Some gun enthusiasts are drawn to shotguns, some like precision rifles; personally I am drawn to pistols. However, as much as I like pistols, they are not always the appropriate tool for the job at hand, so I personally try to always keep a long gun of some type in the trunk of my car. What type of firearm I keep back there depends on the situation I may be called to deal with. Sometimes it’s a shotgun, sometimes it’s a M6 scout, but mostly I keep a simple DPMS AR-15 Carbine tucked away “just in case”.
My “go-to” rifle is a 16 inch barreled AR for several reasons. It’s small enough to leave me room in my trunk for my go-bags and other assorted gear. It is relatively light weight, familiar to me (a symptom of my military service), it is a common caliber that’s easy to find rounds for and it’s easy for me to keep a lot of rounds nearby in 30-round magazines.
The problem I see is this: when a lot of gun guys start thinking about tactical carbines, there is a temptation to stray into tacti-cool and start hanging a lot of flashy gear on the rifle with the hopes of making it better by making it “all inclusive”. Personally I am a minimalist. I keep my firearm as simple as possible and as close to stock as possible and only upgrade or change from the designer’s specifications to solve clear and specific problems. Just like my blue jeans, I don’t need people to marvel over the cost or the name of the designer, but I insist on them fitting well and standing up to all the abuse I heap on them.
Some of this spec fervor is just part and parcel with the marketing of the genre. One thing about the platform is that there is no shortage of suppliers to choose from, costs vary widely as does quality and the market for accessories is titanic. I choose DPMS, as they are well known and of good quality, but are not the most expensive brand out there. I even saved some more money on my purchase by buying the stripped component parts and building the rifle myself. This is a simple process with plenty of well documented guides available. If you go this route I would advise sticking with Mil-Spec parts, as they are generally interchangeable and are known to be of better quality.
For my rifle, and how I visualize using it, I’ve kept everything basic. I haven’t even added optics though I’ll be the first to admit, a good quality holographic or low magnification scope can add a lot of capability to a carbine. However, a good quality scope that will hold its zero in the tumultuous, temperature oscillating environment of a car trunk costs almost as much as I have invested in the rifle and cheaper sights have always been a disappointment to me. Until I have unlimited funds, the scale will always tip in favor of more ammunition to practice with over a $500 reflex sight.
And do not take my prejudice against needless accessories to mean I, myself, won’t modify my firearm if I identify a specific need that demands attention. Case in point: in the scenarios I’ve identified where a carbine may come in handy (i.e. a bump in the night home invasion), I doubt I’d have enough time to don a chest harness loaded down with additional magazines. I wanted a means of carrying additional magazines on the gun. After researching the options, I decided on a RASE stock. This stock looks like a military A2 buttstock with a cutout on the bottom edge. A 30 round magazine fits into the recess and is held in place by a spring loaded lever. This allows me to carry at least 60 rounds on the gun all of the time.
Your mileage may vary, as we all have different budgets, needs, and desires. Personally, I need a carbine that can stand up to hard use and will fire as accurately as I am capable of firing every time I pull the trigger. If I wanted a race gun for competition, or a BBQ gun to impress my friends, I would take those needs into account and build or buy another AR, but for me, my simple AR with the addition of the aftermarket RASE stock fits my needs perfectly.