Practical Goes Tactical – Part I

Practical Goes Tactical

A Step-by-Step Guide to Outfitting a Fighting AR that’s Fun to Shoot

by Dave Norman

tactical carbine

A practical/tactical carbine needs to perform well at the range…but be adapted to your real-world needs.

I looked at the mountain of unpacked boxes, and then to the fully accessorized rifle ideally suited to my needs: a practical/tactical AR outfitted for the range and (following a simple magazine change) home defense. It had been a personal journey, accompanied by a friend on a similar mission, to satisfy some universal firepower needs. We hope what we learned will help and inspire you to take a close look at meeting your needs with the perfect tools for the job.

We began with two different rifles.

My friend, a federal law enforcement agent, brought a Daniel Defense DDM4V2. He’s intimately familiar with that platform from having trained on nearly identical M4 carbines in the military, and bought this one for the normal reasons: it does everything an AR is supposed to do, in a package that is light, reasonably compact, reasonably priced, features a collapsible stock, and wears a quad rail necessary for the variety of accessories that can adapt it to just about any common tactical role.

I chose the Stag Arms 3G, a medium-barreled AR that comes factory-equipped with hardware designed to help the shooter interact comfortably and intuitively with the rifle in a number of different body positions during competitions.

Both provide excellent starting points for outfitting a practical/tactical rifle.


Burris’s P.E.P.R. quick-detach, cantilever mount proved the ideal mounting solution for their M-Tac scope atop this DDM4 rifle.

Mission Adaptation

Before acquiring any accessory—no matter how cool it is—decide what you expect your rifle to do, and then what it will require to get it mission ready. This step, honestly undertaken, can save you thousands of dollars…and potentially save your life.

I needed my practical/tactical carbine to be highly competitive in local three gun matches (not the fancy ones on TV that require tournament-tuned race guns), durable enough to survive occasional tactical training courses with lots of shooting and hard, punishing use, and suitable to stand at the ready to defend my home and rural property against mean critters with either two or four legs. While it isn’t my go-to option for inside-the-house defense—for many reasons—I need to be able to navigate my home quickly, silently, and without getting it snagged on furniture cords as I transit my home to take the fight outside, where the rifle comes into its own.

My buddy wants to be able to deploy with his DDM4 when his duties take him to serve a high risk warrant, or—as happened recently in Boston—participate in a widespread tactical response at a moment’s notice. His needs are different than mine, and guide his choices.

            It’s easy to get carried away with over-accessorizing, which can end up doubling your rifle’s weight and flattening your wallet. The results don’t necessarily reflect well on the shooter, and never mind that your money can better go to ammunition. So before you order the first part, hit the range with your rifle as it comes.

To read Part II, click here!

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