AT THE READY BELOW THE RADAR
“The only purpose for a pistol is to fight your way back to your rifle you should have never laid down.” —Clint Smith
There are far better weapons than pistols for self-defense. Pistols lack significant magazine capacity, their ammunition lacks range and, with a short sight radius, they are not easily shot at great distance without regular training and practice.
A rifle, on the other hand—and, in particular, the AR15—possesses all these attributes. With standard 30-round magazines, they provide significant firepower advantages. With modern ammunition, the .223 and 5.56 rounds are potent and yet remain easy on recoil management. Furthermore, with open sights, red-dot, fixed and variable-power optics, they are incredibly accurate and easy to become proficient with.
Even the trusted shotgun—pump or semi—isn’t as easy to handle round after round, and one-handed shooting (in the case of injury) can be extremely troublesome compared to a lightweight AR carbine.
With these arguments in place, it makes sense to favor the rifle over the handgun and shotgun for defensive carry. What the pistol lacks in offensive capability it makes up for in concealability … that is, until the case is made for carrying an AR15 broken down in a discreet carry rifle case. The standard pump shotgun previously mentioned requires more deliberate and slower steps to break it down and, even then, the component pieces are too long to easily conceal in something other than a tactical rifle case.
Don’t disregard your pistol just yet; you might need it to fight your way to your discreet AR15 case if you consider the benefit of concealed rifle carry. It’s the ideal tool for defense—if you have it with you.
THE CASE: LARUE TACTICAL COVERT RIFLE CASE MKII
There are many options for a discreet AR rifle case. “Slick” versions of long gun cases are available, allowing the user to carry their rifle assembled. This, however, draws the attention, because the length and weight of the nylon case scream, “Gun inside!” The other options that allow carry of disassembled upper and lower receivers are generally poorly appointed with the necessary lashing points to prevent jostling in transit and organization of accessories.
The one case that rules them all is the Covert Rifle Case MKII by LaRue Tactical. At first glance, the sticker price ($194.95) seems steep for a gun case for AR15 shooters. But for many firearms enthusiasts, the thought of spending four or five times the cost of this case on another firearm wouldn’t faze them. They might even keep thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms in an inexpensive home safe.
Personally, I like to protect my firearms in the home and in transit. I can control where my rifle is placed when it is in my hand and, therefore, I can protect it; but when it is in the back of my car or tucked in my pack, I want the best protection against that accidental and damaging bump. Short of a Pelican Case that doesn’t give or flex at all, this case is what works for me, and I don’t mind the price, because I know my rifle is protected.
Inside the LaRue Tactical Covert Rifle Case MKII are numerous padded dividers. This makes it easy to separate the upper and lower receivers. There are multiple hook-and-loop tabs and MOLLE panels for lashing gear to, as well as mesh pockets for housing smaller items. Additional accessory pouches can be purchased for further organization inside the case. Available in a wide range of colors—from black to coyote brown to navy blue and red and many color points in between— this case is easily adapted to fit into other environments. Without exterior pockets and a firearm shape, this case flies under the radar.
WHAT THE PISTOL LACKS IN OFFENSIVE CAPABILITY IT MAKES UP FOR IN CONCEALABILITY … THAT IS, UNTIL THE CASE IS MADE FOR CARRYING AN AR15 BROKEN DOWN IN A DISCREET CARRY CASE.
THE RIFLE: MUST HAVES
The AR15 is America’s rifle, and it seems as if a new manufacturer of this weapon platform emerges every day. Rather than zeroing in on a single maker, I will simply suggest this: Find a rifle that is accurate, reliable and well made. Whatever company is engraved or stamped on that lower receiver won’t matter if you can’t hit your target.
For this article, a 14.5-inch-barreled upper with Surefire flash hider permanently attached fit easily inside with some room to spare. A 16-inch upper with bipod and ACOG also fit after some adjustment of the internal dividers. According to the folks at LaRue, up to 18-inch upper receivers will fit, as well.
The rifle carried should have basic provisions. Just as a pistol needs a holster, a good sling should always be packed and used on a rifle for long-distance carry. Furthermore, unless the rifleman plans on only using his rifle during the day, a good tactical flashlight with a high output such as the Surefire X300 should be mounted for times and scenarios during which you are unable to discriminate friend or foe in low light. Quality magazines, tested for reliability before they are packed, should round out the absolute basic accessories for the fighting rifle.
Additional modifications, such as race triggers, sexy collapsing stocks, forearms and backup iron sights (if you are already using an optic), should only be considered once the basics are met.
HOW MANY MAGAZINES? HOW MUCH AMMO?
I’ve heard instructors state, “You can’t have enough ammunition in a gunfight,” as well as, “People in gunfights will never tell you they had enough ammunition.”
I agree with these statements to some degree … given certain circumstances. Then, again, I consider the logical statistics surrounding firearms use by lawful citizens and the total number of rounds fired.
When the decision is made to carry a rifle, there is a subsequent logical decision made about how much ammunition to carry. The idea of having a military-styled loadout of six to 12 magazines sounds great—but feels like six to 12 magazines when trying to keep the weight down, along with walking discreetly to and from your vehicle and in and out of different structures.
A more practical number of magazines to carry is three. This gives the user 90 rounds of ammunition to put down range. Some readers will carry a large-capacity pistol and a couple of reloads. Few will have three or more extra magazines on them.
Assuming each magazine has 15 rounds, that provides the reader with 46 rounds of pistol ammunition to deal with a threat. Most would feel safe to leave the house with this loadout, even if it wasn’t the most comfortable to carry.
Unlike law enforcement, whose members are able to carry openly, concealing spare pistol magazines without drastically changing clothing or normal movement isn’t easy.
Concealing rifle magazines on your person isn’t any easier. Keep the number of mags carried to three or four at the most.
RAPID LOADING: MAGLULA STRIPLULA
Depending on what state you are in, you could be in violation of the law if you have loaded magazines in your car. Because there is a distinct difference between magazines and clips, you might be able to keep loaded stripper clips in your car instead. On their own, stripper clips will hold 10 rounds securely, but they don’t come into their own until they are used with a good loader, such as the StripLULA. In fewer than 10 seconds, three stripper clips of 10 rounds each can be loaded into a 30-round magazine.
While loaded magazines may be the most logical to carry, legally, we might need to seek other options. This option isn’t optimal, but it is better than leaving loaded magazines at home or loading rounds individually into magazines at the time of need. By carrying ammunition in stripper clips, you also avoid the excess packaging that takes up space and collects moisture in your kit. Stripper clips will keep your ammunition organized and prevent loose rounds from rattling around.
CARRY PRACTICE DRILLS
We’ve all seen the guys at the range who show up with full plate carriers loaded down with magazines. We may also have seen guys who sport battle belts or load-outs they could not carry on a daily basis for practical reasons. There is a problem in their training formula when they only want to turn money into noise and fail to incorporate drawing from concealment, weapon malfunction drills or transitions to other weapon systems.
For these reasons, anyone who elects to carry a discreet AR15 bag should learn their response time and work to lower it. Here are three simple drills to add to your training routine. These drills are most easily accomplished in privacy or where your actions won’t raise suspicion or alarm.
Discreet Rifle Case Shuttle Run. Place your AR15 case (or any bag, for that matter) 25 yards away. From a seated position or standing with your back to it, run to your case, grab it and run back. Learn how quickly you can cover this ground. If you want to increase the difficulty, add distance or weight. You’ll learn how fast you can run holding your bag by the handles, like a football under your arm or hugged against your chest.
Maglula StripLULA Speed Loading. Three stripper clips can be loaded quickly into an AR15 magazine with the StripLULA device, but how quickly can you do it? Where do you place your hands when using the device? Do you brace the bottom of the magazine against your body or a fixed object, or do you simply hold it out in the workspace in front of you? Learn how quickly you can get a 30-round magazine loaded with and without one. Set a standard for yourself, and work to hit it or surpass it each time.
Unzip and Assemble. With your rifle disassembled and stowed in your discreet case in front of you, time how quickly you can unzip the case, assemble the weapon and load it with a magazine of snap caps. Experiment with how you have your case configured. This will help you learn the best configuration to access and assemble the component parts of your rifle in the shortest time. Modify your training by changing your body position. Practice assembling your rifle from a seated position, kneeling position and, for difficulty, while walking or running.
BONUS MKII CASE SPACE
Once the basics are covered, the additional space in the MKII case can be filled with whatever specific accessories will fit the need of your mission, travels and scenario. The tendency with any bag is to fill it to capacity, but with the remaining space in this discreet bag, logic should drive the decision-making process. For my needs, a quality optic and a sound suppressor make great use of the remaining space. I will also tuck a rifle sling in the bag over the barrel of my upper.
FIND A RIFLE THAT IS ACCURATE, RELIABLE AND WELL MADE. WHATEVER COMPANY IS ENGRAVED OR STAMPED ON THAT LOWER RECEIVER WON’T MATTER IF YOU CAN’T HIT YOUR TARGET.
OPTIC: TRIJICON MRO
An optic such as the Trijicon MRO makes target acquisition much faster. Instead of lining up a front post with a rear sight, a single illuminated dot needs to be placed on a target. Once the user learns the height-over-bore offset, he can learn to compensate at varying ranges for holdover and place very accurate shots on target. The MRO is lightweight (4.1 ounces without mount or battery) and has a large viewing objective (25mm). It won’t weigh down the discrete case or take up much additional space.
As long as you monitor battery use and life, the MRO can be left powered on for five years at the #3 setting for daylight, eliminating the need to power it on in a stressful situation. This optic or others of similar size can be left attached to the upper AR receiver in the discreet rifle bag.
While the Trijicon MRO standard mount is solid and works well, a quick-release mount is preferable for ease of carry and practicality. For these reasons, the GDI MS5-OSM (“optical sight mount”) is ideal. With a single flip of a throw lever, the mount and optic can be attached or detached with no loss of zero. I’ve tested the zero multiple times on the range after removing and reattaching; I attribute any drift of the bullet impacts to rushing shots without a decent rest rather than any flaws in the mount.
Overall, the GDI mount does not take up much more space than the standard mount but offers the added benefit of packability within the discreet rifle case.
SUPPRESSOR: SUREFIRE 762 SOCOM
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives places strict regulations on machine guns. Nevertheless, traveling with suppressors is perfectly legal—as long as you travel to states in which they can be possessed legally. At the time of writing this article, that means they are legal in 42 states. If you legally possess a suppressor for your rifle, rest assured you can easily transport it with your rifle inside the case and strapped down during transit. Your suppressor will aid in accuracy, hearing protection and recoil management.
Those reasons are more than enough justification to warrant including one in a discreet AR case.
Assuming you need to use your rifle indoors, you must also assume you will suffer temporary (possibly permanent) hearing loss without proper hearing protection.
A friend once told me, “The farther you travel from home, the larger your blade should be.” This same concept can be applied to your firearms. While you might feel comfort walking around your house with a pocket pistol or slimline 9mm, when you hit the road in your vehicle, you should pack accordingly.
With a discreet AR15 rifle case, you are able to carry a rifle, spare magazines, sling and flashlight. This bare-bones load-out will give you a fighting advantage over any adversary intent on doing harm to you and equipped with lesser weaponry.
One only needs to look to the Mumbai hotel attack in 2008 to see where a rifle could come in handy. Other hotel guests need not know you walked into your room with a broken-down rifle; and should you hear an attack taking place, you can quickly access your rifle. It will make a long hallway shot easier than one done with a pistol. By bringing a rifle inside your hotel room or tent, you decrease the response time. In other words, you have a shorter distance to fight your way back to your rifle than if you left it in your car trunk. It’s safer under your control and is also nearby.
What are your safety and security worth? The world is changing, and being ready for threats is your responsibility. Handguns are great for personal defense, and skilled shooters can take the fight to an active shooter beyond 25 yards. Even the best handgunners can’t compete against an average rifleman at distances of 100 yards and greater.
Stack the odds in your favor. When threats are equipped with rifles, it’s best to fight fire with fire—and superior training. Travel with a discreet AR15, and you won’t have far to fight your way back to it.
Ammunition selection is purpose driven. Standard ball ammunition is great for the range, but it might not be what is needed to penetrate barriers or body armor. Steel-core ammo, green tip, works well at penetration, but it is not the best choice for home defense—especially if there are shared walls with occupants on the other side. Hunting ammunition with hollow or polymer points works exceptionally well against soft tissue but might be cost prohibitive for some.
Complicating the selection process is bullet weight. The .223 and 5.56 rounds range from light and fast to heavier and slower for greater temporary wound channels and ballistic hydrostatic shock or for accuracy at longer ranges.
Hornady Match ammunition, for example, is 73 grain and designed to perform better at longer distance than standard 55-grain ball ammo.
The best course of action is to purchase a selection of ammo that best matches your intended need with various projectile types from different manufacturers. Test these loads at various ranges—but most importantly, at the range you most likely will need it. Determine which works best for your rifle by firing a three to five shot grouping from the prone position. When you assess the group size, note which is smallest. Also note if you experienced any malfunctions with each.
When you have selected a particular round, make sure to load an entire magazine with it to ensure it will properly load from all points in a standard 30-rounder. If you are worried about spending too much on this process, mix and match the premium ammo you chose with ball ammo.
When you are familiar with the round you want, purchase enough to fill a few reloading boxes. These tend to make the best use of space and are allowed in checked airline baggage. If you’re worried about your ammo rattling, some bubble packaging or closed-cell foam will take up the spare room.
Mark the date you purchased the ammunition, and rotate it out if the primers get wet or when you feel it is too old.
Maglula, Ltd. (Israel)
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.