Keeping Your Rifle Simple Is The Goal
The hardest thing anyone can do is separate their wants from their needs. You may want a general purpose rifle with all the latest technology, but do you need the gear more than the skill.
Skill Trumps Gear
Don’t get me wrong, if your are reaching the upper limits of your skill development and looking to squeeze out the tiniest advantage you are probably well ahead of the pack. But there is no replacing skill with a piece of equipment. You may want that pretty, shiny or new thing, but need is probably not accurate. At some point you will have to define the mission, what is the purpose of the rifle. For the vast majority of utility, a general purpose rifle is hands down going to meet your mission needs. The problem is how do we define a general purpose rifle, how does it look. You can start by laying out some generalities. Such as you want your rifle to be accurate, reliable, modular, ergonomic and light weight. From there, we get into the weeds.
Offensive Or Defensive Roles for the Rifle
In the past, we use to define the rifle into offense or defensive roles. Offense was typically reserved for law enforcement and military personnel. That left defense for the every day citizen. I still believe this is true, the rifle will more than likely be used in a defensive nature, not offensive. A general purpose rifle is one that could perform in either of those roles and the biggest characteristic would be barrel length. I could talk about barrels all day long. To me, they are the heart of the rifle. I break rifle barrels into three lengths, short barrel, general purpose and long range. Long range will typically be 18″ or greater to squeeze out as much performance. Not ideal for close quarters movement. Short barrel will be anything under the legal length. While ideal for close quarters, they are difficult and expensive to obtain. Just remember the rifle does you no good while it sits waiting for the government’s permission. That leaves us with the general purpose barrels; which are 14.5″ with permanently attached flash hider to 16″. Short enough to do work, easy to obtain.
The Barrel Is The Heart Of The Rifle
My recommendation is to go with a 1:7 twist rate and a 5.56mm chamber. There is a lot of details in those characteristics so I will leave them for another time. Suffice it to say, they will provide you with the best all around performance. As for a flash hider, the standard A2 bird cage is more than adequate. The recoil impulse for a 5.56mm round is negligible. It is there, but technique and strength are your friends. Nothing will make up for poor technique and if you cannot hold the rifle steady for the time required you might have bigger issues.
Accuracy Is An Advantage
After the barrel we talk about the ability to accept modern day optics. With just about everyone producing a flat top receiver there really isn’t reason you can’t use some form of optic. The question is what kind. Do you go with a red dot or a low powered variable optic. Again, what is the rifle’s mission. Yes, I might want to be able to hit at extended ranges. Is it justified, legally and morally. About the only time I can get on board is if you intend on using the rifle for hunting purposes. If so, you will probably want a magnified optic of some kind, but more importantly is the caliber. You will probably not be using 5.56mm so that opens up another can of worms. The use of red dots is by far the most popular and also a low barrier to entry price point wise.
Know The Law
Adjustable stock and modularity are often overlooked characteristics. Like the flat top receiver taking advantage of the various attachment systems allow me to utilize other accessories such as lights. I believe a good general purpose rifle will need a light weight white light. No matter the lighting conditions, you are responsible for the terminal resting place of every round fired. Being able to identify a threat is your first order of business. Does a variable optic help with this…it depends. If you mount the rifle to utilize the optic to identify a threat whether near or far how is that different than using a weapon mounted light on a pistol to direct traffic. Not to mention the legalities of pointing a firearm whether loaded or not. Brandishing can ride a thin line of deadly conduct. If the victim feels you intended to cause fear or alarm you have a problem. Since we all come in different sizes, the ability to adjust my length of pull to my body type is a great advantage.
Keep Your Rifle Light
Of all the characteristics one of the often overlooked is lightweight. This rifle should remain as light as possible to increase shooter performance. You decrease shooter performance when fatigue interferes with your ability to stabilize for the shot required. The longer I have to support the rifle with my muscles, the faster fatigue becomes a factor. The greater the fatigue greater the wobble zone. When your wobble zone becomes so great the results is a decrease in accuracy. The rifle weighs around seven pounds with no accessories and the goal is to keep it below ten pounds, nine pounds is better. Where we see a conflict is when the shooter wants to add every piece of equipment under the sun. Anything you add to the rifle must be weighed, literally and theoretically to see if the juice is worth the squeeze. This is a game of ounces so know exactly what your rifle weights out of the box and each piece of gear you add.
The idea of a general purpose rifle is not new. What is new is technology and accessories that allow me to exploit every advantage I can out of a general purpose rifle.