The Rifle Vs. The Carbine: Data Points

The Rifle Vs. The Carbine: Data Points

I wish i had a ton of money (and time) to evaluate statistical differences in shooters, their gear, and hit probability. People who have more money than me (like the government) can use their vast resources to squander millions of dollars on weapon evaluations that lead to nowhere like the XM8 project. Others, who are smarter than me such as Bryan Litz, can put together ballistics programs that can take the science of bullet flight and run with it. What am I left with? Forum posts.

The SHTF Challenge!

Well… now that the above is off my chest, I found a very interesting forum post the other day over at Take the SHTF Challenge!

The discussion is a self assessment of your accuracy in a non supported position. The requirements are to shoot unsupported, standing, sitting, or kneeling (no prone) with 15 shots in 2 minutes at 100 yards on a standardized target. It is open to all weapon types, but categorized into the following:

  • Iron Sighted Carbine
  • Iron Sighted Rifle (barrel 18 inches and up)
  • Optic Carbine
  • Optic Rifle

The majority of rifles are AR15 based systems. Not all of the data points are AR15s. I saw some Mosin Nagants in the data, for example. Not all calibers are 5.56. One of the carbine entrants ran a 9mm for example.

I found it very interesting to read through the initial post and the leader-boards. The data has lots of variables of course, and in no way is a reflection of controlled conditions. Each shooter is at a different level of skill, each is using non-standardized ammo (for example some opting to shoot M193 and others running match handloads) and who knows what other variables are present in the data. With the popularity of free float rails, many of the carbine shooters may be running rifle length sight radius for example. I just don’t know.

Their are only a few things we can say are somewhat safe to assume: 1) That the rifle category should be giving the shooter a slightly heavier gun than the carbine division. 2) That the iron sighted rifles generally will have a longer sight radius.

What I did was take the first ten (in the case of the carbine only 9 entries were available) and average the MOA of the shooters groups as they relate to each category.

Iron Sighted Carbine MOA Average (9 entries): 7.0

Iron Sighted Rifle MOA Average (to 10 entries): 5.9

Optic Carbine MOA Average: (to 10 entries): 4.1

Optic Rifle MOA Average: (to 10 entries): 4.0

Whats interesting here is that the data shows us that shooters, with a variety of setups, in general are shooting iron sighted rifles slightly better than iron sighted carbines to the tune of 1 MOA Average. Then it turns around and imparts us the importance of optics to your modern day SHTF rifle with a big jump in accuracy gains from both carbine and rifle platforms with the use of optics. Some of the optics are noted to be red dots, and others variables.

cold range

In the above data, glass equalizes some of the shooter performance between rifle and carbine based systems.

When optical sights are applied, we can assume a slight weight gain for both rifle and carbine, but a superior sight picture for both. Optics seem to be a great equalizer in carbine vs rifle performance at close range targets (100 yards) with average scores neck and neck between the two systems. If we stretched the distance out, would we see a degradation in performance from the carbine? Probably if we stretched the distance far enough the wind and environment would give the rifle a bit of an edge, but that’s going to be a small percentage of your shooting unless you live in the desert and things turn into mad max.

Wrapping Up:

The above really just highlights the importance of optics in a modern rifleman’s equipment list. High quality glass gives you a superior sight picture and can elevate your accuracy level to the tune of 2-3 MOA over irons in a unsupported shooting position.  I love irons, but glass is a accuracy multiplier. When I shot from the 200 yard swinging bridge stage in Corpus Christi, I was so happy I had my Velocity and the 4x zoom. It was vital to me in finishing that stage and I don’t think I could have done it without some magnification. Many shooters did not finish that stage. C’est La Vie. Gear advances make things easier. Don’t get left behind!


Written by lothaen

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