How to Customize Your AR

The Tactical Rifleman crew often gets asked “What are the stats on your rifle?” or “What is your rifle setup?”; as if we prefer certain brands over others. Usually we do not like to recommend one brand over another, as it really doesn’t matter to us. We, first and foremost, want a weapon that is RELIABLE. It has to go BANG every time we pull the trigger. A jammed gun in a competition is the difference between going to the prize table first or twentieth. However, in a two-way gun fight, it can mean the difference between life and death. You are competing with your life.

That said, if we don’t share the statistics and the “Why” behind them, then we are just leaving it up to the Internet Commandoes to put words in our mouths and that isn’t fair to our viewers. So, I asked Jason, our resident SEAL recently retired from the Navy, to do a video about his personal owned Rifle and while he set it up the way he did. While he covers many of the items in the video, I wanted to pen a few words to cover his rifle in more detail. 

First, Jason built this custom gun off of a DPMS Lower. Now, that statement alone makes the Internet Ninjas lose their minds and results in literally hundreds of negative comments bashing Jason for using DPMS and not running a high-quality gun like Daniel Defense or JP Enterprise. So, why did Jason do it? Well, Jason was an enlisted guy in the Navy making a minimal amount of money, while supporting a family. He did not work on Wall Street or any other cush job, making tons of money. He had great weapons at work in the SEAL teams. The DPMS was affordable at the time of the purchase and besides, he was going to customize it anyways. Again, the focus is on RELIABLITY.

The rifle has a 14.5 inch Barrel with a pinned Dead Air muzzle brake. This gives the rifle a legal length of over 16 inches, while still allowing Jason a shorter overall length. The Brake has to be pinned to be legal. If it can be removed, that it is not considered “part of the barrel” by the ATF, and is not included in the measurement.

You’ll note that it has a Daniel Defense DDM4 free floating rail to accommodate the pinned A-frame style front sight. Jason mentions in the video that, at the time of purchase, Daniel Defense was the only brand manufacturing this longer hand guard. There are dozens of comments saying that he is wrong, and that other companies also make this longer hand guard. Again, at the time Jason was building this gun, Daniel Defense was the only brand that Jason was aware of.  So, why this rail? Jason wanted the longer rail to allow him to have more real estate to slide his support hand further out without grabbing the bare barrel.

Jason used to run a Magpul angled fore grip “AFG” to pull the gun into him when shooting. However, Jason has recently been running the new Ryker Grip, and is very happy with it. So much so, that he also just recently did a separate video about just the Ryker Grip. So like it, some don’t. If you are a “hater,” don’t bust Jason’s balls for being willing to give something new a try. That’s how progress is made.

On the left side of the lower receiver, Jason has replaced the small stock bolt release with a much larger Wilson Combat tactical bolt release. Some would say that it is ugly, but Jason had issues in his military past where releasing the smaller bolt release was hampered by neoprene dive suit gloves and other bulky clothing. So, Jason said he didn’t want to deal with that issue with his own weapon and he went large to fix it.

You’ll notice he also added a Midwest Industries QD sling adapter. In the military, operators are not supposed to modify their weapons past a certain level. An example is that they are not allowed to remove the buffer tube.  However, this Midwest Industries QD sling adaptor can be put on at the “operator level” to have a QD point at the base of the buffer tube, so your sling does not change its length when you move your stock.  This was filed down on the one side to not interfere with his firing hand while utilizing the firearm or using the selector switch for a right handed shooter. So, it was a good concept, but not exactly what Jason wanted. Instead of pitching it, Jason filed it down. That is a common theme with SOF guys. We have no problem taking a hammer or Dremel Tool to any piece of kit that needs modification.

The collapsible stock is a CAA cheek rest saddle. It also has storage for AA and 123 batteries. We use earplugs in the storage tubes to take up the extra room so the batteries don’t rattle. 

The Trigger is sexy, but not too light. It’s an old custom trigger. When I asked him the brand, he said he couldn’t remember. Pete Jones did the trigger work for Jason. Maybe Pete can chime in. 

The weapon light is a Surefire M952V LED weapon light, with white/IR lens. This is a pricey light. However, SOF units are loyal to Surefire, because their products have served us reliably for decades. What we really like about this light is the new Bezel that allows you to quickly switch from visible white light to invisible IR light, with a simple twist of the bezel ring. Great feature when you are running Night Vision Goggles.

Jason was always a fan of the old M16A2 carrying handle, because it had a micro-adjustable rear sight for taking shots out to 600 meters. So, when his unit started running red dot sights, he still wanted that rear sight as a backup. So, as you can easily see in the video, he made his own Rear sight. It is a cut down carry handle. He literally used a hack saw and then cleaned it with a file. This allows him to still use his red dot sight (EOTech or Aimpoint) and co-witness with his iron sights.  The iron sights can still be used if the red dot fails (damage or batteries) and also can adjust rear sight for elevation if needed for longer precision shots. 

In this video Jason is running his old M-68 Aimpoint red dot sight. Aimpoints were the first company to make red dot sights, and still put out a great product. Jason is currently testing out several other weapon sights, including a sexy little Vortex. So, be looking for that video in the near future.

Lastly, the only “Gucci” swag on Jason’s rifle is a Custom Gun Rail (CGR) Cover, with a sexy ass SEAL Trident engraved on it. It was a gift to Jason. He earned it. 

So, that’s the statistics of Jason’s rifle. I hope we answered any of the questions that our viewers might have. Again, it has to be a RELIABLE weapon. Once you have a reliable weapon, the next step is learning how to use it. If you are interested in learning how to master your weapon, or learn other Man Skills, just going to and sign up for a class. 

Thanks for watching.

Strength & Honor, TR

For more go to and Follow TR on Twitter-

How to Set Up Your AR | AR Setup and AR Accessories

If you have ever gone to a major gun show, NRA show, or to the huge SHOT Show; then you have seen literally hundreds of booths by companies all claiming to have the “Latest and Greatest” weapons and accessories for you to spend your hard-earned money on. Every one of those booths has something “New” and “Better” than the same thing that they were selling last year. Don’t get me wrong; every company out there has to come up with some “new” product every show. So, basically, we have hundreds of “new” items there that looked just like last year’s “new” items. 

My point: New doesn’t mean better. Stick to gear that has a proven track record. Keep it simple. Keep it light. Keep it the best quality that you can afford.

VIDEO: Want to know the best way to set up your AR? You don’t have to upgrade to this year’s “latest and greatest.” I had it taught to me, year’s back, that “you don’t need a new gun until you can out-shoot the one in your hands.” Do you really need a gun that’s capable of .25 MOA groups when you (as a shooter) are only capable of shooting 2 MOA groups? Do you really need this year’s “fastest Shotgun” when you drop half the shotgun shells while loading on the move in a 3-gun competition? Master what you have. When you can outperform your gear; then you upgrade. 

The hot weapon out right now is the “AR” family of rifles. Again, there are hundreds of choices. So, which should I pick? I appreciate you asking. I spent over 26 years in the military, most of that in SOF units, behind a “AR style” M-16 or M-4 Carbine. I had the honor of serving in units that had the latitude to pick and choose accessories (so long as they were MilSpec) and got to try most optics and accessories under the sun. Some are good and some are great; others, not so much.

Which AR to Buy

Let’s start with what rifle to buy.  You don’t have to own one of everything. I would rather own one type of weapon system and shoot thousands of rounds through it, than own twenty different types of weapons and only shoot a few hundred rounds through each type. Where’s the muscle memory or good shooting habits? Which one would be more proficient with the gun in their hand? So, for me; let’s get an AR. 

Quality of the AR

Now, all ARs are not created Equal. That said, you don’t have to buy the most expensive rifle either. The most important factor for me is that the rifle has got to be reliable. It has to go “Bang” everytime I pull the trigger. In the middle of a shooting competition, if your rifle jams, that could be the difference with 10th and 50th place; not that big a deal. However, in combat, you have got to win that fight. If your rifle screws up in the middle of a room, the other guy is not going to just stand there while you try to fix it, and he is not going to miss from only 10 feet away. You came in second place, because you skimped on reliability; good job. Your family members will be proud of you for saving them that hundred dollars, but would rather have you around than a less than ideal rifle.

AR Accuracy 

Second, I want a rifle capable of delivering accurate shots. This is important to me because I have a military sniper’s background, and I teach Precision Rifle courses to LE/Military and civilians alike. I also live on 63 acres of rolling hills. Just ask the deer eating apples in my orchard how accurate my weapons are. We can discuss it while we eat venison burgers. If you live in a small apartment, then long-range accuracy isn’t that important. 

AR Optics 

Third, is you have to be able to hit where you are aiming. That means you need Iron Sights and/or an optic like a reddot scope. You might notice I said “Iron Sights” before I mentioned optics. That is because I believe all new shooters should first master Iron Sights and also that Iron Sights won’t run out of batteries, like some optics will. That said, there is a reason all SOF units run optics on their rifles. They are a great force multiplier; helping to deliver faster, more accurate shots, under stress when it really matters. So, master the Irons; but then invest in a good MilSpec Optic. I’m often asked which brand I recommend… again, get MilSpec and buy the best optic you can afford.

Lights for an AR

Fourth, you need a visible light on your rifle. Why? Well, for my old unit, 90% of our raids and combat ops were during hours of limited visibility. One op that was during the day, was on the second floor of a 400-room apartment building which had the power cut off a month earlier. Even during the day, it was dark as spades in there. You have to be able to identify is it a “Threat, not a Threat, or a Threat that warrants Deadly Force.” So, a good visible weapon light is high on my list. It has to be something that can handle the blast from the muzzle. Again, there are lots of great brands out there, like Surefire and Streamlight. I recommend you get one that has an “instant on” feature; don’t leave it turned on, as it gives away your position. 

Other AR Accessories 

That’s it. I add a sling, as I have trained to transition to my pistol, if my rifle goes down. However, you’ll notice that I haven’t listed all the other dozens of items that we often see people adding to their guns, just because they look “Cool” on TV. If your mission requires it, like IR illuminators or Suppressors, then add it; but understand that every ounce you add is one more ounce that is going to slow down your presentation during a gunfight. Ounces add up to pounds; and pounds add up to slower response times. 

What about the next gun show?  You don’t have to upgrade to this year’s “latest and greatest.” I had it taught to me, year’s back, that “you don’t need a new gun until you can out-shoot the one in your hands.” Do you really need a gun that’s capable of .25 MOA groups when you (as a shooter) are only capable of shooting 2 MOA groups? Do you really need this year’s “fastest Shotgun” when you drop half the shotgun shells while loading on the move in a 3-gun competition? Master what you have. When you can outperform your gear; then you upgrade. 

So, again, keep it simple. Look at your mission; what do you actually want to use your AR rifle for? Then, spend your hard-earned cash on the best quality gear you can afford, that supports what you are actually going to use it for. You can buy all the bells and whistles and make yourself a ten pound rifle that looks great sitting on the shelf. Or, you can be that guy with the slick lightweight blaster, fast as hell, outshooting everyone else on the range.  Your choice. 

I hope you enjoyed the video. We put out a new Tactical Rifleman video every Friday. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time.

Strength & Honor, TR.

For more go to and Follow TR on Twitter-