Thoughts on the AR-15

As some of you readers out there in Internet land may know, I am sadly firearms-free. I still live with my folks, and Mama and Papa Raptor have made it clear that if I buy a gun, I’m out of the house. Since I can’t afford a place of my own, firearms have been a no-go for me. But that might be changing soon. Sort of.

A few weeks back, We The Armed member FMJ bought a stripped AR-15 lower receiver and built it up into an almost-fully-functioning assembly. I say “almost” because FMJ is unfortunate enough to be stuck in California, so he had to install a Bullet Button on his receiver rather than a proper magazine release, but that’s a topic for another time. Anyway, I got to thinking about it, and I realized that I’d like to make a go at assembling a stripped lower of my own. It will be an interesting learning experience, and my folks cannot possibly object to me owning a stripped lower, since it is pretty much little more than a piece of aerospace-grade aluminum with a serial number. And I have asked about it: they haven’t said yes, but they haven’t said no either.

So, anyway, if I can actually make the stripped lower work… how would I build it up? Actually, “what configuration do I want my rifle to be?” would be more appropriate. See, the wonderful thing about the AR-15 is that it is an extremely versatile and customizable platform. You can build it into anything from a long-barreled, match-grade target/varmint/sniper rifle to an ultra-compact entry gun (provided you register it as an SBR, of course) and everything in between, and you can chamber it in pretty much any cartridge that can fit in the magazine, and even some that don’t.

So, with a near infinite number of choices, the question really is this: what do I want to do with this rifle?  Continue reading


Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse Part 1: Weapons

As promised, here’s Part 1 of what will hopefully be a series of posts detailing my thoughts and ideas on how to best prepare for and survive the zombie apocalypse. Please bear in mind that I am neither an expert nor a trained professional, do not take this advice to be the be-all-end-all of disaster preparedness and/or survival, your mileage may vary, call your doctor if the condition lasts more than four hours, etc. and so forth.

All right, now that that’s out of the way, we’re going to start off with what is probably everyone’s favorite topic of discussion when prepping for the Z.A.: weapons. Let’s be honest, pretty much all zombie preparedness plan discussions eventually devolve into an argument over the ideal anti-zombie gun/sword/club/whatever. So, this seems like a logical place to start. I’m going to cover three ‘main’ weapons: the primary weapon, sidearm, and melee weapon.

First off, the primary weapon. This will probably be one of the few times I name a specific weapon or tool, but it is my belief that an AR-15 rifle or carbine chambered in 5.56mm NATO is the ideal zombie-apocalypse weapon. Now this isn’t just some arbitrary I-like-this-gun-the-best decision, I do have some logic behind this choice:

  • 5.56mm NATO/.223 Remington ammunition is relatively lightweight and nearly universally available, and despite what you read on the Internet, has more than adequate stopping power, particularly when loaded with non-FMJ rounds.
  • The AR-15 itself is a very light and handy weapon, provided you don’t go overboard and put a ton of accessories on it, with very moderate recoil, allowing for rapid follow-up shots.
  • Again, despite what you read on the web, the AR is a very reliable weapon.
  • It is a nearly-universal weapon, so finding accessories, magazines, ammo, parts, etc. pre-Z.A. is stupid simple. Similarly, because the M16, is issused by all branches of the military and most of the country’s police departments, so scrounging replacement parts, magazines, accessories, and ammunition should not prove terribly difficult.

Yes, I know Max Brooks says that the M1 Carbine is ideal, but take a look at his ‘research.’ He appears to base his support for the M1 off of a single incidents, which occured in the 1950s. Back then, the Carbine and it’s ammunition, the .30 Carbine round were readily available. Today, not so much. When was the last time you saw either an M1 or a box of .30 Carbine on the shelf of your local gun store, let alone at Wal-Mart? I rest my case.

Back to the AR now: there are some caveats. First, make sure the rifle is chambered in 5.56mm NATO rather than .223 Remington. The rounds are nearly identical, but there are some slight differences in casing and chamber specifications which cause the rounds to not be 100% interchangeable. Basically, you can safely chamber and fire .223 Remington in a 5.56mm NATO weapon, but while 5.56mm will chamber in a .223 weapon, it can cause the weapon to jam or even fail catastrophically (i.e. blow up in your face). Ammo you scavenge from an overrun military checkpoint will be 5.56mm NATO, and you’ll want to be able use that ammo in your rifle safely.

Second, don’t go overboard on accessorizing the rifle. Yes, there is a buttload of tacti-cool stuff you can slap on an AR, but too many accessories means too much weight, which compromises the AR’s advantage of being lightweight and handy. Two must-have accessories, in my opinion, are a good flashlight and an optical sight of some kind. There are literally hundreds of weaponlights¬† out there, and which one you pick is ultimately up to you, but I’d recommend either a new-generation Aimpoint red-dot sight or a Trijicon sight. The new Aimpoints have a battery life that lasts, depending on the model, anywhere from 3 to 8 years of continuous use (i.e. not ever turning the optic off), and the Trijicons don’t need battereis at all as they are powered by tritium, which will stay luminous for about ten years.

Also, if they’re legal in your area, you’ll want a sound suppressor. While this will prevent the zombies from honing in on your position, it will also mask your location from other survivors (not all of whom will be friendly, I guarantee it. Remember the bikers from Dawn of the Dead?) and most importantly, they’ll protect your hearing. Gunfire, particularly rapid semi- or full-auto gunfire, can permanently damage your ears, and you’re almost guaranteed to suffer at least temporary hearing loss if you fire a gun without ear protection on.

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