All posts by lothaen

Is Your Red Dot Turning Into Sour Grapes?

I used to have a Comp M4, but I could tell, even at 30, that my eyes were not what they used to be. The biggest and chief concern to me was the gradual smearing of the dot and seeing it lose some of its crispness as my eyes aged. I typically wear corrective lenses, but even that wasn’t able to fully mitigate some of the smearing.

The 2 MOA RDS was still very useable, but I didn’t like the idea that ten years from now my $800 dollar investment might not have the same value to me as a shooter that it once did. Along the way, I learned of some tips and alternatives to help any other shooters with poor eyesight still make use of RDS or similar 1x systems.


Flipping up the irons is a good way to help increase the crispness of the dot. In this example, I used the large aperture for the picture just as an example, but in reality using the small peep is an effective way to reduce the smearing effect of your RDS and give it a resolution boost. Practically, I used this method to shoot at longer range targets at competitions when I needed a sharp dot and to reduce dot glare. This assisted me with 200-300-400 yard targets as it made the dot incredibly crisp.


Sighting through your small peep is a band aid solution to a fuzzy reticle, and if your eyes are very bad, it may not increase the sharpness of the dot enough to help. Furthermore, it eliminated some utility of the RDS… but if you have to settle into your sights and concentrate on a distant shot the speed loss might not be so critical. Another alternative to a RDS is a simple prismatic optic.

Prismatics are like a 1x scope that’s fixed at, well 1x. I have had a chance to look through a Leupold Prismatic at the funshop, and have recommended it to others who have experienced a loss of RDS resolution. Since it doesn’t rely on a LED diode and a reflective lens, the prismatic should offer a solution to dot distortion and loss of resolution that can help keep your 1x game up for years to come.


The disadvantages to these systems are, however, a smaller eyebox than traditional RDS and short battery life on the illuminated reticle. On the flip side, these optics will maintain their resolution and still offer the shooter a black etched reticle should the electronics ever fail.

My chosen route, for now, was to go with a variable to eliminate the concern of a fuzzy reticle and give me a more versatile shooting setup. I wouldn’t mind getting another RDS, but I would like to keep the cost on the lower end for something that may decrease in value for my shooting as my eyes age.

I hope this can help some of our older shooters looking for options on their defensive rifles!

The Art of Slinging Up: Using the USGI Web Sling to its Max Potential

We all know about slinging up, but doing it right is always a question for those who are not well versed in its application or use. Let’s take a look at traditional sling positions, and then we can explore another method of slinging up which gives even greater stability to the tried and true USGI web sling.

In this animation, Shawn demonstrates application of the sling and a quick demo of several shooting positions: Kneeling, Crossed leg Sitting, and Prone.

The proper steps to sling up are thus:

  • Cradle the rifle in the arm and detach the rear of sling from the rifle
  • Make a loop by pulling the sling through the middle of the slider buckle and put your arm through the loop
  • Slide the loop above the bicep, and tighten the loop
  • Unlock the keeper and pull the sling strap until you have removed the slack and close the keeper
  • Bring your hand to the forearm, coming from above the sling. It should wrap around the back of your hand as shown above
  • The sling should feel tight everywhere, if it feels loose… take up more sling slack and settle back into position

There is a clockwise twist to the sling that is done before you loop it over the arm. The strap should smoothly transition from your arm, over the back of the hand, and on to the swivel. If its twisted over somewhat, its not correct.

Once slung up, you will feel a constricting pressure above the bicep and your arm veins may bulge. You may feel your pulse in the bicep. These are signs of proper sling tension. Yup, it’s that tight. Properly applying the sling gives you a stable shooting platform for whatever reason you might need to steady the shot.

Slinging Up Ver 2.0

If we explore the sling further, we can make some changes to our setup that puts the sling in a much better position than with a stock A2. Moving a sling swivel down the forearm gives us two new advantages: 1) the sling swivel will act as a natural hand stop and 2) the angle of our arm increases to reduce sling slippage.

Sling Position
Sling Swivel Midway Down the Forearm

Now keep in mind that everyone’s arm length is different. What works for me might not work for you. About midway down the hand guard, I could mount the sling swivel to act as a hand stop which bends my elbow closer to 90 degrees. This 90 degree bend keeps the loop up on the arm and prevents slippage. If I were to put my hand at the sling swivel on the USGI A2 swivel… the angle would be great and the sling creeps down towards the elbow. That’s due to my arms being too short for the length of the stock sling swivel setup.

Sling Swivel Hand Stop 3

Getting closer to that 90 degree angle and keeping my hand in place with a hand-stop locks me into the sling hard. What’s nice is with carbines, is that your stock sling swivel might be set up in a good spot to act as a hand stop and give you that 90 degree elbow bend… no changes necessary.

Modern Shooting Slings

SAP SLING slung up
Since this photo, I have added a QD swivel midway down the forearm of the rifle

There are a few products which make things *even better*… More better you say? Yes I did. I use a Short Action Precision Positional sling, which is something I recently purchased. It is a modern shooting sling, and it has all the benefits of a traditional shooting sling, but it is both faster and easier to use. Setup like this, I can lock myself into the gun quickly, and get out of the sling quickly as well. There are a few other products out there as well, such as the Armageddon PRS, the TAB gear shooting sling and a few others, so do some research.

Adding and using a traditional or even a modern shooting sling to your equipment lineup is a great way to get more mileage from a sling than simply a means to carry the rifle.


The Designated Marksman and the Prepared Civilian Part II


Last month, we took a look at the DMR concept from an equipment standpoint. Some key points from the last discussion:

  • Glass turns your rifle *as is* from a 0-300 yard gun to a 0-600+ yard gun.
  • Free Floating enhances POI consistency
  • Any rifle with a decent chrome lined barrel can be a DMR
  • Quality ammo makes substantial improvements in any rifle
  • The DMR concept is not tied down to a specific style of rifle
Your DMR doesn't have to be a Mk12. Almost any rifle can be applied to the designated marksman concept provided the shooter has the training to make use of it.
Your DMR doesn’t have to be a Mk12. Almost any rifle can be applied to the designated marksman concept provided the shooter has the training to make use of it.

So it’s not about building a Mk 12 clone, it’s about acknowledging that the rifle you have right now is capable of doing *great* things with the right upgrades and training on your part. So what use is a DMR style rifle in the hands of a civilian?


Equipping your rifle with glass, a free float rail, and quality ammo expand your rifles effective range to the edge of the AR15s ballistic capability. As a civilian, learning to use your rifle to the edge of its performance envelope is a good thing, but will their ever be a time when you can use 600 yard capability? We know disasters happen. Hurricane Katrina, the battle for Blair Mountain, the Tulsa Race riots, the Zimmerman / Martin riots, Furgeson, and the L.A. riots are just a few examples of extreme SHTF situations since 1900.

One million rounds expended in fighting? Yup, on Blair mountain. So it is not unprecedented to think that SHTF could go sideways very quickly. In fierce fighting, who wouldn’t want a rifle that is good both up close and out far? Let’s discuss some advantages a DMR style rifle can have to its user:

  • Positive target ID: identifying persons from a distance to judge their intent
  • Overwatch: capability of observing and covering a large area with accurate fire
  • Small target capability: That rabbit looks delicous, if we can hit it
  • Better low light capability: quality optics enhance your low light shooting
  • Quality ammo: accuracy increased with more effective terminal ballistics
  • Can harvest medium sized game from a further distance with above ammo

Glass isn’t the be all, end all since it cant quite compete with a red dot for the majority of close range scenarios, but as Jerry Mikulek can show us, a good 1x variable won’t slow us down that much either. Having an individual skilled in fundamental marksmanship and giving them a rifle which lets them apply their knowledge is a powerful thing. From hunting to defense, a DMR style build with a dedicated and practiced shooter expands the AR15 from a 0-300 to a 0-600+ yard rifle.

While the majority of us will never need to take a 200-300-400-500-600 yard shot, its a skill I want to cultivate and pass down to my kids. History shows us the last 100 years have been interesting, and things can only get more interesting from here. Can a boxer with longer arms reach his shorter armed opponent first? That’s exactly why I want to understand and apply the full potential of my rifle. – The New Rifleman

How Does the Designated Marksman Concept Apply to the Prepared Civilian?


In practice, the Designated Marksman concept revolves around additional training more so than additional equipment. Sure the different branches have “accurized” versions of DMR style rifles such as the SAM-R, Mark 12 SPR, and the SDM-R, but they all accomplish the same goal: enable an individual soldier with additional marksmanship training to better engage targets at intermediate ranges. So how does this apply to the prepared civilian? Can any rifle function as a DMR? Can a civilian shooter ever take advantage of a long shot? The first part of this series will define the gun. Hint: It’s not that special.

Defining The Gun

Let’s start off with this: anyone with an AR15 which sports a 1/8 or 1/7 twist barrel where the gun is capable of shooting at least 2 MOA has a weapon that can function in the role of a designated marksman. All the sexy shots of DMR rifles are nothing more than eye candy, and anyone with a decent rifle in the safe can set up their weapon to quickly take advantage of the inherent accuracy of the AR15 platform. You would benefit from three things:

  • Free Float System
  • Glass
  • Ammo

In all likelihood, your weapon may already be free-floated. Manufacturers want to increase profit margins through perceived value of accessories such as the rail you have equipped now. I am firm in my belief that you don’t need a free-float rail inside of 300-600 yards depending on your goals and experience.

I have shot to 600 with and without a free-floating barrel, and Shawn makes me look bad when he shoots to 1000 with rack grade Colts. It can be done, but when we set our goal to deliver accurate and consistent fire upon a target at intermediate distances, the advantages of the free float system become apparent.

Glass is an essential and modern tool. Many more people have woken up to the advantages of glass, and the old timers with “irons only” attitudes are fading away. Quality glass unlocks the inherent accuracy of your weapon by giving you better target resolution and precise cross-hair alignment. Don’t skip it. Instead skip the next rifle purchase and equip the weapons you already have with quality optics.

Ammo is the final tool you need. 55 grain isn’t going to cut it. At our intermediate distances, we should feed our weapon quality ammo that matches our BDC. I use 69 grain ammo since it translates well for my TA31F, but if I had to do it over again, I would have gone with a .308 BDC ACOG shooting 77 grain ammunition. Here too, out to 500-600-700 yards one could shoot the lighter stuff, but that would lead to frustration and inconsistency.

M4A1 accuracy vs M16A2

The above chart is from a military power-point presentation discussing the advantages of proper ammunition selection and upgraded optics. As you can see, a typical M4A1 when equipped with glass and better ammunition (in this case 77 grain MK262) greatly reduces group size on target. The M16A2 *as is* is simply outclassed. This picture makes a valid argument against anyone who still wants to rock the irons or who claims they don’t need glass. No, you don’t *need* it, but you would benefit from it!

So wrapping up, we can see that any AR15 in your home with a barrel capable of 2MOA or better will be well suited for a DMR type role when equipped with quality glass, better ammunition, and a free float system. A true testament to the AR15’s design.

With the next post, we will discuss the shooter, and how, when, or if he (or she) will ever have to use such skills as a civilian. – The New Rifleman

Re-Thinking the Modern Rifle

Howard’s recent article about the M16A4 and its numerous disadvantages sparked a firestorm of discussion and criticism. I utilize rifles in all my shooting and have a few M16A2 style clunkers myself…but I am here to offer some discussion on the future of the rifle length platform and who can take advantage of it. So Where does the modern fighting rifle fit in the world of AR15’s?

M16A4: Not So Modern

Let’s get this away right out front: the M16A4 is not a good example of a modern fighting rifle. Every bad thing about the platform Howard touched upon is absolutely right. From the A2 stock to the outdated KAC rail system, the weapon is a rather heavy for what it does. We cannot define a modern fighting rifle based on what the Marines use, just as we cannot define a modern fighting carbine as a vanilla issue US Army M4. As civilians, we don’t have the barriers to building a rifle that will suit our needs and purpose; as cool as it is to build civilian M16 series clones, it usually ends up being a poor choice in a defensive weapon. Let’s start by changing the configuration.

Outfitting an M16A4 style built with modern components significantly reduces its biggest two handicaps: Weight and Length.


Ditching the A2 stock is the first step in keeping a rifle length system useable

I updated my A4 rifle with a Vltor A5 stock years ago. The system is now useable with body armor and is a good update to any rifle length system. The rifle can run with standard buffers as well (I would recommend starting at H2) and needs very little attention. Performing this one upgrade is a good start, but can make the weapon muzzle heavy. Solution? Shorten the barrel or add a lighter hand-guard system… or do both.

Shortening the barrel from 20 to 18 inches and equipping the rifle with a modern rail system shaves off both weight, and length. Shortening the barrel to 18 inches and equipping the rifle length system with a modern lightweight rail such as a Daniel Defense Lite Rail 12.0 or a BCM KMR does wonders for the handling of the rifle.


The biggest advantage of a rifle? M193 still works well for self-defense. Here is my 18 inch rifle with Criterion barrel.

The 20 inch barrel is a long pipe and modern defensive loadings diminish the need for reliance on velocity as a fragmentation mechanism. I recognize this fact, but logistically I also recognize the availability of M193 and how easy to obtain it is. Keeping the 20 inch barrel or updating to an 18 inch barrel still keeps the benefit of fragmentation as a wounding mechanism for the common as dirt M193 loading.

M193 is still humming along at around 3200 to 3250 fps out of an 18 to 20 inch barrel. While it is agreed that modern defensive loadings are preferred to M193, the ability to stockpile and train with 55gr fragmenting FMJ for a good price is a benefit in its own right. With Winchester PDX running near $1.40-1.49 a round vs $ .42 cents a round for Federal M193 then it begins to turn the table in favor of logistics. It allows you to train with the same round you can use for self-defense. While I have a magazine loaded with 69 grain OTM available for self-defense, I keep more M193 on hand due to cost and availability.

Not Just a Shorter Rifle

Keeping in mind the changes above, a rifle length system can be far more versatile than the stock M16A2 and M16A4 clones. There are a few extra advantages to modernizing a rifle setup, especially for new shooters.

Anyone who has tossed a quality compensator on a 20 inch gun knows how easy it is to keep these rifle length systems flat. Giving a rifle to a new shooter interested in AR’s is a good move, since the concussion and recoil will be kept to a minimum while the handling of the weapon will be excellent.

Is it any wonder why 3 gun competitors love to shoot 18 inch rifles? They handle well and stay on target. While 3 gun setups may be a far cry from a defensive rifle, it doesn’t take much to adapt the beneficial characteristics of a 3 gun rifle to a AR15 set up for home defense.

While my opinion may differ from a majority of internet opinion, I believe that proper forethought into how you set up a rifle can elevate it from “the old musket” to a weapon that can go toe to toe with modern carbines, and in some ways outperform them. The modern upgrades available to carbines are directly beneficial to the rifle while preserving its smooth shooting characteristics.

Bonus: I didn’t even have to mention sight radius or bayonets for this article.

Brian –

Brian’s Best and Worst Products 2014

Hi, I am Brian of and I am pleased to join as a contributor. Here are some of my favorite products of 2014, though some of them are not *new* products.


Sierra match kings 69 grain bullets: Its nice having a favorite loading based around this product as I found it easier to find than the 77grain ammo during the scare and it was plenty accurate to help me learn the ins and outs of shooting to 600 yards. Its not a new product by any means, but its a fantastic boost to any rifles capabilities past close ranges.


ALG defense QMS trigger: Its a affordable upgrade to any single stage stock trigger. Smooth with no grit, and very little to go wrong. My next step up will be a Gieselle, but for now this works on a budget.


Armalight NM 1/2×1/2 match rear sight: Quality drop in sight replacement that exceeded my expectations. A raised edge keeps the sight square against the receiver without pins or double spring setups. I utilized this to shoot a basic rifle in NRA High Power and it was a solid piece of equipment.


Aero Precision M4E1: While I just received it, the fit and finish and simplicity of the design make it extremely easy to swap barrels and rails. The platform is stiff and feels robust. I have good confidence that going into the 2015 competitive season, that this receiver will perform well.


Giesselle Reaction Rod: Made building my rifles quick, easy, and the product will last forever. I can only hope my kids take advantage of it and build AR15s for decades after it is passed down to them. Even if they don’t build AR15s it will make a hellacious club.

Let Down: Haley Strategic G Code holster. Not a comfortable choice. I have been wearing it for a year now and I have broken a screw during casual use and overall it just isn’t the most comfortable IWB experience for me. I am a thin guy so that may play a part, but as of this point I’m looking for a better product.