By Hal Herring
In JKD, one does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.
The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation. Jeet Kune-Do is basically a sophisticated fighting style stripped to its essentials. – Bruce Lee
Those words, from Bruce Lee’s iconic text The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, could just as easily describe the new Shootrite Katana tactical rifle, designed by veteran firearms instructor Tiger McKee. The Katana rifle, like its namesake, the iconic sword of the Japanese Samurai, is meant to be a weapon of lethal simplicity, a kind of path that leads beyond gadgetry and clutter and back to the essence of the fighting rifle.
“I saw the trend that all the manufacturers were following,” McKee says, “Building heavier and more complicated rifles. I wanted just the opposite, a fighting rifle that was true to Eugene Stoner’s original vision for the AR platform – a simple-to-operate, lightweight rifle – but updated with bomb-proof modern components for reliability.”
But the market trend toward complex rifles meant that such a rifle was unavailable, McKee said. “So I decided to build it myself.”
Gone from consideration were the heavy barrels, thick-railed handguards, vertical foregrips and tactical slings of the new-wave ARs. Folding sights and complicated lighting systems were out. In was a thin 16-inch barrel, a standard 1-in-9 twist, and no change to the round; it’s good old 5.56.
“The lightweight barrel is short enough to maneuver in tight quarters, quick and easy to handle during conflict, and it is plenty accurate. More accurate than you are going to be able to shoot it under actual field conditions,” McKee explains.
He added a carbon fiber handguard, a simple one-piece unit with the barrel nut permanently attached. A rail section at eleven o’clock (for the right handed shooter) allows for the attachment of a light.
“That eleven o’clock position is the best for rolling out from behind cover and for clearing both left- and right-hand corners,” McKee said.
One of the first things you notice looking at the rifle is the flat-top upper receiver, ready for mounting the optics of your choice, and the absence of any external forward assist.
McKee quotes Stoner, the genius behind the original AR-15, “When you get a cartridge that won’t seat in a rifle, and you deliberately drive it in, usually you are buying yourself more trouble.”
The simple concave cutout behind the exposed part of the bolt carrier provides the same assist function, but without the leverage of an external assist. That is leverage that will force a bad cartridge into your rifle and put you out of business. Simply put: if the bolt won’t seat a cartridge with the pressure of a finger in the cutout, that cartridge needs to be cycled out of the rifle, not jammed into it.
In the same vein of pragmatism, the rifle comes with a fixed front sight and removable, A1 drum style rear – although the drum can be adjusted for windage, there is no elevation adjustment, because almost no one will adjust elevation in a firefight.
The sights can be left on as back-up for a red-dot system, (supplied by the buyer) or used as the primary sighting system.
Among the “bombproof” modern components installed on the Katana tactical rifle is a mil-spec bolt assembly with an MPI bolt – the firing pin is held in with a solid retaining pin rather than the flimsier split cotter found in other AR bolts. Extractor and ejector springs are chrome silicon alloy for durability, trueness, and corrosion resistance.
In his years of almost daily experience as a firearms instructor, McKee says he has witnessed innumerable instances of bent and twisted charging handles on ARs, and he vowed to find one for the Katana that would stand up to whatever the operator could dish out.
“A bent charging handle is one malfunction that will really put you out of commission,” he explains. “When a charging handle twists, it locks up the bolt carrier, and you are done.” To solve that problem, the Katana is equipped with Bravo Company’s new Gunfighter charging handle. “It’s a top-quality part, in a crucial function.”