During carbine classes the topic of “What is The Best Fighting Rifle?” frequently comes up. This is a subjective question in my opinion because “best” is dependent on each individuals requirements. A shooter in a rural area may need the ability to engage mid range targets beyond 200 to 300 yards, while someone in a urban area typically deals with threats at much closer distances. My first recommendation is to ensure you tailor your rifle and training towards the scenarios you are most likely to encounter. While we can’t prepare for all scenarios we can train to overcome the majority.

The second thing I tell shooters is to be honest about their needs and abilities. The shooter is often the weakest link when it comes to accuracy. Lets take a moment to discuss “Fighting Rifles” and the balance of accuracy and durability. The biggest factor in your rifle’s inherent accuracy, is the type or quality of barrel used. There are two primary choices when it comes to AR15 barrels, chrome lined or Stainless Steel (SS). The accepted theory is that a chrome lined barrel is more durable than a stainless steel barrel but you compromise accuracy for longevity. There are three types of barrel manufacturing processes, Cold Hammer Forged (CHF) Button Rifling (BR) and Cut Rifling (CR). Match grade stainless steel barrels are often BR or CR in an attempt to increase the barrels accuracy. High quality chrome lined barrels can be cold hammer forged in order to strike a balance between barrel longevity and accuracy. There is a significant price difference between a chrome lined CHF barrel and a SS button or cut rifled barrel. For example, Daniel Defense lists their 14.5″ chrome lined CHF barrel for $279.00 while Noveske Rifleworks lists their 14.5″ button rifled stainless steel for $455.00

For some individuals the increased accuracy may not be worth the higher cost. The $176.00 saved in this example could be invested in ammo, training, or a rifle optic. If a shooter chooses to go that route and picks up a chrome lined CHF barrel instead of a button or cut rifled stainless steel barrel how much accuracy are they sacrificing? Is that rifle still effective on a man sized target from 100 to 500 yards?

Based off of the performance I’ve seen with the Daniel Defense CHF barrel I will say yes, without a doubt! The Army Marksmanship Unit considers the issued M4/M16 rifle to be a 2-3MOA rifle. My personal experience has shown it to be a 3-5MOA rifle dependent on unit maintenance procedures. That equates to a 3-5″ group at 100 yards and 15-25″ group at 500 yards under ideal conditions.

I shot the rifle pictured below from the prone position for groups using a bipod and sand sock for rear support at 100 yards with a 4.5-14x Leupold Optics MK4 scope. It is a custom built AR15 with a Daniel Defense 14.5″ chrome lined CHF barrel mid-length gas system and a SureFire, LLC muzzle device. Three different ammunition selections were used during testing. The best performance was with Federal 69gr SMK but each group fell within the 2MOA standard. This equates to 2″ at 100 yards and 10″ at 500 yards. If the average 5’8″ male is 40″ from the waistline to the top of the head and 20″ from shoulder to shoulder, a 10″ cone of fire at 500 yards gives you room to err under less than ideal conditions.

Is this what I would consider acceptable accuracy for a button or cut rifled stainless steel barrel and match grade ammo? No, but it provides enough accuracy for the majority of shooters who also value the increased barrel life the chrome lined CHF barrel provides.

Bottom line, be honest about your abilities and expectations so you get the maximum return on your investment

 

Categories: The Firing Line

Adam Wilson

Adam Wilson is a U.S. Army Sniper and senior NCO with multiple combat deployments, a background in reconnaissance and small unit operations. During his 18 years of military service he has held every MTOE slot in a Sniper section to include an assignment as the SEO/Sniper Section Leader for a forward deployed Infantry Battalion. He has utilized all currently issued U.S. Army Sniper weapons systems including the XM2010, M110 SASS, and M107. In addition to being a qualified Sniper he is a graduate of the Sniper Employment Leaders Course and the Army Marksmanship Unit’s Squad Designated Marksman and Rifle Instructor courses. Outside of the military he has obtained the NRA Pistol and Rifle Instructor certifications and served as a product consultant for several defense and firearms industry companies.

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