Let me walk you through an older build. It taught me a lot. Plus, my range notes are at hand already. You will no doubt be amused, dear reader, at this. Because it’s decidedly not a “cool kid” rifle, at least for the roughly present day definition of “cool kid”. This is about as gun hipster as I get. Fishbreath is even snickering.
Also, yes, dear reader, I know. There’s no such thing as a codified M-16A5. It’s not a thing. I am very aware. There were lots of proposals for what an M-16A5 should be, and I cribbed from a few proposals to make mine. Things I wanted were a 20″ barrel and a collapsible stock. Also, something a little more fancy than the regular plastic A1 or A2 style handguards. Let’s break it down.
Why would I want a 20″ barrel? Because I can. I have some other 16″ barrel carbines. I wanted to play around with a 20″. 20″ with a rifle gas system was how the rifle was what was originally designed by Eugene Stoner. So why not see how it does? Also, not getting in and out of a Humvee all day means I don’t really care about handiness. Or, again, I could take a different gun.
Why a collapsible stock? Because I can. Also, because I Escaped from New York, and it’s stupid, stupid bans that mandated fixed stocks. Screw that. Adjustable all the way!
Now, the Canadians have had plenty of good experiences operating an A2/A3-style1 upper with a standard M4-type collapsible stock and a heavy carbine buffer. But I wanted something else. Again, because I can. I went with the Vltor A5 Stock Kit, which was designed at the request of the USMC to replicate the feel and spring performance of the regular fixed-stock buffer system with a collapsible stock. The buffer weights 3.8 oz., and is a different length than either a standard carbine buffer or a normal rifle buffer. The spring is the same one as used with the fixed rifle stock (again, longer than the carbine spring), and the A5 system uses a longer2, seven-position buffer tube instead of the usual six-position tube. It also came with the Vltor Emod stock. This stock is a little longer than most collapsible stocks, which looks right on the longer A5 tube. Note that the A5 tube will work with any other collapsible stock that you like. The Emod comes with two longitudinal storage tubes and a storage compartment in the stock “toe”. All storage compartments have rubber gaskets to seal out water. The stock is also one of the heavier collapsible stocks on the market, weighing in at 14 oz, but that’s fine. I’m using a long barrel here, remember?
Handguard choices are dictated somewhat by our gas system. All the moreso because I bought a handguardless prebuilt upper from BCM. BCM makes good stuff. This gave me a 20″ A2-profile (aka. ‘government profile’, aka ‘M4-profile’) barrel, a standard front sight block that’s properly pinned, and a forged upper receiver, all nicely assembled. I also had a regular barrel nut, for use with standard A2-type handguards. Unless I chopped the front sight block, I was stuck with the standard gas system length. But, seeing as this is a 20″ barrel, that’s a 12″ long rifle gas system, which is plenty of handguard space. This isn’t the 7″ Carbine system, which is long enough for your hands or accessories but not both. I wanted something a little nicer than the regular A2 handguards, and I would prefer free float, because that’s better, and I would like the ability to mount accessories. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to remove the front sight block, so I’d need a two piece setup. I settled on the Centurion Arms C4 12″ Quadrail. This is a two-piece, free float quadrail that clamps around a standard barrel nut. It also has two sockets for quick detach sling swivels. Perfect! I covered those cheese-grater feeling picatinny rails with Magpul XTM rail covers. As a bonus, this system is great at dealing with heat. I may change rail covers in the future–I’d like to give the LaRue index clips a try.
Other than the A5 stock system, the lower is pretty standard. I gave the Stark pistol grip a try, and found that I was reasonably fond of it. Though, pistol grips are fun and easy to swap. Trigger is the excellent Geissele SSA. The rest of the lower parts kit is pretty boringly stock. The lower receiver is made by Mega Arms. Standard forged unit.
In terms of optics, I originally went with my Elcan SpecterDR 1.5x/6x. Which is awesome but heavy. I’ll probably go Marine-approved ACOG (specifically the TA31RCO-A4CP) on Madeline, especially since she’s already on the heavier side of AR-15 builds, and I’ve moved the Elcan to Bridget, my lighter competition rifle. Marine-approved ACOG, with the Marine-approved 20″ barrel and Marine-approved A5 recoil system. Semper Fi!
How does she shoot? Great. Subjectively, the felt recoil is softer, with the longer buffer system and gas system. The A5 does slow the bolt carrier down a little, and replicates the cyclic rate of fire and “feel” of the original rifle system. That’s awesome. I haven’t done a ton of transitions, but they haven’t been a big deal for me. The extra weight isn’t a big deal either, but I’m not a whiny REMF. I get some other cool things with a 20″ barrel and the rifle gas system. I can finally properly mount a bayonet on my rifle! Yay! Alas, I’m a civilian, so I’m not likely to need that. But it’s cool. And if I ever wanted to set up some dummies for skewering out back, now I can. I also get more velocity with a 20″ barrel. This gives me a longer point blank range, longer fragmentation range for M193/M8553, and more penetration at any given range for M855. Not that those last two matter while shooting paper targets, but they’re still cool. Interestingly, the Marines haven’t had the kind of inconsistent terminal performance complaints that the US Army has. And M855A1 has a higher chamber pressure. Maybe that longer barrel does give you something worthwhile…
I really like Madeline. Even if she’s a goofy mix of parts that the cool kids eschew. Maybe I understand a little of Fishbreath’s hipsterism. Or maybe I just enjoy soft shooting rifles. It would be lots of fun to take her to a carbine class.
1.) A3 style is just an A2 with a flattop receiver. They still use the A2 style plastic handguards, not the KAC RAS M5 like the Marines have on their M-16A4s.
2.) 3/4″ longer, to be precise.
3.) M193 and M855 are both significantly more lethal if they fragment. Fragmentation is significantly more likely to happen (read: nearly guaranteed) if the velocity of the bullet is more than 2,700 feet per second when it strikes its target. More muzzle velocity from a longer barrel