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RECOIL Build Sheet: Our Survivalist AR-15 SBR

The following article appears in Issue 48 of our sister publication, RECOIL magazine. You can find it on shelves starting March 20th, 2020.

There seems to be a nebulous atmosphere of gloom and doom circulating in America today. Politicians and TV pundits claim our government is on the brink of collapse; Time magazine’s scowling teen slacktivist-of-the-year thinks we’ll all be fighting over newly formed beachfront property soon; keyboard commandos on social media are certain of a forthcoming civil war. Any rational person takes these pessimistic perspectives with a huge grain of salt. Still, it’s never a bad idea to insulate yourself from a variety of worst-case scenarios according to the essential mantra of preparedness gear, better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

With this in mind, we set out to build a rifle that might serve as a one-size-fits-most tool for the types of situations discussed in RECOIL OFFGRID. It might need to fit the role of bedside home-defense implement, bug-out backpack gun, and/or a means of putting food on the table. We therefore decided to go with an SBR for maneuverability, a folding stock adapter for packability, and a silencer to save our hearing in settings where active ear pro might be a luxury we don’t have. Reliability with a variety of ammunition, with or without the silencer, was also prioritized to enable scrounging and scavenging.

The build began with a matched lightweight billet receiver set from Ascend Armory. It features numerous cuts and recesses to shave excess ounces, and comes with preinstalled ambidextrous bolt catch, billet takedown pins, and unidirectional threaded trigger pins. Both the upper and lower were laser-etched with the RECOIL OFFGRID logo. Ascend also provided a billet safety selector, but an apparent tolerance stacking issue caused it to lock up with the drop-in single-stage Velocity trigger; a Battle Arms Development selector nicely circumvented this issue.

Next, we sourced a Quickmount flash hider and titanium Shield silencer from Gemtech. This setup dramatically tames the report of the weapon without causing it to feel unwieldy.We selected an 11.5-inch carbine barrel from Sionics with the standard gas port size — unlike the company’s reduced gas port options, this enables the rifle to cycle just as reliably without the can. The crew at Sionics assisted with assembly, including installation of the M-LOK rail, which required light lapping of the indexing tabs with a diamond file to fit the billet upper. The upper was finished with a Sionics BCG with easy-to-clean NP3 coating and a VLTOR charging handle.

In order to make this SBR even more transportable, we installed a Law Tactical folding adapter. With the silencer removed and stock folded, this brings the gun’s packable length to less than 23 inches — just right for slipping it into a backpack or under a truck seat at the cost of an additional 10.5 ounces.

The VLTOR A5 buffer system was chosen as a means of fine-tuning the action, but it also has the pleasant side effect of smoothing out the recoil impulse. With the standard spring and A5H2 buffer, we experienced some occasional short-stroking. Before playing with buffer weights, we dropped in a SOLGW green spring, which eliminated the issue.

A Magpul MOE-SL stock keeps the rifle slim while it’s folded, and an MOE+ pistol grip houses a container of CLP for field maintenance. Up front, we installed an Ascend Armory billet AFG for added control. No home-defense-ready carbine is complete without an illumination device — for this build, we sourced an Arisaka Defense 300 Series light that produces a 325-lumen, 23,000-candela spot beam. Paired with an Arisaka inline mount, this light tucks in close to the muzzle. It’s also compatible with SureFire accessories, such as the Scout tail cap and SR tape switch seen here.

Finally, we knew the theme of this build required a versatile optic as well as an easily accessible backup iron sight setup. This Nikon 1-4x LPVO fulfills the first requirement, with an illuminated reticle that’s effective for close-range engagement. The second need was met by way of Magpul MBUS Pro Offset sights, which can be folded away to sit flush with the upper when they’re not needed.

Despite what clickbait blog articles may claim, there’s no such thing as an all-purpose SHTF gun. Even if you’re a distant relative of Nostradamus, you can’t predict the exact challenges you might face in the future, and even if you could, there’s no single weapon configuration that’s optimal for all of them. What you can do is make educated guesses about the most likely scenarios that apply to your location and lifestyle, build accordingly, and train frequently to match your hardware with the essential software. Nothing dispels gloom and doom faster than confident preparedness.

Parts MSRP
Ascend Armory Lightweight Billet Receiver Set $610
Sionics 11.5” Chrome-Lined Carbine Barrel with Low-Profile Gas Block $220
Gemtech 5.56 Flash Hider $100
Gemtech Shield Silencer $995
Sionics 10.5” M-LOK V3 Handguard $150
Ascend Armory Angled Foregrip $39
Arisaka Defense 300 Series Light $175
Arisaka Defense In-Line Scout Mount M-LOK $40
SureFire UE Tail Cap and SR07 Switch $174
Sionics NP3-Coated Bolt Carrier Group $190
VLTOR Mod 4 Charging Handle $53
Battle Arms Development BAD Ambi Safety Selector $60
Velocity Triggers MPC Straight with Finger Stop, Nickel Coated, 3lb $190
VLTOR A5 Receiver Extension and A5H2 Buffer $95
Sons of Liberty Gun Works A5 Green Spring $20
Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter Gen 3-M $270
Ascend Armory QD End Plate and Titanium Enhanced Castle Nut $40
Magpul MOE-SL Stock $60
Magpul MOE+ Grip with Lube Bottle Core $39
Magpul MBUS Pro Offset Iron Sights $190
Magpul MS1 Padded Sling with QDM Swivels $116
Nikon Black Force 1000 1-4x24mm $400
Warne MSR Mount $137
Total: $4,363

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