500 dollars to spend on my ar-15. Optic or ammo?


March 23, 2010, 07:21 AM
I have 500 dollars to spend for my ar-15. Optic or ammo?

Before anyone jumps to conclusions I have a stockpile of ammunition for SHTF, and do hit the range bi-weekly for 60 or 80 rounds. However 2000 rounds or so would go a long way to making it weekly for months. Plus would make for long sessions as well.

I also am set on everything else and have been for a long time. I have my carry piece, my home pistol, my shotgun, and my 22 pistol.

A consideration would be also buying one of the new 22 lr ar-15 platforms. But I have found the trigger time on my 22 pistol to translate poorly to my other handguns, I cannot see it being any better when the sights and recoil would be ever further off from my 5.56 platform.

Another option is buying a cheap optic, but from the horror stories and reviews I have read, anything in the 2 or 3 hundred dollar range or under is a waste of money.

So my puzzle is

2000 rounds of practice ammo:

Great training with iron sights.
ammo could get even more costly, optics likely wont/cant and still stay attainable and marketable.

Once shot up it is gone.
Big tamale I guess question of 1500 or 2000 shots fired translating to the accuracy increase of an optic?


Permanent increase to accuracy and follow up shots?
I have the money saved up now. I can always buy a few boxes of shells, but saving 500 dollars is a pain.
Won't be left wanting.


Again big tamale question I guess. 1500 or 2000 shots fired translating to the accuracy increase of an optic? :banghead:

I just wish I could test out an optic and see the difference.

I guess that is the essence of my question for those who have a lot of time on red dots. Is it a couple thousand rounds fired through iron sights difference or is it just hype and stick to irons and practice way more with the money?

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March 23, 2010, 07:38 AM
I'd look at a 22 conversion kit for your existing AR, or a dedicated upper - can keep the same sight picture, exact same trigger, and manual of arms.

Supplant that with a few extra magazines for the conversion, and spend the rest on 223 ammo.

March 23, 2010, 07:50 AM
I have heard the conversion kits will ruin a rifle because of how dirty 22lr runs. Any experiences with them long term?

March 23, 2010, 09:06 AM
An red dot makes for faster target acquisition, which makes for quicker accuracy during rapid transitions, etc. However, if you're just casually shooting and have GOOD iron sights they can easily be just as accurate.

I have a Sig 556 with the newer diopter sights, and I can be very accurate with them. On the other hand, my MP 15-22 sights don't lend themselves to consistent accuracy (for me).

I do use a Nikon Monarch red dot sight with adjustable MOA dot size on the Sig and it's great, but no more accurate for me than the good iron diopter iron sights.

If you're interested in a big accuracy improvement, you might consider the Leupold Mark AR series for $300-600 depending on the power range you want. They have 3-9 up to 6-18 I believe, and come with bullet drop turrets for quick distance changes.

March 23, 2010, 09:21 AM
Ammo hands down.

You said you train, but you can never train enough. If you learn to shoot well with irons you'll never need optics. Optics can be a crutch for medium range weapons and really only needed on an AR if you are hitting really small targets out at 500 meters. The irons are good enough for most uses.

If you rely on a red dot, you'll find you need it for every rifle and that will get expensive. Scopes also take up space in safes and are fragile.

Buy the ammo and train.

March 23, 2010, 09:25 AM

Al Thompson
March 23, 2010, 09:38 AM
Actually, I'd advise a school. You may exceed your budget a bit, but so will 2k of ammo. :) The ammo will be consumed eventually, but you will retain the training much longer.

No issues with .22LR in an AR. The Air Force was doing that for years. A couple of 5.56 rounds down range and your gas tube will be cleaned.

March 23, 2010, 10:11 AM
Does your rifle as currently configured allow you to shoot well in low/poor light conditions or in hasty, non-ideal positions with no cheek weld, even sideways? An optic is far more than a replacement for irons; it does things that irons can't.

Assuming your current rifle is a flattop, you can get an Eotech 516 for $439 from Bravo Company, and if you don't have backup irons already, a Magpul MBUS would add another $55 or so. Or add a light if you don't already have one (maybe even add the light first).

Although defensive firearms are rarely needed, you are (relatively speaking) FAR more likely to need to fire two or three accurate rounds at 3AM inside your house than you are to need 3000 rounds of daylight-only capability, even in some hypothetical SHTF scenario.

+1 on the training recommendations. A class might help you figure out what you need and what you don't.

March 23, 2010, 10:22 AM
Nearest training is http://www.thunderranchinc.com/cost.html

Only 70 miles from my home by chance, but 880 bucks.

I am thinking I will hit this up anyway, it seems like good instruction by chance near me.

Maybe use my current budget to buy required ammo for thunder ranch course.

Get the iron sight training at thunder ranch. Think optic later?

March 23, 2010, 10:25 AM
Reading in to it more...

Seems Clint Smith (I remember his name from when I use to read the gun magazines way back) the guy at thunder ranch is more than fairly reputable, but one of the best. And I happen to be close to this school.

Now the question seems to be some ammo for use at this school in a month of savings with iron sights, or an optic? Give or take a couple hundred bucks.

March 23, 2010, 10:41 AM
benezra said "Does your rifle as currently configured allow you to shoot well in low/poor light conditions or in hasty, non-ideal positions with no cheek weld, even sideways? An optic is far more than a replacement for irons; it does things that irons can't."

That is the thing. My rifle is my final project.

I have a tactical shotgun for home defense already. An 11-87 with pistol grip and tactical light for home defense. My concern with my rifle is more SHTF scenario and bug out.

I have standard gas block tower and magpul rear sight. Stock S&W MOE (yes I am an ar-15 noob, couldn't afford to upgrade my mini-14 til recent). I do however have a yankee hill front gas block flip down for if I get a red dot.

And no, currently in low light or off positions my rifle is almost useless with the iron sites.

This is exactly my problem and question. Out at the range last weekend, at dusk, I was hitting paper not target at 100 yards with my iron sites, and with my buddies rifle with a red dot I was in center mass. I couldn't even see the sights on my AR.

You hit it on the nose, my puzzle and how it came to be, shooting medium light I became totally inept .

March 23, 2010, 10:51 AM
To better explain by the way I am a 15 year handgun enthusiast.

I always had a shotgun and a mini-14 for hypothetical SHTF scenarios and rarely trained. However did train extensive with concealed carry pieces and shotguns.

Also I use to hunt with magnified scoped rifles.

I am now finally getting serious about rifles for ideals of civil defense etc. And it isn't nearly as simple as "oh I can just pick up my rifle and do what I need done" I am finding.

Lots of factors when ya get over 20 yards with pistols, or even stranger in different light situations, for fast shooting, without a deer rifle scope with slow controlled shots. Assuming combat scenarios not short range pistol or long range rifle...

My final alien world in all of this is the combat carbine etc. And I am confused what to do. Irons and practice, red dot over time, training and a mix? Screwed without all 3?

Unlimited budget of course would do it all, but I am thinking "what is first and most important!?"

March 23, 2010, 11:00 AM
If you can find one at the right height, or use a riser to the right height, it is awesome to have a red dot that cowitnesses with your iron sights. The Nikon I mentioned earlier happens to be the perfect height on a Sig 556 SWAT to cowitness, which means I can use the iron sights through the scope and don't need fold down irons or need to take the dot off if it ever quit working in the middle of needing it. ARs are a different configuration, so the Nikon may not cowitness with them.

PS if I lived anywhere near Thunder Ranch, I'd have already gone there. Judging by some of his DVDs, the courses he offers would be great. If you can arrange it, I'd sure try to go if I were you.

March 23, 2010, 11:04 AM
Get the iron sight training at thunder ranch. Think optic later?
That's probably a good idea. Attending a TR class would probably also give you the opportunity to see/try different quality optics and make a more informed decision.

March 23, 2010, 11:09 AM
How about an Appleseed event for $70? You will learn a lot, and there's nothing else out there that's anywhere near the price.

I'd say Appleseed for $70
One of these for $110 (I have 2 and love them) http://www.primaryarms.com/product.sc?productId=206&categoryId=2
And then the rest on ammo, maybe a couple 6-packs ;)

March 23, 2010, 11:19 AM
The red dot will not be more accurate than irons; it will just be faster and usable at lower ambient lighting levels, and should allow more peripheral vision. Most people also add folding backup iron sights for use in case the red dot battery dies.

If you have the chance to try before you buy, such as a training course, that might be the best overall option.

Bartholomew Roberts
March 23, 2010, 01:48 PM
I am going to suggest making training the priority. The training is something you will always have with you, no matter where you are.

As a bonus, training provides some great opportunities to try out different gear (especially optics) that you might not otherwise have access to and to get an idea of what works for you and what doesn't. For example, I thought the TA31DOC was going to be the greatest optic ever when it came out. When I finally got a chance to try one (at a class no less), it was less than I had hoped for. The training gave me the opportunity to try out the TA31DOC and saved me from spending $1,000+ on a piece of glass that although designed for exactly my purpose by a quality company, didn't meet my needs and work with how I run my rifle.

An optic is a nice force multiplier; but being able to run the rifle well will serve you so much better than having the optic in the long run (says the guy with two nice optics (TA11 ACOG and Aimpoint T1) on my primary rifle).

March 23, 2010, 07:14 PM
A buddy of mine took one of the last Urban Rifle classes at Thunder Ranch Texas before Clint moved to Oregon. During the class Clint used a Colt AR-15 manufactured in 1968 (Triangular handguards, birdcage flash hider, no forward assist, A1 sights with carry handle) and a standard sling. My buddy said he was just as fast with that setup as the folks with the pimped out ARs with optics. My buddy also said that Clint recommended the minimalist approach to weaponry, with basically a stock AR with a light sufficing for most situations.

Just my .02,

March 23, 2010, 07:43 PM
Get a quality red dot like an Aimpoint, E0 Tech or Elcan. You saw for yourself how much of an advantage they are in low light. Chances are if trouble comes in will come in low light.

I just ordered an Elcan red dot sight http://www.botachtactical.com/elcanspecterrd.html. With an absolute co-witness mount it's $450.00

That and a folding rear BUS like the one Magpul makes and you have greatly increased the capability of your AR under the circumstances under which you are most likely to use it for defense.

Next to that I would say take a course. I took a low light course at Sig Academy and it was a great investment. Way better than just going to the range and turning $$ into noise!

Also, with the proper mount you don't need (or want) a folding front sight. If the front sight is in the way of the dot it means the mount is to low.

March 23, 2010, 07:43 PM
An Aimpoint Comp M3 is a complete game changer. Set up for lower 1/3 Cowitness you can still use iron sights. It's alot quicker on target and simpler to shoot with it.

When you laying sideways on the ground in the "urban prone" position its a bit hard to line up your rear sight. The Aimpoint is alot easier to use in odd positions.

Also an Aimpoint is easy for my eyes to both use. Being that I'm very left eye dominant I can't use irons well with my right eye. I have to squint my left eye for my right to take over. A big no-no. Both eyes should allways be open in CQB.

With an Aimpoint I can keep both eyes wide open and shoot left around the left side of cover or when moveing left and engaging forward target at an angle. Or I can shoot righty moving in the opposite direction.

Don't know many people that can pull that off with irons.

March 23, 2010, 11:52 PM
Burris Fastfire II sight,http://www.google.com/search?q=Burris+Fastfire+II&rls=com.microsoft:en-us&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1...and spend the rest on ammo to practice with it.

A good Aimpoint and mount will exceed your budget. I've got both, and I will say that either red dot will drastically increase your on target speed. The Burris is very light/small. The Aimpoint has incredible battery life and is "mil." tough.

March 24, 2010, 03:15 AM
I have heard the conversion kits will ruin a rifle because of how dirty 22lr runs. Any experiences with them long term?
i have one of the cmmg coversion kits with over 3000rds through it so far and i have had no adverse effects on the ar too date. i know 3000rds isn't much but that is all i have been able to squezze in with my work schedule prior to deployment.

i think you should look at the Vector optics, the SPARC looks real nice, and it is $200, with the money left over you could get ammo too. that is an option.

March 24, 2010, 07:35 AM
AMMO goes up in price and keeps forever if taken care of. Optics take batteries and are quickly outdated.

March 24, 2010, 08:54 AM
You might consider reloading equipment. You will be able to produce quality reloads for less money than the junk ammo out there. Consider this, the average price for 223 right now is abour $8-$10 for a box of 20 rounds putting the cost of each round at 40-50 cents. You can buy some steel cased stuff for about 30 cents a piece but that is usually garbage. If you were to invest your $500 in good reloading equipment you can produce FMJ ammo that is tailored to your gun for about 23 cents per round. But the really good news is that you can produce premium Hunting/Target ammo for about 33 cents per round. If you were to try to buy ammo of that quality you are looking at upwards of 60 cents per round and probably a lot more.

Here is how I came up with those numbers:

Bullet: FMJ 10 cent JHP/ BT 20 cents
Primer: 4 cents
Case: 10 cents a piece for once fired @ 5 firings =2 cents per round
Powder: Averaged at 25 grains per round at an average cost of $20 per pound you need 3.05 pounds of powder (7000 grins per pound) = appr. 7 cents per round.

March 24, 2010, 01:05 PM
Re the .22 converter:

I have a Ceiner kit that I have used for a few years. I have over 4,000 rounds through my DI AR and over 6,000 rounds through my piston AR (2 kids can shoot beaucoup rimfire ammo!). I Have had no problems with either system. My highest round count in the DI AR between cleaning was a fun range day when we went through 3 550 boxes of federal value pack. When done I just shot 2-3 rounds of 5.56 to blow out the gas system and and it was GTG. Does it get the system dirty? yes but so does the 5.56.

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