It has been a slow weekend, and I spent some time yesterday cleaning and organizing my gun room. I threw out a bunch of unidentifiable springs, some Triple K brand AR magazines that someone gave me a long time ago, and various empty packages that I had put in my gunsmithing tool box for no reason. By the time I was done cleaning, I found I had not one, but TWO AR-15 triggers (complete!), and a complete M16A2 stock! I told my wife that with this development, it would be silly not to buy a cheap lower and start building an A2-style rifle. She reluctantly agreed, and now I'm going to order a cheap lower from AIM Surplus this week. I've got the rest of the build more or less nailed down as far as components, but I'm still on the fence about an optic, but I'll get into that later. First, let me explain why I want a full 20" rifle.
When I joined the Iowa National Guard in 2002, only elite units had M4s. I went through basic training with an M16A4, and was issued an M16A2/M203 from my unit of assignment. I went on to carry FN Herstal M16A2 serial# 7366928 in Afghanistan, and for a couple of years after I got home. Then I got shifted (without promotion...) to a team leader slot where I carried another FNH M16A2 for another 18 months or so before we got M4A3s. I have a lot of fun memories with an A2. I also had exactly zero problems with those A2s, to include one day where my second FNH rifle spent all afternoon on the line, cycling between me and my squad's two SAW gunners. That rifle must have digested over 2000 rounds in a four hour stretch. And that was after it ate up 180-ish rounds of blanks on a force-on-force drill the previous night and the only cleaning it got was a healthy dose of CLP. My Colt M4A3 was far from unreliable, but I did experience a trigger spring failure on the firing range in Afghanistan. Also, every memory I have where I carried an M4 absolutely sucked. Not the gun's fault, but that's how it is.
So with that said, I'm looking hard at a Stag Arms 20" upper known as the Model 4H.I may upgrade to MOE handguards at some point, but that's about it. Which brings me to my current conundrum. The optic.
I want to keep things simple, so that leaves me with two general options: a very low power scope, or a tube-style red dot.
My favorite optic in the entire universe is the ACOG TA31F, which I used on my final deployment. It was extremely rugged and turned a mediocre rifleman into a serious mid-range threat. When properly zeroed, the BDC is dead on, and will retain a zero even when banged around for months at a time. Unfortunately, the ACOG is also extremely expensive. But maybe one day I'll have one. Until then, my options are somewhat limited.
My short list of possibilities right now is:
Aimpoint Pro ($400)
Burris Tac30 ($300)
Burris MTAC ($400)
As my eyes age, I'm getting partial to low-magnification optics. I also like shooting for group at 100 and 200 yards. The Aimpoint is definitely the better choice for CQB, but I will probably take my AR coyote hunting a couple of times a year and the Burris scopes would do that a little better, especially if I had to take a 200-300 yard shot. I won't be getting a Vortex Strikefire for this build because I want it to be a battle-ready rig. I would trust the Burris and Aimpoint in adverse conditions. As good as the Vortex is, I'm not sure it's ready for combat. Let me add that I don't think there is a better red dot at the Strikefire's price point. If you want a range toy that is functional and looks good, that's the way to go. Mine lives happily on my MP5-22, and it's great in that role.
Now to figure out how I'll budget for my upper, and get this thing shooting by year's end.