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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Food for thought and potential discussion. Things I have learned and ideas I have, based on my firearms mindset. Your mindset, circumstances, and lessons learned may vary.

My experiences conveyed in my previous posts about night vision and iron sights inspired further thought. I have since made an effort to equip a couple rifles in a way I consider practical, and capable, and figured I'd share my thought process, in hopes of perhaps inspiring others and/or learning from others. Since really making an effort to practice with night vision, I have really come to appreciate it's value. I still believe what I said in my previous post, about a laser-equipped gun being preferred over one with an optic. I think others here who have used it will agree that, once you realize the advantage of night vision, a rifle incompatible with it feels quite incapable. Hindsight is 20-20 and, if I could do it all again, I would invest much heavier in night vision much earlier on. This goes for not only the night vision device itself, but the associated counterparts too: IR lasers, IR lights/illuminators, headgear, etc. Much of the accessories live on the rifle, and that is what I mainly want to talk about here. (Plus a silencer tangent at the end)

I want to address a couple things right away. I understand that some people's eyes don't play well with iron sights. Those folks need not take the approach I propose here, as it is not going to work for them. I also understand that some people simply can't afford night vision equipment. Those folks need not comment about the prohibitive price of it, as everyone is already aware. However, I ask those people to glance at their firearms hobby, and see if that money really isn't there, or if they just chose/choose to put it into the hobby in a different way. We all think about firearms and their applications differently.

There is a gun. A magazine-fed, semi-auto, military-style, with iron sights and the means of attaching other items. A reasonably competent shooter with decent eyesight is behind it. He can hit man-size targets at 300m and closer with relative ease. I say the most logical enhancement he can add to his gun is a weapon-mounted light with a pressure pad. This allows him to identify and engage targets in low-light and no-light situations. There is a video by T-Rex Arms that illustrates this beautifully. You can't hit what you can't see, and it's dark half the time. I know white lights can make the shooter a target but, with the right techniques, I think that problem is mitigated and, until you have the ability to see IR light, it's the only way. Visible lasers and tritium iron sights are other ways to aim in the dark, but they are not a way to see in the dark.

The next logical weapon enhancement is where it gets sticky. I am going to argue that it is head-mounted night vision and a weapon-mounted IR aiming laser. I say this because, knowing the benefits of night vision when used in a fighting rifle context, I'd choose the gun with no optic and an IR laser over the baddest optic in the land any day of the week. Once you've got the NV squared-away, go for the optic. I have yet to really come to any definitive personal conclusion on this aspect. I appreciate red dots, holographics, and low, variable-power optics. I have yet to try the eotech and magnifier combo, but hope to someday. I'd say LVPO all day, if it wasn't for the eye placement requirement. I have shot some practice scenarios that required some awkward shooting positions, and I used every sliver of the FOV of my red dot. It would have been near-impossible if I was limited to the eye box of a LVPO. So, the optics are still a toss-up for me. Hell, even an illuminated fixed-power optic can be a very effective CQB sight when both eyes are kept open. I prefer a front lens cover with that setup, because it helps my brain by eliminating the magnified image, and creates a very usable OEG CQB sight. On top of the white light, IR laser, and optic, I have found a low-power white light to be very useful. MFT makes a very handy light called the torch, which is extremely low profile. It provides just enough light to see your feet in the dark, which is handier than you might think. Another thing I want to mention is the option of using a white/IR light in conjunction with a dedicated IR aiming laser. Your visible and IR illumination are coming form the same small unit, and the stand-alone IR lasers are much more affordable than a PEQ15 or DBAL unit. Don't get me wrong though, a DBAL is definitely preferred, as the IR illumination you get from something like a Surefire Vampire Scout isn't nearly as focused, and the visible laser in the DBAL is a big bonus too.

Finally, I want to address silencers. I am a big fan. The PROs are pretty obvious, so I'll address a few CONs: namely weight, heat, and filth/reliability. The added weight is worth it; if it's that much a of an issue for you, go for titanium. I find that the added weight and length is noticed more in just handling and observing the gun passively, than in actually using the gun. It can actually serve to tame the recoil and muzzle climb too; although it is different to manage during quick lateral target transitions. The heat is an issue that practice can mitigate. They undoubtedly get hotter quicker, and stay hotter longer, than a bare barrel and muzzle. As long as you are aware, it is something that you can work around. The only time it gets real hairy is if you do any kind of practice that has you transitioning to a sidearm or transporting a casualty after a string of fire. These are both certainly potential real-world scenarios, and the heat on that silencer is detrimental in both contexts, but can be adapted to. Filth and the ultimate impact on weapon function is the last point of contention. A silencer makes a gun dirtier, and there's really no true fix. Some guns are affected more than others, and measures can be taken to avoid it, but it'll happen no matter what. We'll cover gas blowback in the face here too. Piston guns don't get quite as dirty as DI guns, but you still get blowback in the face, and filth in the action, coming from the bore. You can limit gas acting on the piston or DI carrier with adjustable gas blocks, but an adjustable gas block doesn't, in most cases, serve to vent more excess gas efficiently, as far as I can tell. The gas that doesn't exit through the silencer will exit into the gun as soon as the fired case is extracted, dirtying up the gun. I have no personal experience with an adjustable AR15 DI carrier, but have a friend who uses two from different manufacturers. According to him, they work well, and may actually serve to more efficiently vent extra gas in a desirable direction than any other system. Another thing worth mentioning is that nonadjustable DI guns, in my experience, seem to be more naturally self-regulating than piston guns. They may be dirty and make your eyes sting, but they don't seem to be as rough on the action as a piston gun without a gas adjustment ability. Piston guns really aren't all they're cracked up to be, when it comes to using a silencer.

Well, this turned into more than I bargained for. I was going to include a second part, comparing the AR15 and 55X rifles in light of my recent practice and whatnot, but that'll be it's own separate thing later. All comments, opinions, and questions are welcome. I hope to provoke thought in the community, and certainly welcome the community's provocations in return. It makes us all better in the long run.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
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This photo can serve as a transition from my previous post, into this one. When it comes to attaching things to a gun, it can get a bit out of hand. The AR15 pictured, though, is arguably almost everything you need, and nothing you don't. Would I rather carry the 553 clone over any kind of distance? You bet! But, modern enemies are likely equipped with weapons more closely resembling the AR15. I am not going to save weight and bulk at the cost of being outgunned. The AR15 could have a smaller light, and perhaps a lighter, smaller optic, but the Specter is pretty damn nice, and arguably worth the weight and bulk, and the only Scout-sized vampire light I have is on a different gun. You can see the MFT Torch I mentioned, on the bottom rail; a very handy little light. The 55X will always be my "favorite gun", but this particular AR15 has always found itself serving as the "go-to" gun for years now. And that leads us into the 55X vs AR15 discussion; one that I have with myself all the time, and which has been had on this forum many times before. That's not to say it's time-wasted to have it again though, as interesting ideas always seem to pop up.

In my recent effort to equip another one or two guns in a similar fashion to the pictured AR15, I have found that the 55X can be problematic. It's not the gun's fault, or specifically something else's, but just an annoying side-effect of the AR15's proliferation. Attachments and their mounts are more-or-less designed with the AR15 in mind. The sights and handguard rails on 55X guns just don't work the same way. This leads to awkward placements and more protruding profiles. The 55X also just ends up heavier. The gun is heavier to begin with, but it isn't too noticeable due to it's handiness. A similar baseline AR15 though, like a 733, when compared to a 553, is feather-light. The 55X has a bit more weight forward of the mag as well, due to the recoil system, which compounds the weight issue when you start clipping things to the handguard. The contour of the stock allows you to use an optic in very low mount on the 55X, which I think is great feature. But you can say goodbye to mounting that laser to the top rail of the handguard, if you want to retain that low optic profile. If you want to use the gas block front sling mount, you can rule out the left rail as well. At the end of the day, if you're like me, you find yourself having to make some compromises for the sake of capability and practicality. Weight is going to be high and the placement and overall profile is going to awkward. So, in the name of the 55X not being put into the dustbin of obsolescence, I am eventually going to make it work. Of course all this is impacted by your budget as well. If I had the cheese to buy a bunch of lights, lasers, mounts, etc, I may be able to find the ones that were ideal for the 55X. I want to touch on the silencer again, in the VS context. When applied to the two guns in the picture, the 553 clone certainly stays cleaner longer. It does, however, require manipulation of the gas system. Something can be said for the simplicity of the AR15, in that it is inherently adaptable to the attachment of a silencer. If you attach a silencer to the 55X without any gas system adjustment, the gun will be quite hard on itself. Hard enough to create undesirable shooting characteristics, and to perhaps cause damage in the long run. I suppose that ultimately the 55X (or other piston guns) is preferred when using a silencer, assuming you have the appropriate gas port setting available. It is also worth mentioning that the AR15's issue of gas blowback through the charging handle gap is apparent in the 55X as well, where the seam between the receiver halves is, just behind the rear sight. This is addressed with different charging handles in the AR15, and I suppose could be addressed with a gasket of sorts in the 55X, but it may not be bad enough to bother.

I want to pit the two against each other on a basic level. Bare-bones; out of the box. I would take a 55X over an AR15 all day, every day. Before I go on, I want to address my purely practical opinion. In a purely practical context, there's no argument that the AR15 is the way to go, because of magazine and parts availability. In some kind of regular-guy real-world disaster or survival scenario, you'd be a fool to take anything but an AR15 with you. In the context of military hardware of one nation VS another, based on performance, I think the 55X is superior. Off the assembly line it has far superior sights, and adjustable gas system, ambidextrous controls, a superior trigger, and a much better fire control group due to the burst reset function. Accuracy is probably very close. I have never had the opportunity to test two like-new guns against each other. I would bet that the Sig barrels are better, but the DI system might make up for any lesser-quality barrel in the AR. Another area that is uncertain is an extreme debris test. The internet has pretty-well proven that the AR is actually far more resistant to debris than the AK. The 55X draws heavily from the AK design, but is a bit more sealed. If I had to bet, I'd bet on the AR beating it. I think the benefits of the other features outweigh any result of a debris test.

So, in the mid 90's, before the advent of contemporary customization and modularity, when you could have a 551, or something like a 733, I think the 551 beats the snot out of it.

I hope to hear other opinions on this subject, as it is one I return to often, due to my intense love for the 55X constantly conflicting with the undeniable practicality of the AR15 in the world we live in now.
 
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