Rifle is Rifle.

This past weekend I drove back to the wondrous Alliance Ohio training facility to attend Sentinel Concepts Essential Carbine. I try and make it to at least one of Steve Fisher’s courses each year, more if I can, because the phrase “No two classes are the same.” is something that needs to be experienced to be understood. It is the absolute truth.

Every chance you have to pull the trigger on your rifle or handgun, under a structured informational environment, with informed supervision, to improve your shooting should be capitalized on. Even with ammo tight. Keep training.

What I did differently this time around (that I haven’t in previous training events) was cycle rifles.

Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch put it thus,

“Everyone in this room, right now, needs to know how to operate an AR-15. Load it, unload it, and hit a pie plate (or a B8) at 25 yards off hand. Everybody in this room needs to know how to operate an AK. Load it, unload it, pie plate at 25 yards.”

There is nothing on this earth that guarantees you will be in a gunfight carrying your gun.

I brought four rifles.

I confirmed four rifles.

This does requires a level of familiarity with these rifles. You cannot expect to pull it off with a new platform you have not run yet, that’s what Clint was going for when saying ‘know how to operate’. For new rifles, take the platform through a course front to back. But rifle types you are familiar with, check on their readiness.

First up, my SCAR 16, it has grown since the TDP article and is still bar none my favorite rifle. It just shoots and runs like nothing else and that makes it worth the price tag, for me at least. YMMV, that’s fine. But the SCAR is just a smooth running machine.

But beyond the subjective nature of me liking the rifle and running it, it is my designated general purpose rifle. It is my first choice to be the tool for the job, especially if I’m uncertain what the job might be. That’s why its running a Modlite PLHv2 and Razor HD Gen III, and offset RDS. All purpose light, all purpose optic suite. From 6ft to 600 yards this rifle is going to be able to make something work.

That’s its job. It isn’t my only rifle with a job though.. so after several drills it got put on the table and another rifle came out.

Smol Carbine time. IWI X95 SBR

The X95 is a shouldered profile as small as an MP5K but with full 5.56 carbine muzzle velocities. At 13″ in barrel length the little Hebrew Hammer can do work. I picked it up and went right back to the drill list we were running. I’ve also spent a lot of one on one time with the X95 and the IWI Academy, but this reaffirms that work in an alternative environment surrounded by ARs (and one SCAR 17).

My X95 is a house gun, it lives inside 50 yards and its optic and light are set to help me in that role. I can move and shoot at odd angles with it, easily open doors and take corners, and even switch shoulders effortlessly. It’s a fine rifle that is very good at its job and I love letting it work on the range.

Shooting the drills, same B8’s, same practical accuracy standards.

Day 2 we started with a quick 10 round confirmation… and I grabbed my ‘Truck Gun’.

Image by RMFA Photography, J. Sarkody.

Rifle Dynamics RD NATO. Fresh out of the carry bag just like I had last shot and zeroed it and just like it would have been grabbed in an emergency.

How did it do?

10 rounds from a Geissele Super Duty AR wearing a Razor 1-6 and 10 rounds from my CompM5 wearing RD NATO. 10/10.

More drills, more B8’s, more confirmation that these guns run the way I want them to and will do the job I ask them when I ask them. I ran through the 6 loaded magazines I had for the RD and put it down.

More like KILLigan’s Island.. am I right? Right..? Okay, I’ll see myself out.

Working standing, kneeling(s) and back to standing while also working a longer and more fatiguing drill. With ammo being scarce round counts are likely going to be reduced in classes for awhile to allow you to still get out and train.

And now. Rifle number Four!


An everyday AR-15 amalgamation that approximates an M4/M4A1 with common parts. Even a stock mil-spec trigger (since changed) and my old school middle-GWOT Marine ACOG. This was put together because it is still the reining standard of AR world. The M4 with quad rail, fixed front sight, and an Aimpoint or ACOG. LPVO’s are coming… but they aren’t here unless you’re rocking your own somehow (on a department, authorized, or DoD gun) or have SOCOM’s checkbook.

The old warhorse still does work, and you should still be able to do work with it. There are a lot more older rifles with older set-ups than new ones. The proof was in 2 others being in class. Gear changes and upgrades when it actually gets purchased to move forward, but don’t be in a rush to abandon working systems until you can transition well to the new item.

The M16/M4 and ACOG are my oldest and most trusted friends in the fighting rifle world. That’s home base, systems I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of rounds go through with a high degree of success from shooters with widely varying skill levels. From basically trained to truly proficient.

Rifle is Rifle

It does not and should not matter what rifle I pick up, I need to make it work. Do I have preferences? Certainly! SCAR 100% with an Razor Gen III, offset secondary optic, and a rock solid white light. Funny how that’s how mine is set up… This doesn’t make me dislike my X95, or AR’s, or XCR any less. It doesn’t make me trust these rifles any less or enjoy them less when I shoot them.

It means that if I need a rifle, it can be damn near any rifle, and I will make it work. It can be any optic and I can make it work. I can pick up, or be handed, a wide variety of carbines and ancillary supporting equipment and I can make it Do Work. The longer I have that rifle, light, optic, the more I can make it work for me.

If it’s a pick-up or hand off during a ‘spicier’ time in life, I’ve got what I got. If I can put a quick zero on it and check batteries and the like, awesome. That puts me even further ahead and more likely to succeed. Knowing that I might not fight with one of my rifles or handguns is a very real and driving force behind my desire to have a working knowledge of and share that working knowledge of systems with you all.

You can have a favorite, that’s great. But you should have a tempered respect for any rifle you might encounter, enough at least to know how it works. The shooter with the old FAL, G3 clone, M1A, SKS, or Mini-14, who knows how to run it can run circles around the Gucciest of Gucci rifles in the hands of someone who is non-proficient.

Spend some time and know the guns. Because Rifle is Rifle.

Keith Finch
Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009, he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.