T Nation

Best Platform (Gun Talk)


Alright, this was spurred by another thread, and since we need to up the manliness in the T-Nation GAL section, this should do.

I'd like to discuss/debate the various platforms available for firearms. Which platform is optimum for the following: reliability, useability, accuracy, disassembly, cleaning, and addons. Which caliber is optimum for home defense, plinking, the zombie apocalypse, or accurate long distance shooting (500 yds+ - as a starting point, we can go beyond 1000 yds if you'd like).

This will be to primarily discuss rifles, ie at this point not shotguns or handguns, so do please try to stay on topic. At whatever point rifles are exhausted in discussion, we can swap to a different firearm.

I'd like to purchase a rifle that will be fun to use for plinking/target shooting, but also can be used for the zombie apocalypse or if we ever get invaded by a foreign power. Which platform would be best for a gun enthusiast that (for now)only wants 1 non-hunting rifle.

Also feel free to discuss what might be a good platform for a smaller framed, more timid shooter - see female.

Go go. I hope this will be a good one.



Female shooter: mini-minigun?


Let's refine it to say, legal firearms, semi-automatic and if it requires a Class III or some other special stamp, please offer that information as well.

From my reading, many recommend an AR-15 type platform for a girl not comfortable with extreme noise or recoil that would accompany like an AK. AR's are easier for follow-up shots and overall aren't quite as intimidating.


Okay here we go.

Having decided to purchase a rifle, we must decide whether it will be used primarily at close to mid-ranges, or mid-to-long ranges. For the sake of argument, let us call "close" fifty meters and under, "mid" fifty to 300 meters, and "long" everything beyond that.

Any serious shooting out beyond 500 meters puts the 5.56 cartridge out of the game, as well as the 7.62x39. The Russian cartridge because the trajectory is such that you have to aim the damn thing ten feet above the target's head in order to have a prayer of hitting anything, and the 5.56 because you might hit something out beyond 500 meters, but that little .22 caliber bullet will have expended so much of its energy that you won't do your target much damage.

Do you want to hunt big game with this rifle? Then definitely forget about the two assault rifle calibers. They might be fine for coyotes or prairie dogs or feral hogs at close range, but not for mule deer or black bear or elk.

So. A serious rifle, in a serious, that is to say, a full-sized caliber. This means 7.62x51, .303 British, 7.92 Mauser, 7.5 Swiss, 7.62x54 Russian, or good old .30-06.

You will instantly notice (or at least you should) that these are all military calibers. The reason being that sporting rifles simply are not rugged enough for what you probably want to use them for. Plus ammunition for military rifles, while it has been getting more expensive, is still more easily purchased in bulk at a discount. Which is good because you will be practicing a LOT.

Now, your choices at this point are between bolt-action rifles (Springfield, Enfield, Mauser, Mannlicher) and semi-automatic rifles, either clip-fed (M1 Garand) or magazine-fed (lots of choices).

First, let me say that the advantage of the high-capacity semi-automatic rifle diminishes as the target gets farther away. If you are regularly engaging targets at 1000 meters, then you would forget about automatic rifles altogether. But you want this to be a general-purpose weapon, so we have to take multiple targets at close range into account.

A good man with a bolt action can be as deadly at mid-range as a good man with an automatic. Better, even, if ammunition is low, because with a bolt action it isn't as quick and easy to waste ammunition. But if you anticipate close-range action, a box-magazine semi-automatic rifle is probably what you want.

So let me go down the list of the most popular choices.

Fabrique Nationale FAL
Heckler & Koch HK91
Armalite AR-10
Springfield Armory M1A

Let's first talk about the ones that didn't make the list:

The Kalashnikov is a good rifle for its role, that is a cheaply built, easily maintained hunk of iron that will keep shooting until Doomsday as long as you keep feeding it ammunition and give it an occasional squirt of grease and shake out the mud. However, it is of questionable utility at long ranges, and ergonomically it is a nightmare.

The AR-15/M16/M4 platform is not a bad design, and it has a long (if not entirely spotless) military record. It's not as rugged as the Kalashnikov, nor will it shoot for as long a time under adverse conditions without catastrophic malfunction as the AK. Its biggest drawback is the inadequate caliber.

The M1 Garand is the rifle that won the Second World War (not really. Springfields, Enfields and Mosin-Nagants played a much bigger role), and the big, robust 30-06 is a very serious cartridge. But it's a long, heavy, ungainly rifle, and you can only carry eight rounds before you have to reload. Plenty of Japanese, German, Korean and Chinese soldiers were killed at short range by it, but this does not mean it is a good short-range weapon.

I am going to eat, then post what I like and dislike about the "big four" and their clones and cousins.


Good start Varq! To answer your questions initially, I have a hunting rifle (.270) for shooting long range. I haven't even used it, still sitting in the box, and a variable range scope. I still need to buy the steel rings and rest, found my preferred supplier just haven't done it yet (going to Japan and living in "brush" type woods for hunting in PA, I haven't had reason to finish the project). That would serve as my long range 500 yds+.

I think in the case of a semi-automatic rifle, I'm looking for a mid-range firearm, no further than 300 yds and in. Obviously proficient at that range and capable to be used as you get in shorter range. I do have shotguns for the 50 yds and in grouping, and a couple handguns for 20 yds and in. Though, truth be told, you can't carry everything all the time.

The availability of ammunition and cost is always important. Especially for what would most likely be a "fun gun." Not one for hunting and unless we have a civil uprising with roving gangs or zombie apocalypse (both unlikely) the purpose will be purely for enjoyment. Another reason I paused on buying a new firearm, is the ridiculous cost of ammo right now due to all of the "scares." I'm hoping things calm down before I return home so I can buy bulk and not pay stupid upcharges - I probably just wouldn't buy.

I don't know enough about the difference between clip-fed and magazine-fed, but I like the longer firing time before needing to reload. Which one is less likely to jam? Which is easier to maintain?

I've heard good things about the AR, obviously, but much debate over brand. Colt AR's are said to be over-priced because they are the "first AR platform", Bushmaster's claimed to be low quality. I've heard mixed about Armalite - over-priced by some and good by others. There are some other manufacturer's with positive reputations but its been a while since I did some reading.

Some familiarity with the M1A, not for the other three. Isn't the M1A just a heavier "out-dated" version of the AR - like previous generation not exactly the same platform?


A .308 would fit the bill nicely, long range, accurate, and ammo can be purchased in large quantities and at a much cheaper price than lesser knows calibers but the recoil might be a little much for her. Just remember that long range flat shooting rifles and heavy recoil tend to go together. For a female who cant take as much recoil a .223 would be perfect. The ammo can be purchased very cheap, lethal to close to 500 yards, fun to shoot and comes in most factory produced AR's.


No M14?


What I like best about the FN-FAL:
If the weapon of the "Dark Side" over the half century after the Second World War was the AK-47, then the weapon of the "Light Side" is the FAL. It has served longer, better, and in worse conditions, than any other military rifle that isn't an AK. I like the FAL for its ergonomics (the charging handle is on the correct side for a right-handed shooter), its balance, and especially its adhjustible gas system. You can actually select how much of the recoil gases will be allowed in the tube, so that if the rifle is dirty, or you're firing a heavy hunting load, or a light plinking load, or you get stuck with a case of crappy underpowered Pakistani ammo, the rifle will still function. This would be good for your girlfriend, in that you could train her with lighter-recoiling, quieter loads, then work her up to the full-powered loads.

What sucks about the FN-FAL:
Not a whole lot. If the weight and length bothers you, get the carbine with a 16-18 inch barrel. This length, by the way, is probably better than the 20-22 inch barrels found on most military rifles. Accuracy won't suffer, and you won't lose much in the way of velocity and energy. Parts are cheap, as are military magazines. One drawback is the fact that real Fabrique Nationale rifles are hard to find. You can get a very good copy from DSA Arms (the one to get is the SA-58 carbine or Para carbine if you like the folding stock) for around 1400 to 1500 bucks.


I'm not going to contribute to this thread but here's a pic of my .308 M700. I love this gun. Everyone should own a bolt action rifle and learn how to shoot it.


The M1A is the civilian version of the M14. Yes, I know, Polytech and Norinco and Fulton Armory and Smith Armory all call their products "M14", but for the OP's use and (assumed) price range, the Springfield M1A is probably the way to go.


You are correct, I'm trying to stay away from a "full military" type rifle - I believe most are automatic or adjusted to be semi only. Assume a $2k price range and under for giggles worth, that should give a large number of options.


Ok, read up on it. That's what I get for having spent 13 years in a state where you need a permit to even look at a BB gun...


One thing that I will add is that if you are getting a rifle, an optic and mounts will add significant cost. This is not a place to skimp either if you are going to use it as DMR and potentially shoot at distance.


Correct theuofh. My 270 Win is a Savage and I think I spent $800 on the rifle. I spent about the same on the variable magnification scope. I 100% agree. It would be silly to spend $2k on a gun and $100 on the optics. Like buying a Ferrari and using the barebones filter and oil.


If you're not looking for a ''Military'' type weapon Quasi, look into a ''Henry'',
Abraham Lincoln owned one....heh...I don't own one of these, yet.


Okay, so you've got the long range shooting and hunting rifle covered. The 270 is a fine cartridge, ballistically equivalent to a 7.62 ...or at least, close enough that your target won't know the difference.

Well then you may lean more toward the AR or AK platforms, except that whereas any of the four 7.62 battle carbines I listed will do everything an AK or AR will do at close range (better, even, if you choose your ammunition well), the AR and AK will not perform as well if you ever need to shoot beyond 300 meters. You may never have to...just like you may never need you seat belt in your car. But if you ever need it, you REALLY need it. Also, especially at close range, the 7.62 can punch right through what would be adequate cover for a 5.56. You can kill a horse with one round of 7.62, or disable a truck. Don't try that with your AR-15.

Take the bitter pill firmly in your teeth, lad, and swallow. Ammunition price increases and ammunition shortages will likely be the status quo for a while. It's like gold and silver. The question is not can you afford to acquire some. The question is can you afford not to. If you simply don't have the budget to feed a 7.62 then you might have to go to one of the cheaper calibers, although if you don't mind crappy steel cased Russian ammunition, the FAL and the HK91 both handle it pretty well (M1A and AR-10? Depends on the rifle. Your mileage may vary.

The M1 Garand is the only clip-fed semi-automatic rifle worth talking about. It's loaded from the top, with 8-round metal clips. A mechanism inside the rifle pushes the cartridges into position to be loaded into the chamber. After the last shot the clip ejects as well with a "clang" that you may remember hearing in Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. Functionally, it is the same rifle as the M14 that replaced it, except that the M14 has a shorter barrel, fiberglass hand guard, and flash hider, plus it was magazine-fed and was capable of fully-automatic fire.

You'll hear all sorts of opinions about the different AR receiver brands (Colt is not the originator of the platform, by the way: Armalite is. "AR" stands for "Armalite Rifle"). The AR platform isn't my favorite, so I don't have as strong opinions about it as about other platforms, but one thing you should be aware of is the difference between the gas piston and direct impingement systems. Personally, having had to clean and maintain a direct-impingement M16 (it's a bitch) my vote is for gas piston. Also that little macaroni-looking gas tube on the top of the direct impingement ARs, right underneath that flimsy hand guard just waiting to get bent and turn the rifle into a straight-pull bolt action...

But I digress. I only ever used an 80s M16A1 of Colt manufacture, and I guess I managed to use it well enough to get an expert badge, but it's not my favoritest gun ever.

Completely different platform. The M1A is the civilian version of the M14, which was the modernized version of the M1 Garand. If by outdated you mean obsolete, not by a long shot.

No pun intended.


After you list your thought s on the rifles you listed, Varqanir, do you have any insight on the Ruger Mini-14's?

I liked the Rugers I had back in the 70's.

The Mini-30 is a Mini-14 in 7.62 x 39 mm

For about $1000 list


I must clarify on the "non-military" firearm. I'm happy to have a platform similar, because for obvious reasons they are designed to look the way they do for useability. What I am trying to avoid is purchasing a military grade weapon (see automatic) that has been adjusted to semi-auto. I think even with the adjustment, with the capability to go back to auto (if you know how) that draws attention I don't want. I also don't ever see the need for an automatic weapon - to me that's a waste of ammo - and that's highly likely because I don't plan to ever be in a combat setting (though I thought most recommend not going beyond the 3-shot option).

So the AR platform is the 5.56 NATO, correct? Those are the smaller caliber options compared to the FN-FAL and HK, which are what caliber (the 7.62 perhaps)?

What is the recoil like on them. I know the smaller caliber usually has less recoil, but a lot also depends on the gun design. I liked your blurb about the adjustability on the FN-FAL for easing someone into the "full monty." I assume that is your firearm of choice based on your review :). How does it compare to an AR or HK? What are the cleaning requirement, ie how high maintenance is it (I've been told the AR is pretty high and touchy)? How "intuitive" is the gun for disassembly? What is the availability of parts for it and ammo? Can I take it to a typical gunsmith and not get strange looks and they'll be comfortable to work with it?

Varq, I believe you are located in California - I know you said West Coast at some point. How are you able to be a firearm's enthusiast in the state with the greatest zeal for banning firearms (or so Internet reading tells me)?


I'd go with the AR platform. How often are going to shoot 500-1,000 yards for something other than just having fun? Probably never. Stopping power isn't that big of an issue for you. You can get 5.56 pretty cheap too, it'd be easier on your pockets when it comes to target shooting.


Last year I laid out the money for a .308 Super VEPR and am very pleased with it. The VEPR is a sporterized RPK which is essentially an AK beefed up to handle sustained full auto fire. Of course I don't need sustained full auto fire, but I figure the .308 is a higher powered round than the 7.62x39 the AK was originally designed for, so the thicker metal should be a good thing.

The Super VEPR came with a lovely wood stock and a quick release scope mount. I like the russkie scope mount as it lets you use the iron sights while you have the scope mounted. I have yet to plunk down the dollars on a decent scope for it. Here's my run down:

Price: I got mine fore a little over $900 shipped and everything.

Accuracy: As ammo has been scarce I've only fired about 150 rounds playing with it off hand, but can consistently put an entire magazine into a paper plate at 100 yards (with cheap ammo), which is about as good as I can shoot anything. Once I get a scope and a bench rest I'll see how accurate it really is. People online claim anywhere from 2-3 MOA down to sub 1.

Reliability: It's an AK. I could show a chimp of below average intelligence how to take it apart and clean it in about a minute. In fact he could probably figure it out on his own while I was out taking a leak. I could hammer out replacement parts with a forge, anvil and file.

Accesories: This is the big draw back. There are a ton of after market accessories to make your AK look as tacti-cool as you could want. However, these don't fit on my VEPR. But I'm not interested in tacti-cool. The new ship load of standard VEPRs have been modified to accept standard AK after-market accessories.

Magazines: The russkies only make 5 and 10 round magazines, and the factory plastic 10 rounders are fantastic, but run about $30 bucks each. If you want 20 rounders there's a guy in Florida who makes them in his metal fab shop and these are also fantastic, but they are relatively expensive at $45 dollars each plus shippling and are often sold out. There are some plastic American made 20-rounders that I hear suck, and cost $25-$30 each. I haven't tried them as that is too much fore me to spend on a magazine of questionable reliability.

I was torn between this platform, and a springfield M1A, and the springfield definitely had the advantage when it comes to magazines. You can still get good surplus m14 magazines for about $10-$15 bucks each. There have been attempts to modify the Saiga and Vepr rifles to take M14 and G3 mags ($5 bucks each!), but even expert gunsmiths have had trouble pulling that trick off, so that's something I won't tackle. I like the 10 round magazines anyway. The odds are very very small that me and my rifle will ever see combat. If I do I've got several 20 rounders, but they add weight to an already heavy weapons system. 10 rounds would be plenty for any medium range engagement, and they don't interfere with the rifle's natural balance like that big 20 rounder does.