Monday, March 08, 2010

Yes, but what's it for?

Every now and again I mention my ownership of a carbine-length AR and immediately receive comments on the superiority of rifle-length 20" A2's for everything from shooting guys on distant hillsides in Afghanistan to winning DCM matches.

You know, I have no intention of competing in any high power matches with this carbine.

Nor either am I likely to find myself in Afghanistan with it.

Fantasy scenarios about roaming the zombie-infested wasteland with a colander strapped to your face and Ol' Bess attached to your bicep with a DCM-approved loop sling are all fun and fine, but they're not exactly the most plausible situations in the world. Apocalyptic idylls aside, that's not how I'm ever going to be using my long gun.

The most plausible scenario for me to need a long gun is somebody breaking into my house with enough warning for me to fetch a gun, in which case I'm going to grab a long gun and not a pistol (since a pistol is for come-as-you-are gunfights; if one has time to dress for the affair, one should perhaps consider something with a shoulder stock.) I'm not going to need to sling up or worry about flatter trajectory and wind values at 300 yards, since the longest possible shot in Roseholme Cottage is closer to ten yards, and is likely to be a lot closer than that. I'll be more worried about sight offset than trajectory.

The other possible scenario where I might need a long gun would be some type of Katrina-level natural disaster or urban unrest. Look, I live in a moderately-wooded, flat-as-a-pancake, urban area. There's hardly a structure over two stories within a mile of where I'm sitting. The only way I could even see over a hundred yards in a straight line is if I stood in the middle of the street, which is something I would not be doing. The other thing I wouldn't be doing is going looking for trouble; I'll be sticking right here and keeping an eye on my own patch and helping the neighbors.

So, while I appreciate your concerns, my carbine is just fine for my needs. Your needs may differ.


Fred said...

Screw 'em. I've got a 20" A2, and when the zombies come, I'm still grabbing the 16" middy. The Eotech and better check weld from the ACS stock will be better at any range, and it's much handier, which is good, because I don't plan on standing still.

tomcatshanger said...

I like 20" barrels cause velocity is a major component in wounding potential with M193 and M855 equivalent 5.56 rounds.

I do make fun of are 14.5 inch and shorter barrels though, especially once you drop down to under 12 inches, you might as well be using a pistol caliber carbine.

Which is what I do for inside the house. It happens to be suppressed though.

Anonymous said...

It has always mystified me how the duffers want too small handguns but oversized shoulder weapons.

What Tim Wickertt told me at Gunsite years ago is still true, take any long gun and start sawing at both ends.

I think it's because gun nuts obessess over the low probability stuff and do not address the critical skills (gun handling, mindset) as those take practice and that's just boring while the low probability crap is much more fun.

ExurbanKevin said...

I RO'd a a few shooters at our local 3 gun match last month thru a long-range stage: 6 metal targets at distances of 150 to 300 yards, and dang if there weren't a couple of shooters with 14.5 in barreled AR's on the stage who had some trouble getting the steel to move enough to register a hit.

After they were done, the cased their shorty AR's and walked over to the next stage. This was a short-range shotgun only stage, no target was over 10 yards away and there were some mighty tight corners to make.

So naturally, the shooters who had just used a short-barreled AR on a long-range stage pulled out 26" barreled Benellis with extended mags that went 3" past the barrel: Just the thing for close quarters.

Tam said...

Friend: "What do you have loaded in that thing?" (Pointing at carbine in corner.)

Me: "75gr TAP."

Friend: "Will a 1-in-9 barrel stabilize that?"

Me: "Not too well, I hope. I want yawing to be already on the bullet's mind when it hits."

theirritablearchitect said...

"So, while I appreciate your concerns, my carbine is just fine for my needs. Your needs may differ."

Can not everyone understand this simple idea?


Might you get this embossed on a nice piece of ash, just north of the usual label, with a nice Pro-style profile? I'll even spring for the pine-tar.

Let me get out of the way before you start swinging, willya?

og said...

There isn't very much magic in that last 4" of barrel that's gonna give you headshots+1.

Bram said...

We all walk around with the biases of our accumulated experiences. My experiences include the first Gulf War during which my unit was in firefights never at distances less than 500 yards. When I went back to the National Guard, I choose the 20" A4 over the carbines in the armory only because there weren't any M14's in there.

If I'm dressing for a gunfight, it will be a .308 affair (with my family well behind me where overpenetration isn't an issue).

Impromptu parties will be with a pistol caliber carbine.

Justthisguy said...

"I want yawing to be already on the bullet's mind when it hits."

Hey! You trying to make getting shot more dangerous for us skinny folks?

Weer'd Beard said...

Yep, my only differ is I like the idea of a sling, only because my idea for a light and short go-to rifle is that it will be best set-up for carried a lot, shot little. Could be with the home-defense scenario you talk about it'll be carried little, shot little. But overall I like the idea that if I have other shit on my mind besides the dangers of the world, I can sling the gun and have both my paws to attend to other issues...but still have a rifle handy.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

It's not like you don't own rifles with beefier bullets and longerer barrels if you DID need that sort of performance and you didn't think your M4gery up to the task. So yeah. No sweat of your back.

Tam said...

"Yep, my only differ is I like the idea of a sling..."

Me, too. That's why I have a sling on my carbine. :)

(It is not, however, an M1907 or a GI web sling. Just a simple single-point to catch it if I have to let go for some reason.)

Earl said...

I read about a second AR yesterday, and now why you have what you have today, and if they take everything away - you will still be the go to person in personal defense and firearms in your block, city, state (not the only one, but way up there). And although you may not find Zombie hordes, or Genghis Khan's mounted Mongols at your door, you do know how to make them go away, or find another path with less resistance.

wv hypartio (it should be a real word)

elmo iscariot said...

How much truth is there to the oft-invoked velocity loss issue with short barreled ARs? Obviously any performance degradation isn't enough to sour you on the carbine barrel, but most commentators seem to think that the loss of those inches brings an already weakish cartridge into unacceptable territory.

Bram said...

An Army researcher just reported that the M4 doesn't hit hard enough at range.

The M16 is only about 200 fps faster - they both stink at 500 yards+. Those long ranges the never happen in combat except all the time in my experience and apparently the troops pushing the Taliban into the hills.

elmo iscariot said...

But again, not ganna be an issue when repelling boarders from a house?

Rabbit said...

I've fired 24 inch barreled ARs and I've fired 7.5 inch barreled ARs. If everything is set up correctly, one is as good as the other at domestic/urban distances.

A poor workman blames his tools.

Yeah, I'm well aware that cutting X inches off results in Y loss of velocity, yadda yadda yadda. When you're playing at distances that could involve powder burns, I'm not sure anyone really cares. Or notices.

The PLR-16 is a good example of how much is lost with its 9.2 inch barrel. Average velocity was reported in SWAT mags' review as around 2400-2600 fps, with ME of around 800 ft.lbs. That's still about 60% more than a .40S&W in a fairly handy package, although many are prejudiced against the AR pistol as anything more than a Counterstrike kiddie toy. To me, it's a little handier than that Uzi under the trenchcoat the Secret Service used to issue.

The lower I've got set aside is likely getting an 18 to 20 inch barrel on it. I don't feel like I'm giving anything up, and I have no need for specialization at this point in my life.


Rabbit said...

Oh yeah...

Whatever permutation it turns out to be, it's going to be handy when those hippie hordes come scavenging after the New Madrid lets loose soon.

Just keep that in mind.


Tam said...


"Those long ranges the never happen in combat except all the time..."

I can safely report that an aimed, 500-yard shot has never been taken in Broad Ripple. ;)

Tam said...


"But again, not ganna be an issue when repelling boarders from a house?"


It works about as well as hand-held weapons without the word "grenade" in their names usually do, which is to say "mediocre".

Fred said...

"The M16 is only about 200 fps faster - they both stink at 500 yards+. Those long ranges the never happen in combat except all the time in my experience and apparently the troops pushing the Taliban into the hills."

Of course much of that also stems from the cutback in CAS and artillery support due to UN whining and accusations of killing too many civilians.
When we adopted the 5.56 round we were also on the verge of the most BA close air support abilities in the world, and much more mobile and accurate artillery. In theory you shouldn't have to be engaging with small arms at those kind of ranges, but just lighting their position up with a laser and letting the A10s or Apaches take care of it, or telling the FO to call in the coords.

Bram said...

Yeah - I know. That bias of experiences thing...

Clint said...

Something to think about...

Why is it that people talk about 9 vs 45 the mantra is SHOT PLACEMENT(!), but when home def is the topic the consensus is that a rifle is the go-to gun.

So, is "more" better or not or only sometimes?

elmo iscariot said...


Because a .223 bullet has more than twice the muzzle energy of either 9mm _or_ .45 ACP?

9 and 45 are more or less equivalent. Rifles are a completely different animal.

global village idiot said...

I'm getting an M4 in a few weeks but it's not likely to stay mine. It'll end up being my daughter's gun when she moves out on her own. It's a handy gun and doesn't ask too much of its shooter.

I've often said that the M16 family of weapons is to rifles what the Roman Gladius is to swords. It finds its ultimate expression as part of a combined arms team.

After I got back from Iraq the first time around I found myself in the position of affording darn near any service rifle I wanted. I opted for a CMP Garand for the following reasons:
1) I'm short and it's easy to assume a low-prone with it
2) .30-06 is enough bullet
3) Clips are cheap, disposable and less weight per quantity of cartridges than a magazine-fed rifle.

As to the cartridge, I live in an environment very similar to Tam's - Valparaiso is a college town and my neighborhood dates from the 1880s. If I spent most of my time at home, an M4 would be just fine; shucks, my shotgun and my .30-30 levergun are fine for here. But I work out of doors and oftentimes in the unincorporated parts of my county.

Outside of My Fair City there are lots of corn and soybean fields and it's flatter than my sense of humor. Prior to about August (before the corn gets too tall), 500-yard shots are conceivable, if unlikely. .30-06 and similar cartridges have two advantages over carbine calibers in my environment:
1) They still have mass and velocity at this range
2) At shorter (urban) ranges, cover for M855 cartridges is merely concealment for M2 Ball. The latter can cause instant catastrophic damage to a vehicle's engine block that a smaller round can't without luck on its side.

I won't knock Tam's choices because she's given it the required thought and found what's right for her. There is no one right weapon for everyone. If there were, no one would own anything else.

Ed Foster said...

In all fairness, the meme was one rifle, for any security situation that might arise. I may have gone a bit too far when I hypothesised a SHTF scenario and day in,day out carry, as that wasn't specified. More than willing to conceed hyperbolic hubris there, sorry.

And the 6.8 would be loaded with softpoints, as I am not a signatory of any international conventions.

Also, I'm an old fart, taught in the way back when to keep the butt clamped between my elbow and my ribs when working up close. At least as compact as a carbine carried extended, and much tougher to disarm.

It's amazing how much of the old muscle memory still comes back after all the years away from a green suit. A while back, a very lovely lady jokingly faked a knife thrust with a butter knife, down low around the belt buckle.

I don't know which of us was more suprised when the knife flew across the kitchen to dent the door of her refrigerator and her wrist became very painful. I was only aware of the cross block and scissor action after it happened.

Having something familiar in my hands that exploited that same muscle memory and reflexes might make the difference should it come to grappling in a darkened room. I suspect as many men have been done in with a butt stroke as a bayonet, and I doubt I'd be using a toad sticker in my own home.

Also, I am primarily a rifleman, and would "run whut I brung".

I own but don't use a pre-ban Rock River carbine upper, because of the nosebleed muzzle break.

A quick aside. Here in Connecticut we can no longer buy rifles with those evil muzzle breaks, because possessing them would turn us into ravening madmen intent on massacre.

Oddly enough, the pain of listening to a CT legal carbine on the next firing point is dramatically muted, as presumably without the brake throwing gas out to the side, much more of the nasty follows the bullet downrange, rather than assaulting the eardrums of it's neighbor.

It is also one less grab point for an assailant to leverage.

No small matter, as I shoot several thousand rounds of centerfire rifle each year, and spend a lot of time on a range.

And you wonder where my discomfort about carbine length barrels comes from.

The ultimate insult is Ed Sedgewick's frigging 8x56 Mannlicher carbine, firing those G.I. 244 grain roundnoses. I have a picture of him firing the little bastard just before sundown, and the muzzle blast is longer than the barrel.

Could it be that the Democratic legislators who forced this silly law forbidding nefarious cosmetics on the end of the barrel actually helped us produce a better weapon?

Bram, an Air Force Captain I know, a dude named Kenny Hagenow (former CT service rifle champ) teaches Designated Marksman at Ft. Benning.

With M-4's and wonder sights his people get head sized groups all day long at 500 meters. In Haditha, 5th Marines were getting accused by the press of murdering prisoners because most of them were head shots.

And I saw some rice paddy shooting with M-16's at 600 plus. The trick is to use tracers on running targets, and walk your shots in.

It will never replace an M21 or M40, but I'm not mooning anybody who knows what he's doing anywhere inside half a mile, just in case. If he gets within a foot or three, luck just might make the difference.

Tam said...


"Why is it that people talk about 9 vs 45 the mantra is SHOT PLACEMENT(!), but when home def is the topic the consensus is that a rifle is the go-to gun."

Because not only is a rifle more powerful, but it's easier to shoot accurately. It's like a win-win! :D

Bram said...

Ed - the 500 line was MY line on the KD course. I got yelled at for taking head-shots at the Baker target on pre-qual day.

My only accuracy complaint about the M16A2 was that it lost its zero if it got knocked about when I was out in the field doing Marine things.

Fenris said...

Cripes! The idea that you don't know exactly why and how you intend to use any of your various firearms simply floors me. If you had a 10" 30-30 with tac-railed flaming marshmallow launcher and cup-holder, I'd just be curious as to what you put it together for. Never cross my mind that it wasn't well thought out on your part.

Kristopher said...

My flavor of rifle is always better suited for ALL uses than your flavor of rifle.

So there.

Timmeehh said...

EBRs are fun to play with, but for urban defense I'll stick with a 12 ga.

Lewis said...


500 meters was yours too, eh? I loved that stuff. 200, 300, more or less decent, solid shooter (back when I was in practice).

The only time I dropped a point at 500 was when my Sgt whined that he really needed to pick up expert for the points, after his last shot (when I had two more to go), and offered me a case of beer to "pull one to the right a little."

I'm not bragging on being a great shot, but when I was in practice, in a good solid prone, looped up and doped in, I loved me some 500 meter KD time.

Matt G said...

I was right there with you until you touted instability as a Good Thing.

Instability leads to poor accuracy. When I pick up a rifle, I want to know that it has better accuracy than I can achieve personally from field positions. (Not that high a standard.) I've seen long bullets with insufficiently-fast rates of twist keyhole at 100 yards. I've seen groups leave the paper at under 100 yards.

I want to know that, if I can lean against a doorframe, that I could pick out which eye I want to shoot, at fifty paces. I want to know that the rifle can do that, every time. Now, as I've mentioned before, I've become aware of what adrenaline does to one's accuracy, so I'd likely just be aiming for the center of the head, or the chest. But simply KNOWING what the rifle will do, makes for a Big Calm Down.

Tam said...


"I was right there with you until you touted instability as a Good Thing."

It's not like I'm getting keyholing from it or anything. The magazine in the gun is for repelling boarders at across-the-room distances.

Everything else is loaded with XM855 or 62gr TAP.

Will said...

My biggest complaint of the carbines is the incredible muzzle blast difference compared to the 20". That 4" loss creates an ear breaking increase in noise. No idea how they compare to 14.5" barrels. Might have to try the 16" without the original birdcage muzzle brake. (BTW, the actual govt name for it is a brake, not a flash hider-note the solid bottom)

wv: wingshe... I'm sure she shoots better than that

Test by the govt show the 14.5 drops enough velocity by 175 yards to become ineffective at lethality from hydrostatic force. The fact that they mandated 1/7 twist to stabilize tracers just compounds the issue. Great accuracy, though!

Warrior Knitter said...

"So, while I appreciate your concerns, my carbine is just fine for my needs. Your needs may differ."

Thank you for paring it down to two sentences that I can remember when someone takes issue with MY M4orgery.

RC said...

"Why is it that people talk about 9 vs 45 the mantra is SHOT PLACEMENT(!), but when home def is the topic the consensus is that a rifle is the go-to gun."

9mmx19mm Parabellum 115gr. JHP +P+: 1430fps, 519 ft·lb

.45ACP 200 gr Speer Gold Dot JHP +P: 1,080 ft/s, 518 ft·lbf

5.56x45mm NATO 62 gr SS109 FMJBT: 3,100 ft/s, 1,303 ft·lbf

12 Gauge 2-3/4" 00 Buckshot: 1600 fps, 2415 ft. lbs.

.308 Winchester 150 gr: 2,820 ft/s, 2,648 ft·lbf

THAT is why people recommend using a rifle or shotgun. That and the fact it's easier to aim.

benEzra said...

"I like 20" barrels cause velocity is a major component in wounding potential with M193 and M855 equivalent 5.56 rounds."

Very true. However, since civilians are not limited to FMJ for defensive use (much less M193/M855), we have access to a wide spectrum of JHP's and SP's that will reliably expand/fragment at much lower velocities than military ball will.

Using civilian ammunition, you don't lose much in terms of terminal ballistics when you go from 20" to 16" (or even 14.5" + permattached FS, though you pay for that in noise), and you gain a lot in around-the-house maneuverability.

Geodkyt said...

benEzra (and Elmo):

Wallboard studies seem to indicate that overpenetration on a clean miss is LESS dangerous to whatever it hits with M193 or M855 ball than if a 5.56x45mm JHP or JSP goes ZING! past the Bad Guy's head.

That very velocity dependance that makes them so much better out of 20" barrels than 14.5" barrels is why -- passing through interior walls scrubs off ENOUGH velocity that they are less likely to hit with explosive fragmentation when they tumble.

BTW, the 1:7" twist has absolutely nothing to do with the reduction in killing power of the M855 (or M193) from an M4. 1:7" will wear out faster than 1:9" (which I believe is the current spec for USGI M4 barrels. . . ) and is unnecessary for M193 -- but it doesn;t adversely affect M193.

NO practical amount of gyroscopic stabilization will keep a spitzer bullet stabilized pointy (i.e., lighter) end forward in a liquid medium (i.e., meat). The M193 and M855 do as well as they do when they hit above 2600 - 2700 fps becuase ALL spitzer bullets tumble in meat -- these two just happen to bust apart at the seams when they tumble to about 90 degrees at those velocities as the jacket fails at the cannelure.

This idea that going to a 1:7" twist somehow magically transformed a rather fragile jacket design on an aerodynamically stable (but hydrodynamically very UNSTABLE) projectile into an unobtanium, physics-defying bunker busting concrete penetrator of no wounding power always makes me chuckle.

Geodkyt said...

benEzra --

I've never found the last 4" on a gun about a yard long to really make all that much difference in manueverability.

Done the MOUT thing, working indoors with a full size M16. Didn't even seem to make a difference in the simulated sewers.

Heck, I didn't even find the 5.5" barrel difference between an M16 and an M4 all that awesomely extra-manueverable. That telestock, OTH. . . THAT makes a difference.

So, from my perspective, all a shorter barrel buys me is less energy delivered on target, for no perceptible advantage. I don't have to stow my rifle in a tank turret or under the seat.

I'll keep the 4" and every joule of energy I can get out of the platform.

OTH, I never had 25 pounds worth of crap bolted to my rifle. Even with an M203, it probably weighted less than some of the M4s I've seen pix of from the Sandbox and Ashcanistan.

Will said...

There is one problem with your assertion that the 5.56 ball automatically tumbles when it hits flesh. Historically, every time the twist rate of the military 5.56 rifles has been increased, the observed lethality probability has dropped. The field trials in early Nam got glowing reports of instant incapacitation. Then, after the Ordinance Board got done mucking about with it prior to Army issue, it earned lackluster credentials in stopping power. Once again, the spin was increased, and witness Mogadishu. Result, .22 caliber through and through holes in the bad guys (and girls). When you have to hit them multiple times with little bullets, before they even notice you are shooting them, there is something really wrong with the concept. Might as well go back to 7.62 NATO. At least the enemy will know they've been kissed!

Tam said...

"NO practical amount of gyroscopic stabilization will keep a spitzer bullet stabilized pointy (i.e., lighter) end forward in a liquid medium (i.e., meat)."

True, but it's a component of the bullet's yaw rate. A bullet that is sideways at 3" and a bullet that is sideways at 7" are going to offer different results even if they hit the same spot...

Tam said...

"Might as well go back to 7.62 NATO. At least the enemy will know they've been kissed!"

Not necessarily.

There's a reason that the Department of Fish & Game won't let you shoot bambi with a 7.62x51mm NATO FMJ round and the Hague accords won't let you use Nosler Ballistic Tips on enemy personnel...

Geodkyt said...


The "Meataxe" effect of the XM16 was lost in the M16 after the Army change the AMMO. They changed the propellant to one used for 7.62mm rounds. They reduced the velocity of the round because manufacturers had trouble meetingteh initial 3300fps spec. They ALSO changed the bullet design (although not the weight) and the pressure. (It wasn't until 1970 that Olin admitted that powder lots suitable for loading 5.56mm ammo were from teh OPPOSITE end of calcium carbonate allowance range from those suitable for loading 7.62mm rounds.)

Once they went to large scale production, they started producing lots with HUGE variations in velocity -- which affects ballistics, including terminal ballistics.

Once they changed the ammo to ensure reliability of pressure and velocity, performance became regular.

The only real effect of changing the twist rate (from 1:14" to 1:12") was to make it more accurate in Arctic conditions.

And by the way? That twist rate change was in place with the XM16E1 -- before they even procured the rifles that earned the nickname Meataxe.