest in going down the path with a 18″ Daniel Defense S2W barrel. I like the taper profile, and it is nitrided. Accuracy reports are right around, or just below, 1 MOA. It seemed great.

Lothaen has been working with a Criterion 18″ rifle gassed hybrid barrel. This barrel tapers from wider to narrower, which I believe makes a lot of sense, as it puts more metal where the chamber is, but keeps things relatively ‘snappy’ by keeping the muzzle lighter. Accuracy reports are very good, especially for a chrome lined barrel.

What keeps stopping me, though, is I just don’t know if it fits into my niche. I feel as though I am more then well covered by my 20″ government and my two 16″ carbines. I also considered their hybrid contour 16″ barrels that start wide and get down to .625 at the gas block. That would make a great recce barrel.


But what would I take to the end of the world with me?

As I continued to explore Criterion’s site, I found a pencil profile 20″ barrel. It’s chrome lined, has 1/8 twist, and claims match level accuracy. Given my newfound affinity for 20″ barrels and their associated ballistics, this barrel speaks to me.


As much as I have come to like the fixed FSB, I feel as though I would prefer to get lighter. Obviously, running a 20″ barrel of any profile does create weight concerns (and, for all but the most basic range sessions, weight matters).

I would pair this with a low profile pinned gas block and a Centurion Arms CMR rail.

At the rear end, I really don’t see a reason to stop using the A5 system at this point. Many of the complaints regarding the maneuverability of the 20″ are mitigated by using a collapsable stock. The fixed rifle stock certainly gives great sturdiness and cheek weld, but I don’t know those two things are valuable enough over the ability to adapt the rifle for different shooters or situations.

For a trigger, the Geissele SSA has always been a favorite of mine. Why would I pick it over the SSA-E or SD-E that I also have and enjoy? It comes down to the fact that I sometimes, even in in controlled environments, tend to ride the trigger a bit too much before a shot and break it too early. The SSA, while still being great, gives me just a bit more resistance and therefore more of a commitment to breaking the shot.

Lastly would be the optic choice. A red dot is always the simple answer, but I feel that a RDS on such a rifle is not going to take advantage of the extra velocity granted by a 20″ (which is, after all, the point). I would love to go for a lightweight variable, but I don’t know what there is on the market right now that really constitutes “lightweight.” I”ll go with a lighter fixed 3 or 4  with a usable holdover reference system in the mean time.

Here’s a mockup I just did on Gunstruction. You’ll have to forgive the use of the BCM KMR when I just said I’d go with the CMR, they don’t have the CMR as an option. They only have 20″ barrels in government (shown) or heavy profile. I also used the VCOG for an optic, but I don’t know if that’s something I’d actually go with or not.


This gun existing only in my imagination right now, I can’t say how well it would handle, balance, or fire. But I’m severely tempted to find out.

2 thoughts on “Thinking About Rifle Configurations”

  1. I am struck by the difference between the “AR world” and the rifle world I’ve inhabited all my life. In my experience of older military rifles and conventional hunting bolt-action sporters, a 20″ barrel is short, not long.

    1. You’re definitely not the first I’ve heard that from. I recall a discussion a while ago where I was talking about 16″ carbine ARs vs 20″ rifle ARs and the gentleman (a long time high power shooter) said, “Son, twenty inches IS a carbine.”

      I think it goes back to the original intended ranges of the 5.56 cartridge and AR-15 as a system.


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