July 04, 2010

Any Black Rifle Experts Out There?

So I'm going to ask something that might seem a bit hypocritical here.

I've written on CY and at Pajamas Media about how the 5.56 NATO round needs to be replaced in the military, and that M16/M4 weapons system is getting long in the tooth, and that it should probably be replaced. I still feel that way... as it applies to the military. I want them to have weapons that are lightweight, ridiculously reliable, accurate, easy to maintain and perfectly lethal. I also want a pony.

But for my needs, an AR-type rifle fits the bill. Specifically, I'm looking at a carbine with a 16" barrel and mid-length gas system chambered in 5.56 (I'll also probably get a 6.8 SPC upper from Bison Armory at some point, but that is down the road).

I've narrowed my choices down to 2 options:

Noveske Rifleworks 16" Light Recce, BASIC
  • Daniel Defense DDXVM
  • I'll be using whichever one I get for tactical carbine courses that I've been interested in learning/writing about as part of a side project of mine. I'll primarily be running 55-grain metal case ammo (both .233 Remington and 5.56 NATO) for classes, but will keep 50-grain Winchester Silvertips for home defense and stock 5.56 NATO 55-grain MC for the zombie apocalypse. I'll also be getting a CMMG .22 LR conversion kit for cheaper practice.

    If anyone is familiar with either (or even better both) of these mid-length carbines, I'd love to hear what you think about them.

    And whether or not I should look at 62-grain zombie ammo instead of the 55-grain stuff.

    Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 4, 2010 02:00 PM

    Basically the AR15 is a proper civilian won't need to shoot through brick walls. A normal man can carry it. With a decent scope it's easily possible to put 30 rounds into a 2-3" target at 100 yards, far more than is needed for "home defense." In fact, that's the problem with the concept of black rifle "defense." If you mean defending the country, fighting, sniping in the streets...OK, I'll give you that, but for your property, a 12 gauge with OO Buckshot down the hall or into the front entry makes a lot more sense, and a backup .45 for finishers.... My advice is worth what you pay for it.

    Posted by: rascalfair at July 4, 2010 01:52 PM

    The two weapons you've mentioned are fine rifles, however, you may wish to explore the offerings of a variety of other manufacturers. The weapons you've mentioned are essentially custom offerings that are substantially more expensive than rifles that would serve you equally well. The AR family is indeed a good choice for civilian use because it is easy to customize and a wide variety of accessories that will arguably make the weapon more effective are widely available at reasonable prices.

    For the sake of argument, let's assume that you'll be equipping your carbine with a red dot type sight of some kind, a flashlight, and even a laser sight. You'll need a four rail fore end for this. You can buy a rifle, equipped from the factory for this purpose, or merely spend about $60.00 on an aftermarket fore end. Instead of spending some $1300+ on a tricked out factory gun, spend $900.00 on a more basic carbine and with careful shopping, you can equip it very well very reasonably and have a weapon every bit as effective as the higher priced guns, probably for about the same price as the higher priced guns as delivered from the factory without any of those accessories.

    You can spend more than a thousand dollars on a variety of sights, or about a hundred on sights that will work as well. You can spend hundreds on "tactical" flashlights and mounts, or $35.00 on a Sure Fire G2 Nitrolon and about the same on a Vitor mount. I've been quite happy with $40.00 BSA red dot sights, for example, on a variety of weapons.

    The bottom line is it might be wise to avoid spending more for bells and whistles, particularly at this point in your AR shooting career, and add accessories as you come to better understand your needs and desires, and the difference between them. Any competent tactical carbine course will help you in this regard.
    I've found Cheaper Than Dirt to be a good source of AR accessories, and MagPul magazines and stocks to be reliable, reasonably priced, and an improvement over factory stock equipment.

    As far as a conversion kit goes, save a few more bucks and buy a S&W .22LR AR. They're identical to the real thing in appearance, ergonomics, and are just plain fun to shoot. In addition, you'll be throwing a lot less dirty lead down the barrel of your .223 weapon, which is always a good thing.

    Regarding ammunition, outfit yourself with one competent weapon and one type of ammo and learn the combination very well. Effective technique, tactics, and shot placement matter, not which whiz bang cartridge/gun was used. A well placed shot with a basic carbine is far more effective than a miss with a very expensive rifle shooting the newest world beater round.

    Posted by: mikemcdaniel at July 4, 2010 03:08 PM

    Instead of the conversion kit or a full 22LR AR, you might want to just get a full 22 Upper. since the 22 conversions are blowback instead of gas driven, if you get a 22 upper, it will have a proper 22 barrel and no gas tube, which might keep the upper a little (tiny) bit cleaner. 22LR is already super dirty so it won't make much difference...

    although a seperate 22 upper means you'd have extra optics, grips, etc... so thats extra cost there...

    Posted by: John at July 4, 2010 11:45 PM

    The rifles mentioned are fine, fine rifles, but consider your opening statements. The difference between the high end ARs and the less expensive ARs in terms of pure performance is relatively small. I have 2 carbines from Stag Arms (caveat: Stag is a show sponsor) that shot sub-MOI at 100 yards with Wolf ammo out-of-the-box. Ditto for an S&W (no caveat: S&W is not a sponsor, darn it!) I bought at GUNSITE a few years back. Rather than buying an all bells and whistles gun, it might make sense to get a basic gun and decide what bells and whistles you actually want.

    I also recommend complete .22 uppers rather than conversion units or dedicated .22s. Better to use your lower with the trigger/accessories you're used to with the convenience of being able to pop on a new upper. I use and recommend the relatively expensive Tactical Solutions .22 upper, and it has been just super!

    Michael B

    Posted by: Michael Bane at July 5, 2010 12:01 PM

    I have a Noveske N4 light with a 14.5" pinned barrel - great rifle, I love it, and would recommend it highly to anyone who is looking for an upper which will outshoot you and outlast you. You wouldn't be wasting any money in this purchase.


    Michael Bane also has excellent points in his post - look at what you want and how you will use it - you may be better served with an "average" AR and more money for practice & ammo than a top-end rifle. You may need the top end. YMMV - and of course your desires do play an element in it.

    If you have specific questions on the Noveske feel free to ask sir.

    Posted by: Sean at July 5, 2010 07:22 PM

    I also went for the Noveske - but the Light Low-Profile, because I wanted a rail for the flashlight and the Aimpoint I already had, AND I was having a 50th Birthday Moment...
    Since I'm in California I had to build the lower myself, to the CA legal-spec. It's heavier than my wife would care to handle (but not heavier than my Match AR) so I'm not going to be getting her very interested in shooting it.

    Posted by: DirtCrashr at July 5, 2010 07:47 PM

    ive either had (as issue) or owned basic ar's and m16's for 25 years, the only optional new change that I would consider changing my colt ar for would be one with a piston.

    cleaner and less carbon fouling.

    ruger has good warranties and last year came out with a piston driven AR at a very reasonable price point and added some nice extras for sites and furniture that you would have to add to other basic ar platrforms. its worth taking a look at it

    as far as ammo... im a traditionalist. I would go with 5.56 because you can stockpile some ammo at a relatively reasonable price becuase. and I wouldnt own a semi auto without firing a 1,000 rounds through it and breaking it in and having at least 1,000 rounds in stock.

    other than that I would go ar-10 308

    Posted by: rumcrook¾ at July 5, 2010 07:49 PM

    Reliability is king.

    That's why I put a Leupold prismatic sight on my Mini-14 and keep it handy with factory mags.

    Always feeds, always fires, always extracts. No need for forward-assist, magazine testing or checking the color of the follower.

    Safety is right in front of trigger guard.

    Can chamber a round without breaking cheekweld.

    Posted by: Hyman Roth at July 5, 2010 08:34 PM

    Just a few more comments after checking the specs on the two specific weapons you mentioned. Again very nice rifles, but quite pricey. The Daniel Defense weapon, for example, has a Magpul trigger guard enlarger, which is doubtless well made, but absent Hulk-like hands, unnecessary (the standard trigger guard can be unlatched and folded down onto the trigger guard for Arctic conditions--gloves). Each will run in the neighborhood of more than $1500.00, and for that price, you could easily buy a basic AR carbine (16" barrel, standard sights with standard carrying handle) for about $900.00 from a variety of manufacturers.

    You can easily, for the cost of a 4-rail fore end, and a 3/4" scope riser, add any type of red-dot optic you'd like and still come in more cheaply than the original price of the other rifles. In fact, you could easily have those three items, a very capable flashlight and mount, and even a quality laser system with a bit of careful shopping. And even if you don't buy another accessory, the extra $600.00 will buy 2000 rounds of ammo with a bit of careful shopping.

    But as a starting point, I'd go for the basic weapon, buy several thousand rounds of ammo, and then get competent training. May I recommend Chuck Taylor of the American Small Arms Academy (on the web)? He teaches around the world at much more reasonable prices than many other schools and you'll learn a very great deal in a very short time, including what accessories you might really need or want. For one of his basic rifle classes you'd need your weapon, at least 500 rounds of ammo, and at least four magazines. He'll let you know anything else you'd need.

    Good luck, and please contact me directly if I can help in any way.

    Posted by: mikemcdaniel at July 5, 2010 11:37 PM

    Go to and search and read away. All the answers you seek will be there. Especially if you are looking at Noveske and DD. I would also consider BCM (Bravo Company Manufacturing) in there as well. Their quality is equal to both but with a slightly smaller price tag, and their 16" mid-length uppers are amazing.

    Also, view this chart on comparisons of brands and quality control that they put their products through:

    If you want good reviews on the Noveske, DD (and BCM) rifles, search via Google. Those brands are heavily covered there.

    Posted by: Blake at July 6, 2010 11:37 AM

    I'm sorry to ask such an ignorant question, but what does the term "black rifle" mean? Surely the color of the firearm doesn't matter (or does it?), so I assume you must mean something else.

    I've only ever shot handguns, so my ignorance on the subject of rifles is profound. Thanks!

    Posted by: Mary in LA at July 6, 2010 12:03 PM

    Now that I think of it, I did shoot a shotgun once, but never a rifle. Thanks for the education!

    Posted by: Mary in LA at July 6, 2010 12:04 PM

    Hi Mary,

    "Black rifle" is commonly used to describe the military and civilian versions of the AR-15/M-16/M-4 family of Eugene Stoner designed 5.56 rifles and carbines.

    Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 6, 2010 12:12 PM

    What the two Mike/Michaels said.

    Don't pay extra for "Noveske" on the side, or even "Daniel Defense". (I mean, given your stated goals and needs.)

    I own two lowest-bidder parted-together AR-pattern rifles.

    Know what? They're fine. They shoot fine. They're more than accurate enough for non-competitive shooting (and probably just fine for low end for-fun competitive shooting).

    There's no need to pay $1500 for an AR.

    Pay half that and spend the rest on optics and ammo.

    (I'd also like to say that "black rifle", in my experience, covers the entire set of semi-automatic military-clone rifles, including the FAL, G3/CETME, and SIG rifles as well as the AR family.)

    Posted by: Sigivald at July 6, 2010 05:03 PM

    Thanks, C.Y. and Sigivald!
    Now, the next question in my mind: Where can I go to try one out? CA gun laws being what they are, I might have to take a vacation out of state. :-)

    Posted by: Mary in LA at July 6, 2010 05:28 PM

    Dear Mary:

    Check local gun shops, or get in touch with the NRA (internet works fine). There are NRA certified instructors (I am one) throughout the nation and the NRA can put you in touch with them.

    Failing all of that, should you ever find yourself in north Texas, I'd be pleased to be of help to you.

    Posted by: mikemcdaniel at July 7, 2010 04:17 PM

    Stick with M193 (or Federal XM193, or Winchester Q3131 -- they are BOTH M193 loads). This is the old "M16A1" 55 grain load -- which works just fine from 1:9" and 1:7" twist barrels, as well as it's intended 1:12" barrel.

    The round explosively fragments when it hits meat at 2600 - 2700fps or faster -- that's a skosh more than 100 yards from the muzzle from a 16" carbine.

    Other 55gr loads DO NOT have the same terminal performance due to being downloaded slightly or made with stronger jackets. Wolf ammo suffers from both issues.

    At civilian defensive ranges (as opposed to military engagements), from a 16" or 20" barrel (as opposed to the 14.5" M4), M193 ammo is fine. US M855 (any version) is ALSO fine, but you lose about 20 yards of that "explosive fragmentation" range.

    SS109 ammo (the 62 grain NATO spec that M855 for teh M16A2, M249, and M4 is built to) IS NOT FINE -- SS109 doesn't address jacket construction in detail, and US M855 is DIFFFERENT than most everyone's SS109, as they make the jackets the saem way they've been making sptizer FMJ bullets for deacades -- i.e., somewhat like the M193 round, with similar effects on soft targets when they hit at similar velocities. (The US doesn't do it to enhance wounding -- it does it for RELIABILITY reasons. Thus, it isn't being done for "increased suffering", so no Hague violation.)

    The other nice thing about M193 or M855 ball is that since their casualty enhancement effects are due to teh bullets reaction to hitting a liquid medium (meat is a liquid medium) at high velocity, if they pass through HARD surfaces (like a wall), they tend to scrub off enough velocity to not do the whole "explodey fragmentation" thing. That means that misses with ball rounds result in smaller tract wounds if they hit a bystander downrange, as opposed to SP or HP rounds, which may well open up to max expansion -- and that is THEIR primary casualty enhancement method.

    Posted by: Geodkyt at July 8, 2010 01:34 PM


    TBH I generally prefer the AR-180 for civilian use. Built more like an AK in terms of solid reliability than the M4/M16. It can consume all manufactures of .223 ammo. Accepts M4/M16 magazines.

    IMO I prefer it a lot. Probably it has a lot to do with the bolt carrier which in this case is a solid block of steel supported by two steel rods and articulated by a gas piston and not a gas tube.

    Posted by: memomachine at July 8, 2010 09:45 PM

    Hey Mary
    Depending on what part of L.A. you're in you could probably rent one @
    on 6th/Alameda

    Posted by: DAve at July 9, 2010 09:27 PM