Thursday, March 21, 2013

SBR-Basics of the Short Barreled AR-15

A recent and popular trend in the "AR-15 world" has been the manufacturing and use of rifles with shorter barrels.  Like any modification made to the original/typical AR-15, there are costs and benefits to this particular configuration.  This blog post will highlight some of these considerations and offer basic information in regard to the legality and options one may have in building or purchasing a SBR in the AR-15 platform. 

I remember being quite thrilled when my unit began to issue 14.5 inch barreled M4 rifles.  The reduction in weight and ease of movement in tight quarters with the weapon were major benefits from my perspective.  Before my time in service ended, we were using the AR platform with a barrel just over 10 inches and the same benefits were even more noticeable and appreciated.  The main "negative" associated with a shorter barrel is the difficulty of successfully engaging targets that are at a greater distance.  With the loss of every inch of barrel length comes a reduction in velocity of around 100 FPS (many other factors are involved here, thus the use of the word "around").  Velocity affects energy and both affect terminal ballistic performance...if your "target" is affected by terminal ballistics and is at a longer distance, a SBR may be something to reconsider. It was rare that our mission/application necessitated using the weapon at longer distances, and if that need arose there were other weapons better suited to be used for such an application.  Any choice in the particular configuration of an AR-15 should be made with your application (how you intend to use it, most of the time) in mind.  If your predominate use of the weapon would be to engage distant targets and you have no NEED for a compact weapon, an AR-15 with a longer barrel would better serve you.

In regard to legality, any rifle with a barrel shorter than 16" is considered to be an SBR.  The same regulations that pertain to barrel length also apply to the overall length of a weapon.  A rifle must be at least 26" long from end to end.  The buttstock of the rifle can be full extended if it is collapsible to achieve this minimum overall length.  These regulations were part of the NFA (National Firearms Act) of 1968 (an earlier NFA act of 1934 was voided by changes made in the more recent legislation).  In order to own/build/possess an AR-15 SBR  you must obtain approval from the BATF.  This includes having the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (Sheriff or town/city chief of police) sign off on the ATF form, passing a federal background check (to include fingerprints/photo), and registering the rifle with the ATF.  Many other regulations exist in regard to the SBR (such as interstate transportation), even after you have waited for and received approval to purchase/own one.  For complete information about the process of acquiring or owning a SBR, visit this link :

There are ways of owning an AR-15 with a shorter barrel without receiving NFA approval...such as permanently attaching a muzzle device onto the short barrel that ensures the barrel is the necessary length.  This includes drilling a hole through the muzzle device and partially into the barrel, inserting a pin, and then welding over the inserted pin.  For a modification like this to be legal, the muzzle device must be permanently attached in a manner such as this. A 14.5" barrel can easily be brought to the required 16" length if a flash hider/compensator/muzzle brake of the appropriate length is permanently affixed.  The same can be done with an 11.5" barrel with a 5.5" flash hider.  While this configuration "looks cool" (a lot like the Colt Commando/XM177 Vietnam era configuration), the benefits like weight reduction and maneuverability are lost with the longer muzzle device length and there is no gain in distance capability (it would make more sense to have these extra inches in rifling).  The 14.5" barrel/pinned extended flash hider is where this method of owning a shorter barrel has the greatest benefit.  DTI offers these short barrels and a few muzzle devices from Troy and YHM that, when pinned and welded, will bring a 14.5" barrel to the necessary length and allow you to avoid all of the NFA hassle.

Thanks for reading our blog.  If you have any questions about SBRs, the parts we mentioned in this post, or any of the parts and rifles we make and sell here at DTI, please feel free to contact us.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Introduction to Predator Hunting-Getting Started

In our last blog post, we discussed how the AR-15 rifle was perfectly suited for use in predator hunting.  While some companies make a unique model of AR-15 specifically designed for predator hunting, a standard AR-15 in any configuration can work just fine.  There may be things you can do to modify the weapon you already have that will increase the weapon's usefulness in this application, but any AR-15 rifle can contribute to a successful predator hunting experience.  We also mentioned that getting involved in this shooting sport can have benefits that translate into better techniques and skills in other applications in which you may use your AR-15 rifle (like target shooting, 3 gun competitions, or even defensive applications).

If coyote hunting is your focus, selecting proper camouflage (whether in clothing or in a "blind" set-up) is crucial due to the excellent eyesight of these animals.  The environment in which you plan to hunt should be the main factor in selecting which camouflage pattern to use.  If you will be hunting in the Western U.S.  on open prairies, your selection will be much different than someone hunting in the dense, swampy woodlands of the Southeast U.S.

Typically, coyote hunting means sitting in a well camouflaged location and using calls and decoys to bring a coyote in to shooting range.  The location for your blind set-up should be decided by access to unimpeded shooting lanes when the animal does come to the call or decoy.  If a location is unproductive to your calling techniques, it's probably a good idea to move to another location within an hour or so.  If it is a successful location and you were able to place a shot on a coyote, it is a good idea to be still and  wait as another opportunity may present itself.  Often multiple coyotes may be responding to your call, and the noise of gunfire isn't always a deterrent to them.  Movement, however should be kept to a minimum while at a blind location.  Predator calls can vary from expensive electronic calls to handheld wood or plastic calls with reeds that the hunter uses like a deer or duck call.  The benefit of the electronic calls (even the less expensive ones) is that they can be placed and used in a location away from the hunter, thus reducing the chance that the hunter is detected when the animal responds to the call.

Ammunition choice is also important, though just about any .223/5.56 bullet can be used successfully in hunting coyotes.  A few manufacturers (Hornady, Federal, Nosler) offer a varmint hunting line of ammunition, and any of these options would be a good choice. Even in heavily wooded hunting locations, the techniques used in coyote hunting (including accurate range estimation and the necessity to fire an accurate shot when the opportunity presents itself) will only make you a better marksman in other applications in which you use your rifle.

The same benefits can be acquired by feral hog hunting (or any hunting experience, really).  While feral hogs do not have the amazing eyesight that coyotes and other predators do, their sense of hearing and smell are quite good.  Much like coyote hunting, it is important to know where these animals are active and position yourself in a location to view the animal's movement while not allowing them to know of your presence.  Techniques like still hunting and stalking can be used in feral hog hunting, where they may be counter-productive in hunting predators like coyotes and bobcats.

Ammunition selection for feral hog is a little more narrow in options.  These animals have a fairly tough hide and it is important to choose a bullet that will penetrate deeply while still having some expansion.  Solid copper bullets like the Winchester Razorback, Hornady GMX, or Barnes Vor-tx would be a good choice. They have a high weight retention, good penetration, and good expansion. Hunting can make you a better "shot" by requiring you to fire your weapon in a timely manner and focus on a target that is not static.  Techniques used in feral hog hunting (baiting, night hunting, use of hunting dogs), can vary depending on your location and what your state regulations allow.  In many locations, there is no "closed season" on these animals, so this type of hunting offers a year round opportunity to practice your shooting techniques and hone your skills.  It is important to be knowledgeable about and follow these regulations...the opinions of those who may be negative or undecided about hunting, firearms in general, and modern sporting rifles in particular are at stake. 

Once you are informed about these regulations, it may be helpful to research hunting techniques and locations specific to the area in which you will hunt.  Local outdoor sporting goods stores may have staff that can offer assistance or point you to a place where you can find this information.  The Internet has plenty of forums and websites devoted to predator hunting, and a fair amount of helpful information can be acquired by visiting them. 
Predator hunting is a great way to increase your opportunities to use your AR-15 and can be a nice change of pace from target shooting or even professional, defensive training classes.

Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any questions about the AR-15 rifles we produce or any of the AR parts we offer at, please feel free to contact us.