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AR15 Barrel Length


The ideal barrel length of the AR15 is 16". This length is long enough to extract the necessary performance from the ammunition and to provide the accuracy desired, while remaining short enough to be easily maneuvered in close quarters. The 14.5" M4-style barrels are very popular, but the legal limitations and higher costs do not justify their selection over a standard 16". These barrels need to have their flash suppressors permanently attached to bring the overal length to 16"; the standard A2 flashider is not long enough.


Twenty-inch barrels are a bit long, and don’t offer the performance increase over a 16" barrel to justify their length and additional weight. Anything above 20" detracts from the rifle’s "all purpose" use, and is for more specialized applications.


AR15 Barrel Weight


The weight of the barrel on an AR15 will only refer to whether the barrel is a "heavy" one or not. The heavy-barrel (HB) designation means that there is more metal there. Some of these taper at different points, either underneath the handguards or from the front sight on. The HB whose thickness does not vary (i.e. is maintained from back to front) offers the most durable design. The 16" barrels are available in a lightweight configuration, M4 profile (thin under handguards, thick outside handguards, and with a cutout to allow mounting of M203, and in a heavy barrel. For this rifle, a lightweight or M4 profile offers the most advantages as far as weight and handling.




Fluting a barrel on the AR15 will reduce the weight as well as offer improved cooling, but may reduce the strength of the barrel. This is a tradeoff that may go either way- get a heavier fluted barrel, and you’re at least as well off as the non-fluted barrel. Stick with a non-fluted barrel on your AR15.




For a survival rifle, the benefit of a flash suppressor is important. The standard A2 flash hider is very good, but not long enough for those 14.5" barrels on the AR15. In that case, a better alternative is to replace it with the Vortex flash hiders that are most effective in their role. Many have argued the post-ban (non-threaded) barrels offer an advantage in accuracy, but the advantage of a flash hider outweighs this in the survival situation. Get a rifle with a flash hider. There are a few alternatives now to the Vortex, and time will tell how well these fare.


Bayonet Lug


A bayonet lug is for the most part never going to be used. However, since the flash-hider is required, the existence of the bayonet lug does not require any additional effort and should be included. It is better to have and not need than to need it and not have it... keep in mind that a bayonet will not fit correctly on a 16" barrel; it will fit a 14.5" barrel.




The barrel’s twist rate refers to the distance a bullet travels in the barrel to complete a full revolution. For instance, a 1/9" twist means that the bullet will make a complete revolution for each 9 inches traveled in the barrel. Heavier bullets require a faster twist rate to stabilize them correctly, but too fast of a twist rate will potentially cause a bullet to spin apart. For this reason it is important to match a barrel to the bullets being fired. In selecting a single twist rate for the survival AR, either a 1/7" or a 1/9" will serve the purpose best. These barrels are designed for bullets from 55 to 62 grains, and these are the weights that will most likely be used in survival. The 1/9 is the better of the two, but the majority of Colts/military barrels are 1/7.




An AR15 survival rifle should have a chromed bore and chamber. The smooth, hard chrome finish offers increased longevity and facilitates the task of cleaning. It is also more resistant to the effects of oxidation.


AR15 Stock


While an argument can be made for the superior sturdiness and reduced complexity of the fixed stocks, the telescoping stock offers advantages in storage and carry, and is strong enough for rugged use. It also offers flexibility in stock length, useful when wearing body armor or thick clothing. While perhaps not as rigid as the standard stocks, the advantages of the telescoping stock make it the "ideal" choice.


The telescoping stocks are available in either an aluminum or plastic construction, both of which are strong enough for the purpose, but the aluminum have a tendency to shatter if hit. They are also offered in 2, 3, or 4 position varieties representing how many positions it locks open in. The 3 or 4 position stocks are desirable to offer the flexible stock lengths necessary when either smaller individuals are using the rifle, or when thick clothing or body armor are used. The best of these is the Colt M4 stock, which is a plastic,4 position stock. Bushmaster's stock is also pretty good, and I would not recommend on that wasn't Colt/Bushmaster.





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