AR-15 : 16" vs 20" for general purpose?


December 25, 2002, 10:27 AM
plinking, hunting (under 150 yds) and of course home defense. How big of a deference is the blast between the two?

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Sleeping Dog
December 25, 2002, 10:33 AM
To me, the big difference is the front sight. I don't know if it's the sight radius, or just having a front post way out there where the old eyes can focus on it, but I like long barrels.

So I'd go with a 20" barrel. And if I don't care about A2 correctness, I'd put a front post out at the muzzle.


Steve Smith
December 25, 2002, 10:39 AM
Sleeping Dog is right, having that front post farther out there is a help. Only one way to alleviate it really, red dot or scope. I have a 16" coming in for "social" purposes, and I'll eventually put a red dot on it for this reason. Hope I made the right choice! :D

December 25, 2002, 10:57 AM
I am planning on using a scope almost exclusively. For many years I owned an 20" SP1 and loved it. But always read in the gun mags that the 16" will do everything the 20" will do but in a smaller package. Just wondering if "real" people felt that way.

December 25, 2002, 10:57 AM
Whats Red Dot?

December 25, 2002, 12:31 PM
I like the 20, but then again I've never shot the 16 inch (My family are usually the only people up at the club with black rifles, so i was never able to try anyone elses, and dad ruled out carbines when i started looking for my own AR).

December 25, 2002, 12:37 PM
Whats Red Dot?

A generic term we use for optics that use an electronic dot or tritium/fiber optic for an aiming point instead of a traditional crosshair. Folks also usually include the holosight types in this category.

Hmmm..if you don't want to shoot long range the 16" version will suit you just fine. My 16" 9mm is shorter than An AK47 and easily more accurate. Plus you can get the SIR and RASII for the 16". At present this isn't an option for the 20".

Good Shooting

4v50 Gary
December 25, 2002, 01:02 PM
The 16" is good enough for work out to 300 yards. If you get an AR and want to scope it or put a red dot, consider getting a flat top (skip the detachable handle). Cheek weld is easier to attain with a flat top and if you want iron sights, get a flip up rear sight.

December 25, 2002, 01:48 PM
I would agree with the above. Go with a 16". For an upper, consider the Rock River "Tactical" carry handle that they offer. I will allow you to get a good cheek weld with red dots as well as leaving you a set of iron sights.

December 25, 2002, 02:47 PM
The good folks at the Maryland AR15 Shooters Site recommend a 16" - probably wiser than the M4gery I wound up with:

Worth checking out their site, btw.

Swamp Yankee
December 25, 2002, 03:34 PM
For your purposes I'd recommend a 16" barreled flattop with front sight installed. You'll have the option of just about any type of sight or optics available, in a very compact rifle.
If you don't like whichever one you choose just swap out the upper and you've got a different rifle.
Take Care

December 25, 2002, 05:35 PM
Consider a Dissipator upper from Bushmaster. 16" barrel, but the front sight is in the same relative position as on the 20" rifle. That extra sight radius makes a big difference as our eyes age. Gives you the best of both worlds.
FLat-top or carry handle upper? Depends. I need a scope at distance, but at social ranges the irons work well and the carbine will be lighter, less expensive (spend the $ on a class from Randy Cain, Jim Crews, et. al to learn to use the carbine) and sturdier with the carry handle. If you order a dissapator upper I'd consider having it built on an A1 upper. You don't really need the A2 back sight for most applications and the A1 is simplier, more robust, and a tad lighter.

December 25, 2002, 05:38 PM
The 20" barrel will give you better muzzle velocity and superior ballistic performance at any range. If it was going to be a primarily scoped rifle intended for long range work, I'd go with the 20" barrel.

Problem is, modern 20" ARs are a lot heavier than they have to be. I like my M16A1. 20" barrel, as light as a 16" postban carbine.

December 25, 2002, 05:39 PM
Thanks! Alot of good info to think about.

December 25, 2002, 06:03 PM
For the uses you describe, the correct choice is a 16" barrel. My choice was a Bushmaster 16" V-Match Carbine with flat top. The flat top gives you complete control over sighting options. Reflex and red dots are great. As you may know, you can even buy a regular AR15 carry handle to clamp on the flat tops.

The 16" versions are very compact and easy to handle. My old eyes just don't like iron sights and won't focus on the target and the sights all at the same time. Thus, the optical sighting systems come to the rescue.

While there is some pretty low priced ammo out there for AR15s, reloading for them is also fun and worthwhile.

You will find that a 16" AR15 has totally adequate reach and accuracy for most purposes.

Happy, safe shooting,

Will Fennell
December 25, 2002, 07:29 PM
I went with a flat top DISSIPATOR from Bushmaster.....I dind that it is the best compromise.....long sight radius for iron sight shooting, flat top to mount optics, and shorter barrel for convience.

I put a ARMS SWAN SLEEVE on mine, with a REFLEX2 mounted on the sleeve. I can use the optics, or flip the levers on the arms mount, take off the REFLEX, and use the flip up iron sights.

All in a short package:cool:

December 25, 2002, 07:36 PM
My current AR has a 16"barrel. The next one I get will have a 20" barrel.
Makes it easier on the eyes. Plus, at least for me, better accuracy at longer distances.

December 25, 2002, 08:01 PM
The 20" gets the most out of the cartridge as well as having a much more useable sight radius. However, everybody wants the shorty, esp. with the collapsable stock. Coolness, man! :cool:

December 25, 2002, 08:05 PM
20" barrel with flat top upper, or previously recommended A1 upper.

Lighten the 20" HBAR barrel:http://
Kurt's Kustom 6167 Southeast 26th Street, Suite A; Bushnell, FL 33513
Phone: (352)793-2346. Email: . Kurt is a regular poster to as KurtsKustom, he also moderates a forum there about his business. His AR work includes reducing HBAR barrels to M4, A2 or A1 dimensions, barrel fluting, building ARs in unusual or wildcat calibers, .22LR uppers (in any configuration), and other unique modifications and hardware (Check out his post ban muzzle brakes!). Kurt is not limited to the world of AR-15s (AKs, FALs, bolt actions, and M17 bullpups are all common in his shop), nor is he limited to the firearms industry. Note when Kurt reprofiles the barrel he also parkerizes the front sight pins, and the barrel w/o the front sight on per mil-spec (something even Bushmaster does not do) to help prevent rust.
(Previous from the Maryland AR site)

Fit the rifle so it feels comfortable with your nose touching the T-handle, for a concistent cheek weld. I recommend using the A1 stock, or RockRiverArms short LE stock with the spacer.

Check out Bushmaster, or any other parts dealers, for a rear sight assy to clamp onto the upper recv. Or, use a low power optic.

December 25, 2002, 10:43 PM
Another thing to consider... The muzzle-flash and blast out of a 16" barrel is considerably worse than out of a 20". The longer barrel gives the powder more time/length to be completely burned up. In these days of no flash-hiders, that's a significant consideration if you're perhaps going to shoot at night or in low light. Try this at the range - get some friends who own the different barrel lengths, and try them in low light. BIG difference! (Of course, if you own a pre-ban with a flash hider, or a Mini-14 - which can legally be fitted with a flash-hider - this is better still.)

December 25, 2002, 10:52 PM
I'll add in addition to the dissapator mentioned above, you can also get a mid-length upper that is right in between the short CAR and Dissy.

I really like the mid length as they don't "force" you into one small area to hold onto the weapon. The mid and dissapators give you a bit more of a gripping surface to shift your hand if you ever need to.

Good Shooting

Bottom Gun
December 26, 2002, 10:31 AM
Get one of each :D

December 26, 2002, 12:57 PM
As was mentioned, one of the beauties of the AR is the "modular" design. You can buy one lower, and as many uppers as you like. You can have a shorty with optics, a 20 inch, a 24 inch, SBRs whatever and switch them out as you please. I presently own four ARs; a 20" SP1 with the pencil barrel, a 20 inch Bushmaster with a much heavier barrel, a 16" Bushmaster post ban, and a 16 inch pre-ban with the collapsable stock. If I could only own one, it would definitely be the 16" Bushmaster. First of all it is such a handy rifle. It feels really good and well balance in my hands. The shorter length makes it much easier to use in close quarters whether in a building or getting in and out of a car. For my present uses, I don't think I am giving up much accuracy. I regualry shoot at a steel plate which is around 7" square at 200 yards and can hit it pretty consistently with the factory iron sights. I can put most of my shots into the A-Zone of a silhouette at 300 from prone. This certainly isn't match accuracy, but again, for my present purposes it suffices. One option I would recommend for maximum versitility is a flat top. As was mentioned, you can get a removable carry handle if you like the GI look and feel. But you also can mount all types of optics from red dots to scopes to night vision in a practical manner. The AR is really a lot of fun and has to be one of the most versitile rifles out there.

December 26, 2002, 07:20 PM
My first AR is a 16" Bushy Shorty A2. I felt it best for what I needed - home defense, and the occasional varmint at short ranges. I went with the Bushy because I wanted a good lower to add on to in the future and I will probably get an 20" or 24" flat top upper in the future.

My first goal was to replace my dissapointing Mini-14 with an AR functional equivilant and I thought the 16" would fit the bill, short, accuarate, handy, and fairly light. I love it by the way.

December 26, 2002, 08:03 PM
I have an Olympic Arms 16-inch-barrel AR that I purchased last year. Although it is fine for short range & plinking, it is quite loud. I bought a 20-inch DPMS A2 upper and now use it more than the 16-inch. Its biggest drawback is that it weighs more than the 16-inch.

I definitely like the interchangeable-uppers option on the AR series. You should be able to find an upper to serve any need, and only have one (or two! ;) ) lowers.

December 27, 2002, 07:22 AM
16" Armalite M15A4, Leupold 1.5x5

25.1grs 4895 55gr Nosler Ballistic Tips

It'll do better, I'm the weak link. :)

December 27, 2002, 07:34 AM
AK103K, how do you rate the difference in blast between the 20" & 16" barrels?

December 27, 2002, 07:54 AM

I have two 16" guns, that one and a Dissapator. I dont notice any real difference, but when I shoot the Armalite at the range I get an empty spot on either side, or a lot of bitching from whoever's there and cant move. The brake does make it noiser off to the side, but if your shooting it I think your in the "cone" of the blast and dont really get it. The Dissapator isnt any louder, to me anyways, than my SP1. Now I shoot with ear plugs in, and I'm basing the noise on that. If I shoot anything without them, I'm deaf for a week anyway, wouldnt matter if it was 16" or 20".

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