Three Things to do With That A2

Three Things to do With That A2

So you have a A2 sitting around the safe do you? Doesn’t get much sunlight these days huh? I know what you mean. Things have gotten smaller, lighter, more technologically advanced. Time has moved on, and the AR15 has evolved well past the A2 configuration in the last 10 years.  That A2 is a classic rifle and you don’t want to break it up… but at the same time she isn’t your daily driver anymore.

So what do you do with it?


This A2 is a soft shooting sewing machine.


Your A2 was designed to be the ultimate known distance qualification gun. When the Marines got a hold of the M16A1, they must have thought it was a sorry excuse for a rifleman’s weapon… and they upgraded everything for the target range. The M16A1 was upgraded with a drum adjustable rear sight and a 1/2 minute finger adjustable windage knob. The barrel profile was thickened at the front for improved strength (which also helped improve offhand scores with the extra weight), and the A1 stock was lengthened for a better sight picture in the prone position. The front sight was squared for a better sight picture. The upgrades also included a three round burst trigger which was apparently terrible.

All of this didn’t do the Marines or the Army any favors when it was time to carry the rifle to war, but dang nabbit she is a dang fine target rifle.

So use it as one. Take your AR15A2 over to the gun range, sight it in at 100 yards with 69-77 grain ammo and, once satisfied with the zero, prepare to go to the nearest High Power match. Use those online fancy ballistic calculators to get a drop table and wind card setup for your rifle, and go forth and compete. Your rifle has everything you need. Those you meet at the match will assist you. They will teach you how to score the frame. They will be excited to welcome a newcomer.

Match 1 NRA High Power

The authors non-national match A2 with USGI chrome lined barrel, and Larue 12.0 free float rail.

A good starting zero, an accurate dope card, a few 20 round magazines, and the ammo will be all you need. You don’t *need* a sling. You don’t need a jacket. You need motivation and a mastery of the fundamentals of marksmanship. If you do poorly, then you have all the evidence you need to know that you have areas that need some work. Regardless of where you place, you will walk away with an appreciation of your rifle and if you surprise yourself with your performance, then you will walk away with confidence that no amount of gadgets or gizmos can buy.

Train Up the Next Generation:

Your A2 is a smooth shooting pussycat of a rifle. With a few changes, we can further enhance the rifles ease .  Consider adding a budget muzzle brake, and add a red dot sight with either a dogleg or a picatinny A2 riser. This rifles new job isn’t to be a up to date war machine, though it could certainly do in a pinch… it is an AR15 after all, but with a muzzle brake and a red dot, you have a low recoil, easy to shoot rifle for beginners. The red dot will simplify the range session by giving the new shooter a simple sight picture. The muzzle brake is much further out from the shooter than on a carbine, so concussion and recoil should be at a minimum and fun should be at a maximum.


Drop forwards are cheap online, as little as 8 dollars a pop on EBAY. Pair one with a RDS for a easy to use new shooter rifle.

This rifle is a stepping stone to remove the unknown and make shooting comfortable, fun, and ultimately familiar as they then lust for a AR15 of their own. The kids can also shoot this rifle sandbagged on the bench without issue.

LMG “light”

Is your A2 a HBAR? Lucky you.  You have a light machine gun just waiting to get released from its NFA bound shackles. That barrel that you don’t want to lug around can be put to good use for a bullet hose build. That HBAR profile soaks up heat, maintains structural integrity, and will help keep that heavy girl on target. Those drum sights allow a variety of dope adjustments. Those irons are well suited to area fire. Modern triggers such as the Fostech “Echo” and Franklin Armory “BFSIII” allow you to pour lead down range at a ridiculous rate of civilian legal semi/binary fire. Who doesn’t want a third position on the selector? Option 2? A bumpfire stock. d60-pmag

Couple this with a vietnam era clamp on bipod and a Pmag D60 and you have a nice choice when the time comes to grab a gun and bring the heat. With today’s ammo selection, that 20 inch pipe will throw down a world of hurt if you flip that selector to binary and drop in a 60 round magazine. Have someone with glass call your dope, make the necessary adjustments, and throw that lead right down to pound town on whatever is unfortunate enough to be downrange. Once that bolt locks open and your magazine is clear, tip up the barrel and let the rifle suck cool air into the chamber as heat chimneys out the barrel. Does this sound fun to you? It does to me. Using your A2 as a light machine gun substitute can really put good use to all those A2 uppers and 20 inch barrels out there.

While the above video isn’t a A2, you can see how easily it would be adapted to the role. A fun yet serious rifle indeed.

Wrapping Up:

I hope you had fun. I sure did. The A2 is a legacy system, but that doesn’t mean it cannot have relevance in your inventory. You can literally shoot it at a match, then give it to your grand-kid or “never shot a gun before” friend(were applicable) and then turn around and rain lead down with a furious anger on to your target of choice. Will it ever be a 7 lb carbine? No. Instead concentrate on what it can do well, what it can teach you, and what it can help you teach others… and if you ever have a chance to create a beaten zone at 800 yards with your 75 grain match ammunition and a binary trigger or bump stock… FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE TAKE A VIDEO CAMERA.

Written by lothaen


  1. honeycomb · January 15, 2017

    I love the 20″ A2 enough to own a few of them. As you mentioned they sit in the safe more than my other AR’s .. but I teach marksmanship with them as well as practice mine on a regular basis.

    • lothaen · January 15, 2017

      I had two, but couldn’t justify keeping both as they give up much to a modern rifle build, but I will always have one around.

  2. Aaron · January 26, 2017

    Great article! Any ideas on a barrel mounted front sight, like the Architek, on a 20″? I like the idea of a longer sight radius, but don’t want the weight of the popular gas block front sights.

  3. Aaron · January 26, 2017

    I should rephrase my original question.
    Do you think there’s any merit to mounting the front sight just behind the muzzle on a 20″ AR? I like the idea of saving weight by avoiding the usual front sight gas block and using a low pro gas block with a fixed front sight on a ff handguard. However, I’ve read that if you rest the rifle with the handguard on something like a sandbag, the handguard will shift and move the front sight with it. If I could somehow shave off excess metal from the front sight gas block, I could put it at the very end of the barrel, enjoy a longer sight radius, not have 4.5 more ounces on the end of the barrel, and not have the handguard move the sights. Is it worth trying to move the front sight off the handguard or forward on the barrel?

    • lothaen · January 27, 2017

      Absolutely. I wrote a article on this subject. The further out your focal point, the greater the depth of field effect you will receive. When using a small peep, the peep increases depth of field meaning you can focus on things and still see the target somewhat clearly. How clearly depends on the aperture size and how far away your focal point (aka front sight) is away from the eye. The further the front sight is away, the greater the depth of field meaning your target becomes more and more clear even though your focus is on the front sight.

      Put your finger right in front of your face and focus on it. The background becomes very fuzzy. Move your finger out to arms length and then focus on it. The background becomes clearer. Your eye is an aperture as well so the effect is the same. Only with a small peep… things get even clearer than what the eye can do unassisted.

      The architect will push this to the extreme and should give you the best sight picture and clearest target resolution over a standard 20 inch rifle.

      Keep in mind the architect will negate a detachable carry handle or similar products sight settings. By increasing the distance between the front and rear sight, the geometric changes make the 1/2 moa clicks of the rear drum into something different. It should, in theory, be a finer adjustment resolution than 1/2 moa, but what exactly who knows.

  4. Jerry · May 2, 2018

    Guys, I had local gunsmith build a 20 inch A4 rifle for my youngest at Christmas time, BCM gov’t profile upper with Del-ton lower. He is finally now getting time to shoot it and already wants an optic for it. I’d prefer he master the marksmanship techniques on the battle rifle irons. Sight picture, breathing, steady hold, light trigger pull. All of the necessary skills it takes to commit good habits to muscle memory and building that skill on a rack grade battle rifle. Once base line skills are perfected he can graduate to the add ons as he sees fit to do. Optic, trigger and maybe even a free float. Do you guys agree to this approach? To me an optic introduced early (introductory phase) on the AR platform to a newbie is just bad practice and leads to lazy habits for the riflemen fundamentals in skill building the marksmanship fundamentals. Is this outdated thinking with todays wiz-bang options? Cut my teeth on an M16A1 in basic and was handed the A2 in 1984 duty assignment in Germany and have loved the A2 platform ever since. Back then we mounted and dismounted and cleared buildings with the full length gun and thought nothing of it. Today I still range out from 25 to 300 with irons and would go to 400 if the range was built for it. Can still ready-up with the rifle length gun. Do this as much as I possible can even with a very fine DMR build sitting in the safe. I am old as dirt but to me the AR platform is quite the effective platform for ranging 0-500 with irons. Master this skill and your BDC add on makes you a force to reckon with as you fine tune that range. I am up for learning new skills thus the DMR but can you teach the next generation the baseline without first crawling with the irons first to lay down the honed in fundamentals? Comments and feedback are very welcome.

    • lothaen · May 2, 2018

      I think the time honored approach of irons to optics is fine if he beleives in it. For him to master irons will lead to better shooting with optics… Especially if he learns to use the turret.

      I would say he should shoot irons until he can afford a wiz bang optic. Shoot a competition with irons. Keep putting money away, and then when he can afford an ACOG he will have the experience necessary and a tough as nails optic.

      Just mu thoughts.

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