Let’s face it, there are more than enough articles detailing rifle setup or reviews of home defense carbines With the ever-growing list of friends, family, and acquaintances that have little to no shooting experience, they tend to ask the same typical questions:

“What’s the best rifle I can buy?”

“Can’t I just go cheap?”

“I know what you’re saying, but I really like that tiny Sig P290. Can’t I just go with that? A rifle seems like a bit much”

“Can’t I just build it? It looks easy on YouTube.”

“Can you show me how to set it up?”

“I don’t know about LMT, I’ve heard Rock Rivers’ are just as good on this blog.”

I’ve seen varying reactions from the staff at your average gun shop. Some people are helpful, some get annoyed, others exploit a new buyer for the sake of an easy sale, and the absolute worst is the staff member who seizes the opportunity to belittle you. While some folks come to me lacking maturity in their line of questioning, I always provide the best and simplest advice I can give. There’s nothing to lose here, and if someone decides to bet their life on your recommendation, I really hope you gave them a real answer based upon a combination of real experience and some research. This article is my recommendation to a new buyer interested in protecting their home. With that, I’m keeping much of the information in this article basic.

When writing this article, I chose two carbine length multipurpose rifles, tailored slightly towards close quarters battle (CQB). The first question is “why carbine length? Don’t we have better options with respect to short barreled rifles (SBR) and AR pistols?” Yes, there are better options, but I have no desire to deal with SBR laws when traveling across state lines. I have even less of a desire to deal with how the BATF chooses to interpret the legality of an AR pistol on any random day of the week. Furthermore, a 16-inch barreled AR-15 will handle a close quarters fight just fine. You may be hesitant as a new shooter to approach the concept of an AR-15 style rifle over a pistol, so let’s assess the “why” — My main driving factors for choosing an AR-15 style rifle are: high-capacity, maneuverability, dependability, and accuracy.

Now, let’s get into the weapons. I chose two different models from two different manufacturers.

Rifle1: Daniel Defense M4 V11 in 5.56mm with 16inch barrel (Pictured on Top)

Rifle2: BCM RECCE 16 in 5.56mm with 16inch barrel (Pictured Below)

Here’s why I chose these manufacturers, quality parts, quality labor, quality control. Take whatever stance you want, but Daniel Defense and Bravo Company Manufacturing are known for this. Am I saying you’ll never get a bad gun off the line? Nope. I’m saying that you are far more likely to get a dependable weapon out of the box. If there is a defect, both companies take their customer service seriously, and will make it right.

All those points aside, if you decide to make a rifle your duty or home protection weapon, and it has yet to be fired, you’re a moron. Never bet on an unproven piece of life saving gear. Do not get caught up in the “it’s mil spec so it’s basically the same” mindset. That “mil spec means it’s good to go” argument is the equivalent of saying, “to build a house all you need is a roof.” The extra steps these companies take before shipping a weapon are leaps and bounds above other manufacturers, and that is why I chose them.

A basic duty AR-15/M4 rifle setup

Read Next: A basic duty AR-15/M4 rifle setup

Now, there are plenty of other manufacturers that make quality AR platforms such as LMT, Colt, Triarc Systems, LWRC, LaRue Tactical, Knights Armament Co, etc. and they are top notch. Even during my service in the military I bet my life on Colt for years, so please do not think I am stating these other manufacturers are unworthy for duty or home defense. On the other hand, if you are considering building a rifle (I recommend that for more experienced individuals), do not make your first home defense rifle a build. I’ve seen it all when it comes to builds. Build your first and make sure it runs — Clint Smith would agree with me. With that noted, let’s move on.

Weapons System Overview:

Rifle1: Daniel Defense M4 V11 in 5.56mm.

Barrel- Cold Hammer Forged, government profile 1:7 twist, Chrome Moly Vanadium Steel

Rail- Keymod 15inch

Gas system- Mid-Length

Gas block- Low profile pinned

Muzzle Device- Daniel Defense Flash Suppressor

Rifle2: BCM RECCE 16 in 5.56mm.

Barrel- Cold Hammer Forged, government profile 1:7 twist, MIL-B-11595E Chrome Moly Steel

Rail- Keymod 15inch

Gas system- Mid-Length

Gas block- Low profile dimpled with set screws

Muzzle Device- BCM Mod 0 Compensator

I can get into further detail, but I’m not a damn brochure, look the rest up yourself.

The barrel- Both rifles are government profile and cold hammer forged, a solid decision with respect to durability. There are some who would urge you to seek lightweight barrels, but I like versatility. There are also days where training is high round count and long in duration; I have no interest in sacrificing accuracy, or increasing the level of heat on my handguard if that can be mitigated with a slightly heavier barrel. In fact, I am also a big fan of the heavier SOCOM profile barrels as they handle a higher volume of fire. Bottom line, I like a workhorse that I can depend on.

Moving onto gas systems- I’m a pretty big proponent of the mid-length gas system on a 16 inch barrel. It allows greater dwell time and creates a far smoother recoil impulse than a carbine length gas system. During training sessions, I believe you’ll find recoil management a tad more manageable than a “snappy” carbine length system during a rapid string of fire.

Gas blocks- Pinned or dimpled with set screws? Honestly, if done right it doesn’t matter. However, if done wrong the weapon won’t run. This is an area where a quality manufacturer is important. Over the years, I have had plenty of friends shoot their personal weapons in a course side by side with me, and some lesser manufacturers have been known to cut corners in this area. I’ve seen some of those guns run like sewing machines, then one day, not function…. All due to poor gas block installation or cheap materials.

Muzzle device- The muzzle device in both systems work just fine, but they are nothing to write home about. The Daniel Defense Flash suppressor works as intended, it dissipates muzzle flash, and helps direct recoil where it needs to go. The BCM Mod 0 Compensator does neither task very well. It does an okay job of flash suppression, and an okay job of compensation. If you are thinking of installing a large muzzle brake on your home protection weapon to aid in recoil management, don’t. The muzzle flash, combined with the deafening noise will be a less than pleasant experience should you have to fight with your rifle indoors.

Regarding Rails- both work fine, Keymod or MLOK, I really don’t care. It does not impact my ability to shoot well, and the systems are durable. If I were to pick from the two manufacturers, I prefer the BCM rail system. It’s lighter, and the lockup is simplistic but tough. For you gear-nazis, MLOK accessories will have greater longevity with respect to accessory availability, and it is a more durable system than keymod.

Last, but not least, Bolt Carrier Groups (BCGs)- There’s a ton of options out there, so I’ll say it like this, get yourself a full auto BCG. The AR-15 was designed to run with the full auto BCG. There are better options, but a Mil-spec, carpenter 158 steel, high pressure tested, magnetic particle inspected, heat treated and shot peened, with properly torqued and staked gas key screws are essential to reliable operation. The Daniel Defense and BCM BCGs are a fantastic example of a perfectly executed Mil-spec BCG; however, the BCM BCG has become the “gold standard” throughout the shooting community. You would not be wrong with either choice.

Rifle Setups:

Rifle1- Daniel Defense M4 V11 (Pictured on Top)

Optic- EOTECH EXPS 3-2 (Tan)

Iron Sights- Daniel Defense fixed iron sights

Foregrip- Strike Industries SI LINK angled foregrip

Light Source- Arisaka Defense 300 series with Surefire SR07 pressure switch

Buttstock- BCM Gunfighter SOPMOD Stock

Other- Magpul PMAG Coupler


Rifle2: BCM RECCE 16 (Pictured Below)

Optic- Trijicon MRO

Iron Sights- Daniel Defense fixed iron sights

Foregrip- Strike Industries SI LINK angled foregrip

Light Source- Arisaka Defense 300 series with Surefire SR07 pressure switch

Buttstock- BCM Gunfighter SOPMOD Stock

Other- Magpul PMAG Coupler

Kit for your setup are where some folks tend to skimp once they purchase a quality rifle, sometimes…. They skimp even if their rifle is garbage. But here’s the takeaway, positive target ID, a fast-reliable optic, and a weapon that feels instinctive to operate are just as important. If it looks cool, but works sometimes, or is not user-friendly, move on.

Optics: The EOTECH EXPS series- are great close quarters optics, practically parallax free (not totally), large window that promotes situational awareness, and ideal donut style reticle make it a force to be reckoned with. Now, I am fully prepared for all my EOTECH haters to crawl out from the rock they are hiding under screaming things like “thermal drift!” In my experience, all the EXPS models I’ve run work great. Even the one I used during my time in Special Operations through parachuting, climbing, rucking, FAST roping, and extended shooting sessions during extreme cold weather (the polar vortex of 2015), I’ve had no issues. My biggest complaint is battery life, 1000 Hours. You do not want to be in a position where you go to turn on your optic in the middle of the night only to see a big fat nothing. I always play it safe and change my batteries every 3 months.

Moving on to the Trijicon MRO- the thing is bomb proof, parallax is a bit rough on this optic, but I haven’t found that to be an issue. In stark contrast, the battery life is amazing at a whopping 5 years in constant on. What is very hard to beat, is the price. If you wait for an online sale, you can roll out the door with one for approximately $375.

Iron sights- It’s like this, yea, it’s more money to spend; on the other hand, batteries and electronics fail. Iron sights are a constant you can count on, so buy them. Light Source- Arisaka Defense makes solid kit, and the 300 series are cost effective and reliable. They are also relatively small, light-weight, and take up very little real-estate on your rail system. Add a surefire pressure switch and you’re in business.

Flashlights are a non-negotiable item, if you can’t identify what’s in front of you, you are combat ineffective. BCM Gunfighter SOPMOD stock- Highly durable (I’ve drop tested their stocks before at 20+FT…. they hold up), with a fantastic cheek-weld. The BCM SOPMOD stock makes reflexive shooting just a tad more instinctive. Strike Industries Angled foregrip- I just like them, no other reason, find what works for you. Their slim profile allows me to get a solid grip around the rail system, and the forward notch aids the shooter in keeping the rifle pinned to your shoulder with ease. Lastly, the Magpul PMAG coupler- “What’s better than one thirty round magazine?” Two thirty round magazines mounted side-by-side. I can’t predict the future, but 60 rounds of 5.56mm in your home defense rifle should be more than enough to end most engagements. I’m not saying 60 rounds are all you’ll ever need, but I am saying that the odds are in your favor.

Lastly, all the top-notch gear in the world does not make an effective combat shooter. I know plenty of businessmen that own expensive firearms they don’t know how to run. If you plan to invest in a home defense weapon, then plan to invest regular money in constant training. You owe it to everyone as a responsible gun owner, you owe it to your family, the innocent neighbors across the street, and most of all, yourself. Even if you’re not a combat shooter, you need to train like one. The whole reason you are making this purchase is if something “might” happen. Well, if something “might” happen, then training is the other 50% percent of that dangerous hypothetical.

 About the Author: Jonathan Fietkau is a former SOTACC from 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, and a graduate of the Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course (SFAUCC). He is a combat veteran of Iraq, and other theaters of operation, with previous service in the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions.