The Combative Carbine, Part I - Tactics and Weapons -

The Combative Carbine, Part I

How to equip your AR-15



Dave Spaulding | From the May 2013 Issue Monday, May 20, 2013


A while back I wrote a column I called “The Combative Shotgun,” in which I focused on the use of the platform, why I chose it, and how and why I “dressed” it out. I received a large number of positive comments, but most of the commenters also reminded me that the AR-15 was THE law enforcement long gun of the 21st century. I do recognize this, but I also lament the passing of the 12-gauge shotgun because of its target power. If a police officer is justified in shooting a violent suspect, then they should shoot that target  well. No small arm does this better than the 12-gauge shotgun—within its operational parameters.

And therein lies the rub: The shotgun is limited in effectiveness, while the AR-15, Ruger Mini-14 or other such 5.56 carbines can be used as far as the naked eye can see. With current-generation optics, these guns can be used well beyond their original intended limit of 300 meters.

I mourn the “passing” of the shotgun (or more accurately, its relegation to second-fiddle status) with a smile on my face because in the AR-15, we now have a gun that officers want to take out of the cruiser. Cops often buy these guns with their own funds and then “dress” them like a child would a Barbie or G.I. Joe. here are now so many add-ons for the AR that we’ve reached a level of absurdity. But cops do want to deploy with it (as opposed to the hard-recoiling 12 gauge). The truth is, the AR-15 is just plain cool and I’m OK with that. Any long gun will be more effective than a handgun.  

I currently operate a training school that focuses exclusively on the combative application of the handgun, which is the most difficult of weapon systems to master and the most likely gun an officer or armed citizen will have with them when they need a gun. The handgun is a reactive or reflexive weapon, while the carbine is a responsive one, meaning the carbine is the gun taken when you know what the threat is, while the pistol is the gun you will likely have when the threat breaks out and unfolds in front of you. Since most police operations are investigative in nature, many of the threats cops face will be reactive, happening as a situation develops. Thus the handgun will always be the primary firearm for American cops. That’s why I dedicate so much time in my regular column to the handgun. The military, on the other hand, works to kill the enemy, and a rifle or carbine is much better for this. I’ve heard the shout of the readers loud and clear—it’s time for me to talk about the carbine, primarily the AR-15.

The Basics
The primary reason I like the AR platform is that it offers training and manipulation continuity with the semi-automatic pistol. Whether an officer chooses a gas-driven or gas-piston platform is up to them. There are good and bad things with both systems. Regardless of the platform, the AR needs TLC The abuse heaped on trunk-stored shotguns won’t work with the AR. The gun needs to be cleaned and properly lubricated regularly. If such care is given, both the gas-impingement and gas-piston AR platform will give years of reliable service.

I’ve owned a number of ARs over the years (in both gas systems) from a variety of manufacturers. My current go-to gun was built by Templar Custom Arms on a lower receiver of their manufacture. A 1-7 Wilson Combat barrel attached to a Hogan upper rounds out the primary components. From there it’s a matter of personal choice as to which accessories are added.

Because I want my gun to be light and sleek, I’m very careful about how I “dress” it. I don’t need enough rails to start my own railroad, so I chose a Diamondhead fore-end due to its trim profile and finger-groove-contoured design. The fore-end comes with a top rail for the forward mounting of optics and the capability of adding rail sections only where I want them. In my case, there’s one section of rail at 9-o’clock so I can add a white light. I like the way I can wrap my hand around the trim fore-end to help “drive” the gun from target to target and also help reduce the overall weight of the gun.

Sights & Optics
I also added a set of Diamondhead’s diamond-shaped flip-up iron sights. My eyes aren’t getting any younger, and I like the simplicity of placing a diamond inside a diamond, resulting in perfect sight alignment. That old saying applies here: The simplest solution is usually best. That’s what I get with the Diamondhead sights—a simple solution that works for my eyes.

An optic of some type is also a good idea and the general rule of thumb is one power of magnification for every 100 yards you expect to use it within. Although anything is possible when working the street, history has shown most patrol operations will occur within 100 yards, so a simple, fast-action red dot is the way to go. Wanting the largest field of view possible, I chose the EO-Tech with its large circle/cross hair reticle. Mine is the XPS2 and at 2¾ inches is the shortest model sight yet! This sight is smaller and lighter than the other EO Tech sights and runs on a single 123 battery. With the single battery configuration, the XPS allows more rail space, leaving room for rear iron sights, magnifiers or a night-vision mount. Smaller, lighter and always fast, the XPS series is a great compact option for your platform and this model is night vision capable as well.

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Tactics & Weapons

Product Spotlight: Weapons & Accessories

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ATI_ATI Gunstocks Benelli M4 Raven Stock

The ATI Raven for the Benelli M4 is the first and only U.S. made adjustable stock and forend for the Benelli M4. ATI’s Raven goes far beyond just being the first adjustable six-position stock for a semi-automatic shotgun. The adjustable cheek rest and the buffer tube tension mechanism provides the perfect amount of drag when adjusting the stock’s length of pull. The majority of the Raven’s stock and cheek rest mechanism components are manufactured of militarytype III Anodized 6061 T6 aluminum. Another feature and industry first for the Raven is a sleek forend integrated heat shield that hovers over the barrel of the shotgun preventing any metal-to-metal contact. The forend also has a soft touch over-mold to provide a comfortable non-slip texture.
Advanced Technology International (ATI)

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Weaver Tactical Riflescopes

If your day at the office includes a drag bag instead of a briefcase, a Mil Dot instead of a mouse or a door breach instead of a boardroom, Weaver Tactical riflescopes are right up your alley. Designed for the serious job of protecting life and liberty here and abroad, these riflescopes are crafted specifically for tactical applications. Available in 1-5 x 24 mm, 2-10 x 36 mm, 3-15 x 50 mm and 4-20 x 50 mm configurations, Weaver Tactical scopes feature rugged, one-piece 30 mm tubes, first focal plane reticles and fully multi-coated lenses with extra-hard coatings on exterior lenses. They offer resetto- zero turrets and are available with multiple reticle options, including several with illumination. They’re manufactured to the strictest tolerances in order to perform flawlessly in the harshest environments.
Weaver Optics (ATK)

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Gun Grip Covers

T U F F 1 Grip Covers were designed to address the fit, function, durability and performanc e issues of grip accessories currently on the market. TUFF1 Grips can be used on a wide selection of firearms—handgun, tactical rifle or shotgun—and work in any duty environment while providing LE personnel the best weapon retention and grip performance available. They’re made in the U.S. and backed by a lifetime warranty. Whether on-duty or off, you can rely on one grip accessory—TUFF1.

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Epoch Light-Bearing Duty Holster

Building on a track record of reliable holster performance, Black- Hawk! is proud to introduce the new Epoch Light Bearing Duty Holster with three levels of weapon retention in a rock-solid, proprietary polymer shell. The patent-pending retention system engages the pistol’s ejection port when holstered and won’t let go until the shooter releases. As an added safety measure, the pivot guard opens by thumb activation and is designed not to close accidentally, locking the shooter out of the holster. The Epoch Holster accommodates the most popular under-barrel lights on the market today, including Streamlight’s TLR- 1, TLR-1s, TLR-2 and TLR-2s, as well as SureFire’s X300 and X400 lights. A jacket slot duty belt loop is included.
Blackhawk! (ATK)

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Dave SpauldingDave Spaulding, the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year and Law Officer's Firearms columnist, is a 28-year law enforcement veteran who retired at the rank of lieutenant.


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