We recently sat down with Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics to discuss AR-15 basics and share advice for those looking to build a no-nonsense defensive carbine. We spoke about do’s and don’ts, projects Kyle is working on, and what he sees for the future of the platform.
As far as an “official” bio:
Sergeant Major (retired) Kyle Lamb spent over 21 years in the United States Army, with over 15 of that in 1st SFOD-D Delta Force. He has participated in many conflicts, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Iraq, as well as in the battle made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down in Mogadishu, Somalia. SGM Lamb has received numerous valorous awards and decorations. SGM Lamb is the Founder and President of Viking Tactics, a tactical training and tactical gear business. via Sig Academy
Q: Kyle, thanks for taking time out of your very busy schedule to talk to us about some AR-15 basics. You’re someone whose opinions I definitely pay attention to. Can you start by giving our readers a brief background?
A: I’m not sure why they should pay attention (laughs) but I’m the founder and president of Viking Tactics. We started the company after I had a long career in the military. Most of that was spent as a special operations soldier.
When I retired, we started Viking Tactics and designed the Viking Tactics sling, which has set the standard for two-point, quick-adjust slings. We’ve had a whole bunch of people copy it, so I guess that’s awesome. (Laughs) They couldn’t come up with their own ideas so they copied ours…which used to upset me, but now it’s like…it means we’re doing something right.
Today, we provide training for military and law enforcement as well as citizens of our country. I do some leadership speaking as well. We do some tactics instruction, but our primary business is Viking Tactics. We have our slings, our light mounts, and books I’ve written. I’ve written Green Eyes and Black Rifles: The Warrior’s Guide to the Combat Carbine, Stay in the Fight! Warriors Guide to the Combat Pistol, and then my last book is Leadership in the Shadows. That’s basically who I am. Most of what I teach is stuff I learned while I was in the military. Some of it has changed over the years as I have seen innovation that has come about.
Q: Kyle…you’ve been around the AR-15 so long…what would be your best advice for someone looking to build or purchase a reliable AR-15?
A: If you’re new to this game, the bottom line is this: You get what you pay for. I’m not going to tell you that some of these less expensive rifles are terrible because they are not. There are some really good guns out there. I tell people though, “Either spend the money now or spend the money later.”
If you get that less expensive rifle, you’re going to like it for the first six months. Then you’re going to shoot one of my rifles or someone else’s on the range. Then, you’re going to say “Oh, I want one of those.” Well, you’ve already spent your 600 to 800 dollars on this entry-level gun and now you’re wanting to add a bunch of other accessories.
So, you can buy one already accessorized, or you can build these guns up. I’m a big fan of the overall system being put together when you get it. Basically, buy a rifle and then just add the things you need to get it up to what I would say is the gold standard for ARs. There’s so much good quality out there. I work a lot with Sig and I know they’re doing great stuff. That said, there’s a bunch of other companies that are doing really good products out there. For 12 to 15 hundred bucks, you can get a nice rifle.
Q: As far as AR-15 basics, What features would you consider “must-have”?
A: Must-haves to me are pretty simple. The most important feature I would have on a rifle that already shoots pretty well…the first thing that I would do is put a free float tube [handguard] on the gun. The reason I say that is because: Say you have a rifle that shoots 2 minutes of angle. If you put a free float tube on there, I would almost guarantee you will get better groups than you did before. Especially if you are putting good factory ammo through the gun. Or, if you are a reloader and know how to load for an AR, you can probably get even better groups.
The second thing I would do is put a good trigger in the gun. I am not a fan of a two-stage trigger in an AR because I like to shoot fast, and I can’t shoot as fast with a two-stage. Now…in a sniper-type setup or a gun you are going to shoot 100 yards or longer most of the time, then a two-stage is fine. So those two things, the free float tube and the trigger, to me are the primary must-haves.
Then as far as an optic, I’d put a Leupold LCO or a Leupold VX6 or something like that on there. Make sure you’re choosing a quality optic that has repeatability and does not have a lot of issues built into it.
Q: So, in regards to AR-15 basics, we’ve covered “must-haves.” Is there anything out there you see that you might recommend people avoid or think twice before adding to their build?
A: The biggest one I see – and it not a gadget, but it’s something that’s really disturbing to the people on your left and right. It’s a muzzle brake. And, if you shoot this inside of your house, it is going to be disturbing to you too as well. I see so many folks put a muzzle brake on an AR, and as soon as you do that with most of them, you increase the blast back at the shooter. You also increase your muzzle flash.
Q: Have you seen any devices that do a bit of both that you’d recommend?
A: The only one I’ve seen so far that really works and does both is the WARCOMP from Surefire. It’s a great piece of kit because it actually works as a very good flash hider but it also works as a muzzle brake. Now, I’m sure people will scream and say “oh I’ve got one and it…” OK, turn the lights all the way out and look at it from the perspective of the enemy and tell me what you see.
It’s a gadget I would prefer not to have on a rifle too because if you are doing team stuff, or you’ve got your family with you and you crack off a round, it’s going to be devastating to their ears. Also, if they’re standing beside you, they’re going to catch a lot more blast like that.
Q: Any other gadgets you’d avoid or recommend being cautious about using?
A: There’s a lot of other little gadgetry like the BAD lever. Some guys use that very effectively, but if I pick up a rifle that has that, it really gets in my way.
It’s like ambidextrous controls on a weapon…for me, they almost get in the way because I’ve worked with the AR so much that I don’t need the ambi controls. But for a new shooter, I would highly recommend the ambi controls. I recommend as long as they are not too gaudy, and allow you to still get a good grip on when you put the weapon on fire. Some of them are so long on one side that when you put it on fire, you almost can’t get the right grip on the gun.
Q: As far as AR-15 basics to consider…Can you comment on accessories that can enhance the overall feel of the weapon without going overboard?
A: I always use a short vertical grip for shooting positions, in and around the vehicle, as well as to hold the gun tight into my shoulder. In most of my guns, I also have a KYNShot Hydraulic Buffer. “This is a good piece of kit. It’s not absolutely needed, but if you want your gun to have less recoil and less movement when the gun comes back into battery, it’s a pretty good product to use. You don’t get that big feeling as the bolt goes forward.
Theirs is different from other hydraulic buffers out there. Not all are created equal. Some you’ll see are made of aluminum. Those are fine if you want to shoot two or three mags every year. But if you are really running a gun hard, you are going to destroy that aluminum part.
Q: As far as AR-15 basics, is there anything else you’d recommend? The temptation for many is to add more.
A: I’m not a big fan of gadgets. I have a few on my gun…like a flashlight. I have the ability to connect a bipod if I want, but I don’t leave the bipod on the gun. There’s also a vertical grip.
A: Most recently the Sig Sauer M400, which we have had some evolutions on. The first M400 that came out was spec’d out the way I wanted it. But then I asked, “What was the next level that I could go to with a Sig production gun to get it closer and closer to what I want to carry?”
There are some really cool features they have in that gun. What I didn’t like about the gun were mostly weight and aesthetics. Weight-wise, it was just too heavy. Aesthetically, I wanted them to give it the look of the stuff that we use. That meant having the longer gas system. This lowers your port pressure, which allows you to shoot the suppressor. The gun shoots really soft. It doesn’t beat you up and it doesn’t beat the gun up. We also put a lighter-weight barrel on it. It’s not a pencil barrel. It’s a really good shooting barrel. The newer gun actually has a fluted barrel on it. We were able to get the rigidity of the fluted barrel, plus the lighter weight. The free float tube, that was another big thing for us. The first tube we put on there was the Troy tube. We stepped away from their product for a lighter tube that is on the weapon made by Sig themselves.
The trigger components took some work to get the way we wanted it. This one has more of a flat trigger in it. It’s not completely flat but it’s closer to that. I like a flat trigger because that way, no matter where you put your finger, you still have a pretty good feel. I change the amount of finger I put on the trigger a lot. If I’m shooting accurately, I put more finger on the trigger. If I am shooting fast, I put less finger on the trigger. The flat trigger allows you to do that variation a bit easier.
Also, the trigger that VTAC makes, we don’t put a hook on the trigger, we just put a little slight bump so you can feel when you’re towards the end of the trigger. It allows you to get more leverage as you get towards the end of the trigger.
Finally, it’s also a brown gun, so it stands out a little bit. They wanted it to match the Sig 320 we did for them.
Q: Sig Sauer has had some great products come out recently. How has it been working with them so far?
A: What I really like about their company is they are really chasing the market I am interested in, which is the military and law enforcement market. If we build something good enough for the military, it’s also going to be something good enough for us as citizens. I also like the fact that a lot of the stuff we are building like the suppressed MCX in .300 Blackout, those are out in the world killing bad guys right now. I want to be a part of that. he M17 being adopted, I’m glad I was a part of that with Sig. It’s just a great feather in their hat that they are really pursuing the military side of that. And then on the civilian side, we get stuff like the 365 and the 320 and all the trickle-down that comes from that high-level development and engineering.
Q: Anything else exciting you’ve seen in recent months?
A: We’ve worked with other companies in the past and there are other people that I work with that are friends of mine. I work with POF a bit. Frank DiSomma is a very good friend of mine and I shoot a lot of his guns. His POF Revolution is a really cool system for a 7.62 really lightweight AR. It has an upper and lower that basically used mostly 5.56 type parts in the gun, so that’s a really interesting innovation. We’ve got other stuff we are doing with Sig that will be coming out too. Most of that is still in the “hush-hush world”, but they’ve always got something crazy going on.
Q: Wrapping up, when it comes to AR-15 basics, it makes sense to take a look at past, present, and future. You’ve worked professionally with the AR platform for a long time…Can you describe how you’ve seen it evolve, and perhaps share any conjecture on what’s next?
A: If I went back to when I first joined the Army and they were starting to issue M16A2s, I’d say there was nothing wrong with that weapon system. When I got to my first special operations assignment, I was given a CAR-15. And really all that is the current weapons system we are shooting today, but with a carrying handle on it. If we would have taken that rifle, which we did to some of them, cut the carrying handle off, and put a free-float tube on it, and put a good trigger on it…it’s the gun we are shooting today.
So, as far as evolution, we are still shooting the same rifles…but we have enhanced the accuracy of the barrels significantly and we have better triggers. I would say that a lot of the pins and things like that are better now. You’re able to MIM (metal injection mold) parts, the metal injection molding makes an expensive part not so expensive. Even trigger parts now are MIM’d.
Is 6.8 next?
I think what’s going to happen in the future…right now the military has a proposal out of what they want the next system to be. First of all, it’s not going to be 5.56. They’ve already said it’s going to be a 6.8 of some sort. To me, that’s a little disturbing because I’ve seen the fiasco with the 6.8 SPC in the past. I mean, that cartridge is garbage. So, what and where is that going to take us if they are telling the industry you have to have a 6.8mm bullet because of specialty ammunitions that will be loaded in this weapon?
The Future is Still Modular
Now, I am willing to bet we are still going to have a modular system much like the current AR. It’s hard to beat. For example, shoot the SCAR. It’s an awesome weapon system, but it just doesn’t feel as good as an AR. You pick up a lot of the other systems out there, and it’s just really hard to compete with the modularity and the feel of an AR. Frankly, I don’t know where they’ll go. I think 6.8 is going to be interesting if they get the weight of the gun down farther than they have requested…We’ll see what happens.
Q: Final question…A lot of folks have turned to the AR platform for home defense. Can you share your perspective on that and talk about the need for training when it comes to these firearms?
Penetration Myths Debunked
A: Two things here. The first thing I want to address is this: A lot of guys say “Well I don’t want to carry an AR in my house because of the over-penetration.” OK. I’ll buy that if the normal gun you use for home protection is a .22 Long Rifle….I would agree, the 5.56 is going to penetrate more walls than a .22 Long rifle. But if you are carrying a 9mm or a .40 or a .45, then you are absolutely dead wrong. The 5.56 gun is going to penetrate less layers of sheetrock than one of those other bullets. So, that’s the first thing.
Importance of Training
The second thing in regards to AR-15 basics is you have to be trained to be able to move comfortably around your house with it. I love a pistol, but I have an AR as a home protection gun because I have 30 rounds…I have a light mounted on it. There’s just a lot of good things about having that weapons system there. I can shoot farther and I can shoot more accurately. My wife knows how to shoot both. So you gotta get out there and train with these. Train to shoot strong side, support side, from cover, barricaded positions in and around your vehicle…just every possible way that you can.
Training with Kyle
There’s a lot of good trainers out there that you can get instruction from for AR-15 basics. Even with the bad trainers, you’re going to learn something not to do…so that’s probably worth wasting your money on that as well (laughs) But, there’s a lot of good trainers. I’m booked well in advance, so it’s kind of hard to get into one of our classes these days. I’m already booked up for all of 2019.
The easiest way to train with Viking Tactics would be to look at some venues we’ll be going to and try to contact them. The other way is to contact Sig Academy. I do three visits a year there to teach classes. Folks can sign up that way.
Thanks to Kyle and Viking Tactics
Special thanks to Kyle Lamb from Viking Tactics for speaking with us today about AR-15 basics and more. Our sincerest hope is that we can chat more with Kyle in the future, as he has truly one of the brightest and most experienced minds in the industry. To find out more about Kyle and Viking Tactics please visit them at their website.