YOU BOUGHT A COVID RIFLE, NOW WHAT? by Trent Marsh on December 9th 2020.
For myriad reasons, 2020 has been a perfect storm of uncertainty, unease, worry, and introspection. In the end, the greatest gun salesman of all time hasn’t been a president, or a legislative body. It’s been a calendar that just won’t turn over. Gun sales for 2020 have been through the roof for months. It is very likely that you either added to your gun safe, or found yourself needing one for the first time ever. No doubt, there are many first-time gun owners out there, and many of them have certainly opted for the most flexible and popular rifle chassis in history, the AR-15.
If you find yourself owning a gun for the first time, and while you made the purchase, you haven’t exactly outfitted yourself with all the items that you need to maintain or use that gun, this is a starting point for what to do next. Maybe you aren’t a first-time owner, but you’ve taken a different tact with your gun ownership after seeing what 2020 has had to offer Regardless of your previous gun ownership, this list is a good reminder for you to run through and make sure you have all you need for your rifle, pistol, or shotgun, but I’m focusing specifically on an AR-15 platform. Hearing Protection All guns go boom. And that boom is bad for your hearing. Investing in good hearing protection is a must. I hate to use the old, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” chestnut, but I kind of must. The options are extensive. For years I muddled through with the foam ear plugs, primarily because I was a cheapskate.
While earplugs can and do offer hearing protection, they have limitations. If they aren’t installed properly, (yes, you can put an ear plug in wrong) they won’t offer the protection you really need. While when installed properly they do protect your hearing, they also inhibit it. All of it.
On a range with friends or an instructor? Brush up on your lip reading. Hunting? Keep your binocular close. What’s a better option? Electronic muffs, that’s what.
I’ve been using the Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic muff for most of this year, and all I can say is that I’m ashamed it took me this long to upgrade. Electronic muffs are essentially modern wizardry. They use a microphone to detect and amplify ambient sounds to 82dB. This means you can pick up range commands or instructions from friends, or distant footsteps in the woods.
Now, before you say, “but what about when the gun goes off? I don’t want that amplified,” let me finish. This is where the wizardry comes in. In addition to amplifying ambient sounds, these muffs also actively listen for loud, potentially hazardous noises like gunshots, and modulates those sounds down to 82dB as well.
Yes, it is just as freaking cool as it sounds. Get it? Sounds?
The Howard Leight Impact Sport is comfortable, and adjustable, and uses a simple control knob to turn on and control volume. You can learn more about them at howardleightshootingsports.com. I love mine, I cannot recommend them enough. Optics
A gun you can’t aim isn’t much use. A quality optic is key for getting the most out of any rifle, and depending on how you use your pistol or shotgun, might also be a legitimate investment.
I know a thing or two about optics, so I’m kind of particular here. Not that I’m a snob. I’m particular about value, and design. For most hunters and shooters, we don’t need to go to the extreme of buying boutique optics from expensive manufacturers. Bang-for-your-buck optics have never been easier to find, and that’s my sweet spot. Guns are tools, and so are optics.
Let’s clear one thing up right away. Consumer-grade optics are made in Asia, or they are made out of parts and glass that came from there. Period. Paragraph. Story. This isn’t up for debate or argument. This is a fact. So, if that’s a hang-up for you, get used to shooting iron sights.
With that behind us we can focus on another point. Optics should be purchased based on how they will be used, not by caliber, or brand name, or anything else. Optics should always be chosen for how they are used.
“What scope do I need for my .30/06?” How the heck am I supposed to know? Are you taking it pronghorn hunting in Wyoming or bear hunting in upstate New York? The gun works perfectly well for both, but the 4-16×50 you want for 300-yard shots in Wyoming is dreadful for up-close-and-personal work on bears in New York.
For this reason, the AR platform can be difficult to pick the best optic for because one gun can serve so many purposes. Personally, I use mine primarily for varmints, and an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass defense weapon. And that’s the dilemma.
On its face, we look at that and see two very different activities. Varmint hunting typically requiring high magnification and large objective lenses, while a battle rifle needs to handle quickly and have a heads-up display like a red dot for defensive use.
Enter the LPVO.
LPVO stands for low power variable optic. I have been a proponent of these types of setups before the acronym was popular.
Even hunting, your shots are almost never as far away as you expect them to be. High magnification just isn’t as needed as people like to think it is. Not to mention, high magnification can cause serious issues with optical quality. And frankly, most people shoot more accurately on a slightly lower power anyway. Target panic isn’t just for bowhunters, y’all.
This is why for my AR I chose the Athlon Argos BTR GEN2 1-8×24. First, for Indiana (and most places) 8X is more than enough to shoot out to 250 yards with a little bit of practice. I’m pretty comfortable with it out to about 400. Sure, if I’m shooting competition, I might want more, but we’re talking flexibility, not purpose-built.
I’m FAR more concerned with that 1X than I am the 8X. Going down to 1X allows me to use this scope like I would a red dot. I can keep both eyes open and still see my aim point, and avoid distortion in close-quarter combat. The reticle design helps with this as well. While it is graduated for NATO rounds out to 500 yards, the center dot halo provides an instinctive aiming point for high-pressure situations.
It’s a good scope. All the standard boilerplate proofness and coatings, and all that. I’m working on a full review of it, so I won’t go overboard here, but suffice to say, for an AR that you want to do a little bit of everything, the Athlon Argos BTR GEN2 1-8×24 is up to the task.
Cleaning Supplies A clean gun is a reliable gun. A dirty gun is a disaster waiting to happen. Shoot your gun today? Clean it today.
Shoot your gun this month, but didn’t clean it that day? Clean it now.
Haven’t shot your gun in a few months? Take it out, break it down, clean it, and put it back together.
Cleaning your gun familiarizes you with the workings of your gun. It makes you focus on the HOW of the gun, so you can ensure proper function when it matters. The gun being clean means you remove negligence from the possible list of things that could go wrong when a situation is already sideways.
I have three levels of gun cleaning kits. Home kit. Pack kit. Travel kit.
My home kit is a trunk of every gun cleaning tool I’ve ever come across. If it has to do with gun cleaning it goes in there. Rods, patches, jags, solutions, clothes, brushes, FOR DAYS.
Pack kits are simpler, Small, universal kits that go in both range bags and hunting bags. It’s enough to get the job done once. I don’t want to carry more than I have to, but I don’t want to be without. For my range bag, that also means a Real Avid Gun Tool (or three) for any maintenance I may need to do.
Travel kits stay in my glovebox. Similar to the pack kits, I can perform basic services or cleanings with these kits.
I have a lot of odds and ends from over the year, but most of my cleaning and maintenance gear is from Real Avid. The stuff is well built, clever, easy to store, and performs multiple functions. I just love these products.
If you don’t already have some, especially for your AR or pistol calibers, good luck, and I’m sorry you didn’t read this sooner. How much ammunition you can afford to have on stock is up to budget and storage and lots of other factors.
I’m not here to make light of any of those factors, but I do have a question.
If you can’t afford to purchase ammunition, can you afford to not have any when you need it?
Make space. Make time. Make budget available. Stock up on ammunition.
Is this list exhaustive? Not even close. But is it a bare minimum for you get started training and understanding your AR, or other firearm? It certainly is.
Once you have spent more time with your firearm and this gear, you will naturally start to create your own list of the next thing you need. Accessories. Reloading equipment. Holsters (oh god, the holsters…). Lights. Lasers. Bipods. Safes.
And most likely of all?
More guns… Howard Leight Honor Collection
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