Running a Rifle in a Carbine World

Running a Rifle in a Carbine World

I am the only one who shoots a 20 inch rifle at carbine competitions at my local club. I don’t get funny eyes and no one calls my gun a musket… but I notice. 20 inchers are offered by manufacturers far less than 14.5, 16, and 18 inch platforms.

Do I have any major advantages over the carbine users? Well I haven’t won yet, (third place is my best run) but I don’t feel outgunned. My rifle is, for the most part, just as lightweight as many of the guns on the line. It balances very well thanks to the Vltor A5 stock. It is reliable and accurate. That said, I have some observations:

Observation #1: A Modern Rifle Needs a Tele-Stock

I toyed around with running a telescoping stock on the 20 inch rifle before. Right after the 2004 sunset I purchased a Cav-Manufacturing tele-stock for my carbine and I swapped it out between my rifle build to experiment with the setup. Awkward is a key word here. A front heavy rifle that also looked as awkward as it handled was the end result. My current setup is a bit different. The Vltor A5 is a heavier stock than a conventional carbine stock as it uses a heavier buffer on a longer receiver extension with a modular stock and a weighty rubber butt-pad.

The Vltor A5 really balances the weapon out. Often cited is the need for tele-stocks and armor. Yes indeed, a level IIIA vest with an A1 stock (as my other rifle) is so long as to be almost un-usable. There is no way for me to crane my neck enough to get a good sight picture with that setup. How any shorter Marine uses an M16A4 is beyond me. God Bless Them.

The need for a telescoping stock goes beyond simply armor. It is extremely useful to be able to mount accessories and use the stock to position everything so that I don’t have to crane my neck or adjust myself for the shot. Ideally, the rifle and accessories should adapt to my natural body position. I should not have to slip a disc in my neck to use my ACOG. The tele-stock and the modern picatinny rail allow me to adjust the length of pull to comfort and then bring the ACOG back so eye relief is optimal and occurs naturally.

The A5 stock was my very first rifle upgrade. The ACOG my second. I want to run a modern rifle that adapts to me. The rubber butt-pad makes a big difference as well as the rifle stays put especially over armor. The Vltor A5 Rocks.

Observation #2: A Compensator Works Very Well on a 20

The Cav-Comp I added to my M16A2 clone made me do a double take. No recoil plus no sinus crushing pressure wave? I could not perceive any difference in concision from a shooter’s perspective from an A2 vs a Cav-Comp on a 20. I still got significant reduction in muzzle flip but really no downsides to the setup for my uses. I just cannot tell that there is more noise / concussion. I have no complaints about compensating a 20. I will be adding one to my primary rifle soon.

Observation #3: A Modern Rifle Needs an Optic

This is a no-brainer to most of us. You just can’t beat the advantages a modern optic gives you. My eyes are opened to just how easy it is to get hits with an ACOG. It’s reduces something complex to almost child’s play. I prefer the fixed 4x due to lower weight than variables, but any optic with some magnification will multiply your skill to a certain point. The BDC and the high-resolution are the most important factors here. If you are building a rifle for TEOTWAWKI then a compact optic is a must. I can now see things clearly at 400-500 yards where as before I could not. It is almost too much of an advantage. A fighting rifle with irons simply cannot keep up in a variety of scenarios that a rifle with glass can.

Observation #4: I Don’t Need an Extended Rail

The barrel and stock hand-guard assembly are long enough to shoot with arm extended out of the box. Lots of shooters are moving to this grip on carbines, but to do so they need to free-float or get an extended rail of some type.

Wrapping Up:

I am very happy with my 20 so far. I don’t clear houses or jump out of cars. That said, I understand why many choose a carbine. Plenty of reasons to choose a carbine over a rifle, but I want to learn to be a Rifleman. I want my mid-range skill to further increase and to be a well-rounded shooter. The platform I chose is the best tool for my goals.

I will dissect some other 20 inch rifles used in a military setting next week… maybe? Gonna be a busy week.

Written by lothaen


  1. Recce Rifleman · November 8, 2013

    Excellent post. I have shared via Facebook and Twitter.

    My thoughts exactly, except I run a full A2 stock. And a SS HBAR. And a LaRue quad rail. Still, it fits me, and it shoots very well.

  2. chaz · March 8, 2021

    I’m not afraid of people making fun of my 20″. doing or not doing something because some monkeys who don’t know anything make fun of it, is the stupidest thing in the world. yeah it has happened a few times and my reply is always something along the lines of “have you ever had a 20″ barrel shoved up your ass? no? then you better shut the fuck up”

  3. Ron W · March 9, 2021

    Here I thought I was the only one running a 20″. Mine is an A2, with the HBAR barrel, and the Vltor A5 setup. Length is not the issue when it comes to the handguards, but the butt is since I have short arms. I do have a carbine with an ACOG, and I am pretty close to changing my A2 upper to the A4, just to use the ACOG. Thanks for posting this. Semper Fidelis.

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