Tailor-Made ARs: 11.5″ Suppressed SBR Construct

With regards to survival instruments, there’s an outdated saying that “two is one and one is none.” The intent of this saying is to strengthen the significance of redundancy — if merchandise A breaks or is misplaced, you continue to have merchandise B. Nonetheless, this logic additionally applies to diversifying the capabilities of your gear. As an example the purpose, let’s have a look at one of the essential instruments of all: a knife. You’ve in all probability already integrated two knives into your survival package, nevertheless it’s unlikely that they’re two an identical knives. One could also be a midsized mounted blade, extremely sturdy and able to heavy-duty chopping. Maybe it’s a machete or an ax. The opposite is probably going a smaller blade with a extra exact edge that’s superb for shaving tinder or skinning recreation; it could possibly be a folding knife or a small mounted blade worn on a neck lanyard. Though there’s substantial overlap between the capabilities of those two instruments, there are additionally duties that every excels at. Along with offering redundancy, they complement one another.

By this level, you must understand the identical philosophy applies to different survival instruments, together with firearms. So, when the topic of constructing a super survival rifle got here up, it led me to the belief that it’s doable the perfect device isn’t one rifle. I’d argue that it’s two.

Photograph by Tom Marshall

Editor’s Word: Welcome to the third and last a part of our Tailor-Made ARs collection, a conceptual strategy to constructing task-focused, performance-driven rifles for emergency preparedness. A number of RECOIL OFFGRID writers will every take a novel path to designing an idealized AR for survival and disaster response. We’ll look at how every weapon is tailor-made to the person, and the way it may be creatively tailored to a mess of dicey conditions. We hope these builds reinforce the significance of selecting each part properly with versatility in thoughts.

Interchangeable Uppers vs. Full Rifles

To start with, I made a decision to start out with my tried-and-true 11.5-inch short-barreled rifle (SBR) and easily construct a second higher receiver for it. After giving this some thought, I wrote down the next professionals and cons associated to this one-and-a-half-rifle plan.


  • It’s a lot inexpensive than constructing two full weapons.
  • A spare higher is lighter and simpler to hold than a second rifle.
  • Since I’m beginning with a registered SBR, I can run sub-16-inch barrels, a inventory, and a vertical foregrip.


  • No true redundancy. If one thing goes mistaken with my solely decrease receiver, each uppers are rendered ineffective. Additionally, in a gaggle survival setting, I wouldn’t have a second practical rifle at hand to a pal or member of the family.
  • Much less specialization. With just one decrease, I’ll want to choose a configuration that’s appropriate for each uppers. This implies I gained’t be capable of fine-tune the buffer system, set off, grip model, and inventory form for every setup.
  • Inconvenience. A separate higher is tougher to maintain clear and lubricated, for the reason that underside of the bolt service is uncovered to mud and lint. It additionally takes a couple of seconds to retrieve an higher, pop the pins, and change receivers. In time-sensitive conditions, which may be an issue.
  • Compatibility. When you’re working Mil-spec receivers, you shouldn’t have this concern except one is out of spec. However, in my case, my SBR was constructed with a matched billet receiver set from Ascend Armory. Once I tried to put in an Aero Precision M4E1 stripped higher, I seen it was unattainable to put in it as a result of decrease’s giant ambidextrous bolt catch. Some will see this as a cause to solely run Mil-spec components, however there are two sides to that argument, as I’ll clarify later.
  • It’s a registered SBR, so I’ve to file an ATF 5320.20 Utility to Transport NFA Firearms type any time I journey with it outdoors my house state.

Because of these issues, the plan to make use of one decrease and two uppers was scrapped, and I made a decision to construct two full AR-15s.

Similarities and Variations

At this level, I needed to determine how a lot overlap I needed between the 2 weapons. On one aspect of the spectrum, I may have gone for optimum differentiation — for instance, a precision bolt-action rifle and a private protection weapon (e.g. brief AR pistol or MP5K). This could permit each to be carried by one particular person comfortably however would additionally nearly remove the overlap and redundancy in capabilities, as I discussed earlier. As an alternative, I selected to construct two rifles that share many traits however aren’t an identical.

So far as similarities, each are AR-15s chambered in .223/5.56 NATO. This implies I can share ammo, magazines, and important transferring components (e.g. bolt service teams) between the 2. I’ve a stockpile of .223/5.56 ammo already, and I do know lots of my buddies and neighbors have their very own provides to share within the occasion that we have to pool sources. The guide of arms is nearly an identical for each rifles, so anybody who has used an AR earlier than ought to know the best way to function them, preserve them, and clear malfunctions within the subject. In a “take this and watch my again” group survival state of affairs, that’s immensely worthwhile.

Variations are comparatively restricted and will likely be mentioned in larger element throughout the person construct sections. The CliffsNotes model is that the 11.5-inch rifle is optimized for close-quarters and night time imaginative and prescient use, whereas the 13.9-inch rifle is optimized for medium-range precision and reconnaissance.

Learn on as we have a look at the specs and elements of every construct.

11.5-inch Suppressed SBR

Above: This Scalarworks 1.57 mount is light-weight, tall sufficient to clear my infrared laser, and might be put in and eliminated with out instruments. It matches a wide range of optics that use the Aimpoint Micro footprint.

The earliest model of this suppressed SBR construct was featured two years in the past in Problem 48 of our sister publication RECOIL. Again then, it featured a couple of totally different components and equipment, however the core elements have remained principally unchanged. It’s primarily based on an Ascend Armory light-weight billet receiver set; it options ambidextrous bolt catch/launch levers which can be simple to search out at nighttime, a flared magwell to facilitate clean reloads, and an enlarged set off guard that gained’t intrude with gloved palms. I filed an ATF Kind 1 to designate this as an SBR earlier than including an 11.5-inch standard-gas-port carbine barrel, 10.5-inch M-LOK handguard, and easy-to-clean NP3-coated bolt service group, all from SIONICS Weapon Methods.

Since this weapon is meant to be used in low mild and enclosed areas, the substantial flash and concussion from its brief barrel needed to be tamed. I addressed this with a Gemtech Quickmount flash hider and Protect titanium quick-detach suppressor. Gemtech says this suppressor has handed the U.S. army’s SOCOM requirements, which contain greater than 1,400 rounds fired in semi-auto and full-auto over a brief time frame, so I’ve no considerations about its sturdiness. The fast-detach system additionally means I can take away it in seconds to suit the rifle right into a smaller bag.

Above: Billet receiver units typically diverge from Mil-spec requirements to enhance ergonomics or add options. This Ascend Armory set has enlarged bolt catch/launch levers on either side.

The decrease receiver was beforehand arrange with a LAW Tactical folding inventory adapter, however I discovered I not often wanted it given the brief size of the gun, so I eliminated it to shave some weight. I’m nonetheless utilizing the VLTOR A5 buffer system, which permits the SBR to cycle easily and reliably, suppressed or unsuppressed, with a wide range of ammo varieties (a key consideration for any situation the place ammo could also be laborious to search out). The decrease additionally accommodates a RISE Armament RA-535 set off, which gives a crisp 3.5-pound break and near-immediate reset, and a Radian Talon 45-degree ambidextrous security selector. This mix permits me to ship the primary spherical downrange the moment my sights are on course and preserve a quick and constant cadence of follow-up pictures. The charging deal with is a Radian Raptor-SD, which is designed to make capturing a suppressed AR extra snug. It options ports and angled reduction cuts that divert gases contained in the higher receiver, in order that they don’t find yourself seeping out and inflicting my nostril to sting and eyes to water.

Lights & Lasers

Above: I mounted the REIN mild at 2 o’clock on the handguard utilizing Cloud’s Torrent Offset M-LOK mount; clearance is extraordinarily tight towards the ATPIAL housing. The REIN distant change can be so near the again of the ATPIAL that I needed to file it right down to clear the battery cap. A decent squeeze, nevertheless it works nicely.

I consider each severe defensive weapon — rifle, shotgun, or pistol — wants a visual mild supply to assist the person positively determine targets. Nature exhibits us that predators keep away from settings the place prey can see them clearly, so that you’re extra prone to face a risk in twilight or complete darkness than broad daylight. For this SBR, I picked a Cloud Defensive REIN Micro. It produces 1,300 lumens and 55,000 candela; in layman’s phrases, that’s a complete lot of sunshine centered right into a beam that’s able to reaching an extended distance. I mounted the included distant change to the highest rail on the handguard and used its built-in cable routing channel to maintain extra slack tucked out of the best way. In case of change harm, the sunshine’s tailcap button features as a redundant activation methodology.

Since this gun is meant to be used with night time imaginative and prescient, it additionally wanted an infrared (IR) illuminator and an IR laser for lively aiming (firing from a head-up place with out wanting via weapon-mounted sights). I fulfilled each these wants with an L3Harris ATPIAL, additionally identified by its army designation AN/PEQ-15. The ATPIAL includes a pink laser for daytime zeroing, an IR laser, and a laser-based IR illuminator with adjustable focus. Though a distant change is included, I discovered that I favor utilizing the button on high of the unit, because it’s simple to achieve with my thumb.

Optic & Iron Sights

Anybody who has tried to shoot whereas sporting night time imaginative and prescient goggles (NVGs), a helmet, and digital earmuffs is aware of that it’s typically difficult to align your eye with a weapon’s optic (known as passive aiming). Switching to a taller optic mount can alleviate this, however there are some drawbacks — elevated peak over bore may cause rounds to influence decrease than anticipated at shut vary and will lead inexperienced customers to inadvertently shoot the sting of a barricade after forgetting that the muzzle is a number of inches beneath the sight.

Above: The Holosun pink dot has confirmed itself to be reliable, however a set of Magpul offset iron sights present a secondary technique of aiming simply in case. The ATPIAL’s pink laser is also utilized in a pinch.

In quest of a contented medium, I selected a Scalarworks LEAP/01 1.57-inch-height mount. With the Aimpoint Micro optic it was designed for, this might produce a lower-1/3 cowitness with iron sights. Nonetheless, the Holosun 503CU optic I’m utilizing is about 0.25-inch taller than an Aimpoint. Because of this, the centerline of the optic is 1.82 inches above the rail. Primarily based on these measurements, Scalarworks’ taller 1.93-inch mount would lead to a centerline peak of two.18 inches, which was extra peak than I needed. Technical particulars apart, this setup gives a cushty and easy-to-acquire aiming level, whether or not I’m working in broad daylight, low mild, or underneath NVGs.

As a backup to my red-dot optic, I put in a set of Magpul MBUS Professional Offset 45-degree flip-up iron sights.


Above: A slender MOE-SL inventory prevents the rifle from interfering with helmet-mounted ear safety. It additionally stays out of the best way of my plate service.

As I discussed above, reaching the correct head place for passive aiming underneath NVGs is hard, so I selected the slim Magpul MOE-SL inventory to reduce interference with my helmet and ear professional. A B5 Methods pistol grip gives aggressive texture and a steeper, extra snug angle for my wrist. On the handguard, I mixed two-thirds of a Magpul M-LOK Hand Cease package with a Magpul MVG vertical grip; the result’s a textured floor with entrance and rear cease factors for my assist hand. Tactile index factors are particularly necessary for an evening imaginative and prescient software, since I want to have the ability to manipulate the rifle and discover its mild/laser controls instantly, all whereas sporting gloves and being unable to obviously see my palms.

The final piece of this rifle is a Magpul MS1 padded sling, which is linked to QD sockets on the rear of the handguard and the Major Weapons Ratchet Lock receiver endplate. The sling’s laborious polymer adjustment slider is straightforward to search out by really feel at nighttime. When it’s not in use, I stow it towards the inventory by way of a band of bicycle innertube (aka Ranger band).

Editor’s Word: Keep tuned for the second half of this text tomorrow, that includes all the main points on our 13.9-inch pin and weld rifle.

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