34 Ways to Cut Corners on Manufacturing an AR15


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Bartholomew Roberts
December 26, 2006, 03:33 PM
Ever wonder why a Colt LE6920 sells for over $1k while an Olympic Plinker sells for under $600 on occasion? One reason is that there are dozens of places to change parts away from the specifications military contractors must provide to cheaper parts and practices that may not be necessary for commercial ARs. Not all of these changes are bad. Many of them will never be noticed by 99% of shooters; but some of them can effect function and I think it is important that a buyer understand what type of trade they are making when purchasing a rifle.

For an easy to follow shorthand, I've set up the following reference system (reflecting only my own opinions):
* Most likely will not make a difference for all but the most demanding shooters who put their rifles to hard use.
** Unlikely to make a difference for the vast majority of recreational shooters, may see occasional issues among those who train frequently.
*** Known to effect reliability for all users, though it may still not be an issue if you don't shoot that much.

1. Use cheap extruded or cast charging handle instead of proper forged charging handle.**
2. Cheap shot-filled or plastic buffer instead of correct military rifle or carbine buffer.***
3. 4140 barrel steel instead of 4150 MIL-B-11595.*
4. Don't proof test the barrel or bolt.*
5. No need for magnetic particle inspection of barrel or bolt.*
6. Don't test-fire the rifle prior to selling it.***
7. Replace heat-shielded handguard with lower grade plastic and no heat shield handguards.**
8. Use the same front sight base for every model instead of F-marked front sight base for flattops.*
9. Cast front sight base instead of forged.*
10. Cast upper and lower receivers.**
11. Plastic upper and lower receivers.**
12. Have a bunch of uppers that don't quite meet the Picatinny spec? We'll take them at a discount!**
13. Torquing and staking the gas key is something the customer can do.***
14. No chrome-lining.*
15. Why buy chrome-silicon springs designed for the weapon when we can use a cheaper steel and cut them to fit?***
16. That part is only a little out of spec. We can make it work with a little grinding and save money on parts too!***
17. Why use trained monkeys for assembly when regular monkeys work for half and can do the job almost as well?***
18. Make so many exceptions to your "lifetime warranty" that it will be impossible for anyone to ever make a valid claim against your "warranty."
19. Nobody will ever notice a few .001" difference on that part.**
20. Our patented spray-paint finish is much better than anodizing.**
21. Shipping every rifle with an HBAR profile to save machining costs, even if it is an entry rifle/"lightweight" carbine.*
22. Replace metal parts with plastic -plastic magazine release, trigger guard or delta ring.**
23. Use an Unmarked/mismarked A2 Elevation Adjustment Knob for the rear sight.**
24. Plastic A2 trapdoors in the butt of the rifle stock.**
25. Replace forged AR15 hammer with cast hammer.**
26. No drain hole in stock screw.**
27. Dremel cut feed ramps instead of feed ramps cut prior to anodizing.***
28. Use cheaper cast/extruded receiver extension instead of military extension (different diameter also).**
29. No parkerizing under the FSB.*
30. Straight pins or even roll pins instead of taper pins in FSB.***
31. Using A2 windage drums on detachable carry handles.**
32. Don't mark the barrel with chambering or twist rate.**
33. Don't stake the castle nut in place.**
34. Don't shot-peen the bolt during manufacturing.*

Note that there is often disagreement about how crucial some of these issues are and likely people will disagree with some of the arbitrary judgements I've made just to simplify it for those who don't want to read through a discussion on each of the 34 points. Also note that you can often learn more about any one of these subjects using a quick search in the rifle forum.

Thanks to the members of AR15.com who helped me flesh out and condense this list.

If you enjoyed reading about "34 Ways to Cut Corners on Manufacturing an AR15" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
Owen
December 26, 2006, 03:57 PM
I'm fairly confident that the M16 barrel is not parkerized under the front sight base.

taliv
December 26, 2006, 04:05 PM
that's interesting

would be very interesting to see some documentation from colt and others that say whether they do all those things or not

grimjaw
December 26, 2006, 04:09 PM
Bart, I hope all of this isn't fuming because somebody put an Olympic under your Christmas tree . . . :p

Thanks for the info.

jm

Bartholomew Roberts
December 26, 2006, 04:19 PM
I'm fairly confident that the M16 barrel is not parkerized under the front sight base.

I can't speak to all versions of the M16 over the years; but current practice is for both the A2/A4 and M4 to be parkerized under the front sight base.

However, my Bushmaster HBAR that I had owned from 1998-2005 (9k rounds) had been used in rain and even sleet without ever having any maintenance more than a few drops of CLP dribbled on the front sight base. When I removed the front sight base in 2005 (to remove the barrel), it had a slight bit of rust around the edges where it met the front sight base and was bright, shiny untouched steel underneath.

would be very interesting to see some documentation from colt and others that say whether they do all those things or not

The Colt LE line does not do any of those things AFAIK (except some minor ones like a plastic trigger guard). However, the other Colt lines have been known to use some of them - plastic buffers are one example that comes to mind, though the Colt are better than what you usually see in that department and don't cause function issues.

Bart, I hope all of this isn't fuming because somebody put an Olympic under your Christmas tree . . .

I actually like Olympic (my first AR was an Oly); but they do use a few of these. In fact most manufacturers do at least one or more of those things, including some very respectable AR manufacturers. In Oly's case it lets them build a rifle for a good price point that will meet the needs of 95% of shooters out there.

Correia
December 26, 2006, 04:33 PM
13. Torquing and staking the gas key is something the customer can do.***

Since this is such a blatently obvious one when you pull the bolt carrier out, I've been checking every brand of AR that has come through the store.

Some of them are shockingly bad. With the metal having a little tiny mark that doesn't even come close to the bolts. I should probably line like ten of them up and take a picture.

Bazooka Joe71
December 26, 2006, 04:44 PM
Great Thread Mr. Roberts! You've always got the good stuff when it comes to AR advice. :D

When looking at RRA, Stag, DPMS, and Bushy, what are some of the cost cutting methods of these brands(mainly major points)?

The reason I ask this is because, well one, I just bought an RRA....And two, I am getting ready to purchase another(something with a longer barrel).

Thanks

ny32182
December 26, 2006, 05:07 PM
Bushy is pretty good. RRA has gotten better in the relatively recent past.

To my knowledge, my Bushy (a fine gun) is not parked under the front sight, and doesn't use an F-marked sight even though it is a flat top. It is a 20" HBAR. My 16" Bushy Superlight (ban era) was also a fine gun, though it's castle nut was not staked. It never came loose, but I've started to view this as more of an issue since seeing a couple of them work loose when not staked.

If you really want every last little detail to be milspec, you have to buy Colt LE models (NOT civi models), or LMT (and some colts use odd pin sizes, though I'm not sure exactly which ones).

Bartholomew Roberts
December 26, 2006, 05:17 PM
When looking at RRA, Stag, DPMS, and Bushy, what are some of the cost cutting methods of these brands(mainly major points)?

4, 5, 19, 21, 28, 29, 33, and 34 are all common to the manufacturers you mention. On #13, DPMS doesn't stake carrier keys at all last time I looked (2005). Stag, RRA and Bushmaster stake them; but often do it very poorly.

You can find pictures of improper and properly staked carrier keys here:
http://www.ar15.com/content/page.html?id=122.

Having said that, none of my own carrier keys are properly staked as shown in that link and they are doing just fine for me. My spare BCG is a DPMS and has no staking. My other two BCGs are CMT and have the cheesy screwdriver staking across the top of the screws. This isn't an effective way to stake the screws; but it does make it easy to visually check if the screws have come loose by making sure the marks are still aligned. Since I am lazy, I will probably not have them properly staked until they eventually start to work loose or until I catch someone with one of those Mother Of All Staking tools that Pat Rogers mentioned in SWAT Magazine.

I'd also add that many local FFLs are responding to the market by doing some of these steps themselves (retorquing and staking the gas keys for example), so you can often find brands like RRA and Stag that do have these features because those FFLs went the extra mile for their customers.

ny32182
December 26, 2006, 05:42 PM
This is the staking job from my last LMT M16 BCG:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v212/ny32182/LMT_carrier_staking.jpg

My Bushies weren't done quite as well, but neither ever came/has come loose.

Bazooka Joe71
December 26, 2006, 05:50 PM
Please guys, pardon my complete ignorance on this subject, but I am trying to learn...What does it mean to "stake" the carrier key? What does it do?

I also am unfamiliar with #33, and #34.

Thanks alot guys.

slzy
December 26, 2006, 06:00 PM
ar was designed as a survival weapon when yer aero-plane gets shot down. if you limit it to the intended use all these problems would'nt surface.:neener:

Bartholomew Roberts
December 26, 2006, 06:21 PM
Please guys, pardon my complete ignorance on this subject, but I am trying to learn...What does it mean to "stake" the carrier key? What does it do?

Staking means to knock a little bit of the surrounding metal in so it binds the screw slightly. You can still undo the screw if you need to; but it makes it difficult for it to work loose due to vibration. Between shooting generated vibration and riding around in the back of vehicles, the screws can work loose. If they do work loose, gas will begin to escape from the gas key and the rifle will short stroke (not cycle fully) or become a straight-pull bolt action.

I also am unfamiliar with #33, and #34.

#33 - The castle nut is the nut that holds the receiver extension of the collapsible stock into the lower receiver. If it works loose, the receiver extension (also referred to as the "buffer tube") will work loose from the lower receiver. Usually most people notice their stock wiggling badly before that happens though.

#34 - Shot peening (http://www.metalimprovement.com/shot_peening.php) is a surface stress relief treatment that is required for military bolts. It reduces the propensity of the bolt to crack. Together with magnetic particle inspection, a bolt that has had both should be less likely to crack. However, if Colt prices are any guide, they also add a lot to the price of a bolt ($162.50 for a Colt bolt from SAW, compared to $60 for an RRA bolt). Given that even non-MP inspected, non-shot peened bolts rarely crack and that even MP-inspected, shot peened bolts have cracked, few people are willing to pay an extra $100 for that extra layer of security.

Onmilo
December 26, 2006, 06:34 PM
Having worked on Mil-Spec M16s long before I ever began working on AR15 clone rifles I totally agree with everything Mr. Roberts posted.

Like anything else in life if you want it done right the first time it is better to do it yourself or have someone who knows the subtle differences do the work for you.
Yes it will cost more and be worth every penny.

Insist on Mil-Spec standards and if the builder argues then find another builder.

I forgot to add I like 4140 and stainless steel for AR barrels but they are not Mil-Spec.

Bazooka Joe71
December 26, 2006, 06:37 PM
Once again Bartholomew, you made the muddy water clear again.:D

Thanks for the detailed response.

Andrew S
December 26, 2006, 07:20 PM
Excellent post. Thank you so much.

I have been considering purchasing one of the mid-length kits from Del-Ton so I emailed them with this list asking their input and which of these they do. When they respond I will try and remember to post the results for you guys.

DMK
December 26, 2006, 08:55 PM
Great list!

Everyone does some of these things on some of their models. Even Colt. Blindly buying by brand name does not get you the best product. Knowledge is power. Caveat Emptor. Etc.

redneck2
December 26, 2006, 09:08 PM
OK, so at the risk of sounding totally ignorant (common occurance on my part)..

which manufacturer (other than chosing the mil-spec thing) comes the closest?

I have my ideas, but wanted an expert opinion

And, when we get the endless "How can I build an AR for $299.99" thread, are these the things they're missing???

I have a Bushie Varminter and would hope that it's got a lot more of the list of 34 than not.

Interesting read.

Bartholomew Roberts
December 26, 2006, 09:39 PM
which manufacturer (other than chosing the mil-spec thing) comes the closest?

Colt, Sabre Defence, LMT and Bravo Co. come the closest that I have seen. The common thread there is that three of those manufacturers have government contracts for M4s or M4 parts (Bravo Co. is the odd one out IIRC). Naturally, when you have to meet that spec anyway, you tend to produce commercial products that are very similar. However, all four companies have products that stray to various degrees. As an example, the Colt LE line is very close. The other Colt ARs are not so close.

However, you should understand that many of these are not bad things necessarily. Most of them save the customer money without sacrificing anything they will ever need in their daily use. If you want these things as a customer, then by all means, you should insist on them and there are places that will provide them. Just understand that it will cost you more for these features and many of them are of debateable value. Likewise, if you are paying Colt LE6920 prices; but have extruded/plastic parts then you can probably find a better deal.

I have a Bushie Varminter and would hope that it's got a lot more of the list of 34 than not.

4, 5, 8, 14, 19, 21, 22, 29 and 34 apply to the Varminter and 9 & 13 sometimes apply as well.

Just to clarify this, here is how my own favorite AR stacks up to that list:

3 (SS instead of 4150), 4, 5, 13, 14, 34.

Despite that, it runs just great and is both reliable and accurate. #3 & 14 were a conscious choice on my part based on the barrel I wanted. 4, 5, & 34 were also a conscious choice. I didn't want to pay the extra money because I didn't feel it was a good trade for my uses. #13 was just the manufacturer delivering a poor product and me being too lazy to correct it.

Gary G23
December 26, 2006, 09:39 PM
Great post. I'll often compare AR's with Rolex watches and their copies. Those cheap Rolex copies I used to buy on the street in New York City LOOK like a real Rolex from a distance but their is a HUGE difference in their construction. Same goes for AR's.

CDignition
December 26, 2006, 11:05 PM
ISnt comparing an M16 or M4 that the Fed Govt buys for service in war, to a commercially available AR-15 that some guy will sit in bed and drool over kinda apples and oranges??

AR-15 also lacks select fire capability, ya forgot that one...

Lets do the same comparison to the HumVee.. and the commercially available Hummer model 1.... there is no comparison...

all the shot peening, Parkerizing under sight posts, etc, is not really required for the guns we buy as consumers...unless you plan on treating them like the military does...:rolleyes:

Bartholomew Roberts
December 26, 2006, 11:30 PM
Isnt comparing an M16 or M4 that the Fed Govt buys for service in war, to a commercially available AR-15 that some guy will sit in bed and drool over kinda apples and oranges?

The point of this thread is just to help people become informed consumers. As my previous posts have already made clear, I would agree that many of the military requirements are not necessary or even always desirable.

However, you can't make an informed decision as a consumer if you aren't aware of the differences to begin with. I believe that people should be aware of these differences and decide for themselves whether they need that feature. If they don't need it, they shouldn't pay for it. Likewise, if they are paying Colt LE6920 prices, they should receive Colt LE6920 features.

dm1333
December 27, 2006, 01:38 AM
This another very informative thread, the third or fourth on AR-15s that I can recall over the last month. I printed out the list of the 34 items and started to do a little research. There is an overwhelming amount of info available on the internet and this gives a lot of us a good place to start educating ourselves when it comes to the AR. Thanks again to everyone!

possum
December 27, 2006, 03:19 AM
great thread, very informative. i think this might should be a sticky!

Bazooka Joe71
December 27, 2006, 03:51 AM
First of all, +1 on the idea that this should be a sticky...Or maybe a more consolidated version, showing which companies do this or that to cut their costs.

I did have a couple of questions though, and if its a hastle, then no biggie...But which #'s do RRA do to cut costs? Just as a reference, if I ever want to replace curtain parts, so I have a heads up.

Also, Bartholomew do you have your own site? I thought I saw one of your threads awhile back saying you did...If so, please post a link.

Thanks for all the help. Coming from an AR newbie, the help I get from here is exponetially greater than what I could learn on my own.

Don't Tread On Me
December 27, 2006, 10:22 AM
That is a fantastic list, very informative.


Now, when people say "Colt is overpriced" or "Colt isn't any better than _________" "Why pay that extra $200 for the Colt" "All AR's are the same, save your money"


There will be this thread to link to.

Whether these things actually come into play, or will ever be noticed, or whether the end user actually values them is a different story. But the fact remains, these are the factual differences between AR's of mil-spec quality, and regular commercial AR's.

BrainOnSigs
December 27, 2006, 12:12 PM
I guess I am the only heretic here.

I have surpassed 25K in rounds in my first AR15. It is a RRA Elite CAR A4. It has taken a pounding in some urban shooting courses. The 2 stage trigger is still fantastic.

I'm not going to get into a pissing match over name brands but I have sold my Colts (pre and post ban) and Bushmasters for various reasons.

I do agree that RRA missed the boat with a non-mil-spec buffer/tube but too many people at my range are drinking too much Colt Kool-aid when they curl their lips at my RRAs...... :scrutiny:

MD_Willington
December 27, 2006, 12:54 PM
So how does the S&W AR check out :confused:

And how about Armalite M15A4 Carbine

Thanks

dfaugh
December 27, 2006, 01:43 PM
What's the old saying?

"a silk purse out of a sow's ear"?

Eleven Mike
December 27, 2006, 01:53 PM
35. Ship the customer a slingshot and a bag of marshmallows. Cheaper, but just as effective as an AR. :neener:

BryanP
December 27, 2006, 02:03 PM
Great list you've got there. I may have to print it out and go over my AR carefully when I get home.

Granted, I couldn't tell the difference between a cast and an extruded charging handle unless someone told me what to look for.

Nitpick note: every time you use the word "effect" in the original post, you meant "affect."

Thin Black Line
December 27, 2006, 04:11 PM
Hmmm...my M1Sales look staked on...guess I can stop worrying about it.

Bartholomew Roberts
December 27, 2006, 07:18 PM
The best way to check out how a rifle compares to that list is to call up the manufacturer/dealer and ask them. I could tell you what I thought the answer was; but I would be going from memory and even if I was right, the information would be old.

Besides that, I know several dealers who sell RRA and Stag who modify their products from the manufacturer in order to meet some of those criteria. So it would be tough to say if a certain brand will always use these or not.

However, as BrainonSigs experience shows, just because your rifle has a few items from this list (even items known to affect function), it doesn't mean you have a bad rifle.

Granted, I couldn't tell the difference between a cast and an extruded charging handle unless someone told me what to look for

Unless you are slamming the rifle on the deck to clear stuck cases or using an extended charging handle latch that will let you get extra leverage for quick clearances, you probably won't ever notice the difference. If you do either of those two things though (both are commonly taught in training/instruction), you may find you will bend the cheaper charging handles to the point that they bind.

BrainOnSigs
December 27, 2006, 08:24 PM
However, as BrainonSigs experience shows, just because your rifle has a few items from this list (even items known to affect function), it doesn't mean you have a bad rifle.


I didn't mean to come off sounding surly. It was not my intent. These are just one man's personal experiences.

My Colts had several things that I really disliked. They were real rattlers. It seemed to me that the fit could have been better. Then again I usually have to use a small tap to push the pins out on my RRAs. I still prefer their tightness. My Colts had gritty, heavy triggers (only my Bushmasters were worse). The overall fit and finish on my RRAs surpassed the Colt and especially my Bushmasters.

I wonder what kind of test the DEA put their RRAs thru before they gave RRA their contract? Was it purely a money decision? Did they swap any parts out?

This all said....I would give Colt another whirl again.......

Bazooka Joe71
December 27, 2006, 08:53 PM
Slightly off of the subject, but I just went to my shop today, and picked up a DPMS A 15 Ultimate Repair Kit...Is there anything not included in there, that would have a high chance of breaking(obviously theres more, but is this good enough)?? Also, when I saw them online I thought they were 60-70 dollars, and they were 35 at my shop, is that about the right price?

Don't Tread On Me
December 27, 2006, 10:11 PM
Just because RRA doesn't do all that Colt does, doesn't make RRA an inferior rifle. It just makes it a slightly less tested rifle.

What you really need in an AR is quality parts. Doesn't matter where they come from, so long as they are near milspec or milspec. Testing is nice, but not necessary. I like all the little things, which is why I prefer Colt, but I'd have no problem with a RRA. They source quality parts.


I used to have a Model 1 Sales rifle. I've also assembled a few of them. From first hand experience, I can tell you that the are pure JUNK. The reason is, they have inferior moving parts. Specifically, the bolt/carrier (BCG) and the lower parts kit (LPK).

The LPK had a safety switch that was so rough and poorly made, the detent would get stuck on it, and you'd be on either safe or fire permanently till you took the grip off. A bit of filing with a very pointed fine file did the job.

The gas key was not screwed on nor staked. OK, it's a kit gun - perhaps that's my job to do (factory rifles have NO excuse for that). Well, screwing in the gas key screws, I snapped one in half. Now, I've done this before - I wasn't using gorilla torque here. Screws were made of the softest, cheapest metal. Ordered DPMS replacement screws. When I got them, I could visually see a significant difference in the quality of the threads and the head and the finish of the screw. These didn't snap. By the way, getting out the broken screw as a nightmare. The M1S screws were very soft. Pot metal junk.

The bolt catch. What a POT METAL piece of garbage. Within 300rds (more like 200), the bolt catch had a groove dug into it about 1/32". It was exactly in the shape of the lugs from the bolt face. The simple act of pushing the bolt catch to release it caused enough abrasion against the bolt face to literally dig into the metal. It was totally through the finish, and significant burrs were forming on the top side and on the ejection port side. I've seen rifles with 10k rounds with no where near that kind of wear.

Then there is the bolt and cam pin. Each of these, within 200 rounds, had the wear characteristics of a bolt with 10,000rds. The bolt had pronounced circular machining marks. Not smooth like other quality bolts. The cam pin was beaten up too. The finish was nearly non-existent on the bolt after 200rds.

I took off the flash hider. I discovered that this barrel had no crown at all. The end of the barrel was cut by a torch, and it was threaded. I doubt this happens on all of them, but this one was messed up.

The charging handle, while it had no problems - was noticeably lighter and thinner than a quality charging handle (Colt). It was cheesy. Same goes for the handguards. Thinner and cheesier. Made of a different plastic.

Also, on an A2, they used an A1 sight post. No biggie, but whatever. The molding of the grip was awful. Lot of flashing, poor molding. Comparing it to the Colt A2 grip, the Colt literally looks and feels like an aftermarket. If you do a blind test of each, you'll definitely feel the difference. Even the rear sight didn't have the appearance of quality. The metal and the knob looked inferior.

Overall, the lower parts were pretty rough. The buttstock was the only decent thing. I must say it was ok, with the exception of their logo on it. The rifle, in virtually every aspect did not appear to be quality (except the lower which I supplied).


Since then, I've seen one with an "enhanced" carrier with the shrouded firing pin. The finish and color of that carrier was much different than mine, and it much more closely resembled the carriers used by Bushmaster and RRA. Perhaps they ran out of their POT METAL Chinese imports and had to source from a quality OEM. With kit guns of that grade (low), you can get lucky and they'll have a CMT LPK or a BCG that is the same as RRA, or you might get unlucky with all Chinese parts (or wherever they come from) that turn to mush. Hey, it's only $550.

That's what separates the quality makers from the junk. A company like Colt makes a lot more of the AR in house than others. The parts they do not make, they demand their subcontractors make them to MIL-SPEC, then they either visually inspect them (like the lower parts), or the physically test them (like the barrel/bolt) with proof loads. Parts are properly heat-treated. That takes money, and most of all, takes time which is even more money. RRA and Bushmaster are not bad, but they source out the whole gun using quality parts (some from the same subcontractors as Colt), instead, to keep costs down, they forgo some of the little things like MP testing and some of the small stuff that was listed at the beginning of the thread.

The lower makers don't even source decent parts to begin with, let alone test them.


I believe I have a decent eye for detail, and I can say I haven't seen Colt be beat in fit and finish yet. Matched? By some Stag, RRA and some Bushmaster - yes. Not beat. Now, my experience is with LE Colts...I pay no attention to any of their past civilian/sporting rifles. The LE6920 and LE6520 are excellent quality.


Go over to 10-8 forums, read some of Pat Rogers posts. He fanatically advocates Colt and the mil-spec ARs. Most of the guys running carbine classes, where ARs get run hard for days, not fired 10rds like some pretty safe-queen, all say Colt simply outlasts the rest, and gives the least problems. They all report on many big name ARs going down all the time and many times with low round count. I respect their experience and opinions, but I formed mine before I ever found that site. That just cemented it for me.


This isn't to say that RRA can't go thousands of rounds with issues, or that buying a Colt will make it 100% reliable and immune from breakage. That isn't true at all and not the intent of my post. Good ARs run trouble free at a higher percentage. Inferior ARs breakdown at a higher percentage.


Judging the AR-15 by kit-guns, is like judging AKs by importer-butchered Romanians. Arsenal/Saiga is to AK, like Colt/FN is to AR.

Mark8252
December 27, 2006, 10:36 PM
My Bushmaster Disapator goes boom every time I pull the trigger and i hit what I am shooting at.
Close enough for me.

:) :) :) :)

dm1333
December 28, 2006, 09:52 PM
Another vote for making this a sticky.

I thought I wanted a RRA or CMMG upper but now I am wondering. I also just got off of the Armalite website and saw that they make no claim to being Mil-Spec since they are not inspected and tested by the government but they did claim to meet the written specs for the M16. Anyone have any input on that claim? I took a look at LMT but I think I may have to pass unless my tax return is bigger than expected this year. I might have to claim the dog as a dependant.:D

DogBonz
December 28, 2006, 10:23 PM
I don't agree with all of the the points, but i do on most of them. I dont feel that a chrome lined BBL is a big factor un less firing corrosive ammo, full auto, or you live in a nasty humid, wet climate.

For the record, my DPMS carrier had the bolts un-staked, but they were Lock-tited.

mcooper
December 29, 2006, 01:01 AM
Chrome lining helps with barrel life (barrels last longer), extraction (chrome is slicker than steel), and I live in Ms....it's pretty humid.

Onmilo
December 29, 2006, 01:17 PM
I like DPMS bolt carriers over Bushmaster.
I have had several Bushmaster carriers with misaligned cotter pin holes.
Prairie River Arms produces the best carrier key in my opinion and I generally replace carrier keys with these parts.
The DPMS kits come unassembled and you have to install, torque and stake your carrier key in place yourself.
No biggy and you will know it is done right when you do it yourself.

Bartholomew Roberts
December 29, 2006, 01:56 PM
I thought I wanted a RRA or CMMG upper but now I am wondering. I also just got off of the Armalite website and saw that they make no claim to being Mil-Spec since they are not inspected and tested by the government but they did claim to meet the written specs for the M16. Anyone have any input on that claim?

I can't say as to the claim; but I would have no problem buying any of those products. They are all good rifles. I have a CMMG barrel and RRA parts on one rifle and I've been very impressed with the Armalites I've seen, particularly in the reliability and accuracy department.

MD_Willington
December 29, 2006, 06:59 PM
I've been very impressed with the Armalites I've seen, particularly in the reliability and accuracy department.


I asked about the Armalite only because I got the latest CDNN and they have 2 models listed at (IIRC) $699...


MD

dm1333
December 29, 2006, 07:58 PM
Armalites website has a tech questions area that has a lot of good info, especially about short barrels, carbine vs. rifle length gas systems, what type of barrel to get, etc.

kennedy
December 29, 2006, 09:11 PM
I also would like to know how the armilite stacks up, as I have a 20 in. A4 with a leopold up on top, that shoots like a dream.

Warbow
January 1, 2007, 07:38 PM
I've been looking at CMMG's site and their base ARs with no upgraded options are about $250 less than a Colt LE6920.

They say they MP test each barrel.

Does anyone know how CMMG's ARs compare to the LE6920 in other ways?

Andrew S
January 4, 2007, 06:16 PM
Reply from Del-Ton:


Andrew,
I've made a list of the ones we do here. Hope it helps!
3, 5, 8, sometimes 29...depends on the barrel, and 33 (I think). Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thanks,
Kassandra

dm1333
January 4, 2007, 07:57 PM
Sounds like Del-Ton is another good manufacturor.

MechAg94
January 4, 2007, 11:26 PM
#34 - Shot peening is a surface stress relief treatment that is required for military bolts. It reduces the propensity of the bolt to crack. Together with magnetic particle inspection, a bolt that has had both should be less likely to crack. However, if Colt prices are any guide, they also add a lot to the price of a bolt ($162.50 for a Colt bolt from SAW, compared to $60 for an RRA bolt). Given that even non-MP inspected, non-shot peened bolts rarely crack and that even MP-inspected, shot peened bolts have cracked, few people are willing to pay an extra $100 for that extra layer of security.
It is my understanding that shot peening does not really stress relieve, but puts the surface of the metal in compression. This has the effect of holding closed any microscopic cracks or surface deformities that might remain. It is useful to prevent metal fatigue failures that generally start at the surface. Unless my memory is messed up, they use it also on high speed compressor parts. The end result is also the same mechanism that lets pyrex glass avoid cracking with temp changes. I am not expert though just took some materials classes in college. I can double check with a rotating equipment engineer I work with if you want.

I am not sure if this was done with my Armalite, but I have a spare bolt assembly that cost $50. As long it doesn't fail when I need it, it is an easy repair. Also, I am really puzzled as to why this would really help in a semi-auto rifle with a forged steel bolt. It seems to me it would take some very high cycles to get a failure like that.

Eightball
January 5, 2007, 02:45 AM
I am literally saving this OP so that if i ever decide to buy an AR, I know the questions to ask, and what to look for. thanks!

lycanthrope
January 6, 2007, 01:26 PM
Shot peening and a good magnuflux is a good idea, but I've had all the rods in my 500hp small block Chevy peened and fluxed for $45. You should have that option for an bolt for $20 extra.

Some manufacturers still charge too much for an AR.

Simonovfan
January 7, 2007, 12:28 AM
Although I like AR's and their design; this post also reminds me of why I don't like them.

illspirit
January 12, 2007, 07:43 PM
Sorry if this is unacceptable thread necromancy, but it didn't seem that old, and I wanted to say thanks for it being so informative. So, thanks! :)

I saw this while lurking a couple of weeks ago, and after some more investigating and the response from Del-Ton, I decided to order one of their kits instead of getting a Stag or some such on my next payday. To the best of my knowledge, it would appear they've done all the bits they say they have. Sans things beyond my ability to check (metallurgy, magnetic particle tests, etc..), of course. Well, they didn't offer anything but an HBAR on their middy kits, but that was my plan anyway, so, no big loss.

Granted, this probably isn't much of an endorsement being my first AR anyhow. :p Just thought someone out there might be curious how an inexpensive kit measures up to the list. Pic of the carrier is attached in case anyone cares too.

lycanthrope
January 12, 2007, 08:03 PM
Which also brings up a good point. God forbid that I follow everything on the net, but I have never heard anything bad about a Stag or a DelTon. Low money, doesn't always mean low quality in terms of a modular firearm.

.45FMJoe
March 20, 2007, 09:24 PM
Bringing this back up because it should be a sticky!



Oh and I guess I missed it the first time around, to BrainonSigs I think is his name, RRA actually got a smaller portion of that contract. Colt and Sig were the other two who received a contract with the DEA for rifles. I don't drink the Colt kool aid as I build my own ARs using top shelf parts for less than I could buy a Colt (and I get standard pin sizes to boot;)) but RRA's advertising is kinda misleading because it makes people believe that RRA beat out Colt in the tests when in fact Colt had a greater portion of the contract awarded to them.

Detachment Charlie
March 21, 2007, 12:43 AM
I missed this the first trip through the mill, but agree that it should be made a STICKY.
Thanks. Tomorrow morn, I'm gonna make sure my bolts are staked. Now, I'm goin' to bed and ......well I'm sure not gonna stake my nuts!!!:what:

Bartholomew Roberts
March 21, 2007, 01:11 AM
Actually, this is a sticky. It is one of many threads listed in the "Rifle Forum Reading Library" stuck to the top of the Forum.

Detachment Charlie
March 21, 2007, 05:12 PM
Bartholomew, I and me new Stag A3 carbine stand corrected. My thanks.:)

07Lway
March 22, 2007, 01:42 AM
Wow, this helped clear up a lot of my questions on why there was such a price difference between AR-15s. After hearing the answer from Del-Ton, I think I will probably go with one of them. Now I just have to pick all the details (which should only take me two or three months :uhoh: ).

Group9
March 29, 2007, 10:05 PM
Bringing this back up because it should be a sticky!



Oh and I guess I missed it the first time around, to BrainonSigs I think is his name, RRA actually got a smaller portion of that contract. Colt and Sig were the other two who received a contract with the DEA for rifles. I don't drink the Colt kool aid as I build my own ARs using top shelf parts for less than I could buy a Colt (and I get standard pin sizes to boot) but RRA's advertising is kinda misleading because it makes people believe that RRA beat out Colt in the tests when in fact Colt had a greater portion of the contract awarded to them.


This is actually incorrect. While DEA signed contracts with RRA, Sigarms, and Colt for semi-auto rifles, DEA has not exercised it's right to purchase rifles under the Sigarms or Colt contract and has only bought RRA's. The FBI and ATF have also bought RRA's under the DEA contract, in a manner known as "piggy-backing".

DEA has continued to purchase some select fire Colt M-4's and M-203's, as well as FN SAW 249's, under other contracts, but in much smaller numbers, and primarily for use in foreign countries.

So while the RRA advertisement is not totally true in regards to all DEA rifles, it is totally true in regards to semi-auto rifles.

brentn
August 13, 2007, 03:04 AM
Interesting,

Bart made this a sticky in the rifle forum reading guide.

Is it possible to tell just by looking at the said parts on the list, if they are or are not made that way?
Is there a stamp or anything that can identify say if the handle was forged? just one example..

BigG
August 13, 2007, 10:19 AM
It seems like a lot of good reasons to buy the real thing instead of an imitation. Same for a 45 ACP or a Peacemaker.

publiuss
May 15, 2008, 11:42 PM
Does anyone know if PWA is still in business. I had a M-4 clone A1 that was great but my crackhead cousin stole it. Also does anyone make a new A1 model, I prefer the aperture to the A2.

armed85
May 16, 2008, 07:32 AM
Old thread, but not a bad one.

As someone that uses milspec tools and parts on a regular basis (active duty), being "milspec" doesn't necessarily mean "better."

For example, a milspec magazine is crap. Milspec mags are made of thin aluminium and are very easy to dent or break. I've personally broken more than one. The plastic (yes, plastic!) Magpul pmags are far better than milspec magazines.

The M4 buttstock is also crap. It's difficult to have a proper cheek weld on it. The civilian LMT SOPMOD stock, as one example, is far better.

The trigger, or fire control group, of a milspec AR is really crap. It's heavy and full of creep. Many civilian ARs have far better feeling triggers.

I'm not arguing with Bart's post, but I shake my head when I see people buying milspec on the assumption that it's "better."

Most of the failures that happen in an AR are related to lack of lubrication, bad magazines, or a part that has failed in the bolt carrier group.

A Lewis Machine & Tool or BCM bolt carrier group is shot peened, magnetic partical inspected, and has a properly staked carrier key. You can save money buying a Bushmaster, Stag Arms, Rock River Arms, etc. and swapping out the bolt carrier group for an LMT or BCM.

An LMT or BCM bolt carrier group costs about $130.

Sure, a Bushmaster, Stag Arms, Rock River Arms, etc. dosen't have 4150 barrel steel, but who's going to say a 4140 chrome lined barrel is not up to shooting thousands of rounds? You could also have a match grade barrel and a match grade trigger if you choose which, while not milspec, will be a whole lot more enjoyable to shoot.

Why limit yourself to what we're stuck with in the military?

Onmilo
May 16, 2008, 08:16 AM
According to the Bushmaster rep., their barrels are indeed a form of 4150 barrel steel.
The LMT SOPMOD stock isn't civilian, it is an actual piece of US Military hardware issued with the M4 carbine enhancement package.

I have had very good luck with the bolt carriers offered by High Standard.
They feature the older, heavier, semi auto carrier design with the fuly shrouded firing pin slot.
I don't know if H.S. particle inspects the carriers or not and couldn't care, I have yet to see a civilian bolt carrier fail.
I install the gas tube carrier keys myself and ensure that they are properly staked.
Why count on somebody else to do the work when you can do it yourself.

JNewell
May 16, 2008, 09:37 PM
I can think of one thing that would actually make this all worse.

Have shadetree gunsmiths purchase the same substandard parts referred to in Post #1 above and assemble them using improvised tools, materials and techniques.

Then we wonder why folks post here that their AR-15s don't run correctly...? :confused:

Bartholomew Roberts
June 24, 2008, 12:05 AM
Rob_S at M4Carbine.net has drawn up a chart showing which brands have which features. You can find that chart here:
http://m4carbine.net/showthread.php?t=6642

I've included it in this thread since there seem to be a lot of questions about who does what.

Snipe315
June 24, 2008, 03:01 AM
Sorry Bart but I for one wouldn't even think about buying one of these "bargin basement" items (calling this a rifle just seems... wrong). :scrutiny:

You want something cheaper?!? Make your own. If the current models available are out of your price range... save more $$$.

People were complaining about these cheaply made Mattel Toys when they replaced the M14 (I know... I was there). Too much plastic... too flimsy... etc. I don't see where any of these penny pinching options will produce something in any way BETTER than the current design.

Some things should NOT be made as cheaply as humanly possible. Things that go boom are usually in that category.

:banghead:

Of course, this is just MHO. You are all entitled to yours.

starboard
November 27, 2008, 09:14 AM
Yes, peening reduces surface stress risers. It's been done on racing conrods just about forever.

woodybrighton
November 27, 2008, 10:53 AM
mil spec isn't the be all and end all
there is a world of difference between a standard dimarco C8
and the special forces super gucci version handled both and you can tell the difference though its debatable the extra accuracy and general build quality would be noticeable in combat.

SHvar
November 27, 2008, 12:42 PM
I have yet to find one DPMS without most of those features standard. Ive never seen a BCG on any manufacturer yet that was not properly staked. Maybe actual owners of the weapons being "snobbed at" should respond to give accuracy to the subject. In fact many of the 34 subjects I have never heard of or seen actually present any manufacturers AR. I know of one company that uses plastic in the recievers.
The only models I know of that are just painted are done by aftermarket, and by customer choice.
There are a few of the above mentioned features that separate the major AR manufacturers from one model to the next. Comparing a colt AR my friend recently purchased by my suggestion (excellent price), to my DPMS and most other ARs I have ever looked at or fired for many years there is VERY LITTLE DIFFERENCE aside from shot peened bolts, MPT.
I can tell you with all confidence that my DPMS fires so accurate that you couldnt compare a colt to it, not one colt or hundreds Ive shot.
It comes down to (except one compant with plastic recievers) what brand you want to buy, what features you want, how it looks seems to be important to most, and what you want to spend on it.
I bought my AR used, and have been very good at picking good used ARs out for others. Thousands of rounds in my hands, and who knows how many thousands of rounds in someone elses hands, they are functioning just like new today.

waterhouse
December 2, 2008, 12:43 PM
Ive never seen a BCG on any manufacturer yet that was not properly staked.

Really? On average I transfer about 5 ARs a week from various manufacturers. I haven't kept written records or anything, but I'd guess about half of the BCGs that come through are not properly staked.

Gord
December 2, 2008, 03:33 PM
FYI, the carrier on my Del-Ton midlength is staked - barely:

http://xs434.xs.to/xs434/08492/staked1462.jpg
http://xs434.xs.to/xs434/08492/staked2280.jpg

(Yes, I know the pics are blurry; for a phone camera with no macro setting, it's not that bad.)

rayman
December 2, 2008, 10:23 PM
I'm feeling good about my Colt now. I think I'll keep it.

longdayjake
December 2, 2008, 10:33 PM
colt sucks. Stop reviving dead threads!

rayman
December 3, 2008, 09:24 AM
I guess Jake doesn't like the Colts.

cat9x
December 3, 2008, 11:50 AM
yeah Colt has such a horrible reputation in the AR world, maybe the Govt. should reconsider and issue DPMS rifles :rolleyes:

gvnwst
December 3, 2008, 12:16 PM
IIRC, the goverment uses FN m16s:neener::p:D

longdayjake
December 3, 2008, 12:18 PM
you guys are funny.

gvnwst
December 3, 2008, 12:19 PM
Thanks:D

SHvar
December 3, 2008, 12:58 PM
The list of 34.
If you were to remove the numbers of features realistically found in all manufacturers, remove the assumptions of being made by trained monkeys, the brand snobbery comments, and make the list real, the list is now down to 10 differences. Starting with 10 we can reduce that to barrel steel, shot peened bolts, magnetic tested bolts, and pin size differences, milspec and commercial carbine stocks, and heavy or standard buffers, also some improperly staked gas keys among all manufacturers.
Of course there are also companies that still make recievers from plastic, but I dont count them in the comparison, those are just airsoft guns that shoot bullets.

cat9x
December 3, 2008, 01:20 PM
FN and Colt

RyanM
December 3, 2008, 05:27 PM
If you want real, verifiable differences, here's a different chart, as well as how a few different manufacturers stack up.

http://www.m4carbine.net/showthread.php?t=6642

That chart was pretty helpful. Ended up with a CMMG upper and lower, with an LMT BCG. Staked the end plate myself, bought an H2 buffer, and got a KAC RAS (also do have some double heat shield handguards floating around). Now the absolute only non-milspec thing about this rifle is the lack of high pressure testing on the barrel, and I'm not really worried about that, as long as it's been MPIed.

ugaarguy
December 3, 2008, 06:56 PM
IIRC, the goverment uses FN m16s
Colt still has the sole source supplier contract on M4s though.

Diamondback6
December 3, 2008, 07:37 PM
RyanM, isn't that the one mentioned in one of the recent Guns & Ammo annuals? I was just about to mention it, think it was in the Personal Defense volume.

----------------
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ugaarguy
December 4, 2008, 12:41 AM
Rob_S is also a member here. He keeps the most current update of the chart posted here: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pwswheghNQsEuEhjFwPrgTA&hl=en

waterhouse
December 4, 2008, 10:51 AM
Ive never seen a BCG on any manufacturer yet that was not properly staked.

also some improperly staked gas keys among all manufacturers.

You've never seen it, but you know it occurs among all manufacturers?

and make the list real, the list is now down to 10 differences. Starting with 10 we can reduce that to barrel steel, shot peened bolts, magnetic tested bolts, and pin size differences, milspec and commercial carbine stocks, and heavy or standard buffers, also some improperly staked gas keys among all manufacturers.

OK, so to you there are 10 real, actual differences that actually matter. Looking at the chart, it appears that Colt has 9 of the 10 (Colt has the different pin size). How many does DPMS have?

I'm not knocking DPMS. I own one, and I've been happy with it. I also own a Colt and a Noveske and a Bushmaster and a couple of Frankenguns that I pieced together. The point is that there are real, verifiable differences. I can say with certainty that neither my Bushmaster nor the DPMS had properly staked carriers from the factory. My DPMS does not have a chrome lined barrel. The Colt does, and their staking job was done correctly.

In fact many of the 34 subjects I have never heard of or seen actually present any manufacturers AR.
The fact that you have never heard of them or seen them doesn't mean they don't exist.

vanfunk
December 4, 2008, 11:47 AM
IIRC, the goverment uses FN m16s

Contrary to widely popular (mis)belief, Colt continues to produce M16A4 rifles for the US Armed Services, in addition the previously mentioned sole-source contract for M4's (through next year, anyway). Colt never "lost" the contract, as many have been lead to believe.

vanfunk

Bartholomew Roberts
January 24, 2009, 08:35 PM
The list of 34.
If you were to remove the numbers of features realistically found in all manufacturers, remove the assumptions of being made by trained monkeys, the brand snobbery comments, and make the list real, the list is now down to 10 differences.

First of all, I wonder how it is that you have never seen an improperly staked gas key? I've got three bolt carriers right now and not one of them is properly staked (though two are staked improperly), so it isn't as if it is uncommon.

Second, while you may not believe several of the elements that you eliminated from the list make a difference, they do in fact make a difference. Sometimes people have to learn the hard way, I know I've learned more than my fair share of lessons that way myself.

Just read back through this thread for some examples of things you have discounted - we have someone discussing snapped gas key screws because the manufacturer substituted gas screw keys from a much cheaper metal. We have a bolt catch made out of pot metal. On top of this, there are examples I have personally seen such as cheaper, steel springs that lose temper in heat and stop performing as designed (when your buffer spring stops working, so does your rifle). There is the receiver endplate that wasn't staked on because it was made of a quality of metal that staking it would cause it to crack. Instead the manufacturer had red loctited it into place.

I could go on; but there are actually a substantial number of areas where you can substitute a cheaper metal or plastic part and it has the potential to affect function.

As for "being made by trained monkeys", let me tell you a gun show story from 1990. I was working a gun show as an employee for an FFL. A guy walks up to the table wanting to sell a PWA 16" carbine. I ask if I may take a look at the internals of the rifle. The seller says "yes.". I punch the lower takedown pin and shotgun the upper. The buffer retaining pin shoots into low orbit past my face as the buffer and buffer spring snake out into the lower. I gently hand the rifle back in this condition to the seller and state I am not interested. The seller is then mad at me because *I* broke his rifle. Perhaps the trained monkeys is a bit sarcastic; but it isn't too far off the mark. I have owned several Bushmasters and my favorite rifle was originally 100% Bushmaster. As much as I like their rifles, for a very long time now they have produced rifles that consistently have overtorqued barrels and require excessive windage to zero. They also like to bury the front sight base pins in the barrel making them a pain to remove. These are all assembly issues that aren't present when you buy a Noveske or MSTN (as a point of comparison). The knowledge and training of the guy putting the rifle together does make a difference and quality people cost more than guys with some basic machining knowledge.

As to "brand snobbery", since I didn't actually mention any brand by name in the original list, I am not sure how you arrived at that conclusion.

However, I would be the first to admit that I am not the be-all, end-all for AR knowledge. I am not even at the door to that place. I do have some experience with them as I purchased my first one some 20 years ago in 1989. While in college, I started working for a very small class 2 manufacturer building ARs (both normal and NFA) out of Nesard parts kits and whoever's lowers we could buy cheapest - so I know a thing or two about cost-cutting (and I'm very sorry to anyone who bought one of these rifles - it wasn't done out of malice; but out of ignorance because we thought we knew everything we needed to know about ARs at the time.)

Since then I've been a fairly active shooter (1,000 rounds per month at my peak) who tries to work in a formal training class at least once a year. My ARs typically will see round counts of 700+ rounds per day at least once or twice a year and with suppressors and other gear they tend to take a decent beating in terms of heat and backpressure, so I know what works for me and what doesn't work for me. I know a lot of what doesn't work for me still works fine for 95% of the people who own ARs; but that doesn't make it any more useful to me.

So now you know my background and can better evaluate the information I am sharing with you. Would you like to share your background with us so we can do the same?

Bartholomew Roberts
September 3, 2009, 02:18 PM
Just thought I would mention a couple of additions to the list:

35. Use a cheaper, softer aluminium for the upper and lower receivers than the military specified 7075-T6 aluminium.

At least one manufacturer out there makes a big deal about their uppers being "CNC Machined from SOLID BILLET" with "many areas reinforced heavier than GI spec". What they don't mention is that the aluminium they use is a cheaper, easier to machine aluminium and not the 7075-T6 used in GI weapons (which may explain why it was necessary to reinforce some areas). However, they sell these receivers as premium, custom receivers and ask premium custom prices (roughly twice what a 7075-T6 forged receiver from Bravo Company runs).

36. Use a cheaper steel than Carpenter 158 for the bolt.

If you pay attention, many manufacturers do not discuss whether their bolts are made out of Carpenter 158 steel (the same as an M4). Companies that do manufacture bolts out of 158 will often mention it in their product literature (and the price will usually be a clue since they tend to be more expensive to manufacture).

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying Carpenter 158 steel is an absolute necessity in an AR; but again, if you are paying Colt LE6920 prices, you should expect better or comparable parts and a cheaper bolt made out of 4140 is not in that category (although it will likely last longer than 95% of shooters will ever need).

mp5a3
September 3, 2009, 04:15 PM
How does cold hammer forged barrels compare ? Like on the new Bravo Company uppers ?

http://www.bravocompanyusa.com/BCM-BFH-16-Mid-Length-Upper-Receiver-Group-p/bcm-urg-mid-16%20bfh.htm

I have one on my MP5, and when you could buy them, they were around $1000 (Just for the barrel)

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