The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

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The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Dave_M » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:30 pm

The Fighting Carbine

We’ve all seen them, so-called “fighting” guns that lack the basics but are full of cheap crap. Someone can spend three-thousand dollars on accessories and still end up with a rifle that does not meet the most basic of requirements.

Your fighting carbine does not need to be expensive but it does need a few critical parts. In this thread we will focus on military-style carbines and the basics of making a usable fighting gun.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money but you need to have a good base to start with. Even with the tips outlined in this thread, if you have a bad base (even when combined with the highest quality of accessories) you will end up with an assemblage of shit. A pile of random AR or AK parts combined with someone with the most rudimentary building knowledge is not a good place to start. Begin with a rifle built by a quality manufacturer to proper specifications and you can save yourself a headache from the start.

Essentials
-Quality carbine
It helps to do a little (or a lot of) research first—your average gun shop employee is not exactly a fountain of knowledge regarding fighting guns. Keep this in mind.

-Reliable Magazines
Even the best rifle on the planet will malfunction (failure to load, failure to feed etc etc) with a shitty magazine inserted.

For AR’s, consider the following:
-Genuine USGI aluminum magazines with issued green followers. Arête anti-tilt followers (such as Magpul brand) are a plus.
-Lancer L5 magazines
-Magpul P-mags (may not drop-free from all lowers)
This list is not all-encompassing by any means (as new magazines are developed regularly) but the above are all proven.

The magazine should drop-free when released from the magazine well and reliably feed and function.

For AK’s, consider the following:
-Black Bulgarian Waffle magazines (avoid US look-alikes as well as clear Bulgarian waffle magazines)
-Chinese smooth-back magazines
-Eastern European surplus magazines sans Yugoslavian.

Many Yugoslavian magazines feature a ‘bolt hold open’ function that is essentially useless when running a fighting Kalashnikov. If the followers are replaced with functional Eastern European followers, they are acceptable.
Avoid any current-production American-made AK magazines, as there is not one of them that meets any military (that runs AKM’s) specifications or standards. I could not in good conscience, ever recommend a magazine that does not have metal-lined (or metal!) feed lips and locking lugs. Due to this, Bulgarian “Bullet” magazines are also not acceptable.

Magazines should be kept reasonably clean and if they show any excess wear (large dents, mal-formed feed lips, or function problems) dispose of them on the double or mark them for “Range only” use. It is beneficial to have “working” magazines and “training” magazines. One way to rotate magazines out of the working pile is to number them so you can easily tell a problematic magazine from the rest. The marking does not have to be large (I like to use an etching pen) but something that distinguishes each magazine from one another is critical.

Again: Once a magazine wears out or develops problems, do not hesitate to throw it out immediately. Magazines should be considered a consumable item. Do not expect them to have the same lifespan as the rifle.

-Decent Sights

Sights are extremely important and completely on-par with magazines. It does not matter if you have an awesome rifle with phenomenal magazines if you cannot hit the target you are aiming at. Sights of merit are needed. Resist the urge to purchase budget sights made by companies known to make airsoft products—they cannot handle real rifles.

For AK’s, this is a no-brainer. The rudimentary standard factory sights work just fine. Some are keen on opening up the rear sight with a triangle file to allow faster target acquisition. This is okay, so long as accuracy is not impeded too much. There are many after-market sight options available for the Kalashnikov-series. A rear peep sight can be beneficial for a bench gun but for a fighting carbine it is less useful—you are not likely to have a bench handy in combat.

For AR-15’s, there are far more options for BUIS (Back-Up-Iron-Sights). If you are planning to run magnified optics in the future, you can leave the standard A-frame front sight post, as it will not be an issue beyond 2x magnification. Many want to run flip-up front and rear sights and that is okay, so long as you realize they should be deployed (in the ‘up’ position) when running a 1x red dot sight in case of optic failure (I did say this was, “Fighting Carbine” and not “Range Carbine”). Detachable carry handle irons are also available but if you ever plan on running an optic I recommend against them.

Whether you chose sights of a flip-up variety or fixed, the following companies are considered consistent and reputable:
-LMT (Lewis Machine and Tool)
-Troy
-Midwest Industries (MI)
-Magpul
-LaRue Tactical
-Matech
-Daniel Defense
-ARMS
-Colt

Once again, this list is not all-encompassing by any means (as new BUIS are developed regularly) but the above are all proven.

-Sling

You need a sling. Depending on the style, they can be used for carrying, weapons retention, transitions (from rifle to pistol), and shooting aids. As far as sling mounting, there are a myriad of ways to do so and largely depend from sling-type to sling-type.

There are four basic types available:

-Carrying Strap
This is your standard military sling. They are effective at carrying the rifle from one point to another and somewhat as a shooting aid but they fall short for transitions.

-Single point
These are good for carrying in the front, retention, and transitions. These slings are by far more beneficial for switching from the strong shoulder to the weak shoulder but fall short when it comes to climbing and other activities you may be involved in.

-Advanced two-point
Slings like the VCAS and VTAC fall into this category. They are good for carrying, transitions, and shooting aids. They excel when used for climbing and movement but are not ideal for strong to weak shoulder transitions

-Three-point
These slings were very popular among some groups in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Overall, they tend to be overly complex and hard to use effectively.

You need to look at your likely situation and assess your needs from this point. The two slings that are currently most popular are the advanced two-point and single-point sling.

-White Light
When using a modern fighting carbine, one has to consider a white light for the following reasons:
-Target identification
You need to properly identify a target before you fire. Whether you’re fighting house-to-house in Iraq or your own living room, target identification is essential. You don’t want to shoot your grandson or another teammate in the face.
-Identification of barricades/furniture/whatever in the room
You need to move without fumbling, a white light helps greatly with this. A white light can be efficiently used to maneuver around a room without bumping into many objects that could be otherwise avoided.

As far as when and how to employ white-lights, I will leave that to your rifle instructors (or for another thread).

There are many factors at play when selecting a white light,

-Manufacture
You need to select a white-light that is compatible with your mission and weapons system. You do not want to choose a light that will fail under extreme use or recoil, Due to this, manufacturers are limited. Surefire, Streamlight and Fenix are all considered to be manufacturers of quality lights. Avoid off-brand ‘Ebay’ lights manufactured in a questionable locale. The “SWAT” light you ordered off of the internet is not likely of the same quality as those listed and will likely fail sooner.

-Mechanism
You have two basic mechanisms for a light: Switch and pressure tape. I always recommend using a switch-activated light over a pressure tape activated light because the wires on a pressure tape can fail more readily. Even Surefire brand flashlights confirm this to be true.

-Mounting
Many lights are designed to be mounted to a quad rail. A quad rail itself is not essential to the fighting carbine but can be a good later addition. Regular hand guards can be fitted with short lengths of weaver rail quickly and easily. Since the rails will only hold a white light and not an optic, long-term stability is not as essential. Be aware of how you will activate the light and adjust your setup as necessary.

At this point in time, you can do everything you need to do with a fighting carbine. Once you have a quality base, magazines, BUIS, sling, and white light, everything else is gravy. One additional recommendation of equipment I have is a 1x red dot sight.


-Red Dot Sights

A red dot sight is a force multiplier. You can acquire targets, take shots from the weak shoulder and take shots from awkward positions faster and better with your carbine if you have a good red dot sight. Stick to a 1x optic and avoid the impulse to use an optic with a larger magnification on your fighting carbine.

What makes a good red dot sight? Well, it should be durable, long-lasting, parallax-free, and consistent. You have many options to choose from but I must say, most of them are not for the budget-minded:

-Aimpoint
-EOtech
-Trijicon

All of these optics have several varieties and I will not touch on them individually. Each one has their own individual advantages in speed, durability, and lifespan. Every single one listed gives the shooter (you) vast advantages over a traditional iron-sight setup. Once again, do your research and try out as many as you can. Just like with everything else, your Ebay optic is probably not up to snuff when compared to these.

Mounting red dot sights on AR-type rifles is fairly straight forward. There are many options available. Do some research as to what manufacturer you want to use for a mounting system for each.

With AK’s, unfortunately, it is more difficult. Many Kalashnikovs come equipped with a side-rail mount. These are good options provided that you use a sound side-rail mount. In general, avoid any mount that uses screws to hold it in place—they will not hold a zero. The Belarus BP-02 (low-profile) and BP-01 (high-profile) are both very good options for a side-rail mount. For AK’s not equipped with a side-rail or for those that prefer a further forward mounted optic, the Ultimak gas-tube replacement rail has no equal. Be advised that not all red dot sights can withstand the heat that emanates from a gas tube mount.

As a rule, avoid all dust-cover optic mounts for AK’s. These are unreliable at best. Recently, there have been many developments in “Beryl” style rails for AK’s but none have been around long enough to be proven stable and repeatable.


With all of the above, you should be able to make an effective fighting carbine without spending an inordinate amount of money. Yes, there are countless more options out there such as quad rails, vertical grips, magnifiers etc etc but most offer no additional benefit unless the basics are followed here.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Doctor Jest » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:39 pm

Very nice post, Dave. Thanks!
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by DemonLlama » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:45 pm

DavePAL84 wrote:Magpul P-mags (may not drop-free from all lowers)
Quick question. Is this a thing with specific brands of lowers or is it just totaly random? If it's the former can you list what brands they do and do not drop from?
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Dave_M » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:46 pm

DemonLlama wrote:
DavePAL84 wrote:Magpul P-mags (may not drop-free from all lowers)
Quick question. Is this a thing with specific brands of lowers or is it just totaly random? If it's the former can you list what brands they do and do not drop from?
So far as I can tell, it really can be lower-dependent. I wish I had better info for you.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Mr. E. Monkey » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:51 pm

DavePAL84 wrote:
DemonLlama wrote:
DavePAL84 wrote:Magpul P-mags (may not drop-free from all lowers)
Quick question. Is this a thing with specific brands of lowers or is it just totaly random? If it's the former can you list what brands they do and do not drop from?
So far as I can tell, it really can be lower-dependent. I wish I had better info for you.
Are you kidding, that was some really good info.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Famine » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:55 pm

Dave, this is a very educational write up. I was unaware about some of this stuff, so it's valuable to read it and learn it here.

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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Gatorfarmer » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:57 pm

What about the C More railway system red dot? While not as bombproof as the big three choices, they're at least water proof (stuck mine in the shower for 20-30 mins and also submerged it in the tub and left it about ten minutes, no problems) and the metal ones are fairly durable (no experience with the polymer ones). They're also relatively compact. One variant has the BUIS built in. I don't know what retail is, mine was a demo and was $175. Might be an option if someone is on a tight budget.

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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Dave_M » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:03 pm

Gatorfarmer wrote:What about the C More railway system red dot? While not as bombproof as the big three choices, they're at least water proof (stuck mine in the shower for 20-30 mins and also submerged it in the tub and left it about ten minutes, no problems) and the metal ones are fairly durable (no experience with the polymer ones). They're also relatively compact. One variant has the BUIS built in. I don't know what retail is, mine was a demo and was $175. Might be an option if someone is on a tight budget.
The C More was very good in its day but when compared to its modern counterparts, not so much. I must re-quote myself with this:
You have many options to choose from but I must say, most of them are not for the budget-minded
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by AgentBlack » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:23 pm

cool, done done and done. someday when i win the lottery and can afford a red dot optic i have a GG&G flip up rear iron sight. USGI mags some with green and some with coyote magpul followers. because most of them are new they not only drop free but are shot out of the mag well. i have several different 3 point slings some i like better than others. just need a mount for my surefire and i'm good. i'm about $800 deep so far, considering current prices i think i'm doing OK. oh, and it's a DPMS....no complaints so far. (nope, i lied, i wish i had gone with a longer barrel) :D
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by DannusMaximus » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:05 pm

DavePAL84 wrote:-Quality carbine
It helps to do a little (or a lot of) research first—your average gun shop employee is not exactly a fountain of knowledge regarding fighting guns. Keep this in mind.
Good info, but your lack of any recommendations on what constitutes a 'quality' carbine is conspicuous. On most other items you have specific manufacturers and models listed. I realize that what constitutes a 'quality' AK or AR has been mostly done to death on these boards, and I don't know that there has really been much of a consensus. Still, if you are intending this to be a fairly all-inclusive post on the topic (and it looks like it might be gearing up to be), your professional opinion on what companies produce a 'quality' carbine would be appreciated.

I'm sure you have your personal preferences, and that you also see just about every imaginable make, model, and style of carbine at your school. Given that, what's your vote for top tier, mid tier, and lowest tier among the various AR/AK makers out there?

A link to previous posts where this has been specifically discussed would be fine if you don't feel like reiterating.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by TDW586 » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:12 pm

Dannus, I don't want to answer for Dave (since he's the kind of guy that teaches people like me to shoot ;)) but I think the infamous M4 chart from AR15.com is a good starting point. Quality makers for AR's would undoubtedly include Noveske, LMT, Saber, Colt (of course). For AK's, the only big manufacturers I know of are Krebs Custom and Arsenal. There are plenty of other high-quality AK's out there, but they're usually built by individuals or smaller custom shops.

But if you're building a gun, there are a lot more variables, since you select individual parts and don't have to worry about a manufacturer's package deal, as it were.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by foehunter » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:14 pm

sticky this thread.
in the firearms department i think that this thread has just as much good advice for people who are looking into building there first crabine as the how to build a bob thread in the bug out gear forum. great post dave

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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by AmirMortal » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:19 pm

Great post Dave, thanks! :D

I will be keeping my eyes open for future threads as well. :)

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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Dave_M » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:20 pm

DannusMaximus wrote:Given that, what's your vote for top tier, mid tier, and lowest tier among the various AR/AK makers out there?
I must say, I agree with Rob Sloyer about this topic as far as AR's with the exception that I consider LMT to be a Tier 1 manufacturer. Many of the so-called Tier 2 manufacturered guns can be brought to bear by doing simple things like re-staking the BCG and dropping a chamber reamer in.

In case this isn't clear, as far as specifics, here are the criteria I consider for a base fighting gun for an AR (in no particular order):
-Chrome lined barrel
-M4 feed ramps
-MPI bolt and barrel
-Properly staked BCG
-Properly staked castle nut
-5.56 chamber
-Upgraded extractor and spring

for AK's (in no particular order)
-Chrome lined barrel
-Properly cut magwell
-Non-welded ("floppy") gas piston
-Gas block and FSB with no cant
-Properly headspaced

I hesitate to mention manufacturers for either system, as all can be done by a competent builder.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by nimdabew » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:23 pm

Well then. I guess I have a fighting carbine. I know it has functioned flawlessly in the two courses I took, and I will be testing my new upper in the next one. I also have no Gripes about buying an Armalite, its been a great rifle so far. It shot better than most rifles at the last class.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by DannusMaximus » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:23 pm

DavePAL84 wrote:I hesitate to mention manufacturers for either system, as all can be done by a competent builder.
Fair enough. The list of spec criteria is a good place to start.

Thanks to TDW for his response, also.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Hoppy » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:25 pm

In case this isn't clear, as far as specifics, here are the criteria I consider for a base fighting gun for an AR (in no particular order):
-Chrome lined barrel
-M4 feed ramps

-MPI bolt and barrel
-Properly staked BCG
-Properly staked castle nut
-5.56 chamber
-Upgraded extractor and spring
really?

as iv said before, i greatly respect your experience dave. but from everything iv read, unless your running a full auto rifle, M4 ramps are more or less a moot point.

anything to counter that?
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by TDW586 » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:34 pm

Dave, quick question; do you consider batch-MPI'd bolts and barrels satisfactory, or only ones that are each tested individually?
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by nimdabew » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:36 pm

Hoppy wrote:
In case this isn't clear, as far as specifics, here are the criteria I consider for a base fighting gun for an AR (in no particular order):
-Chrome lined barrel
-M4 feed ramps

-MPI bolt and barrel
-Properly staked BCG
-Properly staked castle nut
-5.56 chamber
-Upgraded extractor and spring
really?

as iv said before, i greatly respect your experience dave. but from everything iv read, unless your running a full auto rifle, M4 ramps are more or less a moot point.

anything to counter that?
If I remember correctly, I remember reading somewhere that because of the carbines shorter gas system, the carrier is thrown back more violently tha with a rifle system, Because of that, the carrier returns forward faster than the rifle. If the carrier starts to strip a round off too fast, the M4 ramps help aid in the chamber of that round. I would get them because most of the time, it doesn't matter price wise to not get them, espically if you are building the rifle from the ground up. I have shot both rifle and M4 ramps and never noticed a difference, but I am sure there have been instances where the M4 ramps help even with semi auto firing.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Dave_M » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:41 pm

TDW586 wrote:Dave, quick question; do you consider batch-MPI'd bolts and barrels satisfactory, or only ones that are each tested individually?
Well when you're playing with the law of averages, batch is okay. If you want to be 1000% sure, individual testing only. For most people in most situations, batch is okay.
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Dave_M » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:43 pm

nimdabew wrote:If I remember correctly, I remember reading somewhere that because of the carbines shorter gas system, the carrier is thrown back more violently tha with a rifle system, Because of that, the carrier returns forward faster than the rifle. If the carrier starts to strip a round off too fast, the M4 ramps help aid in the chamber of that round. I would get them because most of the time, it doesn't matter price wise to not get them, espically if you are building the rifle from the ground up. I have shot both rifle and M4 ramps and never noticed a difference, but I am sure there have been instances where the M4 ramps help even with semi auto firing.
You summed up most of my thoughts on the matter. However

M4 feedramps on receiver but not on barrel = failures
M4 feedramps on barrel but not on receiver = okay
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Hoppy » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:50 pm

DavePAL84 wrote:
nimdabew wrote:If I remember correctly, I remember reading somewhere that because of the carbines shorter gas system, the carrier is thrown back more violently tha with a rifle system, Because of that, the carrier returns forward faster than the rifle. If the carrier starts to strip a round off too fast, the M4 ramps help aid in the chamber of that round. I would get them because most of the time, it doesn't matter price wise to not get them, espically if you are building the rifle from the ground up. I have shot both rifle and M4 ramps and never noticed a difference, but I am sure there have been instances where the M4 ramps help even with semi auto firing.
You summed up most of my thoughts on the matter. However

M4 feedramps on receiver but not on barrel = failures
M4 feedramps on barrel but not on receiver = okay
very good.

as for the M4 ramps on a rifle upper. i knew that much :lol:
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by Sworbeyegib » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:50 pm

Another great write up, great info like this is why I keep coming back.
**Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't**

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nimdabew
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Re: The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

Post by nimdabew » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:45 am

DavePAL84 wrote:
nimdabew wrote:If I remember correctly, I remember reading somewhere that because of the carbines shorter gas system, the carrier is thrown back more violently tha with a rifle system, Because of that, the carrier returns forward faster than the rifle. If the carrier starts to strip a round off too fast, the M4 ramps help aid in the chamber of that round. I would get them because most of the time, it doesn't matter price wise to not get them, espically if you are building the rifle from the ground up. I have shot both rifle and M4 ramps and never noticed a difference, but I am sure there have been instances where the M4 ramps help even with semi auto firing.
You summed up most of my thoughts on the matter. However

M4 feedramps on receiver but not on barrel = failures
M4 feedramps on barrel but not on receiver = okay
Yeah I forgot that little part. The tip of the bullet could get caught on the M4 upper, barrel rifle ramps and cause a failure. The extended ramps of a M4 cut barrel with a rifle upper will not cause the little divot and your rifle should be fine. (p.s. I learned most of what I know from dave and some specific FAQs/write-ups on arfcom, thanks Dave! We are glad to have you)

Rule of acquisition #33 applies to the above statement lol (I am a trekkie)
Thanks Anianna!
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12_Gauge_Chimp wrote:I say when Wee Drop visits the US, we make her ride a goat. You know, like those little monkey cowboys they have at some rodeos. :lol:

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