Tiger McKee's Basic AR Fighting Rifle


February 28, 2009, 02:27 AM
Tiger McKee had a recent article in GUNS Magazine Combat Special Edition 2009, entitled "The Basic AR Fighting Rifle". Anyways, I was thinking of having one custom built so that it could be the best an AR Fighting Rifle could be. I thought I would ask MSTN to build it, but unfortunately they replied that they would not be interested in building such a rifle.

Does anyone know where I could get one custom built & approximately how much it would cost?

Design Philosophy: Lightweight, Durable, Reliable & Simple

The specifications are as follows:
Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
Upper Asembly:
*Thin 16" barrel from Model 1 Sales
*A2 suppressor
*A2 front sight post
*Carbon fiber free-floated handguard from Hi/Per Form
*Flattop upper, but without the external forward assist from Les Baer
*Colt charging handle from Brownells
*Replace split cooter pin, with one-piece unit from Brownells, for the firing pin
*Chrome silicon extractor & ejector springs from Superior Shooting Systems
*Aimpoint Comp M3
*GG&G's cantilever mount
*Fixed stand-up sight with an A2 drum from Yankee Hill Manufacturing
Lower Receiver:
*Standard trigger
*DuckBill Tactical Grip
*A1 fixed buttstock
*Original GI cotton sling
*Rear swivel mount repositioned to the left side of the buttstock

The only thing I would add to Tiger's list would maybe be a full/mid-length gas system & 1/7 twist.

I think that's it.


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Fred Fuller
February 28, 2009, 10:07 AM
ARs are nothing but expensive jigsaw puzzles, not that hard to put together. I have a feeling getting parts might be the bigger problem these days.

If you're sure this is what you want, start buying parts as you can find them. Any number of people can help you with the build, if you have the parts.



February 28, 2009, 10:17 AM
Agreed, but don't you think that if a custom shop were to put it together, with whatever else they do to make a better product, that it would perform all the better, i.e. accuracy?

Also, any opinions on Predator Custom Shop?

February 28, 2009, 10:19 AM
I just built my first AR, a Bush A4 flattop with a 16 stainless HB, A2 front sight, RRA striped lower, Double Star Parts Kit, A2 standard buttstock and a YHM Rear Sight. Total cost about $700. Total time to put together... counting mistakes, about 2.5 hours. Next time I will be able to build it in about 45 minutes. In retrospect it was about the easiest firearm work I have ever done,not that I have done much so that should tell you something.

DIY is now my motto when it comes to rifle. Next project will be a FAL style MBR or a Bolt gun.

February 28, 2009, 12:47 PM
basically all that tigers personal ar is, is a 16" light weight (pencil) barrel, with an a1 upper, nothing fancy no rails, a fixed stock, and a light mounted up on the fsb. and a standard gi flash suppresor (birdcage). the one that he uses the most dosen't have an optic or anything of the sort. which keeps the weight down, the only way that i think you could keep the upper any lighter is if you went with a flat top upper, and used a buis only. if you do some looking i am sure that you could find one set up like that already, and if isn't exactly like that it would take little money and otime to get the thongs to make it so.

February 28, 2009, 01:16 PM
I'd recommend a mid-length gas system over a full-length for a 16" barrel. Full-length gas may not have enough dwell time past the gas port for consistently reliable cycling under all conditions.

Fred Fuller
February 28, 2009, 02:23 PM

It's an AR-15, it ain't rocket surgery. They really aren't that difficult to put together, and given experience, care in assembly and the proper tools, any decent shop can turn one out that will do as much as the sum of the parts used in the build can offer. There's no magic to the parts, and very little in the hands of the person who puts them together. There's no magic to the completed assembly- it's just parts and pieces.

Now usually, the better quality parts you use, the better the totality of those parts will be when they are all assembled. But no matter what you do to an AR in .223/5.56, no matter who builds it, you have a varmint cartridge semiautomatic shooter and that's all. It isn't a Destructo Ray Gun, or the firearms equivalent of a light saber.

Some folks even go so far as to derisively refer to them as 'poodle shooters,' can you imagine that? They're carbines, they have some advantages and some limitations just like every other firearm does, and they are only gonna get so good no matter how much $$$ and time you spend on them.

I hope to be kinda pragmatic about the whole thing after all this time, I sure do try to be. I got past the whoopdedo a while back, I've built some ARs along the way and I've shepherded a couple of them through fairly demanding carbine classes. I like what works, what doesn't break, and what adds up to be light in weight. The sum of the parts you described would be pretty much that, I think.

There's no reason you shouldn't get what you want, for whatever reasons you want it, but unless I miss my guess, it won't be your 'be all and end all' as far as ARs go :D. I haven't built two just alike yet, even after all these years... there's too much to experiment with, and ARs are too easy to build not to try something new when you see something you like.

But have fun along the way anyway,


February 28, 2009, 03:08 PM
Couple of other good articles on the topic:


February 28, 2009, 04:23 PM
ain't rocket surgery

Now THAT's funny! :D

February 28, 2009, 04:32 PM
Who is Tiger McKee, and what makes him an authority on combat rifles?

Combat Medals? Match Trophys? 3-Gun Championships? Etc?


February 28, 2009, 04:42 PM
he runs a well-regarded little school that i believe is near the GA/AL border. I've been wanting to go but haven't made it yet


SHOOTRITE Director Tiger McKee has been involved in shooting sports since childhood, receiving early instruction from his father , a U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel. McKee has since immersed himself in the world of combative hand gunning and riflery, training in the tactical use of firearms with the leading experts in the nation. Under the legendary Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of the Modern Technique of the Hand Gun, Mckee achieved an Expert rating in both rifle and pistol. Tiger continues to train extensively in combat fighting skills with the foremost experts in the country to stay abreast of the latest in tactical and instructional techniques.

February 28, 2009, 04:42 PM
Who is Tiger McKee, and what makes him an authority on combat rifles?

Combat Medals? Match Trophys? 3-Gun Championships? Etc?


he runs shootrite academy, as well as wrote the book of two guns.


i haven't made it there yet but do plan to after this next deployment, in prep for being a civilian again. i plan on doing private one on one training with him, in low light, and vehicle tactics.

March 1, 2009, 12:06 AM
I've heard good things about his classes in Scottsboro, AL (if I remember the location right), which was in my neck of the woods for a while. I never managed to catch a window where one of his classes lined up with my schedule, so never had a chance to check it out.

That said, I have no clue as to his actual credentials as a shooting instructor. I don't think he's former military or a law enforcement/SWAT guy (I would think that would be mentioned on his website if he were) and don't know if he's a big Three Gun guy or anything.

Zak Smith
March 1, 2009, 01:07 AM
Well, if you asked MSTN to build you one to those specs, I am not surprised he refused. It'd be like going to a world-class chef and asking him to make you Hamburger Helper using the "budget meat" from the local grocery story.

Here are some excellent practical/fighting AR setups:
http://demigodllc.com/photo/MSTN17-2/smaller/D462_9185_img.jpg (http://demigodllc.com/photo/MSTN17-2/?small=D462_9185_img.jpg)
............... Larger version of above photo. (http://demigodllc.com/photo/MSTN17-2/?small=D462_9185_img.jpg)

http://demigodllc.com/photo/EAG-Carbine-2007/smaller/D101_5613_img.jpg (http://demigodllc.com/photo/EAG-Carbine-2007/?small=D101_5613_img.jpg)
............... Larger version of above photo. (http://demigodllc.com/photo/EAG-Carbine-2007/?small=D101_5613_img.jpg)

http://demigodllc.com/photo/AR-Optics-Jeff/smaller/DSC02228.jpg (http://demigodllc.com/photo/AR-Optics-Jeff/?small=DSC02228.jpg)
............... Larger version of above photo. (http://demigodllc.com/photo/AR-Optics-Jeff/?small=DSC02228.jpg)

http://demigodllc.com/photo/SLINGS/smaller/B100_1490_img.jpg (http://demigodllc.com/photo/SLINGS/?small=B100_1490_img.jpg)
............... Larger version of above photo. (http://demigodllc.com/photo/SLINGS/?small=B100_1490_img.jpg)

http://demigodllc.com/photo/SLINGS/smaller/B100_1429_img.jpg (http://demigodllc.com/photo/SLINGS/?small=B100_1429_img.jpg)
............... Larger version of above photo. (http://demigodllc.com/photo/SLINGS/?small=B100_1429_img.jpg)

There is more than one way to skin a cat-- or build a "fighting AR-15".

More important than one guy's conception of what the carbine should be- down to the firing pin retaining pin no less - is that the rifle was built with quality components by someone who knows how to make a reliable and accurate rifle. I suggested MSTN because they have done the R&D on a wide variety of build styles, components, and intended uses and can build a superior rifle.

March 1, 2009, 01:14 AM
I'm sure they can build a world class fighting rifle, I just wished they had suggested improvements to the list, as opposed to just giving me snide remarks on top of the rejection.

Anyways I contacted Predator Custom Shop, to see if they are interested, any experience with them?

Zak Smith
March 1, 2009, 01:21 AM
Well, why not ask Tiger who he recommend to built his "Best AR-15 Fighting Carbine"? Presumably he has some builders who are on-board with is concept and specs.

March 1, 2009, 01:30 AM
I think Tiger's primary concern is like his title says: "The Basic AR Fighting Rifle".

What I'm more interested in is a rifle that achieves his simplicty & lightweight requirements, with something that is at least as durable & reliable as a Colt, with a full/mid-length gas system, 1/7 twist, double chrome lined & accurate as a Noveske, and with perfect parts fit that I would expect from a custom rifle, i.e. a world class fighting rifle.

Perhaps I didn't word it correctly when I approached MSTN, do you think the above would interest them?

Zak Smith
March 1, 2009, 01:39 AM
What I'm more interested in is a rifle that achieves his simplicty & lightweight requirements, with something that is at least as durable & reliable as a Colt, with a full/mid-length gas system, 1/7 twist, double chrome lined & accurate as a Noveske, and with perfect parts fit that I would expect from a custom rifle, i.e. a world class fighting rifle.
The problem with speccing parts in conjunction with an overall goal is that sometimes the parts won't support that goal, there are no parts that meet the intersection of the "spec"s. This is more common the when the "speccer" is not an expert. Unless MSTN has totally changed their business model since I talked with them last, they would and can build you a world-class fighting rifle, given your rough functional requirements. That's exactly what I've done in the past.

However, although I can't predict what they'd do, if someone insisted that I build something that didn't make sense or using parts that wouldn't work well or support the overall goal, I'd say no.

If you want a superior rifle, it may be a good idea to start with an open mind and give the expert builder an opportunity to tell you what it should be to fulfill your purpose.

March 1, 2009, 01:40 AM
Thanks, I'll try again.

March 1, 2009, 01:59 AM
Double chrome lined? :confused:

March 1, 2009, 02:05 AM
What is your budget?

I am not a guy who gets all excited over 'the chart'... but it would be hard to do better than a Colt 6920 for your purposes. It is the military M4 without the go fast parts.

CMMG makes a good rifle too.

The problem will be finding one in stock anywhere with the current market situation of black rifles.

Is this going to be your first AR? What do you plan to do with it? At what ranges do you intend to shoot? "A fighting AR" doesn't really mean much.

March 1, 2009, 02:07 AM

You probably want to have the forward assist if this is supposed to be a fighting AR.

I used to be able to say that I had never used mine. I actually did have cause to use it at the range a while back... and it was a good thing that I did.

March 1, 2009, 02:14 AM
I'm not quite sure what my budget is, but I know that it ain't going to be cheap. However, I do want something that is conceivably top echelon.

I intend on taking classes & becoming proficient in it's handling, and should think that under 50yrds would be the primary engagement range, but would like something accurate enough to use out to 250+yrds. Perhaps if I get good enough I'll start exploring 3-gun.

I'm not to concerned with the current climate, as I can wait, and if I miss the boat, so be it, as I already have a Colt 6920.

March 1, 2009, 02:21 AM
Tiger's argument against the forward assist is that the original forward assist was your finger pressing the bolt forward, and if the cartridge didn't want to chamber properly you might be, quoting Stoner "buying yourself more trouble" by forcing it forward. Supposedly it was only added at the Army's insistence.

Zak Smith
March 1, 2009, 05:10 PM
All tools can be used incorrectly if the user chooses to do so.

March 1, 2009, 08:15 PM
Zak, would you mind describing the rifles in the second photo? Except for the muzzle brake, they look close to (one kind of) perfect.

Also, do you find increased utility for the enlarged trigger guard? It does look neat, but I'd hate for that to be the only reason I included it on a rifle! :o


Zak Smith
March 1, 2009, 11:11 PM
Here are some references about those rifles

(May need account to access the AR15 archive server.)


There is no reason you have to have a muzzle brake on there - I just do for 3Gun. I've also used other muzzle devices:

The first one - the painted tan one - was built specifically to fulfill both the high-intensity and the carbine precision parts of the ITRC match, as well as being a great 3Gun/practical rifle. This meant it needed to be able to engage small targets to the limit to 223/556 as well as maintain reliability through high-intensity courses of fire, namely the 300 round in 15-30 minute section of the ITRC. So there were a number of reliability and zero-retention features we went for.

As you point out, it is very close to a practical/tactical configuration, there is not much to argue against other than perhaps the brake.

In any case, the basic configuration is fairly simple: 17", rifle length gas system, mid-light weight profile barrel (about 0.72" under handguards, 0.75" forward of gas block), PRI carbon fiber float tube with optional/selectable rail segments, pinned gas block (for reliability).

The lowers have Magpul stuff because I like it and I run JP 4# triggers on almost everything. These have been 100% reliable over tens of thousands of rounds and 7 years.

On the trigger guard, I actually like it more because it fills in that void right in front of the grip (the square hole where a "gapper" might go) and provides a little wider platform and a different angle of support, which I find helpful especially when manipulating the gun and holding it strong-hand only.

Anyway, what's interesting is that the last photo I posted is basically Rock River 16" MLGS, which just had the barrel turned down a bit to save on weight an a LaRue rail system added. It's been very reliable and would be a good choice for a general utility/fighting upper.

Jeff White
March 1, 2009, 11:52 PM
I have to question the utility of a free float barrel on a carbine. It's a fighting rifle for heavens sake! It's not like you are going to need to shoot any tighter then 2-4 MOA that a standard carbine is capable of.

Then there are the durability issues with a carbon fiber hand guard. He did say it was a fighting rifle in the article, right? How much banging around can carbon fiber take?

What's the advantage of an old style cotter pin? In 35 years of combined Army Infantry and LE experience I've seen one cotter pin break. And I think I've probably seen every bad things a soldier or cop can do to an AR/M16.

Chrome silicon extractor & ejector springs from Superior Shooting Systems, what for? There is nothing wrong with the USGI extractor and the current spring with black insert, especially in a 16" barreled semi-auto.

I think putting a 16" barrel of unknown origin on a Les Baer upper is kind of funny, did the article say they were on some kind of budget?

Zak Smith
March 2, 2009, 12:03 AM
I've used a regular AR-15A2 with stock handguards in local practical rifle matches to 425 yards-- and beat all but 2 optics/open guys while doing it. Based on that, I don't think the standard handguards are a liability for accuracy in most cases. It is probably more of a problem the lighter the barrel contour, though.

http://demigodllc.com/photo/ArmaLite_A2_Article/smaller/05.jpg (http://demigodllc.com/photo/ArmaLite_A2_Article/?small=05.jpg)
............... Larger version of above photo. (http://demigodllc.com/photo/ArmaLite_A2_Article/?small=05.jpg)

With regard to the PRI carbon fiber fore-end-- it is the tube used on the Mk12 SPR, and as far as I know, there haven't been complaints and the tube breaking in actual military use. Anyone know differently?

Jeff White
March 2, 2009, 12:54 AM
I've had no problem hitting out to 350 meters with a standard M16A1. I think that unless you are shooting bench rest, prairie dogs or sniping, a free float barrel is unnecessary cost and complexity. But that's just me.

March 2, 2009, 04:20 AM
No budget indicated.

March 2, 2009, 04:28 AM
i have never seen so many moderators on one thread

March 2, 2009, 05:12 AM

I've been communicating with MSTN on building me a World Class AR Fighting Rifle. Anyways, just wanted to say thanks for the tips.

March 2, 2009, 07:21 AM
If this is your first AR, my suggestion would be to either buy, or assemble, a basic flattop carbine an stick an Aimpoint on it in a Larue or ADM mount.

benezra linked to a couple of articles on my site, and the "basic carbine build" one is fast becoming my favorite rifle in the safe, despite having many other options with way more whiz-bang and with a lot more money sunk into them.

March 2, 2009, 12:28 PM
You know, I think some moderators don't hear this often enough:

but, thanks to Lee, Jeff, and Zak for being willing to share their knowledge and experience. I think that a lot of folks don't understand the resources they have.

My personal rifle is a 16" Stag Arms Upper with a Sully Stock. It has an ARMS quick-throw mount with an AccuPoint 1.25-4x.

I am extremely fast and accurate at close range, and suck at distance. :rolleyes: I think this is most likely related to the nature of the post reticle.


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