Just Hit the Gym – Why Lightweight Carbines Aren’t Just for Sissies

It seems like whenever I post about a weight saving strategy or carbine part, some Tactical Internet Adonis drops into the comments section to shame all potential buyers of said part with comments like “Just lift more bro!” Meanwhile, people who can think their way out of wet paper bags realize that lightweight gear is less about building a carbine that our puny little arms can hold and more about common sense.


The easiest to grasp reason to be at least a little weight conscious when it comes to your gear is that lighter gear is easier to carry for a long time. Certainly, soldiers all over the world have proven that you can carry heavy rifles day in and day out but I suspect that many would choose lighter if they could. Carrying a light carbine just simply sucks less than carrying a heavy one. I can’t speak to being a soldier but this principle comes into play if you are hiking or during 3+ day carbine courses too.

One of the best reasons to be a bit weight conscious and the one that I have never heard anyone talk about is to deal with injury. It is easier to use a lightweight carbine when you are injured. Certainly that applies to hardcore scenarios like your support arm getting disabled by a knife wielding meth-head. It applies equally to far more mundane injuries – the type that happen in your every day life and can have very real effect on your ability to use a firearm in defense.

I’ll give you an example from my own experience. My family processes firewood in late summer and into fall. Last fall, I found myself spending a lot of time swinging a splitting maul in preparation for our first year heating with wood. My elbows were becoming more and more sore every day but there was work to be done so I pushed through. By the time everything was cut and stacked, I had a rip-roaring case of tendinitis in both elbows.

I have since figured out what was wrong with my form but the elbow and forearm pain during that time was no joke. There were days where I was physically incapable of extending a handgun out in front of me. The weight was too much and my hands would basically just open involuntarily to drop what ever weight I was trying to push out at arms length (side note: grip strength was also effected in a big way so I found that aggressively textured grips were a must during this time). The only firearm that I could still operate effectively was a lightweight carbine. Heavy carbines were better than handguns thanks to the way the shoulder takes some of the weight of a rifle but they were still pretty rough. That was one of impetuses for the Sub 6 with a Twist project. That carbine was lightweight enough that, when anchored to my shoulder, I could actually use it unencumbered.

There are definitely cases where strange, unnecessary, and expensive things are done to carbines in the name of saving weight. There can be value in the exercise of shedding all those ounces but you don’t need to go crazy. I think that the wise shooter is more than a little concerned about the weight of their carbine. Reliability and accuracy are probably the two most important factors in choosing a firearm for defense but neither of those matter if injury renders you incapable of lifting it so the mundane ability to live with the carbine you choose is pretty important too.

10 Responses to Just Hit the Gym – Why Lightweight Carbines Aren’t Just for Sissies

  1. Justin G October 12, 2015 at 12:04 #

    No matter what your current fitness level, you can hold a 6 lb rifle on target longer than a 9 lb rifle. Lift more and you’ll still hold a lighter rifle longer and carry it further. Keep the rifle as light as you can afford without sacrificing function or reliability. Anyone who doesn’t get that has never spent much time carrying a rifle.

  2. jurmond October 12, 2015 at 20:22 #

    Bravo! Justin G raises an important point that so many macho men overlook.

    But let me tell you a bit about myself. The summer I was 20, I developed a bone tumor in the ball of my left shoulder. I was lucky to be cancer free, but it left me with a severely deformed shoulder. The ball moves forward and back almost normally, but I can only lift it out to my side about 30 degrees. I can only raise my arm enough to support a rifle by “comping” with the other joints. The tendons through that area are in the wrong place now, and they become severely inflamed if I do any kind of heavy physical work for long. Further, sometimes I’ll get a sharp, stabbing pain if I just move the wrong way. A lighter weight carbine is crucial to me.

    Wait, it gets worse. I have some kind of mysterious chronic illness, and I spent 2 weeks wasting away in a hospital this spring with something similar to dysentary. I lost over 40 pounds. When I came out, there was a distinct gap between my thigh muscles, and I needed help to even get up of the ground. I literally couldn’t lift myself. After a week, I discovered that I couldn’t pull the slide on my XDM (19 pounds), but I could barely pull my Glock 17 (17 pounds). A mere 2 pounds on the recoil spring made the difference. I regained strength over time, but people shouldn’t be so quick to judge. They have no idea what kinds of challenges others may be facing.

  3. JMK Colorado October 12, 2015 at 20:25 #

    I agree, however…
    I think some of the “just lift more” crowd might be reacting a bit to the Gild the Lily syndrome. I.e., for 90% of us, would we be better served with a Mil Spec M4 and $1500 in training, or a $2500 top-tier AR?
    If I had it to do all over again, I’d take an M4-gery and training over a top tier safe queen any day.

    So get out and shoot, and if you shoot so much that you “need” lighter gear, then lighten up!

  4. Logan L October 13, 2015 at 06:59 #

    Can a person find one of those GWACS Armory Lowers modified by E93 or is that not even an option anymore?

  5. Vitsaus October 13, 2015 at 08:30 #

    It needs to be 6 lbs so that ninjas can but 7 lbs of budget scopes, offset red dots, grip pods, BAD lever, GOOD lever, extended mag release, Arizona Green Tea in the stock compartment, two slings, an 18 inch rail, a linear compensator, and back up iron sights.

    • Squirreltactical October 13, 2015 at 17:32 #

      Woah, what’s wrong with grip pods and back up irons?

  6. Michael Bane October 13, 2015 at 08:31 #

    Excellent story, Matt! I recently filmed a red stag hunt in NZ (sadly, we couldn’t get an AR into the country). The stalk went on for a full day, dawn ’til dusk, uphill all the way. I’m not the studly youth I once was, LOL! Marathons, ultras, mountain-climbing and assorted stupid have, along with 65 years, taken their toll on my knees. About 3/4 of the way up the mountain, I really appreciated the Ruger Scout and super-light Swaro scope.

    Knee finally completely gave way…emergency surgery, blah, blah…have worked my way from crutches to cane, but long guns are still a bit problematical…it’s that weight being balanced over a less than perfectly stable platform. Am working with 10/22s now, but I’m still a few weeks from my heavier ARs. I’ll start working with my sub 6-pound custom for the reasons you outlined.

    Michael B

  7. BR October 14, 2015 at 06:12 #

    Solid read Matt, several excellent points in this one!

  8. Rugrash October 14, 2015 at 11:09 #

    One of my friends’ new production rifle


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