Words: Rich Norman
As a companion piece to my AFSOC-inspired Block 1.5 refresh:
…here’s some In The Wild background information.
It includes the AFSOC photoset that I was originally inspired by.
Items to note in the pics:
- Daniel Defense Omega 7.0 RIS
- Aimpoint Micro T1
- LaRue LT660 Aimpoint Micro mount
- Vltor Clubfoot stock FDE
- Tango Down pistol grip FDE
- Tango down vertical grip FDE
- Magpul Pmag FDE
- Surefire FA556-212
- MATECH rear BUIS
- No paint
- No flashlight (none that I can see, anyway)
What really attracted me to the AFSOC Block 1.5 aesthetic was its twisted purity.
The iconic A-frame sight is in situ, which is as redolent of the M4 as the AK’s banana mag is to that platform. It’s a defining feature and one I’m glad to see in more recent pics, thanks to the DD RIS II FSP – which seems to be current issue to some AFSOC units, and to Army SF – which is the largest SOCOM contingent. So, it’s no wonder it looks like the FSP has taken over from the standard RIS II, because by weight of Army SF numbers it really has.
Aside from the lure of the A-frame sight, it’s the transitional nature of the AFSOC Block 1.5 that appeals. But the spirit of the modifications here is different to the usual individual end-user driven additions seen elsewhere; because this is likely to have been an officially sanctioned M4A1 variant.
It’s often said that AFSOC PJs have some of the most innovative blaster variations out there and I believe these pics (likely from 2012) demonstrate that.
There’s also a really interesting post on ar15.com from a user called Augee, who knows his stuff:
AFSOC does a lot of its purchasing in house for non-program parts. They’ve also been using the Surefire suppressors for quite a while.
It has to do with budgeting and unit funds – and probably with someone high up’s personal preferences. Same with the T1s and Aimpoint magnifiers.
Different units have different cultures regarding the kind of non-program support based on size, component, budget, and mission. Plus the Air Force and AFSOC is long since known for “non-standard” carbines, just look at the wide range of variation in the GUU-5/P series.
What’s “special order” about these carbines is that the add-ons appear to be “program” issued items, and therefore officially supported. They’re not end-user add-ons.
The Surefire muzzle devices themselves represent a pretty big variation from the usual SOPMOD modifications at the timeframe these photos are from. They imply access to and use of Surefire suppressors before they were SOPMOD items, meaning individual unit purchase.
They’re just a SOF variant of the M4A1 Carbine that’s officially supported. No more, no less.
AFSOC has some of the most interesting variation in their weapons – how much of this is related to the fact that they “play with others” a lot is hard to say – but I’ve seen them with a lot of different types of equipment.
I think there’s a lot of variety as to what individual STSs (Special Tactics Squadrons) choose to equip with. The other thing to consider is budget – in general, the Air Force tends to play with bigger ticket items – so they have relatively bigger budgets per man, and AFSOC is a pretty small component.
NSW doesn’t really have to go outside of Crane too much, since the Navy “owns” Crane – what NSW wants, they can just ask for through NSWC-Crane, and it becomes “standard” for SOF. NSW is also pretty small compared to the rest of the Navy.
The Army has the largest SOF components – plus it has to split their SOF budgets between 75th INF and the Groups, meaning they have to be a lot more frugal about expenditure per soldier, unit funds are tighter, and units are encouraged to “order out of the catalog” (SOPMOD items) as much as possible.
As for the MSOBs, well, not only are they small, but the Marines are always digging for money, no matter who you are.
That being said – I’ve seen a lot of Surefire suppressors and muzzle devices used on various AFSOC M4A1s.
I think the DD Omega 7.0s have been pretty limited to that one unit (forget which those photos are attributed to). Furthermore, that particular unit seems to issue:
Tango Down BVG-46 (Surefire pocket) and Battle Grips in FDE, as well as FDE Vltor Clubfoots.
Someone there is probably an ARFCOMer, too – because optics are T1s and M2/3s in LaRue mounts with Aimpoint 3x magnifiers and twist mounts.
They seem to be running M600C Scout lights, too.
I’ve also seen various AFSOC / STS folks running M68CCOs (Aimpoint CompM4), as well as EOTech 552s. Their carbines I’ve seen doument range from indistinguishable from other componets’ weapons to “M4A1s” that were actually XM177 lowers with two position vinyl acetate stocks running RX01NSN Reflex sights, to HK416s, and beyond.
A few more AFSOC pics from the same thread, some showing wider Block 1.5 variations:
Edit – Feedback from a trusted CCT impressionista
One of the great things about running a blog is how collaborative and helpful the community is, in making sure details are totally locked down.
Here’s some fantastic intel from @raven06a on IG, which really adds to this article; for those who want to go way deeper than the images at the top of this article that have influenced my blaster build:
Also see: https://www.shadowspear.com/vb/threads/pj-squadrons.1911/