Part II in a two-part series. To read Part I, click here!
Practical Goes Tactical
A Step-by-Step Guide to Outfitting a Fighting AR that’s Fun to Shoot
Leupold Mark AR Mod-1
The first thing I needed was a sight—like most flattops, 3Gs don’t ship with one. Keeping in mind the end goal, I attached a Leupold Mark AR Mod-1 4-12x40mm scope, which in my case features a mil-dot reticle. Backed off to 4x, the scope is very handy from 25 yards (at a close-in extreme) out to making six-inch plate hits at 100 yards. Zoomed in, you can shoot the eyes out of a 100-yard silhouette target, or very easily engage six-inch plates out to rather extreme range.
The Mark AR Mod-1 is ballistic compensated for the 55-grain 5.56mm projectile at 3,100 feet per second. For making accurate shots at variable ranges, zero it at 100 yards. Take a hex key (supplied) and loosen the collar on the elevation turret, turning it until it shows a 1 over the reference dot, meaning that you are zeroed at 100 yards. Tighten the collar. Then, when you engage targets beyond 100 yards, crank the whole turret until that reference dot is beneath your yardage…and fire with confidence.
Warne R.A.M.P. Mount
I mounted the scope in a Warne Tactical R.A.M.P. Mount, which features a cantilever design that places the scope just a little farther forward—with the base mounted all the way to the rear of the flat top accessory rail—than traditional rings. Cantilever designs help keep your eye in a comfortable and repeated position relative to the rear objective even as you transition from offhand to prone or shooting over barricades.
I tightened them with Warne’s TW-65 torque wrench, which automatically disengages a ratchet when you achieve 65-inch-pounds of torque on your bolts—the recommended setting for the R.A.M.P.’s aluminum construction, the preservation of your rail, and to ensure a no-slip fit. By having the pressures even, you ensure a properly aligned, securely fastened mount…which preserves your scope under recoil forces, and helps keep it in proper alignment.
To secure the rings around the Leupold, I used Warne’s TW-1 torque wrench, which features a Torx #15 bit and automatically disengages at 25 inch-pounds to prevent over-tightening of the mounting screws. By progressively tightening them and moving diagonally between screws—like tightening the lug nuts on your car—I theoretically achieved the even application of force across the mounts, which is good for the scope and great for ensuring a reliable setting.
The R.A.M.P. has twin 45-degree offset–mounted picatinny rails, one on each side, which provide the ideal mounting place for an auxiliary sight (or laser…but not light, unless you want to illuminate the side of your rifle for the bad guys to better see you). They remove if you want to keep the weight down, but I chose to utilize the starboard mount. The question was how.
Samson Quick Flip Sights
I chose to mount a Samson Quick Flip Rear Sight to that mount, pairing it with a Samson Quick Flip Front Sight mounted at the far end of the rail with a Warne A645 45 Degree Adapter, which is designed specifically for that purpose (and is also useful for mounting lights, lasers, and other gear at a 45-degree offset).
The reason is simple: though they take a moment longer to deploy than twisting a red dot’s rheostat switch, they don’t require batteries, won’t get knocked out by an electromagnetic pulse (talk about a long shot fear there!), do provide excellent and intuitive (after all these years) use, and also qualify as “metallic sights” for the purpose of competition. Thus, I make a slight concession to gaming, and gain iron sights I’m comfortable with at any distance for defensive shooting.
To use the 45-degree offset sights, all you do is cant the rifle to the left 45 degrees. While it doesn’t sound very comfortable at first…it actually works great.
Magpul AFG II
I anticipate much of my shooting being done in a modified offhand position, possibly braced against a barricade, where my left hand will have to support the rifle to some degree…and certainly will have to move it to track between targets. After trying vertical foregrips—some of which look like direct descendents of broomhandle Mauser grips—I found that I don’t like their angle.
What works for me is Magpul’s Angled Foregrip II (AFG II). I can wrap my thumb around the top of the forearm, gripping the grip, and as I squeeze, the mechanics work out so that I’m actually pulling the rifle slightly up and into my shoulder pocket—two things I need to do anyway to shoot properly. There is a reason these are incredibly popular in combat theatres now, which is best understood by using one.
Never Quit Magwell Grip
The rest of my shooting will be from the prone position, or at the bench to sight in and test loads. In each case, I naturally grip the magazine well instead of the forearm. An Ergo Grips Never Quit Magwell Grip slips over the magazine well—after unhinging the floor plate in the trigger guard—to provide a rubber no-slip, contoured surface that makes gripping that part of my rifle surprisingly comfortable…and a solid part of my shooting platform.
In our matches, we transit stages with our rifles on slings as we engage targets with our handguns. There is a remote chance that I may have to scour my property to find and identify a threat, during which time I’ll need to keep my hands free to open doors, open gates, or the like…at which point keeping my rifle handy, while hands-free, would be crucial. To address both needs, I turned to Brian of Savvy Sniper, who hand-makes his Quad Sling in Ohio for military, law enforcement, and civilian users.
He custom-sized my Quad Sling to my height, and installed HK-style clips at my request (QD and other options are available). I run the sling as a single-point sling most of the time, but can unclip the sling from its keeper to turn it into a two-point sling, or unbuckle the sling from my rifle to remove it in a flash. With its friction-sliding buckle, it’s a very quick-adjusting sling that keeps my rifle in position to merely pivot up into my shoulder pocket.
Though I remove it for competitions, my 3G wears a Surefire M600C Scout Light when it comes home…because I want to be absolutely sure of what I’m shooting at before I pull the trigger. With a pressure pad on/off switch, it’s easy and intuitive to light up the night…and the 200-lumen output can both illuminate and blind my aggressor.
The fully equipped 3G is heavier than a duty-configured M4, but it’s also not designed to be carried all day—at the farthest, it has to be carried the length of a complicated three gun course or cross about four acres of property. That allows me to choose slightly heavier, and slightly more, accessories.
My buddy, though, keeps with his original military aesthetic of streamlined function and minimal bulk. He chose the slightly heavier Burris M-Tac scope and quick-detaching P.E.P.R. mount, but eschewed most of the gadgets I employ.
His Burris M-Tac is a 1.5x-6x40mm scope with an illuminated reticle that defaults to displaying black when turned off or if the batteries die, meaning that he will always see something through the scope. Its reticle is even ballistic compensated to 600 yards with holdover dots contained within a central circle. There’s a dot in the middle, and three hashes that draw your attention to the dot, making a very fast sight for close-in (sub 50-yard) shooting. Combine that with the holdover dots for farther range shooting and the M-Tac is a serious sight for competitions and defensive work right out to the edge of the 5.56mm-round’s effective range.
He liked the AFG II, and is considering purchasing one. First, though, he intends to put a Surefire X300 Ultra on his quad rail to illuminate suspects and light his way through whatever environment the chase leads him through. He tried one out, and though it was daylight, decided that it should ride on his rail full time—in case he had to enter a darkened building, tunnel, or got called out at night.
He also attached a LaserMax Uni-Max laser from their Rifle Value Pack, installed the pressure pad on the quad rail, and powered it up. A green dot appeared far, far downrange—in broad daylight—telegraphing the impact point of his round. Familiar with lasers, he said that it could be a powerful dissuasive tool…and a great way to ensure shot-placement should tunnel vision preclude his abilities to focus on sights, or anything else nearer the armed assailants than the perpetrators themselves.
After extensive testing, we arrived at two rifles completely outfitted to our needs: a light, fast carbine that can be carried all day, then brought to bear with a reasonably powered optic that can score contact-ending hits at real-world ranges; and a competition-oriented rifle that is ready to serve a domestic security role with its tactical light, field-crossing optic, backup iron sights for close quarters battle, and ergonomic surfaces that make it a pleasure to shoot recreationally (its primary vocation).
Neither of us would hesitate to jump into action with the other’s rifle, yet each of our arms reflects our primary uses for them, after plenty of real-world selection pressure. And every bit, piece, and bauble, is justified—there’s a certain amount of pride in that!
Story & Photos by Dave Norman