So, you want a carbine . . .


So you want a personal protection carbine . . .

I recommend you build one.  Perhaps not from scratch, but from specifically selected groups of parts.  Youtube is FULL of informative videos on assembling every aspect of the AR-15 platform carbine.   You’ll know your platform intimately.

In this post, while I may include some technical information, it is not a step by step “how to” assembly, but a guiding light on how to decide what you need, and why you need it so you’re not wasting your money.


Before I get into the suggested management plan of your new carbine project – I want to lay a biblical reference on you regarding the passion for one’s choice of armament in a time of need:  This comes from 1 Samuel, chapter 21:8-9.  Hat tip to a good friend for pointing out this little bit of humor in an otherwise perilous situation for David.

Most people are aware of who Kind David was in the Bible.  You may remember he killed Goliath, took Goliath’s sword and cut off his head.  Did you know King David was an apparent connoisseur of weaponry?   Do you know what became of Goliath’s sword?

Well, the sword went to be kept at the temple after Goliath was killed.  Now, fast forward to the time when Saul (Israel’s bad king), wanted David dead.  David is now on the run and needs a way to defend himself and some food to sustain himself . . .   David goes to the temple, tells the Priest he’s on a secret mission and needs some provisions.  All they have for armament is Goliath’s sword, which David was previously “ahem” . . . familiar with.  This sword was apparently something else given David’s response . . .

1 Samuel 21:8-9

“8 David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.”

9 The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.”

David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

Almost like a movie scene, the hero busts into the scene looking for a weapon, only to find the pinnacle of weaponry and exclaim “THERE IS NONE LIKE IT – GIVE. IT. TO. ME.”

Anyway, may you feel that familiar and passionate about your personal protection firearm.—————————————————————-

Humor aside, let’s jump into the meat and potatoes of this post.

Let’s look at a few bigger picture things before jumping into recommendations:


Why are you after a defensive / AR-15 type carbine?  What do you hope to accomplish in buying or better yet, building a carbine?  Most say, “well, I want to protect my family in hard times”.  Good answer.  No more need be said.  If you’re looking to build or buy a novelty gun, stop reading.


In what capacity do you see yourself doing that task?  By yourself?  With a group of neighborhood watch individuals?  In built up areas?  In wide open, rural areas?  The “I don’t know” or “it could be both” are perfectly good answers.  If you analyze the potential situations you could run across in SHTF, it becomes apparent that you need a personal protection carbine that does “many things well”, and only a very few set of things “not the best” – This is known as “general purpose”.

Weapons that are not general purpose for security efforts in SHTF – short little 8.5” pistol AR’s, or 24” accurized bolt action rifles with 50mm optics, or shotguns.  While these tools all have their place, they are specialized for a couple applications, whereas an AR-15 with moderate optics is suited to do many more things.  None of these items are bad, they just have a list of tasks that they are better suited for.  I want a carbine that I can use up close and at distance if I had to in a SHTF / WROL environment.

(by the way – the 3 options I’m going to suggest today all fit the ‘general purpose’ bill)

What’s your budget?: 

  1. I don’t have a pot to piss in.  or  (broke)
  2. I have a pot to piss in, but no hand sanitizer or  (fixed income)
  3. I have a pot, hand sanitizer and can even afford toilet paper.  (I’m a ‘baller’)

You have to be real with yourself about what you can afford because there are viable options for almost every realistic budget.  You do not have to spend $1000 to have a reliable working defensive carbine, but if you have $1200 you can build a battle ready tool.


The good news is this:  If you’re looking to build a general purpose defensive carbine, with my suggestions you can expect 1-2 MOA (1-2” @ 100 yard) groups or better.  The sad reality is that few people have done the requisite training to accomplish that kind of accuracy from normal field shooting positions.  Factor in stress and other environmental factors and a 100 yard shooting engagement in SHTF might as well be 500 yards for a lot of folks.  So the good news right?  Whatever AR you choose to buy, it’s probably not going to be the weakest link in the accuracy department.  It’s good news because it’s far cheaper to spend time doing ‘dry-fire’ once a day to once a week with your carbine and watch your baseline accuracy level increase substantially.

Baseline parts:

Here’s a list of components that are universal to my suggested builds.  So when I tally up the cost and write “baseline parts”, you already know what’s included.

Nickel Boron treated bolt carrier group – $99.99 to $109.00 from Palmetto State Armory

Lower parts Kit (with magpul pistol grip and improved nickel boron trigger)  – $65.00 from Palmetto State Armory

Buffer Tube, Buffer, Standard GI stock, Nut and Retaining Plate – $40.00 from Various online retailers

Anderson Manufacturing Lower Receiver $39 (including transfer fee and tax) – $ 75.00 AIM Surplus

Smith Vortex Flash Hider – $52.00 from Primary Arms

Primary Arms Weapon Mounted Light 200 lumen – $75.00 with mount from Primary Arms

Enhanced Power Buffer Spring (BLUE) – $25.00 from Sprinco

Bravo Company SOPMOD bolt carrier upgrade oring and spring – $5.00

Baseline Parts – Roughly $450.00

  • These parts are not necessarily flashy, but are engineered to improve reliability, eliminate the signature flash of a the AR-15 and work in bad conditions. And . . . I’ve tested all of these parts with lots and lots of rounds down range.


The “I don’t have a pot to piss in” option:

Price Tag: $800.00


So you have your $450.00 in baseline parts right?  Okay, well good news is, you don’t have to worry about batteries or tritium in your optics, because right now . . . you can’t afford any.  That’s okay, I shot iron sights for a long time and still do, but not exclusively.

You can buy an AR-15 upper Melonite treated barrel (for corrosion and wear resistance) with fixed front sight from palmetto state armory for $209.00.  The barrel on this upper is 1X7 twist which shoots M855 accurately all the way up to the 77 grain stuff.  It’ll even shoot the lowly 55 grain M193 somewhat accurately.  4150 steel, and these barrels may or may not even be made by FN.  YOU CANNOT GO WRONG WITH THESE.

All that it needs is a rear sight.  Which you can have a nice Troy Industries fixed rear sight with free shipping on ebay for $52.00.  Cool right?  If you want a sling, I’d recommend the Viking Tactical MK2 for $25.00 to $35.00 shipped.  You have to hunt for it though.

If you want to attach your weapon mounted light – which you should – you’ll need an extra $50.00 for a magpul handguard and pica-tinny mount attachment.

If you’re going to pick up a carbine length gas system instead of a mid-length, make sure you pick up an H2 or H3 buffer.  It’s a reliability thing.  Just do it.

All in all you’re looking at $800.00 for a no frills, battle carbine that you can trust your life to.  Everything I’ve suggested has its purpose for reliability under harsh conditions.  #theresnothingwrongwithironsights #ironsights  I can promise you though, if you go to buy an AR at one of the big name stores, it will not have the reliability upgrades and items this suggested build does for $800.00.   Of course you can cheap out and use an A2 Flash hider and save a few bucks on a phosphate bolt carrier group and use the standard strength buffer tube spring, etc etc and get the cost down, it’s up to you.


The “I have a pot to piss in but no hand sanitizer” option:

Price Tag:  $1250.00

Good news is this option allows you to afford a battle ready carbine and an Aimpoint CompM4!  WHAT?!?!? How can you afford that carbine AND a CompM4!?!?  You can routinely snag a beautiful CompM4 (with 8 year battery life on setting 12 of 16) for $425.00, maybe even $400.00 on ebay.  You have to know what you’re looking at, but if the glass is clear, they are tough as tanks, don’t let a few scratches on the housing dissuade you.

SheepDog-Gear on ebay has good deals and is great with customer service.

You’ll need a fold down rear sight instead of the fixed one in the suggested “I don’t have a pot to piss in” option.  For $70.00 from primary arms, you can snag a Troy fold down rear sight when they go on sale.  So that increases your original bill of materials by $20.00.  If you like the MATech USGI you can pick those up for $40 to $50 on ebay, either keeping your bill of materials the same with the rear sight or improving on the cost savings.

Why the red dot?  Well, it’s a 2” dot at 100 yards.  Passed 50 yards it’s parallax free, which means the red dot does not have to be centered in the housing when you fire the round in order to hit what your aiming at.  Essentially, no matter the position of the red dot in the housing, whatever it covers in your sight picture when the round is fired is what it will hit.  While it won’t completely correct for poor shooting fundamentals, it will help novice shooters in hard times who have a crappy cheek weld hit what they’re aiming at.

I would pass on all the other red dots “out there”.  Primary arms makes an Advanced Micro-Dot that’s pretty tough, but again, it’s no Aimpoint.


The “I have a pot to piss in AND toilet paper and hand sanitizer” Woo Hoo! Option: 

Price Tag:  $1500 to $1600

“If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up” . . .


Free Floating barrel uppers can be had for $299 to $399.  This allows you to put a variable optic on your AR, with fold down front and rear sights.  Variable optics in 1X4 or 1X6 power really do the “general purpose” thing.  1X lends itself to speed in close range situations and 4-6X allows you to have better shot placement.  Vortex, Burris, Leupold, Millet are just a few brands out there that make a tough but affordable 30mm AR optic.  I like the Vortex “strike eagle”.  Your mileage may vary.

American Defense makes an excellent and affordable “Recon” mount for about $169.99 shipped.  If you were to go with the 1×6 Vortex Strike Eagle and American defense mount, you’re looking at $470.00 out the door.

You’ll need to add a front fold down sight for your free floating flat rail AR upper.  Again, you can find the Troy Industries version for about $70.00.

What’s nice is that this is set up for not only personal defense in SHTF but it works as a wonderful coyote hunting rifle, given proper ammo selection.


Bottom Line:

While you can spend $3000 or more on an AR.  It’s not necessary.  What is necessary?  Inherent accuracy.  Reliability.  Practice.  Lots of practice, shooting from many different field expedient positions.  I’ve given a couple AR build options.  Iron sights can be used up close and out to intermediate ranges with practice.  So can 2 MOA red dots.  So can variable optics.  Do you need an ACOG?  Nope.  Are they great pieces?  They sure are.

Stay away from crap NC-Star and Air-soft quality “upgrades”.  They are actually “downgrades” at best and liabilities more accurately.

These aren’t all the options out in the “parts saturated AR market”.  But hopefully it’s become obvious that $800 to $1600 will get you a very reliable defensive carbine if you are savvy.  Use that extra money to invest in practice ammo.

Thanks for stopping by,







6 thoughts on “So, you want a carbine . . .

  1. It gets a little spendy when you have two sons and a wife and everybody should have back up rifle, right! Plus pistols, holsters and ammo. Good thing is you can get a volume discount and a Christmas card from your gun dealer.



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