September 23, 2010
I recently returned from a carbine class at Gunsite in Arizona. The three-day class was meant as an opportunity for a few gun scribes to get acquainted with Smith & Wesson's new MOE carbine and some new products from Trijicon, SureFire, Magpul, and Crimson Trace.
We fired 1,300 rounds through each of our M&Ps over those three days. We ran a variety of drills from 3 yards out to 100, and we spent time clearing rooms and running Gunsite's famous Scrambler course. In the process, I learned to love my smooth-running M&P. I also learned a great deal about the capabilities and limitations of the AR platform for home defense.
I've been to countless shooting schools, and I've cleared an awful lot of rooms in the process. It's fairly simple with a handgun, but a carbine or shotgun changes the game considerably. That long barrel is awfully hard to work with in tight spaces and more difficult to keep out of the hands of a would-be gun grabber lurking around the corner.
I can't teach you how to clear a room or keep your firearm out of the hands of a bad guy in the limited space here. Besides, that's best left to experts like the folks at Gunsite. But I can share with you some of the better defense-oriented AR accessories I've discovered in the process of setting up my own ARs for home defense.
The author replaces the front sight posts on his home-defense ARs with this tritium unit from XS Sights.
Sights And Optics
If your AR doesn't have sights, get them. Troy Industries, LaRue, GG&G, and Daniel Defense all make excellent sights. If a good steel sight is out of your budget, Magpul's MOE line of polymer flip-up sights will do everything those other sights will for a lot less money.
Whenever possible, I replace my front sight post with an illuminated, tritium unit from XS Sights. The tritium insert has a white outline that works well against dark targets in bright light, and the tritium works beautifully in low light. You can also replace your rear sight with a tritium unit if you choose. While you're at it, use the XS Sights CSAT peep, which has a notched top that is dead-on at 7 yards so you don't have to worry about the offset between your sights and bore when you're fighting at parlor distances.
All my fighting guns wear optics. The three I use most are Aimpoint's Micro, Trijicon's ACOG, and Insight's MRDS. At Gunsite, I became a fan of the tiny 1.5X Trijicon with a green circle-dot reticle. Green shows up better in daylight and seems to draw my eye faster. The circle is fast, and the dot is a little more precise if I need to make a longer shot. I like the wider field of view the Aimpoint and Insight MRDS provide, but I really dig the Trijicon's green reticle.
Lights And Lasers
Most gunfights happen at close range in low light, which makes identifying your target and making accurate shots difficult. A quality, firearm-mounted light can be a life saver. First, illuminating a potential threat is the best way to make sure it is really a bad guy and not your wife or child. And when you hit that potential threat with a light of at least 65 lumens, you will incapacitate him for long enough for you to identify him and make an accurate shot if you need to. I really like SureFire's Scout Light, which is lightweight, compact, and bright enough to help me dominate any room in my home.
I've also become a big fan of lasers on my self-defense guns. Crimson Trace makes some of the best. Unfortunately, the company's rail-mounted laser was too big for my hands, and it was yet another piece of kit hanging off my gun. The new MVF-515 fixed both problems.
The author found Magpul's trigger guard and MOE grip to be far more comfortable than the factory-stock parts.
Good sights are essential equipment on a defensive AR. Magpul's polymer flip-up sights are affordable and effective.
The Crimson Trace MVF, or Modular Vertical Foregrip, combines a red laser, a switchable 150/200 lumen light, and a vertical foregrip in one unit. The ergonomic polymer grip has a non-slip texture on the front and back. The light goes from 150 to 200 lumens with a turn of its bezel. It's activated by a momentary pressure switch, and the laser is operated with a bigger momentary pressure pad situated below the light switch.
I used the MVF-515 a great deal at Gunsite, and I found its light and laser to be ideal for low-light work. While clearing buildings in daylight, the laser allowed me to engage targets around corners without exposing as much of my body as sights or optics would require. I also found that I shot faster and more accurately at CQB distances with a laser than with sights or optics.
Stock And Grip
The first thing I do when I get a new carbine is replace the stock, pistol grip, and trigger guard with Magpul parts. The MIAD pistol grip adjusts to fit a variety of hands, and the trigger guard covers that annoying gap between the grip and trigger that tears up your middle finger.
A collapsible stock is essential for working with your carbine indoors. Magpul's CTR collapsible carbine stock provides a better cheekweld and is more robust than the standard M-4 stock. The MOE stock is another good choice. It looks like the CTR but is more affordable because it lacks the CTR's friction lock.
My M&P MOE carbine came with Magpul's MOE handguards. The MOE is a nice unit, but I am paranoid about hanging gear off polymer rails, so I recently replaced my MOE handguard with a drop-in Omega Rail from Daniel Defense.
The free-floating, Picatinny-spec Omega rail takes just a minute or two to install. Once on, the rugged rail system allows me to mount a variety of accessories on my carbine without fear of ripping off my handguards. Mine wears Crimson Trace's MVF-515 light/laser combo.
A good sling is an essential ac
cessory. My MOE carbine wears an excellent single-point sling from Magpul. I've also had great luck with the padded single-point sling from Troy Industries and the Vickers sling from Blue Force Gear. Whichever sling you choose, make sure it is adjusted to keep your carbine in close but not so tight that you can't bring it into action instantly.
The author added this Omega rail from Daniel Defense to his M&P carbine, and he used the rail to attach a Crimson Trace MVF — 515 laser/light.
Not everyone can own a suppressor, but they are legal in 35 states. If you haven't considered one, you should because I can't think of anything that will damage your ears like touching off a .223 round indoors.
My favorite AR suppressors are made by SureFire. I like their quick-detach system and their proprietary muzzle brake and flash hider mounts. The brakes and flash hiders are very effective, and the suppressors go on and off in an instant. SureFire's suppressors also have the least change in point of impact of any suppressor I've ever used. They do add a bit of length and weight to the gun, but I just ordered the new 4-inch Micro suppressor, and I think it will make my home-defense gun a whole lot quieter without adding appreciably to its size or weight.
I realize that adding all the accessories named above to your AR costs a considerable sum. I do not mean to imply that you must have any or all of them; however, they are all useful. The key is for you to decide which ones are most important to you, prioritize, and add them as your budget allows. You'll be glad you did.
According to the author, Magpul's MOE stock is more robust and comfortable than the factory M-4 stock.
The author likes SureFire suppressors because of their consistency and quick-detach system.