So you got this gun and want to get it set up to fight, but you don't know where to start. There are so many options and access available. What do you need?
Laser, lights, grips; Oh-my!
Lets look at a few different categories of accessories, their purposes, and talk about their real life application to your personal vision for your rifle.
These first items aid or enhance operation and function of the gun, but are not essential or required. They consist of after-market replacement parts for original components like triggers, charging handles, safety levers, and furniture. Lets start there.
I run a standard mil-spec trigger in two of my guns. One is my Patrol Rifle/Go-to All Purpose gun and the other is my back-up/home defense gun. I don't particularly see a need for a fancy, super light trigger in a fighting gun, unless it is going to be employed as a Precision Rifle. There is no room of a 1 ½ pound trigger in an entry stack. Now, I do like to polish up all the contact surfaces of the mil-spec trigger. This lightens and smooths things up just enough. I don't do anything else to the trigger. I run standard trigger pins and springs just as they come.
I also use a JP Enterprise 3 ½ pound fire control system in my Semi-auto Precision Rifle and a Chip McCormick drop in trigger in my Intermediate Range/Hunting gun. These triggers are both finely tuned, single stage “precision” or “performance” triggers.
The JP system is a 4 piece kit that allows the user to keep their hammer. The kit comes with a trigger that is adjustable for engagement and over-travel, a disconnecter, a reduced power hammer spring, and a reduced power trigger spring. I find this trigger to be the most tunable and easiest to use/install system out there. The only recommendation I have is to put a little blue lok-tite on the screws and let it dry before you install them. This will prevent the screws from walking out and messing up your trigger tune. I like the JP system in my SPR because it is very close in weight and feel to the trigger in my bolt gun.
The McCormick system is a simple, straight forward drop in trigger kit. Just remove the safety and old trigger then drop in the McCormick kit and reinstall the safety. Your ready to rock and roll.
Both of these trigger systems allow me a reduction in pull weight, as well as a short to non-existent over-travel. These rifles are, by purpose and configuration, for delivering more accurate fire on target. As such they get a little extra love in the trigger department. You may also look into the 2 stage trigger. Personally, I don't like the 2 stage trigger. I don't really know why, other than I'm a Marine and learned to shoot a Mil-spec single stage trigger. I guess its just not my thing.
Making Loading Easier
Do you have an optic that rides over your charging handle? Don't like having to move your hand to the bolt catch to get your gun into battery? Check these gadgets out!
Two other gizmos I run on my guns are the Magpul BAD (Battery Assist Device) lever, and Badger Ordinance's Gen 1 Tactical Charging Handle Latch. Combined they solve both of the above issues. They are a quick, bolt-on, do-it-yourself add-ons that enhance the function of your combat carbine.
The BAD Lever is an extension of the bolt catch that allows the shooter to function the bolt catch with the trigger finger, without moving the shooting hand from the pistol grip. It allows you to both lock and release the bolt. This is great for speed re-loads and malfunction clearing.
The Badger Ordinance Tactical Latch adds a little extra meat on the charging handle latch side to help you get good purchase on the charging handle for a grip-n-rip charge. It also helps you reach the charging handle under a scope, if that is a set-up you run.
Some other Operational Accessories that may interest you would be Ambidextrous parts like and Ambi-safety selector or Ambi-magazine release. If your a lefty this is a must. If your a righty it is a accessory that only you know if you want or need. As for my guns, I don't like the ambi-safety selectors. I find the right side lever hits my finger and forces me to move my hand away from the grip to function it. All in all, I figure if I'm running my gun lefty only, I have bigger problems than not having an ambidextrous magazine release.
Furniture is what it is. I'm not going to spend a bunch of time on this. My thoughts on this it “To each his own”. There are all kinds of styles, colors, shapes, materials, and designs to consider. It is all up to you. My suggestion is to go with what works for your vision.
Some things I take into consideration are weight, design, and material. I am a huge fan of the Surefire M73 quad-rail handguards. I have been running these on my Patrol Rifle for years. They are machined aluminum, so they are strong but light. They offer a good amount of rail space for mounting all your goodies and even come with ladder rail protectors.
I also have a rifle with the ARMS 50M SIR forearm. This thing is a beast. It is a free floating aluminum and polymer piece that had a modular rail system. It also incorporates a riser that attaches to the top of a flat top upper receiver for a little extra stability and height. You can purchase an additional rail to add to the top to give you 14 inches of uninterrupted top rail. This is great if you run night vision or a magnifier for a red dot. It is a little heave, but the weight is worth the benefit.
As far as grips go, I'm a Magpul MADI fan. I like the oversized trigger guard piece and the adjustability of the whole thing. I also have a modified ERGO tactical grip on my .308 ar. I cut the palm shelf off of it and rounded the bottom to make it more suitable to my needs.
Like I said before, there are a million options out there in the way of furniture. There are many different models made by many different manufacturers at a wide range of prices. Go with what works for your mission and budget.
Illumination Tools and Laser Sights
Statistically speaking you are more likely to get involved in a shooting in a low light/no light situation. Weather it is in you home in the middle of the night or as a Police Officer responding to a Business Burglary, chances are the scene will not be lit up like a Hollywood movie set. In steps the Illumination Tool to help you make the shot to save the day.
Light is the difference between shooting your teenage kid sneaking in after curfew or just giving them a good lecture on “you could have gotten shot!”. Light is the difference between a hit and a miss as someone is trying to shoot you first.
Without getting deep into low light/no light tactics, I just want to state a few simple principles of LL/NL Operations. Darkness and silence aid stealth. Darkness provides cover in an familiar environment. Light should be used sparingly and quickly to identify threats and clear possible threat areas. Red light filters are worth their weight in gold. Red light does not effect night vision and is much less detectable, especially in no light environments. Strobing is cool but it will effect you ,albeit not as much as the person on the other end. Light is your friend when used properly and your worst enemy when used incorrectly. Now the tools.
There are, once again, seemingly endless options when it comes to weapon's lights. I will address the few models I own or have owned, as well as the few I have played with and would consider as a future purchase.
First, my primary, go to, mother of all weapon's lights- The Surefire M900. This is a bad mofo. Period. I purchased this unit shortly after Hurricane Katrina and it has been on my patrol rifle ever since. Briefly described, it is a vertical grip style light that features a high power (150 lms/225lms) bulb housing and twin LED “navigation lights” offered in your choice of white, red or blue. It uses pressure pad activation switches on both the right and left side of the vertical grip for temporary activation and a twist on/off knob on the bottom of the grip. This also serves as the battery cap, which allows access to the 3 123A batteries that power the unit. The LEDs are activated by a small pressure pad located on the back of the unit at the top of the grip, easily reachable with the thumb. The unit attaches to any Picatinny rail via either a quick release throw lever or a dual thumb screw style attachment.
There are several other weapon's lights available from Surefire, including the Millennium line or the X series lights. You can also adapt a 6P or G2 light to fit on a rail or use a CAA Forward Grip Adapter to achieve a M900 type effect for a fraction of the cost.
I-Tac Defense makes a vertical grip light similar to the Surefire M900. It features a LED light as well as a red laser sight in a vertical grip platform. The light has steady and strobe modes and also runs on 123a batteries. If you are looking for a less expensive alternative to the M900, this is it with extras. With sturdy construction and a super bright 700 Lumen light (yeah, its right- 700 Lumens) you can't go wrong for a MSRP of $229.95.
Crimson Trace recently released a vertical grip light/laser combo that features a 150/200 Lumen LED light with a red or green laser. The unit runs on 2 123A batteries and features pressure pad activation on both sides of the grip for both the light and laser. The green laser is a bit pricy at around $650.00, but if you are looking for an all in one unit this may be just the ticket. My only issue was on the one I tested I found the pressure pad activation switches to be stiff, requiring heavy pressure to activate both the light and laser.
There are several laser units available ranging in price from $80-100 to several thousand, depending on laser color, quality, and weather or not you want (or need) Infrared capability. I have used the military issue AN/PEQ 2a and AN/PAQ 4c. These are both high end military issue IR laser sights. The PEQ 2a also has IR illumination and spot designation capability, if you may need to call in an airstrike. I am not a real fan of laser sights.
That being said, I have a Lasermax Unimax (somewhere). These are available in red or green lasers and can have a remote pressure switch attached. The will fit any Weaver or Picatinny rail and can be set to strobing or steady on. They are small enough and light enough that you can out them on a pistol, but they work just as good on a rifle. My bottom line on laser sights is this- Don't rely on them as a replacement for sights or quality optics. They are a sighting aids, thats all. If you are going to employ a laser, it is best to get a quality laser that will withstand the shock and abuse of being on a fighting gun.
Odds and Ends
There are a few other things I see as essential equipment on a fighting carbine. The first is a sling. The type is a personal preference. I like the Magpul MS2 because it can be a single or 2 point sling. It is supper versatile and allows for quick transition from single point to 2 point, as well as moving the rifle across the back for climbing, hand cuffing, or other various activities you don't or can't do with a rifle hanging off your chest.
The other items that are a must if you run an optic, especially a red-dot style like the EO-tech or Aimpoint, are backup iron sights. Again there is a wide array of options in this category. Do your research and determine your needs. I like the ARMS 40 and the Magpul BUIS, but there are several other good ones out there that I have seen.
I was going to cover optics, but I decided that will be Part 3 of this series. I'll cover the Aimpoint Micros, M2/3/4 series, EO-Tech, the Trijicon ACOG series and variable low-power (1-4X) combat optics along with some other lower cost optics I have seen out there. Part 4 might get into custom parts and build stuff like barrels, gas blocks, bolts/bcgs, stocks and all that fun stuff.