How to choose a Barrel for a Self Defense Carbine/Rifle

Deciding on a barrel for your rifle is one of the most important decisions you will make when it comes to the rifle. Caliber, barrel length, bullet type, barrel twist, what kind of barrel steel, Chrome vs Nitride are all things you need to take in to consideration.

Caliber: Everyone who owns an AR-15 should own at least one 5.56 based AR-15. You may have some special caliber you love and think is superior but the simple fact is .223/5.56 is common and plentiful in the United States. When ammo gets hard to find you may find some left over stocks of .683 Wackjob (or whatever your caliber of choice is); but once its gone, its gone. The ammo manufacturers are going to be producing .223 and 5.56 first and you won't find .683 Wackjob for many months if not years. You'll always find .223 and 5.56 brass and the bullets are far more common so reloading is far easier for a common caliber. This guide will be written assuming you have decided on a .223/5.56 based round but all of this applies, to other calibers although things like barrel twist could be different. I will use the term ".223 bullet" (which is actually .224) to refer to just the bullet, not the entire round because 5.56 uses some of the same bullets as the .223 round.

The .223 bullet generally relies heavily on velocity to do the damage needed to stop a threat. Some of the heavier .223 bullets don't have as fast of velocity but they make up in mass and bullet design to do more damage such as 77gr Hollow Points. The 55gr Full Metal Jacket bullet is cheap and plentiful but it isn't ideal for self defense, however it is good for training. The military uses the 55gr FMJ due to the Geneva Convention, not because it's the best bullet for stopping threats and you, the American citizen are not bound by it. The smaller grain bullets such as 40gr fly extremely fast but they lack mass and can be blown off course by the wind much easier than a 62 to 77 grain bullets. In general your self defense rounds should have a 62-77gr bullet and be designed for self defense such as hollow points or soft points.
55, 62 and 75gr bullets
Three different sizes of .223 Bullets, 55gr, 62gr and 75gr.

Barrel Length: The length of the barrel is a major factor in the velocity of the bullet. Generally the longer the barrel the more velocity the bullet will have and thus more energy to put in the target. There is a point of diminishing returns on length and velocity. With .223/5.56 the point of diminishing returns is about 18", with anything after that the gains of velocity start dropping off. Other factors need to be taken in to consideration. A carbine with a 10.5" barrel will be far easier to use in a building or in and out of vehicles than a 20" barrel but it will lack the velocity making it a poor choice for long range shooting. Barrel length does not effect accuracy. Short 10.5" barrels will be just as accurate as a 18" or 20" barrels but the bullet drop and range will be different.

Barrel Twist: The barrel twist ratio is the number of revolutions for the bullet per barrel inches. A barrel that is a 1:9” twist means that the rifling will spin the bullet one revolution in 9 inches. A "slow" twist rate would be a 1:12 barrel and a "fast" twist rate would be 1:7 for a .223 bullet. The rifling twist stabilizes the bullet in flight. In general a slower twist rates stabilize lighter bullets and faster twist rates stabilize heavier bullets. The 1:8 and 1:7 are the most common twist rates for 55-77gr bullets. The twist rates and bullets weights are below:

Barrel Twist RatioBullet Weight Range
The above is not a set in stone rule. You could have two 1:9 barrels and one of them will be able to stabilize a 70gr bullet and the other won't. The above is just a general safe range.

Barrel Profile: For a general self defense carbine or rifle the main consideration in barrel profile will be weight. A pencil barrel profile will be the lightest option while an HBAR or Heavy profile will be the heaviest. The heavier barrels can cool a bit faster due to more material to heat up and dissipate the heat. The heavier profiles are mostly used on precision rifles or full auto and even then it's not truly necessary. The point of impact shifting from a cold barrel to a hot barrel is a non issue with modern barrel manufacturing and stress reliving. For a general use self defense carbine/rifle a pencil or a slightly beefier profile such as a Faxon Gunner or Ballistic Advantage Hanson profile offers a barrel with a lighter profile than the standard M4/Government profile (which is a terrible profile to begin with) but has more material where you need it for cooling, without extra and unnecessary material where you don't.
55, 62 and 75gr bullets
M4 Profile (top), Gunner Profile (middle), and Pencil Profile (bottom)

Gas System Length: The most common gas system lengths are Pistol, Carbine, Mid and Rifle length. There is a less common length called Intermediate which is between Mid and Rifle in length but it is much less common. There are also "Rifle+1" which is a rifle length plus one inch. Unless you have a very specific need, stick to a common gas system length as finding replacement gas tubes could be difficult for the lesser common gas lengths. In general it's best to go with the longest gas length you can for the barrel. All barrels under 14.5" will use a pistol length gas system. Barrels that are 14.5" and 16" can use either carbine or mid length, with mid length being preferred due to the softer recoil it will produce. Barrels 18" and longer will have rifle length gas systems.

Barrel Steel: Most barrels are going to be made out of either a Chrome Molybdenum Vanadium (CMV) alloy (usually 4140 or 4150) or Stainless Steel (usually 416R). The difference between 4140 and 4150 is the amount of carbon in the steel. More carbon makes the steel a bit tougher, able to withstand heat and provides a little more wear resistance. Mil-Spec barrels are made from 4150 CMV.

Stainless Steel (416R) barrels tend to be more accurate than CMV barrels, but they will wear out faster than 4150 or 4140 CMV. Rifles made for precision shooting usually have a Stainless Steel barrel and other rifles and carbines will usually have a 4140 or 4150 CMV barrel.

Barrel Finish: Some barrels have an inside and outside finish such as Chrome lining on the inside with a Phosphate finish on the outside. Another common finish is Nitride/Melonite/QPQ (without getting deep into the specifics, all three are the same), and some Stainless Steel barrels do not have a finishing treatment so their finish is the actual steel itself. Chrome lining technically will make the barrel slightly less accurate than a Nitride or Stainless Steel barrel but Chrome stands up to the heat of full auto firing a bit better than Nitride does. Nitride is cheaper and makes the barrel more durable and able to last longer than a non Nitride treated barrel. Unless you have a full auto lower receiver and you do a LOT of full auto fire, Nitride will serve you very well with semi auto, even with rapid fire from time to time without the accuracy hit of chrome lining. The Nitride process does not negatively effect accuracy and it can be applied to 4140, 4150 or 416R Stainless Steel barrels.

Summary: There are a lot of variables to take into consideration when choosing the right barrel for your self defense carbine or rifle. The kind of area you live in and how far away threats could be is a primary consideration. Someone who lives in an apartment might choose something different than a person who lives in a ranch house with thousands of acres. Shorter barrels are easier to navigate with indoors but have decreased velocity, which is fine as long as you won't be making long distance shots on a regular basis. Feel free to call or email us with questions when deciding what barrel would work best in your specific situation.
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Triggers Frequently Asked Questions

There are many common question about triggers such as what is the difference between a single and two stage trigger? What is Pre-Travel? What is Take-Up? What is Trigger Creep? Choosing the right trigger for you brings up many questions so this guide will try to answer those questions.

First an overview of the different phases of the trigger activation:
  • Pre-Travel - The Pre-Travel is made up of three phases itself:
    • Trigger Take-Up
    • Trigger Wall
    • Trigger Creep
  • Break (or release)
  • Over-Travel
  • Reset
What is Pre-Travel? The Pre-Travel has three phases itself which are the Trigger Take-Up (often called "Slack"), the Wall and Trigger Creep.

What is Trigger Take-Up? Trigger Take-Up (or sometimes called "Slack") is defined as any rearward movement of the trigger that does NOT cause the sear to move and does NOT engage the hammer spring or mainspring. There is usually very little resistance in this phase. A good single stage trigger won't have any perceivable take-up but in a 2nd stage trigger the first stage would be the take-up.

What is the Trigger Wall? The Wall is defined as where the sear starts to move or the mainspring is engaged. This is where the main resistance in the trigger will be felt and lasts until "the break" or "release" of the hammer or striker (on pistols that have strikers instead of hammers). In a single stage trigger the force measured in pounds to force the trigger to break is first encountered at this point. In a Two Stage trigger this would be the second stage.

What is Trigger Creep? The Creep is the rearward movement of the trigger after the wall that causes the mainspring to compress and the sear to move. At the end of the creep comes the break (or release) and the measurement of force would end. Any resistance in the creep that causes the sear to stop and start movement is called "steps" which is what feels like "grit". All triggers have "creep", but with a good quality trigger you won't feel much if any perceivable creep as it will be so smooth and short that it really feels like a wall and the break.

What is the Trigger Break? The Trigger Break (also called the "Release") is when the sear releases the hammer or striker. Once the hammer hits the firing pin and the pin (or striker) hits the primer the gun will fire. When a trigger is said to have a "crisp" or "clean" break it means there was either very little or no perceivable creep.

What is Trigger Over-Travel? Over-travel is any rearward movement of the trigger following the Beak. Usually Over-Travel has little resistance but the trigger is still moving even though the hammer (or striker) has already been released. Some triggers have adjustable Over-Travel and other triggers are pre-set with a "trigger" stop so there is very little Over-Travel. Sometimes that trigger stop is the receiver itself, other times it's an adjustable screw or something else that stops the trigger. You don't want much overtravel as that movement of the trigger could cause other movement in the firearm which could throw off your accuracy.

What is Trigger Reset? Trigger Reset is the forward movement of the trigger pushed by the trigger spring to the point that the trigger resets where the sear can be engaged again. This also takes in to account the cycling action of a semi-auto.

What is the difference between a single and two stage trigger? Single stage triggers have one consistent pull weight throughout the pull of the trigger. For example if a trigger says it has a 4.5lb pull weight then the pull weight will stay at 4.5lbs. Two stage triggers have two different stages, usually with different pull weights. Typically a two stage trigger will have a lighter first stage take up of 2lbs and then a wall that requires a bit more force to make the trigger break.

What kind of trigger is the standard AR-15 trigger? The Mil-Spec AR-15 trigger is a single stage trigger with a pull weight from 5.5lbs to 9.5lbs. Some Mil-Spec triggers have a lot more pull weight than others. Most of them have a lot of take up, and some have very gritty creep. Some Mil-Spec triggers are fairly smooth and overall not bad but all of them leave a lot of room for improvement.

Should I use a single or two stage trigger in an AR-15? Ultimately that is up to you but it can be guided by what is this AR-15 going to be used for? If it is a self defense, home defense or fighting carbine a single stage trigger would be best. Two stage triggers are best in a precision rifle meant for longer range shooting and even then it is user preference.

What trigger pull weight should I get for an AR-15? This depends on what the rifle is used for as well as user preference. Usually 3lbs is the lightest most people want to go in an AR-15 but there are a few 2.5lb triggers out there. If you have a self or home defense carbine you might want to stick to a 3.5-5lb trigger. If it is a precision rifle a slightly lighter trigger pull might be desired.
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Update on the CA Assault Weapon Ban Appeal

An update on the CA Assault Weapons ban: An update on the CA Assault Weapons ban:
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Second Amendment Foundation Town Hall Meeting in Phoenix – February 16

Join us for a Town Hall Meeting to build the Second Amendment Family. Join us to stress the importance of firearms for self-defense. Building public support of all gun owners is critical in the on-going challenge to keep these rights.

This is where you come in. We want — no, we need you to join us. Bring your friends, neighbors, and family members. Bring anyone who will benefit from learning more our valued right to keep and bear arms.

Circle Sunday, February 16, 2 to 4 in the afternoon on your calendar. Come to the Second Amendment Family Town Hall meeting in Phoenix, at the Sheridan Crescent Hotel, 2620 West Dunlap Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85021.

At the Town Hall Meeting, you will:
  • View the video segment from “A More of Less Perfect Union,” Free To Choose Media’s PBS series on the Constitution, the rare occasion when PBS promotes the value of the 2nd Amendment.
  • Share a message from Alan Gottlieb founder of the 2nd Amendment Foundation
  • View a video message from Bob Levy, Cato Chairman;  Chris Cheng, a Top Shot Champion, and Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law at NYU
  • Meet national gun rights leaders like Mark Walters host of Armed American Radio
  • Discuss the basics of safe use of guns for self-protection
  • Discuss the value of flint lock firearms in gaining support for the 2nd Amendment
The Town Hall Meeting will be filmed and recorded for a future nation-wide webcast. We will be spreading our message around the country. We will let other people and politicians know of our support for the Second Amendment. We want to get all gun rights advocates, including the silent majority among us, to start showing our support for this Constitutional right.    

This is your chance to become a Second Amendment First Responder on national television!

RSVP – ASAP to [email protected]. Your assignment, bring a friend who doesn’t own guns or does some hunting but avoids the gun debate. We have room for just 200 so it will fill up fast. We’ll have some great snacks, a maple sugar gift to take home and plenty of soft drinks.

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We defend our money, why not our schools?

Here we are, another school shooting and the liberals are back to the same old cry for "We need universal background checks!" and "We need to get rid of the 2nd Amendment!". Like the emotionally unstable useful idiots that they are, they ignore the obvious. Nutjobs who want to murder defenseless children don't give a damn about your gun control laws. All of these idiots have already passed background checks so your universal background checks won't work. There are over 300 million firearms in this country, and firearms are not hard to build. How do you plan on rounding up 300+ million firearms and prevent people from making new firearms? How do you plan on taking them from people who aren't going to give them to you just because you ask nicely?
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Riders USA Annual 2nd Amendment rally at the Arizona State Capitol on February 17th

Riders USA will be holding their annual 2nd Amendment rally at the Arizona State Capitol on February 17th. The rally will have speakers Russell Pearce, Alan Korwin, Sheriff Mack, Mark Victor and Dave Kopp as well as vendors and raffle prizes. The rally will go from 12:00-2:00 pm. Bikers will form a motorcycle procession from Encanto park to the State Capitol to open the rally. Visit the Riders USA page for more information.
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Reliability Upgrades for the AR-15

Reliability Upgrades for the AR-15

The AR-15 is America's most popular rifle; and with that popularity there has been a lot of different manufacturers making various different quality AR-15 rifles. Any AR-15 can be made into a reliable AR-15 without spending a ton of money.

There are a few different things can effect the reliability of any AR-15 regardless of the price and quality:

Cheap poor quality ammunition can make any firearm have problems. Ammunition is just like anything else, you get what you pay for. You don't need to spend a lot of money to get good ammunition that will go bang every time you pull the trigger. Some of the cheap Russian steel cased ammo such as Tula is under powered, and will cause many AR-15s to have cycling problems. Spending just a little more money can get you Wolf Gold or PMC which should work fine in any AR-15. Use the cheap under powered ammo for working on malfunction drills.

You don't need to spend much money to get good quality magazines. Poorly designed magazine's can cause malfunctions in any AR-15. Magpul's PMAGs are incredibly reliable. There are many other good quality magazines available from other manufacturers. It's not a bad idea to buy only one or two of a specific kind of magazine to make sure they work correctly in your rifle before buying more.

Bolt Carrier Group
If a part is going to break on your AR-15 it most likely will be something in the Bolt Carrier Group. The bolt is under a lot of stress. In some of the lower end AR-15s bolts and bolt carriers have been known to crack or have catastrophic failures after only a few hundred rounds. Most of the cheaper AR-15's do not have bolt carrier groups that were High Pressure (HP) or Magnetic Particle Tested (MPI). If your bolt carrier group was not at least MPI tested it's a good idea to get a new bolt carrier group that has been tested so you know its free from cracks. A good quality bolt carrier group costs $100-$150 and while you're are it you might as well get a Nickle Boron coated or Nitride/Melonite treated bolt carrier group which both have lower friction coefficients and are both a bit easier to clean than phosphate bolt carrier groups. Don't forget to use some sort of gun oil on it.

A heavier buffer than the normal H carbine buffer can help by adding a bit more weight behind the bolt to ensure it goes into battery. This will especially help after you have fired a few thousand rounds through the gun without cleaning. However a buffer that is too heavy can cause cycling problems. It may take some experimenting to see what the heaviest buffer weight is that you can shoot reliably in your specific AR. A heavier buffer also has the added benefit of slowing the cycle rate which will help dampen the recoil that is felt by the shooter. If your AR has a carbine length gas system you can probably use a heavier buffer than an AR with a rifle length gas system.

Field Repair Kits
If the quality of the lower parts kit is in question a "Field Repair Kit" is a cheap bit of insurance. Typically a Field Repair Kit contains parts that are somewhat prone to breaking or typically lost. Most of these kits are around $30 and some are even less depending on how many parts are in the kit.
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AR-15 Chrome Lined Barrels vs Nitride/Melonite Barrels

A common question about AR-15 barrels is Chrome Lined barrels vs the newer Nitride barrels. Which is better? What are the pros and cons of each? The answer depends mostly on what the barrel is going to be used for.

The standard M16 or M4 barrel is lined with chrome and has been since the 1960's. Weapons with full auto capability would wear out a barrel quite quickly with a bare metal barrel. Chrome has good wear resistance and it prolongs the life of the barrel especially when subject to the abuse of full auto fire. An added benefit is chromes excellent corrosion resistance and it makes the barrel a bit easier to clean. When a barrel is Chrome Lined it adds a thin layer of Chrome to the bore of the barrel. The lining technically can reduce the accuracy of the barrel a slight bit. The lining also can wear off over time with use. The outside of the barrel is usually given a black phosphate coating to protect from corrosion.

Nitride is a treatment to the barrels steel that hardens the steel and significantly increases corrosion and wear resistance. This is usually done in a process called Quench Polish Quench (QPQ). Melonite is a specific version of Nitride but for the most part Melonite and Nitride are the same. Since it isn't a lining accuracy is not degraded and it cannot be worn off. The increased wear resistance means the barrel can hold up over time to normal or even rapid semi auto fire. Nitride treated barrels are cheaper to produce than Chrome lined barrels.

Stainless Steel barrels have long been used for their better accuracy over Chrome barrels, but suffer from shorter barrel life. Stainless Steel can also been treated with Nitride to improve the wear resistance and improve barrel life without hurting the accuracy.

The YouTube channel Mrgunsngear did a full auto test with two identical 4150 steel Faxon barrels, one Chrome Lined and the other Nitride. The results were interesting and I won't give away the entire test results here. But the biggest take away from the test is the Nitride barrel held its accuracy better.

So which is better? Since most people don't have full auto receivers they won't need the better heat resistance that Chrome offers. With Nitride being cheaper and the potential for better wear resistance over time when using semi auto fire; Nitride would be the way to go on a semi auto weapon.

You can see all the AR-15 barrels we have at this link.
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Arizona Ranked #1 for Gun Owners by Guns & Ammo, 5th year in a row.

Guns & Ammo magazine has ranked Arizona #1 for Gun Owners for five years in a row. The biggest reason Arizona has such good gun and self defense laws is thanks to the Arizona Citizens Defense League. If you live in Arizona you should join and help support the AZCDL.
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California insanity

Governor Moonbeam of CA signed two insane peices of legislation recently. One bill removes the the mandatory penalty enhancement for committing a crime with a firearm and placed it at the discretion of the judge presiding over the case. Then the Governor signed another law that makes it illegal for teachers to be armed.

So the logic of California is:
  • Guns are bad.
  • We're not going to penalize you any differently if you commit a crime with or without a firearm.
  • Children are so precious, we're going to make it illegal for a teacher to be armed so they might have a chance of defending said precious children.
  • Guns are bad.... mmmmkay?
Pure insanity. More details at
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New website!

Welcome to the new Desert Tactical Solutions website! The old website had some problems so it was time to upgrade to a better cart system with more features. If you need help finding anything feel free to contact us at [email protected] or 520-271-8783.
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