AR pistols (I call them prifles) are all the rage these days and I understand why. As a long time class 3 dealer and Title 2 manufacturer the SBR laws are ridiculous, right up there with suppressors. Prifles provide a lawful means to use rifles with short barrels. To this day I am surprised the ATF let that happen. My guess is that guy / gal is working a desk in the middle of nowhere (or they were promoted). Still, they remain legal if used “properly” and serve a purpose. They are light, concealable, and easy to store for home or vehicle defense. Using proper ammunition they provide acceptable ballistics, especially across the room. While I personally find them useless, they are of value to those incapable of or unwilling to deal with the NFA laws. Short barrels are great, I have been pushing them for years in the police world. There is always one close at hand in any number of calibers. For where I live and what I do they are perfect. Luckily my FFL allows me to keep the stock, but the concept is real. Still, it is simply the ultimate example of what started as a marketing ploy to attract people to rifle classes, the Urban Rifle concept.
Clint Smith talked to me about “using a rifle at pistol distances” in the late 1990’s early 2000’s. My guess is someone else thought of it at the same time or earlier (someone always claims to), but Clint is who made it viable and workable. Speaking to him and Heide at my range in Utan it started as a means to teach officers. Clint had just made the transition from traveling the county in a van to Thunder Ranch Texas. He recognized most police engagements were close. He also knew you will go bankrupt relying on LE to pay the bills so he marketed it to civilians as Urban Rifle and it was hugely successful, still is. The concept survives today making up a large percentage of carbine training. The industry is rife with classes shooting to an “extended rage” of 50 or 100 yards. Can an AR or other carbine excel at that range, sure, but its like taking a Ford GT40 to an 1/8th mile drag strip. Will it be fast, yes, but get it on a long track with curves (both left and right) and you get to see its real capabilities. Your carbine is the same way, get it off the square range and see what it can truly do.
As a long time police sniper long range is familiar, it’s what I did as a rule and my specialty today. I was shooting to a mile long before it was popular in the Social Media. But even then my deployment distances were well under 100 yards, as close as 15 yards on one deployment. In charge of firearms training for the SWAT team and department my experience was always close with training to match. We used our patrol rifles at 100 yards during training, but we spent most of our time at 50 yards and closer, like most agencies. Upon retirement my writing for Harris Publications took me all over the country attending training. Occasionally we shot carbines out to 300 yards, even the short ones. Hitting ISPC steel with my Primary Weapons Systems Diablo / MK107 (7″ barreled AR) at 300 meters was an eye opener. With no military experience this was new to me using a carbine. Most of my weapons testing for articles started to incorporate groups and testing to at least 300 yards. But, my eyes were opened wider after attending one of Buck Doyle’s Scoped Carbine classes at his Follow Through Consulting range in Teasdale Utah. Buck shoots at 100 yards to confirm zero, then moves to 381 meters and beyond, a place you stay for three days. All his targets are the size of a typical ISPC sillouette or smaller. You spend much of your time engaging 12″ round steel out to as far as 800 meters. Its a huge eye opener. Just a 3 hour drive from my office I make a point to attend most every class he holds. While I help with the class where possible, mostly I test rifles for articles. It’s a fantastic venue allowing me to provide thorough testing while gaining skill and understanding, not to mention a beautiful backdrop. Beats the heck out of a square range. I have used rifles with barrels as short as 9 inches in calibers rainging from 5.56mm to .308 including 6.8 SPC, 300 BLK, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 Creedmoor and.260 Remington. Most had scopes, often without a Horus reticle in it. Some even had red dot sights. Its amazing what you can do with a carbine, even one with a short barrel, you just have to try.
Anyone can do it!
Experts, training gurus, talking heads, tactards and couch commandos will all tell you it can’t be done. We all know the 5.56mm is “limited” to 500 meters right? Short barrels are 100 yard rifles? The 300 BLK is useless beyond 200 yards? Most people cannot shoot that well, it takes an expert? Better yet, it takes two or more weeks of “training” before you can get anything out of “advanced” training. All these “experts” have a few things in common. They have never done it, or tried it, typical of this Interweb world. Their shooting sucks, they can’t hit the side of a barn. Its the same group calling me a liar when I shoot tight groups with factory ammunition. Their experience consists of the couch, a keyboard, and a video game. They might make it to a 100 yard public range. Maybe they make their living teaching people on a square range; or one of their gurus or FB Gods tells them its so. Since these gods and gurus are “real gunfighters” it must be true. Problem is, that is all complete BS, truth is anyone can do it, and I have seen it time and time again. And while everyone says the 5.56mm is not lethal at beyond 500 yards none of them are willing to test that theory as a target. To the contrary combat veterans who have been at both ends in real life know it can be.
Just last week my friend and business colleague Ryan gathered several of his friends and put together a private Scoped Carbine class with Follow Through Consulting. Most were shooting PWS MK116 MK1 MOD1 rifles with a .223 Wylde chamber using Black Hills Ammunition 77 grain. Several came right out of the box, never fired. There were a few home builds mixed in. They borrowed scopes from Buck or me, added off set sights, slings, and the like. This was no gathering of experts, just everyday people, none of them in the “industry”, most of them either new shooters or new to the AR system in general. Buck’s class focusses on the TReMoR reticles and Todd Hodnet’s Applied Ballistics systems. Most had never seen a Horus Vision T2 or T3 reticle prior. Some had used AR’s, or were hunters, no one was a professional shooter. By the end of day two they were all getting 1st or 2nd round hits on 12″ steel from 381 to over 800 meters in winds gusting to 20 mph. Most did so with factory rifles, factory ammunition and Leupold Mark 6 scopes. They were all using T2 or T3 reticles. None of them suffered through endless hours of useless, mind numbingly boring and meaningless math lessons on mils and MOA. Yet somehow they all managed to get pretty good at it in three days. Were they experts, of course not, but they were a ton better than most and far better than when they got there. All were surprised at what they could do.
Maybe the best example was a student who missed day one. I took the T3 equipped scope off my rifle and put it on his, then zeroed it to hit close to the middle of a 6″ plate at 100 yards. Nope, no hours of trying to make tiny little groups. While he was getting settled on the rifle we talked about position, how to use the reticle, and exactly what to do to hit the 12″ plate at 381 meters. He listened and observed as the rest of the class was shooting only taking part after the first pass. On his second pass he hit on the second round. As Buck moved from target to target by lunch time he was getting first and second round hits out to 600 meters. No math lesson, no need for two weeks on a square range and thousands of rounds. As the day progressed he became one of the best shooters in the group. Its not rocket science, nor does it require endless hours and tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and training. Over the last two years this beginner experience has repeated itself time and time again, truly, anyone capable of safely handling an AR can do this.
Our industry is fond of referring to our history as rifleman (or musketeers) and the somewhat historically correct example of Sweden during WWII. Swedish men were expected to train with their rifle and have it at the ready, the whole “everyone is a marksman” concept. It certainly contributed, although only partly to Germany’s decision not to invade, but its a great idea. Many feel that as Americans being armed and prepared is a deterrent to invasion. Its almost mythic in the end of the world, foreign invasion crowd. My guess is there is some truth to it, but not if the only thing you can do is grab your prifle and shoot across the room. The AR is a tool, a fine one, getting better each year. Learn to use it over the entire spectrum of its value. It transfers to hunting, self defense, or any number of environments (real or mythical). It’s also a whole ton of fun, and for most of us that is the real purpose, to have fun with your family and friends while using firearms. If you can get to one of Buck’s classes then do it, or to any number of reputable instructors that use the AR rifle beyond the “rifle at pistol distances” concept. Bring your family, you just may enjoy it a bunch more than you think, and that is good for everyone!