The rifle is the backbone of the armed forces for a reason. Your modern fighting rifle is a jack of all trades weapon. It excels in both close quarters shooting as well as engaging targets out to 300 to 500 yards. A fighting rifle should be a part of any preppers home and self-defense setup. The real question is, how exactly do you set up a fighting rifle?
What’s a Fighting Rifle?
A modern fighting rifle needs to be a semi-automatic rifle chambered in an intermediate to full power cartridge. This means the gun is at least chambered in 5.56. The gun can be chambered in .308, 7.62×39, 300 Blackout, 6.8 SPC, 6.5 Grendel, etc.
Preferably the rifle will have a detachable magazine. There are some issues with less free states that restrict rifles with detachable magazines. In those situations, it’s understandable to restrict yourself to a fixed magazine. The rifle should be adaptable and should have the ability to attach accessories in a stable manner.
Examples of Modern Fighting Rifles:
I’m personally not an accessory junky. My rifle shouldn’t weigh 10 pounds because I attached as much crap as possible to it. I like a light rifle but there are some upgrades necessary to setup my fighting rifle.
The Necessary Fighting Rifle Upgrades:
A sling is one accessory you shouldn’t just always have but also invest in carefully. The purpose of a sling is to keep the rifle attached to your body at all times. This allows you to have greater freedom of movement. It’s easier to climb, crawl, duck, and dodge when you can let go of your rifle without worrying about dropping it.
Additionally, should the rifle run dry you can drop the rifle and transition to your handgun without missing a beat. You can establish a two-hand hold on the handgun and let the rifle hang. Lastly, should someone try and take the rifle they’re going to have a hard time if it’s attached to your body. The sling also prevents the weapon from being turned back on you.
The one point, the two point, and the three point are the three main types of tactical slings. Each offers some advantages, but ultimately I believe a modern two point is the best available. A one point offers maneuverability but hardly supports the rifle. The three point supports the rifle extremely well but can be a mess of straps and buckles. A modern two point allows for easy carry, good support, and excellent maneuverability.
My sling of choice would be the Blue Force Gear Vickers sling. It’s robust, modern, and the choice of over 100,000 Marines and Soldiers. The quick release pull tab instantly changes how the sling can be used and makes it maneuverable. Runners up would be the Haley Strategic D3 and the Magpul MS4.
A magazine isn’t necessarily an accessory but I’ve seen lots of people cheap out on them. Cheap mags are fine for the range but have no place on a fighting rifle. Stay away from companies with poor reputations like Pro Mag. There are tons of excellent magazines out there and most cost under $20 apiece.
Regardless of how fast and accurate you are with iron sights, I guarantee you’ll be faster and more accurate with an optic. Iron sights always work but an optic allows you to get on target faster and potentially see further. Optics are generally easier to use at night and in low light conditions. The military forces of the entire western world have turned to optics over iron sights because they’re a force multiplier.
The Marine Forces in Fallujah equipped with ACOG rifle scopes were investigated due to how many headshots they scored. Marksmanship scores in the Army and Marines both improved drastically after the adoption of optics.
A good optic is key and you can’t settle for cheaply made Chinesium junk. You are going to have to spend money to obtain a quality optic.
There are several types of optics out there but for a fighting rifle there are three types I’d recommend. Red dots, fixed power magnified, and low power variable.
Red Dots – Red dot optics are non-magnified optics that utilize a single red (or green) dot as the reticle. A red dot optic is designed for close range shooting and are largely instinctive devices. Put the red dot on the target, pull the trigger, and if it’s zeroed properly you’ll hit the target. Quality red dots come from companies like Vortex, Aimpoint, Eotech, and Meopta.
Fixed Power – Fixed power scopes offer shooters a slight magnification but not enough to make them difficult to use in close quarters combat. The right fixed power optic allows you to engage targets out to 500 yards. These optics are typically 3 to 5 power and come equipped with ballistic drop reticles. Companies with quality optics include Trijicon, Primary Arms, and Steiner.
Low Powered Variable – Low power variable optics allow the user to change the magnification levels typically between 1-4x or 1-6x. These optics are compact and offer a greater degree of versatility. Optic with an illuminated center reticle can be used as red dots at 1x. Then they can be zoomed outwards for more precise, long range shooting. Quality optics come from Leupold, Trijicon, Nightforce, Steiner.
We just waxed poetically about the value of optics but that doesn’t mean we toss iron sights out the window. Optics break, batteries die, and Tritium fades. You need something reliable to fall back on in those situations. The simplicity of good iron sights can’t be underestimated. They are a necessary backup on any fighting rifle. Your modern backup sights have the ability to fold out of the way when they aren’t needed. This places them out of the way and gives you a clear line of sight through your optic.
Once needed you pop them into place and start shooting. With the right optic and sight combination you can co-witness. This means look through your optic to use your sights. Quality sights come from companies like Magpul, Yankee Hill Machine, Troy, and XS. You may even consider a night sight variant with a glowing front sight.
A Weapon Light
We don’t have the advantage of getting to choose when a fight starts, all we can do is react. The fight could come day or night and you should be prepared for both. This is just one reason why every rifle, and every fighting gun period, needs a white light. A weapon light allows you to not only see your target, but to actually know if there is a target. Positive identification is critical before you mash that trigger and send lead downrange.
You must determine if the threat is an actual threat before you squeeze that trigger.
Weapon lights need to match the terrain you’re fighting in. If your rifle is for use inside a home, you likely don’t want or need 800 to a 1,000 lumens. That much power indoors could actually cause you to be slightly blinded and distracted as it bounces off reflective surfaces. For indoors you likely want something between 200 and 400 lumens. If the rifle is for outdoors use, crank it up to 800 or 1,000 lumens.
You also may want to look into a pressure pad switch. This connects to the light and turns it on as soon as the switch is grabbed. This allows you to quickly turn the light on and off. Quality weapon lights come from companies like Inforce, Streamlight, and Surefire.
Those are the necessary upgrades to a fighting rifle. The following are optional but always handy to have. They improve the weapon’s handling and overall ergonomics.
A Collapsing Stock:
A collapsing stock is on the list for one simple reason, body armor. Most preppers I know have a set of body armor, and with it being so cheap why wouldn’t you? The thing with armor is that it adds inches to your width and depth. This may make a rifle that feels great when you aren’t wearing armor start to feel a bit long when you are.
A collapsing stock allows you to shorten the stock just a bit until it’s comfortable against the body. Most AR 15s are equipped with 6 position stocks and these are perfect for a fighting rifle. Unfortunately, some states do prohibit collapsing stocks so be aware of that.
Red Dot Magnifiers:
If you’re rocking a red dot sight, think about adding a magnifier. A magnifier allows you to add a bit of extra power to your red dot. Most are 3x power magnifiers that are simple to install and use. In a flash they can be flipped over and out of the way for close quarters shooting. This little extra power helps with longer range shots and to better observe targets. Magnifiers are made by a variety of companies and work best with full sized red dots. A good swivel mount is a must have when it comes to a magnifier.
A weapon foregrip is a simple addition to the front of your weapon to give you a 90 degree or slightly angled grip. The 90 degree grips were popular when weapon accessories were massive and rails were small. Since most of the rail was taken up by lights and lasers a vert grip offered shooters the ability to maintain control in a comfortable manner. A 90 degree vertical grip helps me maintain control over my gun. It’s personal preference but I find my rifle is more comfortable and easier to use with a vert grip.
Angled Foregrips are an additional option. These are designed to be used with a thumb over bore grip to help mitigate upward rise of the muzzle. These grips are newer and growing in popularity. They claim to be more ergonomic, I don’t personally have the experience to know if they are. There are several designs out there but the Magpul AFG 1 and AFG 2 are by far the most popular.
The last optional accessory I want to talk about is a suppressor or silencer. These are heavily restricted items and if they’re legal in your state, you have to jump through federal hoops to obtain one. This includes some paperwork, a long wait, and a $200 tax stamp. They do offer substantial benefits to the prepper and shooter though.
Obviously, they reduce noise. This helps preserve hearing and is a lifesaver indoors. The concussion of an unsuppressed rifle indoors is substantial and will result in permanent hearing loss. A suppressor allows you to avoid this. They reduce the noise substantially, although the crack of a supersonic round is still pretty loud. Movies make suppressors out to be magic but they simply don’t work that way.
The best way I can describe it is they turn BANG into Bang. They also reduce flash, have a noticeable effect on recoil, and muzzle rise. A rifle equipped with a suppressor is simply easier to shoot and way more effective. If you’re willing to deal with the wait, the tax, and the paperwork a suppressor can be an invaluable piece of gear for your fighting rifle.
The Most Important Fight Rifle Factor:
Training. Pure and simple. You can set up your fighting rifle a hundred different ways but if you can’t properly use the gear, it doesn’t matter. Once your rifle is set up you need to get out there and train with it. Training is where you discover and correct weaknesses with your system.
Learn to not only master your rifle but also the optic, sling, light, sights, and anything else you’ve tacked on. You need to know how the gear works inside and out. At the end of the day a thousand dollar rifle isn’t worth anything if you can’t use it, and neither is a thousand dollars worth of gear.
Use it, abuse it, and master it. Your life may just depend on it.