I was flattered when Caleb used my Evil Assault Rifle Mk1 Mod0 as an example of a well set up, uncluttered rifle. However I’m also a little ashamed to admit that said rifle has since sprouted an Aimpoint and sling and a buttstock magazine pouch and is pushing nine and a quarter pounds. It has crossed that ill-defined border from “handyland” and is now encroaching upon “awkwardsville”.
So does my rifle have too much stuff on it? Is it time to ditch it and get a Garand instead? No, and here’s why.
What Caleb was getting at, and I’m sure you’ve seen, is to avoid making your rifle into a parts hanger. When you’re looking in the catalog for things to add on, and not for solutions to a specific problem, you’ve got a parts hanger.
For a general purpose, self-defense carbine, I think you are best served to add, in order: A white light, an Aimpoint, and a sling. The white light makes it possible to identify threats in poor lighting (it is not for searching!). The Aimpoint makes it easier to get your sights on the target quickly and in poor light. The sling exists to quickly get the rifle out of your hands, but maintain control of it (it is not for steadying your aim at self defense distances). Of the three, the sling can be eliminated if you don’t anticipate having to have the gun out of your hands for long. It’s quite possible to get the sling tangled in things or people and can make your life more difficult if it’s not managed correctly. You could save a lot of money and weight by not running an optic, but the benefits are so huge that I personally wouldn’t be without one. The white light is probably the only real necessity, because without one your rifle is useless in poor light.
So, what’s the vertical fore grip for?
Originally, the VFG was designed to protect the shooter’s hand against high heat generated by sustained firing when an integrated aluminum rail system was installed. It does offer some additional leverage for hanging on to the gun, but for shooting, it’s an awkward solution and generally a flat bottomed handguard will be more friendly to use.
The first error shooters make is to install a VFG for no other reason than because they’ve seen others install them, especially the military, without understanding the how or why. Then they get installed in the wrong position, and used incorrectly.
The obvious way to use the VFG, is usually wrong:
“Choking The Chicken” is awkward and offers poor stability and tracking.
Instead, try this:
Cup your hand in front of the VFG and use it as a rearward handstop. This offers a solid grip, pulls the rifle back into the shoulder pocket, and is a consistent hand location that’s easily and repeatably found.
And on my rifle, it puts my thumb here:
To do this:
I never have to go looking for my flashlight button, because the VFG puts my hand in the right spot to find it, every time.
We all make fun of the guy with “too much stuff” on his rifle. But the problem isn’t his stuff, it’s that he’s bought it and added it without an understanding of how the rifle is to be used and how these parts can make that job easier. And the only way to get that understanding is to get off the couch, turn the computer off, get off the internets and hit the range and shoot your damn guns! Take a class, shoot a match. See what others are doing and how it works and doesn’t work out for them. Ask to shoot somebody elses’ gun!
It’s tempting to get overly curmudgeonly about these things and shun all modern enhancements and go back to shooting a K-Frame, 870 and a Garand (although you’re certainly not totally unarmed if you choose to do so), but the new hotness will make your life easier if you fit your gear to your requirements and not the other way around.