Fitting Myself Into the AR

I’m enjoying my experience delving into the AR platform. It’s not that it’s new to me. I have one or two rounds downrange with one AR or another. I think what it comes down to is that for the most part I just haven’t yet owned an AR that I really wanted to get to know that well. Part of it is probably that snobby phase I was that every serious rifleman knows that the .223 isn’t a serious round. The more experience I gain, the more I learn that a lot of biases only exist to provide an ego boost. I don’t really need an ego boost (already topped out), so I would rather figure out what actually works.

It’s an interesting transition from being merely competent with a gun to beginning work to get as good as I possibly can with it. I’m treading a lot of familiar ground, and it reminds me of a few years back when I was working to get good with the Sako 75. It takes a bit of time to fit into the set of controls and ergonomics until most of the inefficiency is worked out.

I find myself with a new appreciation of the layout of the AR now that I have some experience in learning to run rifles efficiently. The safety, for instance, is made so that the thumb ends up right where it should be upon deactivating it, and the motion can be done concurrently with placing the trigger finger on the trigger. It’s one of those things that is so obvious that I never really payed attention to it, but when looking at how to make things happen more quickly, eliminating gun handling “gaps” is the first place I look to whittle down time. It’s nice to be able to get the safety off at the moment the movement to raise the muzzle. Then the slack can be out of the trigger as the sights settle on the target.

One of the very short term tasks I have set out for myself is to get some time with some scopes I have on loan to evaluate them via how well I can perform with them. To get to that point I need to work through some of the familiarization dry fire and live fire to get to my first plateau with the gun.

One of the things I want to test is speed of acquiring and shooting a target at close range. To keep with my primary short term goal of hitting the 4” target from within 200 yards, I’m using a 4” circle as my target. I started out with some dry fire at a 4” circle at 7 yards. I just want to get the gun to come up consistently, then quickly. That’s taking a little bit of work. I figure I’m about a week and a half to two weeks before I hit a plateau on the speed of target acquisition.

I had imagined that I might be able to use some sort of semi-precise reticle holdover to compensate for the mechanical offset on the AR, which at 7 yards will put the point of impact right at the bottom edge or just under the target with a centered point of aim. I found out almost instantly that holding either at the top edge of the target, or a “line of white” hold (just being able to see past the target edge with the point of aim) was much more practical. 7 yards means fast, there just isn’t much time to do anything more than ensure a good sight picture, which is really an all or nothing (hit or miss) proposition. I hope that with a lot more experience I can translate that to a good hit with targets that are other than 4”.

I decided to get some baseline times for the one shot at 7 yards drill. I expected them to be not so great, and I wasn’t disappointed (which is to say that I fulfilled my expectations).

I just freehand drew the ~4” target.

It turned out after the fact that I did a pretty good job of estimating 4”.


1. 1.59
2. 1.31
3. 1.21
4. 1.37 (miss)
5. 1.35
6. 1.42
7. 1.36
8. 1.41
9. 1.04 (miss)
10. 1.26
11. 0.92
12. 1.22
13. 1.21 (miss)
14. 1.45
15. 1.19 (miss)

Mean: 1.29 seconds

Hit Rate: 73%

Mean time for hits only: 1.32 seconds

My magnification at 7 yards was set so that the targets appeared to be the same size through the scope as they were to the naked eye. I need to work out a consistent starting position, something more specific than just “low ready”.

I also figured I should try it at 25, which is the same distance and size of targets that I worked on snapshooting with a bolt action. At 25 yards I set the scope at 4x.


1. 1.62
2. 1.49
3. 1.48 (miss)
4. 1.75
5. 1.64
6. 1.54 (miss)
7. 1.42
8. 1.62
9. 1.46
10. 1.70
11. 2.26
12. 1.54
13. 1.10
14. 1.34
15. 1.51

Mean: 1.56 seconds

Hit Rate: 73%
Mean time for hits only: 1.6 seconds

I was only able to record the two misses noted. A third miss happened at shot 14 or 15, but in the process of recording times I couldn’t remember which one was which. I wasn’t able to see the fourth miss until I approached the target.

The last time I did snapshooting drills for record with the Sako 75 was in April of 2012 (results published in May). As with the second drill here, I used an approximately 4″ target at 25 yards.  My average time then was 1.49 seconds. My hit rate was 56%, and my average time for hits was 1.57 seconds. At the time I had pretty much been shooting the Sako exclusively for almost a year, and I felt like my snapshooting was dialed in pretty well. With the AR I feel like I’m still in the orientation phase and my times are similar with a much higher hit ratio. I was curious how low ready would fare in comparison to a port arms starting position. It seems like it works well.

One thing I noticed when doing these drills is how nice the long handguard of this rifle is for shooting.  The rifle is not heavy by any means, and the barrel profile is not very thick.  Even then, it seemed that because my support hand was farther forward than normal, the mechanical advantage my position had over the recoil was much more significant.  What was nice is that I wasn’t trying at all to keep the muzzle from rising.  It just seemed to stay on target through an exaggerated followthrough.

I was even inspired to break out the metronome for some gradual and measured increases in speed. Nothing gets me more excited than working with a metronome, and I think it will help me get some quick results.

5 thoughts on “Fitting Myself Into the AR

  1. I appreciate your comments on accommodating oneself to the particulars of different rifles. I have spent most of the last year or so learning how to handle and shoot the pseudo Scout as well as I can. I really, really like it. But I decided to break up my practice to include two different rifles to see what the differences might be. The transition to the M1A with the Scout scope setup is not that different other than it is less limber (because of more weight and differing balance), and release of the safety requires more attention in terms of timing when I shoulder it. There are a number of items that differ from both of these rifles and the AR system I have also worked into my practice. I personally find the AR more difficult to ‘snap’ than the other two. Maybe this is due to flaws in my technique. I’ll see as I continue to practice. I am looking forward to your commentary as you work with your AR.

  2. I have to say I’m really enjoying these AR posts. I recently started shooting 3 Gun so they’re right in my wheelhouse.

    I bought a new DPMS 3G2 just a few days ago and am wringing it out now. So far I like it though I’m uncertain just yet about it’s 300 yard capabilities. We shall see.

    I’d love to get your thoughts on the 25 yard zero for the AR platform. I have one on mine and it’s working as far as my limited time and round count on the new gun is concerned but I’m open to change. Shooting 3 Gun my focus is on hits at distance with targets much larger than precision rifle requires but in the end, long range shooting is long range shooting.

    BTW, I’m loving 3 Gun. It’s an absolute blast. What sling am I running you ask? Well, I bought this RS2 from some obsessive guy…. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to buy a couple more!

    • Howdy. Good to see you in here again. I’ll run the numbers on the 25 yard zero tonight. It really depends on what the size of your target is. If what you’re doing is pretty specific as far as target you could figure out what zero would put your maximum ordinate on the top of the target and how far you would be good for until the round would impact the bottom. Setting the initial intersection at 50 yards is pretty good, and usually turns out to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 yards depending on the load.

      I’m using a prototype “tactical” sling that’s not exactly ready for prime time. It works, but not all of it’s pretty. I have some tests to run before I continue.

  3. Thanks RS. I can’t speak to 3GN targets but ours are 10 inch plates out as far as 280 yards. I shot a match today and a lot of the guys were running 50 yard zeroes. I’m generally shooting 55 grain ball from a local manufacturer. It’s supposed to be at least similar in ballistics to M193. Allegedly.

    Put me on the list for a tactical sling when they’re ready. I’ll even send you money 🙂

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