The Perfect* AR-15

A few nights back, I disappeared into my gun room, a jumbled mess of ARs and parts in my arms. After some sweating, grunting, and cursing, this is what came out of the room.

No, I’m not going to name it.


It’s the perfect AR-15 (for me), and here’s why.

- The heart of any AR is the barrel. This rifle has a Centurion Arms 16″ lightweight midlength barrel. It’s not as light as an A1 profile barrel, but it is lighter than “government” or standard profile barrels. More important, it shoots groups that are highly competitive with my White Oak Armament stainless match barrel, although the Centurion is much lighter. It’s capable of hitting point targets well past the oft-published maximum effective range of the M16 (550m). Also the midlength is handy as far as where I like to place my hand on the firearm.

- The front sight base is of the fixed type and is taper pinned in place. A pinned front sight base/gas block will stay in place until the end of days, which is important if you want your rifle to function properly. Furthermore, if the barrel moves relative to the handguard, the front sight will move with the barrel, not the handguard.

- The bolt carrier group is M16 weight/profile, hard chromed, and was properly tested/inspected before shipment. Spike’s Tactical used to sell hard chrome BCGs before they switched to nickel boron. I have two of them and I’ll never let them go (until they break). Hard chrome is far easier to clean than either phosphate or nickel boron. The M16 weight carrier is what the system was designed to operate with. It’s this mass moving at a specific velocity that magazines are designed to feed rounds in front of. Moving to lighter carriers will sacrifice reliability in adverse conditions or extreme temperature ranges.

-  The receiver extension tube and buffer/spring are the Vltor A5 type. This system more closely approximates the performance (control and reliability) of a fixed stock/rifle buffer and spring, but allows length of pull adjustments. If I could make one change to the M16A4 used by the Marine Corps, it would be a change to the A5 recoil system. Normally the longer and heavier EMod stock would be used with an A5, but I’m using an IMod because I don’t need the weight of the EMod.

- The muzzle device is an A2 because I want a balance of muzzle flash reduction and blast/muzzle signature reduction.

- The charging handle is the Rainier Arms/AXTS Raptor because it’s easy to use with either hand and regardless of the method by which I manipulate the charging handle latch, but it does not protrude away from the rifle in a way that would cause it to snag on gear. It also enables more effective malfunction clearing than other types of charging handles I’ve used.

- The handguard is made by Apex; functionally, what I need from an AR handguard is to protect the gas tube and keep my hand from burning. The Apex handguard does this. It’s also lightweight and “grippy” and gives me a few QD socket options. I don’t like the way it installs – it’s kind of a pain in the butt, really – but once it’s there, it’s there. It’s also a good size and shape (round). If I want to add rails for lights and stuff, I can, but right now I haven’t because I don’t need them.

- The trigger is a Geissele SSA-E. I use a lot of stock triggers and think they’re a lot more useful than some might think, but it is really hard to beat the SSA-E. I like the Rock River two stage as well, but of late I haven’t seen them as regularly available as the Geissele.

- The optic is an Aimpoint CompM3 in a GDI mount. I also have a Trijicon TA02 – better known as the “battery ACOG” – in a GDI mount. Because the GDI mounts return to zero within .01 MOA, I can swap the red dot and ACOG back and forth to my heart’s content (one-handed!) without worrying about anything unnecessary. The Aimpoint and ACOG are as durable and reliable as you can ask of a firearm accessory, both offering long battery life. I am not normally a fan of the 4×32 ACOG eye relief and this one is no different, but the adjustable illumination is really neat and I somewhat prefer the crosshair reticle for distance shooting.

- The magazine is a Lancer L5 (loaded with 30 rounds of Prvi 75gr BTHP, thanks AIM!), which is durable, reliable, and lets me see how much ammo I have left. It fits in all mag pouches. Also it looks cool.

- The rear sight and pistol grip are Magpul. Thus they are well made and affordable. I highly doubt that I will actually need to use the MBUS rear sight, but it doesn’t break when you hit stuff with the rifle, which is important.

So that’s my idea of the perfect AR-15. As photographed (loaded), it weighs 8 pounds 7.6 ounces. Unloaded it weighs 7 pounds 6.2 ounces. It’s what I plan to use for the 2013 24 Hour Sniper Adventure Challenge, and it’s a rifle I plan on owning for a very long time.