Letter Re: Some Suggested .308 Battle Rifle Upgrades

A few tips/modifications that I have picked up regarding 308 rifles that I hope may be helpful. All the “battle” rifles could stand to lose a little weight and be a little more user friendly. Surprisingly, I have re-worked my FN-FAL down to under the weight of many AR-15s out there with their axle-sized heavy barrels! A heavy barrel carbine seems like a oxymoron to me. Any weight you save, increases the amount of ammo you can carry.
FAL/L1A1– Remove the FAL muzzle brake (its too heavy and too long), replace with a [Smith Enterprise] Vortex flash hider or the Steyr 3-prong flash hider. Replace the round FAL front sight with a square one, you get a better sight picture, or better yet get a tritium night front sight. L1A1 has a fine front sight already. Replace the rear sight with a paratrooper rear sight. You lose some of the adjustment but they don’t have the 3 MOA wiggle that the typical FAL rear sight has. If you have metal handguards, ditch them for the Imbel plastic handguards (it takes a blow torch to melt them and they still don’t heat up like the metal STG ones do). L1A1 handguards are fine as well. Forget the bipod, or get a QD bipod that can go in your ruck, its extra weight. [In his book “Boston’s Gun Bible”,] Boston T. Party explains how to change the charging handle into a forward assist/reciprocating handle, as is standard on the heavy barrel FALs, easy to do mod to the bolt carrier. Speaking of bolt carrier get one with sand cuts, and even better is to swap it out for a Para bolt carrier, even if you keep the standard stock. This eliminates the “rat tail” and in a jam, you can hinge open the receiver and work on it. DSA makes a aluminum lower to shave some weight, but its not worth the cost IMHO. DS Arms is also offering a folding stock that accepts CAR-15 style collapsible stocks. The advantage here is that if you wear body armor, or change seasons, you can quickly adjust stock length for the heavy clothes you have on. Neat, but not necessary. If you do go this route, use a Vltor buffer tube. They make them with a screw off endcap so you have an extra storage compartment for your cleaning kit etc. Are you going to scope it? DSA scope mount is the only way to go. They even sell one that is milled out for the [Trijicon] ACOG, which allows you to use iron sights as a back up. Finally, swap out selector for a L1A1 selector, since its easier to manipulate. [JWR Adds: To use an inch selector in a metric FAL, it will take some minor machining or cautious Dremelling. If you aren’t mechanically inclined, then selectors that have already been modified to fit metric are often available through the FALFiles Forums “Marketplace” forum page. Just post a “Want to Buy: (WTB) Inch Selector Modified for Metric FAL””) ad.] If you live in a cold climate you may even want to swap out the lower for a L1A1 pistol grip that has the winter trigger guard feature. [JWR Adds: That will only work if you also change the gas block/front sight base, since inch rifles and metric rifles have their front and rear sights at significantly different heights above the bore centerline.] Have a spare parts kit, know how to swap and headspace a new barrel and bolt. Get your spare parts now before they dry up again.

M1A – Get a USGI winter safety, these are fairly rare and I’m not sure of a good source. Swap out front sight/flash hider with a Vortex from Smith Enterprise. Its lighter and works better. They even have a gas block front sight, but you lose some sight length. Get several synthetic stocks from Fred’s M14 Stocks and camouflage them to your environment and the various seasons. Scoping the M1A makes it heavy, but the only mount I found that holds rock steady is Smith Enterprises.YMMV Get some variable glass, a nice leupold, to compliment the M1A. A nice combo I played with today was a Scout M1A (not the SOCOM [model] as the 16″ barrel gives off some tremendous noise with the noise maker on the end) with the shorter 18″ barrel in a Vltor pistol grip, collapsible stock. It was short and sweet. Especially if your terrain precludes 500-800 meter shots. Forget the Picatinny rails, they are just too heavy. Spare bolt, and rear sight parts were cheap, but once the CMP sold out their prices have skyrocketed. Get them while you can. The Taiwan GI mags are comparable to USGI, but anything else is junk.

HK91 – Again, get the Vortex, no difference in weigh but it works better. Get the CETME bayonet lug cap, since it has a cleaning kit that slides behind it in the cocking tube. I don’t know about fixed bayonet charge, but this provides an option The slim forearms, with heat shield, are the lightest. Again on the bipod, do you really need it? The low profile scope mounts are the way to go. The surplus W. German FERO are 4x and nice, but the mounts weigh a ton, ditch it. Drill out the rear sight to have a up-close ghost ring. There is an aftermarket sight drum coming that has this. Flapper mag release, this is expensive to modify to your gun, but well worth it. The Tac Latch is another option, but even it is over $50. Both of these speedup the process of magazine changes tremendously. Swap out the charging handle for the larger MG handle, its easier to manipulate under stress and with gloves on. The sliding (A3) HK stock is neat, but hot in the summer and cold against the check in the winter, keep the standard plastic stock, consider a CETME stock, since it has a recoil pad. Get an extra parts kit. You need a spare bolt, carrier, and trigger pack, and rollers. CETME trigger groups have a better trigger pull and you may want to swap it in( but the selector arrangement is different) and you have to modify it for semi only. If the Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA) or 1986 ever gets repealed, modifying the HK and CETME trigger packs to allow full auto is simple. [JWR Adds: Needless to say, all NFA rules apply. Full auto conversions are illegal in the U.S., and it is illegal to own both a semiauto rifle and selective fire conversion parts. (In the eyes of the law, owning both is the same as owning a gun that has already been converted. If any readers desire full auto capability,then $200 transfer tax full autos are available for purchase in most states, although prices have been bid up to astronomical levels since the 1986 machinegun freeze. I personally feel that semi-auto is fully adequate (and usually more effective) for self defense, and the high profile associated with owning a registered Class 3 full auto or suppressor might be counterproductive, depending on circumstances.] Vector Arms is selling HK91 clones with the flapper mag release already installed if you are in the market. They even have a 16″ barreled HK91 clone with a short cocking tube and short carrier. (It cuts weight way down, but you lose sight radius, and 16″ in a 308 is pretty darn short.) [Alloy] HK magazines are as cheap as $1.50 each, get many while you can.

AR-10 – I don’t know anything about them, but there are some piston uppers coming out for them. The HK417 looks nice, but pricey, if ever available to civilians. [JWR Adds: My advice is to buy only AR-10s that can accept inexpensive FN-FAL magazines, such as the AR-10s made by Bushmaster and Rock River Arms.]

AR-15 – Okay its not a battle rifle but every house should have one, my mouse gun has a pencil 16″ barrel, standard handguards, and a flat top upper with a Trijicon ACOG. I’m not sure with the fascination of hanging things on them like a Christmas tree. I do have a QD Surefire that attached to the bayonet lug for use at night. CavArms has the plastic lowers with A1 stocks to get the weight down even farther, I don’t know how well they hold up, but Brownell’s has them pretty cheap right now. As you know registered drop-in auto sears are available, so get the spares you need. [JWR Adds: A registered drop-in auto sear is presently around $15,000, if you can find someone willing to part with one.]
Get the ‘smithing knowledge on your weapons now, and stock up on spare firing pins, magazines, and parts. You should already have the ammo. You need to be able to strip it apart and at least change out the firing pin on everything you own, your life may depend on it. Ditto on firearms training.

Okay now for my question to you regarding fire protection. Our local fire department has hose filters that allows them to draw from ponds and lakes if the tankers go empty. Fine and dandy if the fire department is still around. What options are available if they are not? One of the earlier”Jericho” shows, showed them back pumping a pool filter to fight a fire. I imagine it would take a whopper of a “pool” filter/pump to actually do this. I guess bucket brigade may be the only option? – Mike

JWR Replies: Gasoline engine-powered portable pumps are available for about the same cost as a portable generator. These can easily provide enough water pressure for a firefighting rig. I also recommend that if you have a retreat property with a hillside above it that accommodate a cistern with at least 40 feet of “fall” to your retreat buildings that you construct at 1,500 gallon (pr larger) cistern. Be sure that the water service line coming down from this cistern is at least 1.5-inches in diameter (preferably 2″ diameter), and Schedule 40 specification. That will give your sufficient pressure and volume for a firefighting rig.