Battle Rifle Basics

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While anyone with an elementary knowledge of firearms recognizes the advantages of a handgun for concealed and close quarters defense use, the time where a battle rifle could be used for self-defense is rapidly approaching. The size and weight of a handgun provides many advantages but these factors also become a liability if one is forced to defend themselves at a distance of more than a few yards. While there exist handguns used for hunting and target shooting, those are not usually carried or used for self-defense and their effective range is still limited, especially when compared to a battle rifle.

Everyone, with the possible exception of those who still believe answers to our financial woes can be found within the democrat or republican paradigm, know that eventually those economic issues will lead to chaos in this country. When that happens, some 40 million plus who have been told by politicians that they are "entitled" to the property of others will use whatever means available to forcibly take that which they want. The logical scenario will see these folks banding together, most likely in roving bands. They will use numbers and force to steal what others who have seen this coming have set aside for themselves and their loved ones. This criminal activity very possibly could happen with the blessing of the government, for those who are stockpiling food, water, guns and ammunition are already being demonized. The Lever Act of 1917 gave government control over food and fuel storage amounts; it can and will happen again.

Using the events that occurred after Hurricane Katrina as a template, one can see that those who were armed were able to secure themselves and their property on several occasions by simply displaying a firearm when confronted by these roving bands of criminals. Of course after this happened the government moved to forcibly disarm law-abiding citizens. Simply stated, the criminals in government moved to protect their brotherhood among the street gangs and criminal element by disarming law-abiding citizens. This explains in vivid detail why the government continually seeks to disarm the public: it is easier to steal from and enslave those who are unarmed. Considering the police in New Orleans became thieves themselves continues to blur the distinction between government employees and thieves.

Several factors should go into the selection of a battle rifle; there are many platforms and calibers available and strong consideration should be given to the environment in which one believes they will operate when events lead to chaos in this country. What is the maximum range one can actually see and determine if a possible target is a threat? Is one’s environment urban or rural? Is there a chance the environment could be fluid due to attempts to move about in both environs? What is the experience level with rifles and engaging targets at distance?

Bolt-action rifles are more inherently accurate at long-range than semi-autos, especially in the larger calibers. Semi-auto rifles offer greater firepower and magazine capacity as a rule. Lever action rifles are accurate and shoot well at short to medium range, (200 yards max) mainly due to caliber selection. If one were to determine the maximum range at which they believe they would encounter someone bent on mayhem at 300 yards or less, lever guns and smaller calibers could suffice. Consideration should also be given into the amount of time a person is willing or able to devote to practice. To master a battle rifle at distances over 400 yards requires a great deal of time, effort, and projectiles down range. I have been shooting long-range battle rifles for over 50 years and certainly do not consider myself a master.

For the great majority of people interested in a battle rifle I suggest the AR-15 platform for several reasons. The platform is extremely accurate for a semi-auto. Five shot groups at 100 yards measuring less than an inch are certainly not uncommon with this rifle with some quality time at the range. Extreme accuracy can be expected if one is willing to spring for an upper designed for that type shooting. If this tweaks your interest, check out White Oak Precision here. When one thinks of an AR-15, usually the immediate thought as to caliber is the 5.56 NATO round or the .223. What I consider to be the greatest advantage is the number of calibers available in this platform with the purchase of an "upper" in different calibers which can easily and simply be attached to your existing AR-15 lower. While I consider the .223 round to be marginal for a self-defense round, the firepower, accuracy and availability of ammo makes it a must-have. There are a wide variety of uppers in different calibers, many of which can be found here. This gives the shooter the capability of several calibers with the purchase of only the basic AR-15 lower assembly. My personal choice for the off-the-shelf AR platform is Rock River Arms. I have a Rock River lower with uppers in .223 and .458 SOCOM. As previously stated the .223 for accuracy and ammo availability and the .458 for sheer knockdown power out to 200 yards. Due to the availability and price of the ammo to feed the .458, I reload my own. I like this combination for I can use the same magazines for .458 that I use for the .223. For those who choose to have some longer range capabilities for their AR platform I recommend the 6.8X43 or 6.5 Grendel calibers, which provide longer-range capabilities. With the new available ammunition and for those who reload, the Grendel gets the nod in my estimation.

While the original platform for the AR was the AR-10 in .308, uppers and lowers for this weapon are not interchangeable with the AR-15 platform. The AR-10 is a fine choice for those who like the AR but desire the versatility of the 7.62X51/.308 round. Also available is the FN/FAL configuration. This too is a fantastic rifle with great dependability and accuracy.

My personal choice in a battle rifle in .308 caliber is the M1A made by Springfield. I own more than one with full size and carbine versions known as the M1A SOCOM, which has a 16" barrel and composite stock. The .308 is a most effective round out to 800 yards and beyond with an accomplished rifleman. Again, this caliber and platform is harder to master than the AR platform in .223. While the ideal situation is to have a caliber and platform in which one could engage an adversary at a greater distance than they could engage you, being able to hit that target is of primary importance. Again, a couple of hits with a .223 are far superior to 8 misses with a .308.

If one is available, a M1 Garand is also a very effective battle rifle. While limited in firepower due to the 8-round "clip," the 30-06 caliber is very effective at ranges up to 1000 yards and has been battle tested for almost a century. Owning an original M1 Garand allows one to own a piece of history and a fine battle rifle as well.

Of course there is the choice of the venerable AK-47. Packing more knockdown power than the AR-15 in .223 and at greater range, it is the favorite choice of many. At one time the cost of the firearm and the availability of cheap ammo made this a great choice. The increase in price of both the weapon and ammo over the past couple of years now brings this choice into the price range of the AR platform. The discussion of which weapons platform (AR/AK) is the best battle rifle began over 40 years ago and is still the subject of some great conversations.

Having the ability and the equipment to engage, at distance, roving bands of criminals who are bent on stealing, confiscating and imposing their will on others could prove an invaluable asset in the coming months. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

While this article should provide some basics on selection of equipment for long range shooting, the challenges are many if one seeks to become proficient with such equipment. To that end, I am teaming up with a friend and fellow long-range shooter, Mr. James Lawson, in a series of articles dealing with optics, ballistics, bullet trajectories, wind, temperature, relative humidity and shooting uphill and downhill for those who are interested. The first of these offerings should appear shortly.

Michael Gaddy [send him mail], an Army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, and Beirut, lives in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.

The Best of Michael Gaddy

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