A while ago, one of our readers wrote in and asked for advice for a good SHTF shotgun. I helped him out with the knowledge I had, and I guess it was OK, because he wrote back on a slightly different topic. He asked,
You guys gave me great shotgun advice reciently. I’m coming to you again for your thoughts on ARs.
I’m a gun novice. I’ve been looking into purchasing my first AR15. I’m trying to keep the price at $1000 or less. I do want a forward assist. I’m not planning on putting optics on this rifle so I’m looking for good iron sights. I like the maneuverability of the 16″ barrel models.
Aside from that, I really don’t know what I’m looking for. It seems I can find negative press about every model if I look hard enough.
Can you make some recommendations on manufacturers? Can I get a quality product at the $1000 price point? I’d rather spend a little more if necessary to get a better product. I don’t want to spend 900 only to find out a could have gotten a better option for 1300. I only want to make this purchase once. I’m looking for a product I will own for a lifetime and will it to family.
AR advice, eh? *cracks knuckles* I’ll see what I can do.
WHY the AR-15?
I know many of our readers scoff at this plastic and aluminum wonder that has taken over our media and society in the firearms world. But like it or not, you have to face the facts: it’s here to stay, and it’s only becoming more popular as the days roll on. There are literally hundreds of companies making ARs and probably thousands of companies making parts for ARs. Go to www.brownells.com and type in the search field “AR15” and watch what comes up. The “Mattel Toy” of the Vietnam era has had 40 years of evolution and perfection through combat service, and it has become a serious tool that many rely upon for their SHTF needs. It is reliable, extremely accurate (especially compared to runners-up like the AK variants and the Ruger Mini-14), lightweight, compact. The 5.56mm/.223 round it is chambered in leaves something to be desired in the whollop department, and lack of long-range stability with the more common 55/62 grain military loads makes it an under-200 yard weapon under the best of circumstances. But for those who stay within the confines of the envelope the AR-15 works in, it is an incredible workhorse piece of gear.
As the most popular rifle in the US right now, by a long shot (nyuk nyuk) the AR has another thing going for it in a post-SHTF/TEOTWAWKI scenario: sheer numbers. Most, if not all, modern AR-15s are built to standard military specifications (or “mil-spec” as you’ll see it abbreviated to), and as such, parts from one (say the one in your hand) will fit another (a battlefield pick-up, for example) with little fuss. Magazines are interchangeable, triggers, bolt carrier groups (BCGs) pistol grips, springs, detents….you get the picture. So what I’m trying to say is that if you gear up with a SHTF AR-15, chances are somebody close by will too. And so will the local PD. And so will the National Guard armory. Spare parts, ammo, and mags will be easier to find in an “oh-shit-I’m-the-only-one-left” scenario for an AR-15 than any other long gun make out there except maybe the Remington 870. And when you’re using a detachable-magazine-fed firearm for a SHTF gun, you want to make sure those magazines are going to be available so your weapon keeps running.
Getting to the point…
Okay, so the specifications desired for the reader are:
-16″ barrel for mobility (also the way to go if you don’t want to fill out extra preying-eyes paperwork for an SBR (Short-Barreled Rifle)
-Iron Sights, probably no optics
-$1000 or less for a quality, long-term investment
Well, No sweat. Now that the post Sandy-Hook retardedness has died down somewhat (though who knows how long that will last), high-quality AR-15s can be had for less than a grand. I’m going to recommend one model in particular, because I’ve had personal experience with the firearms and the manufacturer, and can’t plug them enough.
If I had those same criteria, I would go buy a Windham Weaponry MPC A4. Here’s a picture!
It fits all your criteria (here is the Cabela’s page, where it’s on sale for $899), and has a few key points I like in specific:
-Fixed A-frame tower front sight – Extremely tough, protected. When I got my personal W-W upper, I got it with a railed gas block instead of a tower front sight. Now I wish I hadn’t. I like the simplicity and ruggedness of the fixed, all-metal front sight….especially if no optics are run.
-Folding metal rear sight – yeah, I know what I said about the front sight above, but I prefer flip-down rear sights (the Diamondhead ones that come on the W-W guns are pretty darned good) JUST IN CASE I get a good deal on an optic. Why limit yourself? The standard “carrying handle” A2-stylefixed rear sights are awesome and strong, but THEY SUCK to mount optics to. That’s why pretty much every new AR you see these days offers a removeable carrying handle rear sight as an option or add-on. But trust me, get flip-down rears if you have ANY thoughts about optics down the road.
-6-position collapsible mil-spec tube stock – with ARs, the rear buffer tube (that the stock sits on) is made in two different external diameters: commercial and mil-spec. Commercial is the smaller of the two, if I recall, and it is being phased out to standardize on mil-spec. However, you DO run across commercial-tubed guns occasionally, and if you want to upgrade the rear stock to something like a Magpul ACS (my personal favorite) it’ll be easier to find Mil-Spec stuff. Also, the collapsible stock is great if you’re wearing body armor or a backpack…you can shorten it up to make up the difference in length.
My personal AR has a Windham Weaponry upper, and it’s aces. I can shoot 4″ groups benched with a 3MOA red dot at 150 yards. (not anything special with a standard crosshair scope, but where the red dot covers MORE than the group size at that distance, it’s pretty good.). I’ve toured Windham Weaponry’s facility (where I took my armorer’s course with Academi/Blackwater) and their attention to detail floored me. Every SINGLE PART is inspected three times before installation: upon receipt from vendor/manufacturers, before it gets sent out for any modifying/finishing (like having the barrels drilled and rifling cut, or anodized finish applied) and then just before the gun is built. If there is the TINIEST flaw, the part is junked. So you can be assured that W-W has the highest standards on a gun you buy.
So there you go, my personal recommendation for your question. There are personal choices (like 1:9 rifling twist compared to 1:7…but that depends on what ammo you’ll be running) that you can iron out, and there are myriad options you can run for accessories. There are other manufacturers out there that will hit your price point (Smith and Wesson, Stag Arms, etc.) but I’ve had personal, excellent experience with Windham Weaponry so I can say you’ll be pleased with confidence.
Okay, all you other AR gunners (I know you’re out there!) What would you recommend to help this reader out? Let’s hear ’em!