The Haiti Earthquake of 2010 created a massive humanitarian crisis. We knew people in the emergency management world who were able to relay to us first hand info within hours. And the first groups to respond discovered a brutal truth: without long guns at hand it was impossible to operate. Some groups had to withdrawal until some security could be established. But even ONE long gun could make the difference between being able to save an earthquake victim or being forced to retire before enormous mobs.
Because we knew people that were very close to the problem we also became aware of opportunities to help out. Long story short, I came pretty close to going down to help provide security to a medical mission.. I didn’t go, but it did get me thinking about my primary rifle. I had a couple of cheaper ARs, but nothing that I would be super comfortable taking into a third-world disaster hell-hole. I wanted a gun that would be simple, rugged, reliable, and practical in all conditions. I wanted to build it as if it would be my “last rifle” (pshaw! we all know THAT isn’t possible… But it did last me over five years with no major changes). I also wanted to stay well under $1,000 (optics not included). So I sold one of my cheaper ARs, added some extra money, and built my “Haiti Rifle”.
The foundation of my build was a BCM 16″ Mid-length upper. I bought it at a time when BCM uppers would be in stock for only a few hours, so I got what I could: a GI Profile Barrel, though a lightweight profile would have been preferable. I’m sure they are good, but I passed over BCM’s carbine length uppers – midlength offers lower perceived recoil and greater reliability, as well as longer sight-radius. If you are building a 16″ gun, there’s no reason to build with an “M4” gas system that I know of.
Bolt and Charging Handle are both BCM – and the BCM Gunfighter Charging Handle really, REALLY improves one-handed charging. Best $40 you can spend accessorizing your AR, in my opinion.
This build was before Magpul had released their Mid-length Handguards, so I got a YHM lightweight free float rail. I left the muzzle device as a standard A2 – it’s cheap, it works great at hiding flash, what’s not to like?
For the lower, I used a RRA Lower Parts Kit (they seemed to have slightly better GI triggers at the time, IMHO) in a CMMG lower with a generic 6 Position Stock. Very recently I replaced the trigger with a Geissele flat-face SSA – it’s a duty-grade, high quality trigger and I am very happy with it. It’s not as fast as the SD3G like in Lucas’ gun, but it’s more reliable and rugged. And it’s faster and crisper than a stock GI trigger, even one polished by thousands of trigger breaks.
I wanted solid, simple sights: for a long time the gun wore a Trijicon Reflex, later replaced by a used Aimpoint in a LaRue lower third mount. The rear sight is a Daniel Defense Fixed. I opted to keep the front sight instead of using a gas block, longer rail, and flip up fronts. I did this for two reasons: First, the fixed front sight is very rugged; I can’t see how it could fail, even under extreme conditions. It’s made to handle the abuse and impact of a mounted bayonet. Second, especially back then, this was a lot cheaper.
My rifle has worn a couple different weapon lights over the years, but mostly higher-end P60 hosts with single-mode lamps. There are better options, but I’ve never had one die on me and you can add one to a carbine for about $40. For this price, there’s really no excuse NOT to have a weapon light on every defensive long gun you own.
Total Cost (as best as I can tell from old emails, memory, etc)
BCM Upper: $500
YHM Quad Rail: $100
CMMG Lower: $100
RRA LPK: $80
M4 Stock: $60
Rear Sight: $60
TOTAL: $900 (not counting shipping, krylon, etc)
I haven’t put as many rounds through this gun as I would have liked in the last six years: marriage, kids, and business have cut into my training time. But the gun has always performed when called on.
There are some better options now; KeyMod and M-LOK rails would be slimmer and improve handling. Lighter profile barrels are now more common – and would be preferable for a security/patrol carbine. And a better trigger would ideally be included from the outset, though some of the high-quality GI triggers like the ALG QMS would be viable alternatives for only a few buck more.
Your gear doesn’t have to be the most expensive, latest, or most flashy. It doesn’t have to be laden down with accessories to be effective. But if you plan to depend on it then it should be high quality. When building a defensive carbine choose solid, no frills options – make choices based on practicality, not tacticoolness.