20090906I just responded to a thread on one of the online discussion forums about whether or not to install an o-ring under the extractor in a brand new Colt 6920. I got the impression that the gun hadn't even been fired yet, or if it had it was only fired for a few rounds. I've also been noticing more and more threads about "my first carbine is on the way, what rail/stock/widget should I buy for it first?" This seems out of sequence to me.
When I first get a new firearm, or finish assembling a new AR, the first order of business is to go shoot it as-is. Even if it's just bench time to check function etc. I don't want to get down some long path of installing rails, and optics, and new triggers, etc. only to find that the gun has problems. Now I have to figure out if the problem is one of my widgets or the factory parts, and if I have to send it back in to the factory I have to strip off all my widgets. GO SHOOT THE GUN to check for function.
I'm also not sure how people know, right off the bat, that they want (need?) a rail system, a new stock, a new grip... Personally the first thing I change out on any AR is the A2 grip, but that's because I know that the finger groove makes me NUTS. How do I know this? I spent all of TD1 in an EAG class shooting with the A2 grip. But for a lot of guys the A2 works fine, great even. I'm that way with an M4 stock. I see no reason to change it out, and it certainly would be far from the first thing I'd change out. How do I know that the M4 stock works for me? Spent all of TD3 at a Cumberland Tactics class shooting with the M4 stock. GO SHOOT THE GUN and see if any of the stock parts really cause you a problem or not.
The rail system is a real kicker for me. I see "look at my new carbine" posts of a brand new Colt 6920 where the handguards have been changed out for a rail system ($250+/-), the pistol grip has been changed out ($30+/-) and the stock has been replaced ($100+/-), often with a full set of Troy flipup irons ($250+/-). Now, I ain't going to begrudge anyone the grip, but otherwise that's $600 worth of stuff on that gun that is doing NOTHING to improve your ability to get hits quickly and these changes are often done without ever having fired a shot. Take $465 of that $600, get in touch with G&R Tactical and pick yourself up an Aimpiont C3 in ADM mount, cut down the carry handle that came with the gun into a rear BUIS, stick with the stock FSB, and use part of that $150 you saved to pick yourself up a BFG Victory Sling for $35 or a Boonie Packer for $15, and get out there and GO SHOOT THE GUN.
This isn't a rant, this is intended as advice. My first AR(s) after the ban sunset I did exactly what I see a lot of other folks doing. I bought an LMT 14.5" upper, had a Gemtech silencer mount permanently installed, had a Larue 12.0 rail and lo-pro gas block installed, got myself a Magpul M93B stock and Tango Down pistol and vert grips, slapped an Aimpoint and Troy rear sight on it... all without ever having fired a shot. And then, just to compound matters, after only getting a few rounds downrange with this beast, I went and "built" a whole 'nother carbine with Daniel Defense in place of the Larue, Vltor in place of the Magpul, Ergo in place of the Tango Down, Eotech in place of the Aimpoint... and months after my initial purchase I still had maybe 500 rounds combined through the pair.
See, I thought I "needed" all that crap on there. I thought I "needed" a rail system and vert grip. and frankly, I was motivated by a"this looks COOL" mentality as much as anything else. I even carried some of these preconceived notions over to my first two Colt projects (a 6520 and 6933, see "a tale of two carbines" on my website).
After all of this, and all those thousands of dollars down the drain, guess what I'm shooting these days? A plain old BCM lower, to which I added a Magpul MOE pistol grip, and topped it off with a BCM midlength upper and Aimpoint C3 in ADM mount. I went with the MOE grip simply because I detest the A2 grip and find it painfully uncomfortable over a long day at the range.The M4 stock that came on the lower is more than serviceable. I figured out a way to mount a white light on a small section of rail on the handguards, the key to which is that I can take that light off there when I don't need it or don't want the added weight. I put a $15 Boonie Packer sling (get the 1.25" version, no extra hardware) on it, and secured it in the front with a BFG UWL at the delta ring. The base gun without optic was under $1k, $1500 tops as it sits. and you know what? it does everything my $3k "wonder guns" do but at half the price. Lesson learned. Now whenever I have a match or class or drills night it's that BCM gun that I reach for. Reach PAST all those $3k+ carbines and get the plain 'ole functional boring BCM.
GO SHOOT THE GUN, and figure out what YOU want or need to do to improve it.
So how do you determine what and when to add to it?
I get a lot of questions from our new shooters about what guns they should buy and what load carriage they should buy, but these are followed almost immediately by "what accessories should I buy?" questions as well. Cart before the horse. I suggest to all of them that they get a basic carbine and put an Aimpoint and a sling on it and go shoot the hell out of it. Same thing with nylon gear, buy the basic chest rig and then go use it. In both cases before you buy all the new whiz bang gear you need to identify limitations in the PLATFORM, by first identifying and eliminating limitations in the SHOOTER. Buying a free float rail to "increase accuracy" when the shooter can't keep shots in the 8" circle at 15 yards is kind of silly. Right up there with buying a two-stage trigger for the same purpose. Buying a "better" sling that allows you to more easily transition the carbine to the support side when you can't properly use cover on the strong side, same silliness.
If you see a new product that you are interested in, ask yourself "what does it do?" If you don't understand what it does, find out. (The Magpul BAD is a good example of this as everyone is looking at it as a way to speed up reloads, which is maybe 25% of the value of the device. I wouldn't buy one if that's the only reason you want one.) You then need to establish whether or not you have a need that the purpose of this device fills. You need to be honest with yourself and figure out if you've actually exceeded the functionality of your equipment or if you are just looking to "bling" the carbine.
There are some devices that are such quantum leaps forward in effectiveness that they do not necessarily require exceeding the limits of the base platform before you jump to them. Chief among these is the red dot sight (RDS). Adding an Aimpoint to the gun is an investment that will increase the speed and accuracy of almost any level of shooter out to at least 50 yards. As such it is the one thing that I suggest people buy, often before even having shot the gun. But there are few, if any, other devices that are such a huge improvement. I can't think of any off the top of my head, and so still recommend adding the Aimpoint (and not much else) before you GO SHOOT THE GUN!