We set out to build a survivalist AR-15 that might serve as a...
Photos by Nick Robbs
The prospect of getting out of a bad situation under hostile conditions looms in the minds of most preppers. It seems that the more we enrich our life with children, pets, money, and other assets, the more we tend to think about what we’d do in a SHTF scenario. We also realize that time will be of the essence and that, in order to remain mobile and self-sufficient, storage space and load carriage is often at a premium.
One of the biggest considerations for bugging out is firearms selection. A reliable pistol is usually considered a must, with type, caliber, form, and fit all boiling down to shooter’s preference. What about a long-range hunting rifle? It might be a no-brainer if you have access to the skills and environment to harvest your own meat as part of a long-term survival plan.
But what about a dedicated fighting gun? Something kept at the ready specifically for the off chance we run into, or are visited by, those “pack people” who want what we have? How do we deal with those? How do we address the intermediate range situation that may require a high volume of accurate fire, delivered quickly? There are many options that fit the bill, some that can pull double duty in the game-getter role. But a highly concealable weapon that offers aggressive ballistics, yet can be quickly and easily concealed, is an asset that can prove useful in both urban and backwoods scenarios — particularly those that may require movement through areas of varying or unknown risk.
The gun industry is, unfortunately, prone to gusts of profit-driven fads. To those of us in the off-grid community, who tend to be more driven by function, it can be very dizzying indeed. But once in a while we see that gust morph into a prevailing wind, and we must pay attention. The latest prevailing wind is the AR pistol with a brace — and for good reason. The AR pistol is a highly functional variant of the AR platform that allows increased deployability by way of its reduced size and weight. In our all-too-familiar scenario, this is an absolute key to survival.
Veritas Tactical is a small shop in Texas specializing in producing some of the most compact versions of the AR platform we’ve seen. The head shed at Veritas is made up of military veterans who have extensive experience in the private and executive protection community. That experience highlighted the need for an incredibly compact weapon that could bring rifle-caliber firepower into play in a hurry. Their short-barreled VT-15 and VT-16, available in both pistol and SBR form, answers the call for an emergency bug-out blaster.
RECOIL OFFGRID got the chance to run their VT-16 Executive pistol, a 5.56mm AR pistol with a 4.5-inch barrel. The rear end is finished with an SB Tactical brace coupled with a Law Tactical side-folding adapter. When folded, the entire gun is slightly larger than a men’s size 10 shoe. In a sudden-onset survival emergency, you may be required to cover long distance on foot, or in a tightly packed vehicle. Without reverting to the beat-to-death adage about pounds equaling pain, the VT-16’s attributes offer distinct advantages in the size and weight categories — we’ll discuss that more in a bit.
Shrinking the AR platform down to the length of an average forearm requires far more than simply chopping the barrel and slapping on a brace. These are purpose-built weapons that require additional engineering and design work to keep them running smoothly and reliably. The biggest piece of redesign was the Micro Gas Tube. This tube, shorter even than an AR pistol-length gas tube, incorporates a unique combination of both the length and bend of the tube.
The other proprietary piece of the puzzle is gas port diameter. The gas port, or the hole in the barrel allowing propellant gas to bleed off and cycle the action, is a key part of an AR-type weapon’s reliability. If the port is too small, the weapon won't cycle consistently. If it’s too large, the gun can be “over-gassed,” resulting in increased wear and tear on your action and increasing the need for frequent maintenance due to more rapid carbon buildup. So finding the just-right fit for gas port diameter is of utmost importance. Specifically, Veritas wanted the Micro Gas system to function with as many stock parts as possible. Whatever their secret recipe, they say that their Micro Gas Tube system will run with standard gas blocks, BCGs, buffer springs, and buffers. You may swap out an H or H2 buffer to tune the system to your preferred load, but no custom bolt or buffer parts are required. They say these guns will run suppressed or unsuppressed without the need for an adjustable gas block.
Besides the gas system, the rest of the VT-16 is standard AR fare. Receiver sets, fire-control parts, and sights/optics options may all be chosen from the rank-and-file of “regular size” AR accessories. The Law Tactical Folding mechanism, paired with an arm brace, is a perfect example of capitalizing on existing aftermarket products to minimize size and maximize potential. Our test gun was their VT-16 Executive, sporting an eyebrow-raising 4.5-inch barrel and a 5.25-inch house-made handguard. The barrel is topped with a Kaw Valley Linear comp. We were thankful for this choice, as it kept the blast directed away from the shooter.
The VT-16’s gift to those trying to make their way through a survival scenario is its ability to hide away in any space larger than the glovebox of your vehicle. We got it into the CCW compartment of a Vertx sling bag, the bottom of a Grey Ghost messenger bag, the laptop sleeve of an Oakley backpack, and into a Tyr Tactical Traveler’s bag, just to name the few we had on hand. If you don’t need the VT-16 on your person, it'll fold up into a large shoebox that can be slid inconspicuously under your bed, into the back of your closet, or in the trunk of your car. For those concerned that an earth-tone sling bag will attract attention as being filled with tactical or survival gear, the VT-16 can be a true rifle-caliber “gray gun.” This capacity to blend in isn’t limited to storage, either. Utilizing a single-point sling, the gun can be folded and concealed under a windbreaker, baggy zip-fleece or raincoat.
This brings us to the theory behind the niche this weapon is intended to fill. As we said earlier, this gun was designed by an executive protection professional. The idea was never for this type of weapon to be a primary source of firepower. It’s not meant for assaulters, entry teams, or distant engagements across wooded fields. Veritas built the VT series specifically to be a last-ditch gun that could provide immediate and overwhelming firepower for a short period of time. In the suit-clad urban environment of the protection community, who must often enter high threat conditions without the law enforcement or military credentials required to carry bona fide submachine guns, this gun provides a unique answer to a specific problem.
But why does any of that matter to everyday people who simply want to be prepared for the worst potentials of an uncertain world? Protecting your loved ones and community could be considered similar to an executive protection scenario. You're responsible for the health and safety of people who may not be able to take care of themselves, in an environment not conducive to the open carry and presentation of weapons, fraught with unknown and changing levels of immediate threat to safety and security.
While some may fear or fantasize about a completely shattered western society where leather-clad bandits blasting death metal ride around in welded-together muscle trucks in a giant running gun battle, the most likely heuristic of a crisis or disaster scenario will probably be a lot more subtle. There may be power outages or shortages of supplies for a couple days at a time. Based on the results of recent weather disasters, it seems unlikely that large masses of people will go straight to plundering to get what they think they need.
In a lower-intensity scenario, walking around with a full-sized battle rifle slung across your chest might actually make things worse for you. People averse to firearms ownership or scared for their safety may think that you're the bandit coming to pillage their home. Avoiding the perception of being an aggressor will enable you to seek help and resources more readily once they’re available. The Veritas allows you to keep rifle firepower close at hand without a brandished, overt show of force. If per chance you do come across the armed raiders, they might mistake you for an easy target, allowing you to disrupt their OODA loop and regain the element of surprise when that Law Tactical folder snaps into place and you loose that first burst of 5.56mm self-defense.
We put roughly 600 rounds of 55-grain Lake City FMJ through the VT-16 over two days. We ran the test gun hard and fast, with a combination of standard capacity mags and Magpul D-60 drums. No stoppages or feeding issues of any kind were experienced. Targets were scattered from 7 to 50 yards at various points throughout our test and the Veritas VT-16 held approximately 1 MOA at all of those distances.
The only issues we encountered were two double fires — one during each of the two days we shot, with both occurring around the 200-round mark on each day. In both instances, we fired one round with another one going off immediately after despite only one trigger press. There are a couple different factors that could cause this. But, given the immense amount of heat getting pushed back into the chamber by the micro gas system, and how many rounds we'd put through the gun, we suspect that cook-off may be a factor here.
While the VT-16 is a quality weapon that makes a bold statement in a very particular niche of preparedness, there are some things to consider, based on our experience. First, the VT-16 is loud. Like, really loud. Ear popping, teeth-rattling loud. Even with hearing protection. And if you’re shooting it indoors or in a confined space, it can be potentially disorienting. Additionally, while the fireball that comes of out the Kaw Valley Linear Comp is thoroughly entertaining, it’s not at all discreet. Again, we acknowledge fully that this weapon is meant for rapid deployment after a bunch of smelly stuff has already hit the fan. But it’s a public service announcement worth making that there’s nothing subtle about this blaster when it's time to go to work. Once it comes into play, everybody will know the fight is on. We’re curious to see how it fares with an effective flash hider like the Smith Vortex or the BE Meyers 249F, but we didn't have an opportunity to test this.
If you’re turned off by the idea of a roaring weapon, Veritas also makes integrally suppressed models in .300 Blackout that offer all the reduced-signature benefits of the cartridge in a weapon not much bigger than our test gun.
Additionally, make sure you’re incredibly careful where you place your support hand. A forward handstop is highly recommended when using this weapon. While we didn’t have any safety issues during our testing, it’s an increased and very real risk due to the short size. This is another area where the aforementioned heat transfer comes back into play. By the end of several hundred rounds, the handguard was incredibly hot. Too hot to touch without gloves, even. We're not particularly surprised, with the high volume of gas traveling through an incredibly short tube. While it might be great for getting out of surprise scrapes, the VT-16 is probably not the ideal choice for a sustained firefight.
All in all, Veritas Tactical has brought a very interesting tool to the survival market. Designed with personal protection in mind, its small size and disproportionate offering of firepower might be just the semi-automatic security blanket that helps get you home.
Veritas Tactical VT-16 Executive
22.5 inches (extended)
15 inches (folded)
Holosun 515GT Red Dot optic
Price as Tested