I might buy my first AR-15, looking for a sanity check


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Corn-Picker
February 3, 2016, 03:36 PM
I don't own any semi-auto rifles, but have been kicking around the idea of buying an AR-15. I want this rifle for fun at the range (out to 300 yards), varmint/coyote shooting, and HD (though I chose to live in a low crime area so this is a small small possibility in my mind).

I'm leaning towards the Rock River Arms ATH carbine: https://www.rockriverarms.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=526

I considered building my own, but the RRA is configured exactly how I would build one; with accuracy as the top priority (3/4 MOA gaurantee), a two stage trigger, a winter trigger guard, a short LOP stock, and a small amount of railing for a few accessories. Buying would require less effort/tools, and would provide a warranty and someone to complain to if something breaks.

So, what I'm wondering is:

Any reason to consider building when I can buy exactly what I want?

Would there be another AR manufacturer to consider given my priorities for use (I'm not kicking down doors and shooting at people so I don't care if everything is milspec)?

I would like to switch between a high power scope and an RDS. Will Picatinny scope mounts normally return a scope to zero if I take the scope off and reinstall it?

What would a fair price be for an RRA at an LGS, i.e. 90% of MSRP?

Thank you all.

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Telekinesis
February 3, 2016, 04:24 PM
If you can find exactly what you want, there's no reason to build in my opinion. The greatest advantage to building is being able to select the exact parts you want, which is a moot point in this case.

A normal mount might get you somewhat close, but I would be very surprised of it would actually hold zero. You'll need to look into a QD mount specifically designed to return an optic to zero.

justin22885
February 3, 2016, 04:32 PM
youre never going to buy exactly what you want because once you buy what you think you want you will find something else you want instead, a new grip, a new stock, different muzzle device.. i build my own AKs so i can configure it EXACTLY how i want, doing this with an AR-15 is a heck of a lot easier

MaterDei
February 3, 2016, 04:57 PM
I respectfully disagree with justin. I have 3 ARs. The first one I built, the other two I bought either whole or as upper and lower receivers and in neither case have I had any interest in changing anything on them other than adding optics and slings. I do have other guns I like to tinker with, just not my ARs.

Some people like to tinker a lot with their firearms but some don't.

I wouldn't count on a high power scope remaining zeroed but it should be close.

With regard to $$$. This rifle seems to be hard to find online in stock. When they are in stock they seem to sell for about $1200. If they are hard to come by you probably won't find a large discount at your LGS.

Good luck.

Quentin
February 3, 2016, 05:23 PM
If you can find a factory built AR configured exactly the way you want, that's great.

I've sure never seen one myself, though! :D

Which is why I build...

Jackal
February 3, 2016, 05:33 PM
The build is the best part of AR ownership, in my opinion. When I build, I know my barrel nut is torqued to spec, my gas block is Rocksett, my handguard is mounted correctly, etc, etc. I can find something wrong with almost every factory rifle. If my home built rifle doesnt work, I have no one to blame but myself.

Warp
February 3, 2016, 05:34 PM
I don't own any semi-auto rifles, but have been kicking around the idea of buying an AR-15. I want this rifle for fun at the range (out to 300 yards), varmint/coyote shooting, and HD (though I chose to live in a low crime area so this is a small small possibility in my mind).

I'm leaning towards the Rock River Arms ATH carbine: https://www.rockriverarms.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=526

I considered building my own, but the RRA is configured exactly how I would build one; with accuracy as the top priority (3/4 MOA gaurantee), a two stage trigger, a winter trigger guard, a short LOP stock, and a small amount of railing for a few accessories. Buying would require less effort/tools, and would provide a warranty and someone to complain to if something breaks.

So, what I'm wondering is:

Any reason to consider building when I can buy exactly what I want?

Would there be another AR manufacturer to consider given my priorities for use (I'm not kicking down doors and shooting at people so I don't care if everything is milspec)?

I would like to switch between a high power scope and an RDS. Will Picatinny scope mounts normally return a scope to zero if I take the scope off and reinstall it?

What would a fair price be for an RRA at an LGS, i.e. 90% of MSRP?

Thank you all.

If you use it as an HD rifle, you may be betting your life or the lives of other on it...so I would consider quality, reliability, etc, a high priority.

I have a LaRue quick release scope mount with a 1-4x scope in it. To me and my modest shooting, it holds zero when I take it off and put it back on, as advertised.

HammsBeer
February 3, 2016, 05:39 PM
Keep in mind that when you buy a complete rifle there is an 11% excise tax on the whole gun built into the price. If the rifle costs $1200, then $132 of that is just tax. You are really only getting $1068 worth of gun. If you buy a stripped lower for $100 you are only paying $11 in tax. Order everything else straight to your door, assemble it, and save some money.

Warp
February 3, 2016, 05:53 PM
Keep in mind that when you buy a complete rifle there is an 11% excise tax on the whole gun built into the price. If the rifle costs $1200, then $132 of that is just tax. You are really only getting $1068 worth of gun. If you buy a stripped lower for $100 you are only paying $11 in tax. Order everything else straight to your door, assemble it, and save some money.

This is true and is one of the benefits of assembling yourself...which is very easy to do if you base it around a complete upper, or complete upper sans handguard/rail/BCG/sight.

That damn FET

giggitygiggity
February 3, 2016, 06:54 PM
Rock Rivers are great. I have the Entry Tactical and it has served me well. The RRA two-stage trigger is superb. Much crisper and cleaner than a one-stage military spec trigger.

Robert
February 3, 2016, 07:01 PM
Use the look of that rifle for a basis and build your own for less than what it would cost to buy the RRA. Unless you can find a really good deal on that exact model. With the prices of components at all time lows now is a great time to build and save real money.

Ks5shooter
February 3, 2016, 07:28 PM
Stag Model 6 super varminter , tackdriver.
https://www.stagarms.com/model-6-super-varminter/
http://www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/product_info.php/cPath/36_800/products_id/99072/STAG+SA6+15+24+SS+NS

Under $900 bucks at buds free shipping:)

mf-dif
February 3, 2016, 07:34 PM
It depends if you're the type of person who enjoys making things or finding out how something works. Did you take apart all your toys as a kid? If so build it...you will enjoy the process. If you like to skip all the wait and get to the end product buy.

Blade First
February 3, 2016, 10:00 PM
"Any reason to consider building when I can buy exactly what I want?"

What better reason to build could there be?

You'll save a substantial amount of money, reduce the amount of dollars going to Washington, and will, forever, know exactly how an AR is built and works.

Start with a quality stripped lower and lower parts kit, and move on to a buffer tube assembly and stock of your choice.

Then do lots of research on *exactly* what sort of upper you want for the primary purpose for your carbine/rifle. But don't let the anticipation of the upper interfere with building your lower.

bullzeye8
February 3, 2016, 10:59 PM
For the money I think RRA is the best choice for an AR. They have superior triggers and accuracy to all the others at that price range and mine so far has had zero reliability issues and shoots great. My LGS is also big on them and highly recommends them.

Warp
February 3, 2016, 11:03 PM
For the money I think RRA is the best choice for an AR. They have superior triggers and accuracy to all the others at that price range and mine so far has had zero reliability issues and shoots great. My LGS is also big on them and highly recommends them.

How many rounds? What price range?

Coal Dragger
February 3, 2016, 11:28 PM
I will make my case for a carbine that meets or exceeds the M4 TDP, but not until I get home.

I realize I will be arguing my case to no avail, to a bunch of shooters who don't share the same views or have the same experiences...but I'm going to do it anyway.

HammsBeer
February 3, 2016, 11:39 PM
I will make my case for a carbine that meets or exceeds the M4 TDP
The TDP should be a functional baseline that all AR's should meet. Unfortunately a lot of the budget AR's and parts on the market cut corners in materials/specs/coatings/tests to try and meet a price point. Interested to hear your thoughts.

HGM22
February 4, 2016, 02:28 AM
Coal Dragger please do, my fingers are sore.

justice06rr
February 4, 2016, 05:08 AM
He is probably referring to a Colt, BCM, Daniel Defense, etc.

At the price range that the OP is looking at, he is within the range of those quality milspec rifles. I would actually lean towards those instead of the RRA, unless he wants the "3/4moa guarantee" from RRA (whatever that means).

Corn-Picker
February 4, 2016, 08:36 AM
As far as use, I'm mostly interested in punching paper and shooting varmints. That's why I didn't bother to look at the milspec battle rifles; a heavy creepy single stage trigger is great for a reliable battle rifle, but it's not something I want to deal with when shooting for precision at 300 yards. If there are milspec rifles that offer excellent two stage triggers I would be interested, but that sounds more expensive.

HD is really a minor concern for me, it's not something I worry about. Think about it -- how many people did you know that died during home invasions? How many people did you know that died of heart disease, cancer, or automobile accidents? I'm just not that concerned with some one in a billion HD scenario where the milspec AR would save me and the non-milspec AR wouldn't.

Speedo66
February 4, 2016, 09:01 AM
I'm just not that concerned with some one in a billion HD scenario where the milspec AR would save me and the non-milspec AR wouldn't.
You have just pricked the HD, Mall Ninja, Keyboard Commando balloon and let all the air out of it. :eek:

Thank you!

HammsBeer
February 4, 2016, 10:55 AM
If you want a stainless SPR upper with that kind of ff tube, you should look at this from BCM:
http://www.bravocompanyusa.com/BCM-SPR-Mk-12-Mod-0-Bravo-Natural-p/bcm-urg-mk12-0-pri-nat.htm
Then put together a lower with the stock and trigger of your liking.

MistWolf
February 4, 2016, 11:44 AM
Disparaging "milspec" because you're not "going to war" is a sign of not knowing what you don't know. Milspec works and it works every time. When an AR deviates from what works, there's a chance it won't work. Do you know what deviations affect function and how? While only accurate rifles are interesting, few rifles are more frustrating than rifles that don't work.

I have to go to work now, so I'll close with this-
An AR doesn't have to match the TDP in every detail to be functional, reliable and durable but there are details that need to be adhered to. Don't be that guy who justifies changes without knowing how or if those changes affect function

200Apples
February 4, 2016, 12:41 PM
Corn-Picker

I don't own any semi-auto rifles, but have been kicking around the idea of buying an AR-15. I want this rifle for fun at the range (out to 300 yards), varmint/coyote shooting, and HD (though I chose to live in a low crime area so this is a small small possibility in my mind).

THR user Inebriated (where's he been lately...) aided THR user another pake by suggesting 6.8 SPC... fits your criteria to a T.

I, like you, have come close to acquiring an AR-15 but always seem to wind up with another lever carbine or a bolt rifle. The little 7-pounder, loaded! that another pake put together sounds very interesting to me. (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=797644) <--- linky

Corn-Picker
February 4, 2016, 01:00 PM
I would prefer a 6.8 spc ii to some extent, but it's 223 for me. There's a regulation in WV that any shooting done at night (e.g. coyote hunting) may not be done with anything larger than a 22 caliber centerfire . I also like having a minimum of calibers/rifles, and using the most common calibers. If I need something bigger than a 223, the 308 bolt action will make an appearance.

200Apples
February 4, 2016, 02:40 PM
.
.22 caliber restriction? Check. And I understand completely the guideline of fewer calibers to stock.


If I need something bigger than a 223, the 308 bolt action will make an appearance.

Well, dagnabbit, mister! That's right up my alley.. save for the intermediates: a .30WCF '94 or a X 39 CZ Carbine.

So, now that we're back at Square One, I *did* have my eye on a Colt LE 6920 for +/- a grand. Can't go wrong, there. I rescinded my layaway to reduce that potential cash outlay (work projected to be thin for me through June) and brought home a neat little revolver instead.

I'll more than likely have an AR one day, and it may be that I build that 6.8. Hmmm.

Warp
February 4, 2016, 02:41 PM
Disparaging "milspec" because you're not "going to war" is a sign of not knowing what you don't know.

Sure is

Corn-Picker
February 4, 2016, 03:34 PM
From WV DNR. Firearms legal for night coyote hunting are shotguns with #2 or smaller shot and rifles and handguns of .22 caliber centerfire or smaller and .22 caliber rimfire or smaller.

You could use a 22-243, but not a 7.62x39.

I actually have a CZ 527 in 7.62x39. I'm on the fence about whether or not to keep it, though I think I will. It's a ton of fun, though it doesn't do anything that I don't have covered with the 223/308.

The Stag someone posted earlier looked nice, but I need a carbine stock (I'm vertically challenged) and a shorter threaded barrel (this will be suppressed).

The Bravo Company upper is a milspec unit? That looks nice but the upper alone is $100 more than a complete rifle from RRA. What's a milspec lower with a quality two stage trigger run, about $300-400? Looks like the BCM could run 40% more than the RRA. I'd have to think about whether that would be worth it to me.

Bruce Hanson
February 4, 2016, 04:12 PM
I don't own those particular models, but I own a RRA and a BCM upper. The BCM is definitely higher quality and even though it's has a lightweight 16 inch barrel, it is easily accurate enough to hit a coyote out to 300 yards.

strambo
February 4, 2016, 04:34 PM
It would make sense not to try and combine HD and varmint shooting and expect it to do well at both. The RRA you posted will be very heavy and unbalanced for HD and way more accurate than needed, and might potentially have reliability issues compared to a different option (or maybe not).

Something like a Colt will cost the same or less, but won't have a 2 stage trigger and won't shoot as accurately, but it will be great for HD and if it shoots 2 MOA or better with varmint ammo, it will do the job out to 300.

So, I'd suggest either getting a Colt 6920 or 6720 great for HD that can also do varmint duty. Or, the RRA and having another gun (pistol/shotgun, whatever) be your HD gun.

Good quality QD mounts like those from LaRue, BoBro will hold and return to zero.

Coal Dragger
February 4, 2016, 05:40 PM
Corn-Picker,

As a member of the "Buy a Mil-Spec TDP compliant AR" fan boy club I have nominated myself to write a huge word fort trying to convince you to buy a better AR/M4 pattern rifle than you might have otherwise done. I realize this will all be for naught, and that much like Sisyphus I am bound to the hell of watching this effort roll down hill at the end only to being again.

Now when I say buy a rifle that is as close to the TDP as you can get, I really am implying that you want to look for certain materials and assembly methods that will ensure reliable function and a long service life. You don't have to slavishly adhere to the .mil TDP and get an iron sighted M4. However there are some features of that general issue carbine that you do want, and should settle for no less than.

I will now attempt to explain what those features are, and why you want them. Others who are even more knowledgeable can feel free to jump in and fill any gaps I leave.

We shall begin with the TDP (Technical Data Package) and you: So you realize that you are not going to be the baddest mo-fo of all time kicking in doors after fast roping out of a Blackhawk or Osprey, and shooting some savage in the face at the appointed time and place. Welcome to reality for 99.9999999% of us even those with military experience, hell even for those of us with combat experience. So you are probably wondering why in the hell you should give a rat's-a$$ about getting an AR-15 that meets a bunch of mil-spec techno-jargon, you're looking for a range toy or something to shoot small furry rodents with, not a combat gun!

Well the first thing we need to go over is why a TDP exists, simply put the TDP exists because over time and experience a large organization that own tens of thousands of M16's and M4's that get used and abused, has figured out what works and what does not. Lucky for us, we can also learn from their experience, and benefit from it without going through all the pain in the ass it took to get there. The TDP has call outs for everything from dimensions, materials specification, production methods, and assembly methods. What it all adds up to when followed scrupulously is a highly functional, accurate, reliable, durable fighting rifle/carbine.

So, being an intelligent fellow and doing some research before you buy you are probably wondering "what is actually in the TDP for an M4 carbine or M16 that I can actually look for, and how does it realistically benefit me for what I want to do with this firearm?" Well here we go I will try to give some succinct answers.

1.) The bolt carrier group. This is in my opinion the single most important assembly that the TDP calls for that more often than not will ensure a functional rifle or carbine. Sadly it also seems to be an area where a lot of manufacturers take short cuts.

We will begin with the bolt itself, the TDP calls for this part to be manufactured from Carpenter 158 steel alloy. Once it is machined, shot peened and heat treated the TDP also demands that the bolt is individually high pressure tested and magnetic particle inspected. This of course costs money, and many manufacturers do not bother, they batch test instead: if one passes all the parts pass. Unfortunately the bolt on an AR pattern rifle is not the strongest or most robust rotating bolt known to mankind. The lugs are small, and over time and many rounds they start to crack at the base. Figure 20,000 rounds of service life and you should look at replacement of the bolt. Given the critical need for a strong part here, I think it is worth the extra $$$ to get one that is individually tested. There are also some bolts being made of newer stronger alloys than Carpenter 158, so there is room for improvement here over the TDP. You also want to see a tool steel extractor with the current extractor spring, hard rubber spring insert, and black rubber donut. A lot of makers cheap out here too, and erratic extraction and ejection can be the result.

Moving on to the bolt carrier what we are really looking for is a hard chrome lined interior for durability and ease of cleaning, full profile full auto style carrier for smooth cycling, and a properly staked gas key. The gas key staking in particular is vitally important for reliable function, and infuriatingly is often over looked entirely or done in a half assed manner. This is also easy to verify visually when you break the rifle open and pull the bolt carrier group out. A properly staked gas key will look like this: http://s6.photobucket.com/user/Alpha-Romeo3/media/Hunting%20Tech/COLT_l_LMT_M_LMT_R-stake-L197-2-1.jpg.html

As you can see there is a lot of metal moved into and over the tops of those hex head bolts. They will not back out. If the gas key doesn't look like that, then put the rifle down and walk away. Chisel marks across the top will do nothing, and light staking from the sides that don't move enough metal also can loosen. When these bolts loosen (and they will over time even with a light firing schedule) you will develop a gas leak, and the rifle will start to short stroke or fail to cycle due to inadequate gas pressure in the bolt carrier group. That is what the problem will manifest as, the other issue is that the loose gas key will be misaligned and beating the crap out of your gas tube well before that prematurely wearing it down to the point you may be losing gas pressure there as well. So you'll get to make two repairs you didn't want to. Plus you'll end up being frustrated as hell with this damn gun that doesn't work right.

The last bit I will mention is that the exterior of all these parts will be called for to have a phosphate finish. There are other finishes available, many of them are excellent, some are frankly crap. All of them should be lubricated regardless of any claims you don't need to lube the rifle. Phosphate does a good job of holding lubricating oil and protecting against corrosion so basic mil-spec is just fine here.

2.) The barrel assembly. Here is where you will also pay more money to get a mil-spec quality barrel. There is no way around this, since CMV 4150 ordanance grade steel is tougher to machine, harder on tooling, and slightly more expensive to buy as a raw material than more common 4140 CM. The same can be said for 410 stainless steel versus the much more common 416 stainless. So with that in mind why spring for the more expensive barrel? Namely for durability, the reason those steels are specified on the M4/M16 (CMV 4150) and the MK12 (410) is that they hold up to a more severe firing schedule than lesser grades of steel. Now you might not plan to ever run your barrel that hard, but over the course of your lifetime you may still accumulate many rounds through that barrel. If the barrel you buy today continues giving good accuracy for a lot longer but only cost a bit more, which was the better deal? Plus you might just find that a semi-auto rifle is fun to pew-pew-pew with at a rapid rate on occasion, for which the tougher steel will be handy.

The other issue with the mil-spec barrels of the CMV 4150 variety will be that they are typically hard chrome lined in both the bore and chamber. This will greatly enhance the durability of the barrel, as well as aid in reliable feeding and extraction since hard chrome is a slick surface. Plus the hard chrome usually makes for easier clean up too. In the past many have felt that a chrome lined barrel will be inferior in accuracy to a non lined barrel, and that may be true but if my chrome lined Colt barrel is any indication they don't give up much accuracy if any. Probably an increment so small most shooters will never notice within the effective range envelope of the .223/5.56mm round.

Another worthwhile barrel finishing method worth considering is salt bath nitriding, also referred to as nitrocarburization, or Melonite. This is a method where the barrel is immersed in molten salt, and through the magic of heat and chemistry the surface of the steel to a depth of several thousandths of an inch is case hardened to a ridiculously hard surface that is extremely wear resistant. Plus it finishes the barrel inside and out in a nice uniform black color, whether it be chrome moly vanadium steel or stainless steel. I have two barrels finished in this method and they are excellent, and durability is supposed to be very very high. So this is an alternative to the TDP that can be considered an acceptable alternative/just as good/improvement.

While on the subject of the barrel, now is a good time to talk about the gas manifold/gas block/front sight post... whatever. The TDP calls for this to be pinned in place, and for the barrel to be phosphated underneath where the front sight post is installed. The important functional bit here is the pinned gas block/FSB. Many manufacturers cheap out here and use set screws, or clamp on manifolds. They are not as secure as a pinned manifold, period. particularly true if the hand guard doesn't cover the manifold to protect it from bumps and thumps.

The last issue with barrels that I will harp on is the fact that the 5.56mm NATO chamber is probably your best bet when buying an AR/M4. This chamber will handle all commercial and surplus ammo, and frankly when applied to a good barrel doesn't give much up in accuracy compared to a .223 Remington chamber. Plus the NATO spec chamber will be more reliable in adverse conditions, heat, and a heavy firing schedule. I have heard good things about the Wylde chamber but have only passing experience with them. Tight match chambers belong on target rifles at Camp Perry or in high power matches, they have no place on a general purpose semi-auto.

3.) Upper and lower receivers. I don't have a lot to say here. Make sure they are made from a forging or billet, forging is most common. Make sure they are forged or machined from 7075 T6 aluminum, and are Class 3 hard coat anodized. The upper receiver should have M4 feed ramp cuts that are machined before anodizing. The upper should also have a forward assist and a dust cover, sometimes the bolt carrier might need to be persuaded to seat all the way into battery, maybe you fall into a creek or something coyote hunting and the rifle gets all gunked up. Beyond that as long as the parts are in dimensional spec, you should be good to go.

4.) If you will be using a collapsible stock make sure the castle nut is properly staked in place on the buffer tube. Some morons have been known to use Loctite, which is bad and will make changing the part out if desired a royal PITA. Plus it won't hold the buffer tube in place as well as just staking the damn thing in the slots provided for staking. Plus Loctite will gum up the threads back there. You'd be surprised how many don't do this right. Also on the subject of buffer tubes, this should be made of 7075 T6 as well for maximum strength. Here I am not hell bent on it since the M4 makes a lousy cudgel, but should you need to butt stroke an uppity zombie or some nonsense you'll want the stronger buffer tube and more secure attachment staking provides.

5.) Recoil buffers.... sigh.... in this day and age why anyone would still put a CAR buffer in an M4 clone is beyond me. These rifles tend to be pretty well gassed to run on a wide variety of ammo. To smooth out the reciprocation of the bolt carrier group and reduce wear and tear reputable manufacturers and the military use a heavier buffer than the old CAR buffer for the collapsible stocks. This is super easy to verify by breaking the gun down when you inspect the bolt carrier group, just look at the face of the buffer. If there is no marking on it it is a CAR buffer and probably should be heavier, heavier buffers are marked with an "H" for heavy, or "H" followed by a number the, the higher the number the heavier the buffer. Fortunately this is also easy enough to remedy by buying a heavier buffer and installing it.

6.) Hand guards. Yeah the TDP is really easy to improve on here. Get a free float tube or rail of your choice that is of good quality and solid mount up. Hardly anyone sticks with the TDP non free float hand guards/rails.

7.) Trigger. I admit that I hate GI triggers with a passion. They suck. The only thing I will give them is they are reliable and generally safe. I am a huge unrepentant Geissele Automatics fan boy. They make the best 2 stage AR trigger on the market today for any price, and offer it in a variety of configurations and pull weights. Plus they are the only provider of a two stage trigger that has managed to get their trigger certified for military use as part of the SOPMOD package for the M4A1. Their design is safety certified by the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Enough of my ranting. I probably forgot a **** load of stuff like details on gas port sizes, and the best grade of steel for trigger and hammer pins. Or the best muzzle device. Someone else can fill you in on that.

I'll simply leave you with a photo of what a 16" chrome lined Colt M4A1 contour barrel can do with good ammo from a bench rest at 100 yards with a Nightforce 3.5-15X50 mounted and my dumb ass running the bang switch.

http://i.imgur.com/FH1Drq3h.jpg

The carbine in normal configuration without the Hubble Space Telescope sitting on top.

http://i.imgur.com/EEJ6GSph.jpg

Coal Dragger
February 4, 2016, 05:43 PM
....and this forum evidently doesn't auto size down my huge 18 megapixel photos.


Sorry everyone!

Coal Dragger
February 4, 2016, 11:15 PM
I see I killed this thread!

strambo
February 5, 2016, 10:55 AM
Great write up Coal! It isn't about getting a "mil-spec" AR because you need it to kick in doors, but because of the specific materials and QA/QC procedures that ensure higher quality. An now days, it doesn't cost more if you know how to shop.

It would be like buying a knock-off 10-22 vs. a Ruger 10-22. They may look exactly the same, but I guarantee the knock-off won't be built to whatever specs Ruger came up with to ensure reliability and long service life.

henschman
February 5, 2016, 11:33 AM
Great post Coal Dragger. That really lays out the reasons to go with certain minimal standards for AR parts instead of just buying what looks cool or the cheapest stuff you can get, like a lot of folks who are new to ARs do.

As cheap as quality mil spec or better AR parts are right now, there is really no reason to cut corners on a build, or buy a lower-end rifle, when you can build a much more solid one yourself for the same or less money generally. When folks like Faxon sell a quality 4150 MPI nitrided barrel in the $150 range and you can get a totally mil spec BCG from Palmetto for $79.95, it makes absolutely no sense to cheap out on these components.

I will add one more area in which I think the TDP should be departed from, and that is barrel profile. The backwards taper of the "gov't profile" is plainly retarded... it adds weight in a place that does no good, and has the worst possible effect on handling. Give me a good pencil profile any day for a general purpose carbine, or a medium/heavy profile 410 stainless barrel for a precision rig.

I will also disagree on the advisability of cheaping out with a 6160 receiver extension versus a 7075. I have diddled around with 6160s, and not only are they weaker, they are a much softer aluminum that makes installation a pain. The tab on the steel retainer plate will actually dig into and deform the keyway that goes through the threading on the bottom of the RE, making it hard to put the proper torque on the castle nut without having it installed crooked, leading to a crooked buttstock. Their threads also get mangled up easier. When you're talking about an extra ten bucks to get the 7075, it is a no brainer. I was amazed at how much easier it installed when I decided to upgrade mine.

JWH321
February 5, 2016, 12:37 PM
Gee.

I built mine because it was fun. It shoots straight and so far it's had no failures. It shoots my reloads perfectly. And it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy because I put every piece of it together. I also learned a whole lot.

I'm sure others may turn up their noses at the lack of a brand-name and logo on the side of the receiver but it fits my needs, and more importantly, my wants perfectly.

Oh, and by shopping for bargains, I got really high quality stuff and I spent just a hair over $600. Put good money into the barrel, the Trigger, and the sights/optics and you will be happy.

My non-expert 2 cents worth.

Warp
February 5, 2016, 12:43 PM
Gee.

I built mine because it was fun. It shoots straight and so far it's had no failures. It shoots my reloads perfectly. And it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy because I put every piece of it together. I also learned a whole lot.

I'm sure others may turn up their noses at the lack of a brand-name and logo on the side of the receiver but it fits my needs, and more importantly, my wants perfectly.

Oh, and by shopping for bargains, I got really high quality stuff and I spent just a hair over $600. Put good money into the barrel, the Trigger, and the sights/optics and you will be happy.

My non-expert 2 cents worth.

You can spout that "brand-name and logo" crap all you want...but we all know that isn't what it's about.

Coal Dragger
February 5, 2016, 01:43 PM
Henschman,

Totally agree on a barrel profiles. I considered diving into that topic as well, but my post was already getting long winded so I stuck with materials, and material integrity testing.

The TDP called for the M4 to use the old government profile barrel. For those unfamiliar this profile tapered down from the chamber area to a pencil barrel then got thick again just behind the the gas port and ran that larger diameter of .750" out to the muzzle. This was supposed to increase accuracy a bit by making the muzzle end stiffer, while still allowing the M203 to be mounted. It was stupid then, and even more stupid now.

In fact the military recognizes the folly of it and the M4A1 contour is a true medium contour barrel. My Colt is equipped with one, and as you can see it is a shooter. So the TDP has been updated.

There are plenty of great barrel makers out there turning out good product that will equal or exceed the TDP. Colt, Daniel Defense, Bravo Company Machine, Faxon Firearms, SIONICS Weapon Systems, and Spikes Tactical all spring to mind. Even Brownell's is offering a line of barrels made from CMV 4150 that are nitrocarurized, and use 5R rifling! They offer a 16" medium contour mid length gas in this line that looks promising.

rebshooter
February 5, 2016, 02:18 PM
I got the Colt M4 MOE SL and it is perfect right out of the box. $1,049. I love it.

HammsBeer
February 5, 2016, 02:35 PM
The TDP is a foundation. I don't think it needs to be strictly adhered to, but if you are going to deviate from it, it had better be justifiably better in some way.

An example would be melonite vs chrome lining. Chrome lining is proven, but melonite has some great advantages too, especially for a target barrel. There is no reason to have an unlined untreated bore today, made of inferior material.

The difference between a commercial grade vs mil grade AR today is just a few hundred bucks for proven specs, regardless of brand names.

tark
February 5, 2016, 03:00 PM
Why is everyone so hung up on "Mil-spec"? Those specs were drawn up and set in stone almost fifty years ago. A lot of today's newly made parts are far superior to the Army's half century old specifications.

Is a Geissele trigger superior to A GI trigger? (yes) Is it mil-spec? (no) LWRCI makes a bolt carrier with an integral gas key. It will never loosen up. Is it better than mil-spec? Yes. Is it mil-spec? No way. Is your bolt made from Carpenter 158? If it isn't, then it isn't mil-spec. There are better steels available today. There are better flash suppressors, better muzzle brakes, I could go on forever. None of them are mil-spec.

Mil-spec was the best 50 years ago. Nowdays, in many cases, it is inferior. Not bad, or substandard, just not as good as some of the aftermarket parts. One must remember that mil-spec parts are built to a set of specifications set forth by the government.....

....and built by the lowest bidder. And the lowest bidder will build parts just good enough to met specs, but no better.

Coal Dragger
February 5, 2016, 04:10 PM
tark, if you read my post I don't imply you slavishly have to stick to the Mil-Spec, only that the Mil-Spec should be your minimum acceptable standard. There are a lot of good parts, and complete guns that exceed the materials quality of a Mil-Spec rifle.

You also know, as do I and many others, that there are way more AR pattern rifles out there that don't even come close to the functional quality, or durability of a Mil-Spec rifle. Too many "manufacturers" are slapping these things together in a half assed manner.

On the Geissele trigger not being Mil-Spec, that is actually kind of a gray area the Geissele SSF (Super Select Fire) is a Mil-Spec trigger as part of the SOPMOD upgrades to the M4, and their High Speed National Match triggers are standard equipment in the current iteration of the M110. Both triggers have been tested, and safety certified by the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. I believe both also have a legit NSN assigned to them as well.

thump_rrr
February 5, 2016, 05:15 PM
Everyone has told you what you should do.
I will tell you what you shouldn't do.
Don't buy a rifle with the intention of changing any major components or your cost will escalate quickly.
You mentioned that you are vertically challenged.
I am in the same boat and with that usually comes smaller hands.
I have replaced the safety selector on all my rifles with the Noveske 60degree STS single sided safety.
I find the ambi safety gets in my way and the standard 90 degree throw too difficult for me to operate.

justin22885
February 5, 2016, 05:16 PM
do yourself a huge favor and forget about 6.8SPC, its performance over heavy 5.56 ammo and 5.56 wildcats is nowhere near worthy of having to pay 3-4 times more for a cartridge that will likely never drop in price because you cant make brass out of anything cheaper and the military will never adopt it.. compare that with the special barrel, special bolt, special magazines and it becomes a money pit that'll yield very little

stick with 5.56, it'll do everything you want it to do and a lot more

justin22885
February 5, 2016, 05:17 PM
Why is everyone so hung up on "Mil-spec"? Those specs were drawn up and set in stone almost fifty years ago. A lot of today's newly made parts are far superior to the Army's half century old specifications.

Is a Geissele trigger superior to A GI trigger? (yes) Is it mil-spec? (no) LWRCI makes a bolt carrier with an integral gas key. It will never loosen up. Is it better than mil-spec? Yes. Is it mil-spec? No way. Is your bolt made from Carpenter 158? If it isn't, then it isn't mil-spec. There are better steels available today. There are better flash suppressors, better muzzle brakes, I could go on forever. None of them are mil-spec.

Mil-spec was the best 50 years ago. Nowdays, in many cases, it is inferior. Not bad, or substandard, just not as good as some of the aftermarket parts. One must remember that mil-spec parts are built to a set of specifications set forth by the government.....

....and built by the lowest bidder. And the lowest bidder will build parts just good enough to met specs, but no better.
this is true, milspec is quite simply the absolute lowest quality the military will accept and a lot of their standards are pretty low

HammsBeer
February 5, 2016, 05:38 PM
this is true, milspec is quite simply the absolute lowest quality the military will accept and a lot of their standards are pretty low
So if you consider mil-spec a low standard to meet, why would anyone op for the even lower sub-par quality materials/coatings/testing standards that many manufacturers are putting into their rifles and assembling as fast as possible?

Because the only thing the average uninformed consumer ever looks at anymore is price.

JWH321
February 5, 2016, 05:40 PM
Warp, I don't understand your comment. "You can spout that "brand-name and logo" crap all you want...but we all know that isn't what it's about".

MistWolf
February 5, 2016, 07:38 PM
There is s lot of misunderstanding about milspec and what it means. There is also a lot of misunderstanding about TDP.

Milspec isn't the lowest standard. It's not the minimum. It is THEE standard. It defines what an item must do, what it should do and what it cannot do. Not all of the milspec standards set for the M16 and its derivatives are 50 years old. While some aftermarket parts and assemblies are not milspec, some are and some are suitable (legal) substitutes.

The TDP between Colt is much larger in scope than how Colt will manufacture M4s for the government. It is an agreement between Colt and the government that defines the relationship between Colt and the government, including how employees are paid, how they are treated, work environment and many other aspects. The TDP is constantly evolving.

It is no easy thing to aquire and keep a government contact, and if you think think you can just meet "the minimum standard" and keep your government contact, you're in for an unpleasant surprise

tark
February 5, 2016, 07:58 PM
Curiously enough, if your AR isn't select fire, capable of either a three round burst or outright full automatic fire, it isn't mil-spec.:what:

A true mil-spec AR is a class III weapon. Picking nits, I know. Don't get me wrong, Mil-spec does not mean cheap, it means that a part must meet standards set forth by the government, usually very high standards. Mil-spec means very good, but there are better parts available, in some cases.

PowerG
February 5, 2016, 08:07 PM
Why is everyone so hung up on "Mil-spec"? Those specs were drawn up and set in stone almost fifty years ago. A lot of today's newly made parts are far superior to the Army's half century old specifications.

Is a Geissele trigger superior to A GI trigger? (yes) Is it mil-spec? (no) LWRCI makes a bolt carrier with an integral gas key. It will never loosen up. Is it better than mil-spec? Yes. Is it mil-spec? No way. Is your bolt made from Carpenter 158? If it isn't, then it isn't mil-spec. There are better steels available today. There are better flash suppressors, better muzzle brakes, I could go on forever. None of them are mil-spec.

Mil-spec was the best 50 years ago. Nowdays, in many cases, it is inferior. Not bad, or substandard, just not as good as some of the aftermarket parts. One must remember that mil-spec parts are built to a set of specifications set forth by the government.....

....and built by the lowest bidder. And the lowest bidder will build parts just good enough to met specs, but no better.
You don't think the TDP has evolved any at all in the last 50 years? in fact the TDP has been changed many times to reflect things learned in the field, to improve both reliability and durability of the weapons. You've gotta keep in mind that the military isn't interested in the absolute best accuracy, they are interested in acquiring a rifle that is as reliable in combat as they can get, for the lowest cost. If your rifle won't run then you're inconvenienced, if theirs won't run it could get them killed. So a Gisele trigger may be better for what you're doing with it, but it may not be better for what they're doing with it.

And in a lot of cases you really don't need mil-spec parts for a range gun, and in some cases you absolutely don't want them (many chrome-lined barrels are very accurate, but there are better choices for a paper puncher where you want the absolute best accuracy possible). Some of the testing does add to the cost of the guns. For example: we do a lot of MPI (mag particle, wet mag, MPE, different people call it by different names) where I work, I am the QA manager so setting up and running these type programs is something I am familiar with. The equipment doesn't cost very much, it's relatively low-tech, but to do this testing requires a level of certification, I would guess the guy in the plant that does it is a Level II. So training him costs money, and he must re-certify periodically. Almost certainly there is a Level I overseeing the program, he will most likely have other duties but he must carry this certification to run the MPI system and supervise and train the Level II people, and every bit of the testing must be documented; I would guess with the military involved there very well may be a piece of paper on file for each and every bolt and barrel they test. It costs money, and it adds to the price of the gun. In the industry I work in (not firearms) it's not unusual for QC requirements to add 20% to the price of a job...a job we recently finished had $40,000 in the budget for the QC documentation package alone, and that didn't include any of the testing. In the case of AR's the military has decided that they consider all this testing to be worth the cost, and probably over the years experience has shown them that in the long run this testing actually saves money. It's up to you to decide if you think your rifle requires all of this, and if you're plinking at cans or something then it certainly doesn't, but if the rifle is used for more serious purposes then it very well could be something worth paying for. And this is just the MPI testing, they do a lot more to these parts, shot peening, the pressure tests, and I would guess quite a bit of materials testing.

Warp
February 5, 2016, 09:18 PM
Warp, I don't understand your comment. "You can spout that "brand-name and logo" crap all you want...but we all know that isn't what it's about".

I don't know how you cannot.

People who choose known quantity parts, quality parts with a certain specification because they are proven to work, are not buying something because of some logo. You can tell yourself that, and you can even try to insult the rest of us by telling us that is what we are doing, but it is wrong...and I'm pretty sure you know it's wrong.

Why is everyone so hung up on "Mil-spec"? Those specs were drawn up and set in stone almost fifty years ago. A lot of today's newly made parts are far superior to the Army's half century old specifications.

Is a Geissele trigger superior to A GI trigger? (yes) Is it mil-spec? (no) LWRCI makes a bolt carrier with an integral gas key. It will never loosen up. Is it better than mil-spec? Yes. Is it mil-spec? No way. Is your bolt made from Carpenter 158? If it isn't, then it isn't mil-spec. There are better steels available today. There are better flash suppressors, better muzzle brakes, I could go on forever. None of them are mil-spec.

Mil-spec was the best 50 years ago. Nowdays, in many cases, it is inferior. Not bad, or substandard, just not as good as some of the aftermarket parts. One must remember that mil-spec parts are built to a set of specifications set forth by the government.....

....and built by the lowest bidder. And the lowest bidder will build parts just good enough to met specs, but no better.

You clearly don't even know what you are talking about.

PS: The specs are good. That's the whole point. It doesn't matter if company A can meet the specs for less than company B, the specs are what the specs are, AND THEY ARE GOOD! As stated time and again in every stupid thread like this, when you deviate from the known-good, there needs to be a good reason...a reason other than "because it's cheaper"

Maybe you get Geissele triggers for less money than a standard GI type trigger. I don't know. But you would be the only person I've heard of who uses Geissele triggers because they are less expensive than GI/milspec.

HGM22
February 6, 2016, 04:27 AM
To the OP,

Look into the TDP and get an idea of what a quality AR looks like so you have some basis to make a decision later. If you want to change some things you can, but you will know why you are changing them. I would, for example, probably look at a better stainless barrel and better trigger while also making sure my receiver extension and bolt was TDP spec. You are right to point out that you will probably never have to use the rifle to protect yourself, but this way you can get an idea of what matters to you without getting stuck with a gunsmith special.

For JWH: If its not clear, I believe Warp is saying that its a tired argument that people only buy Colts (or other higher-end rifles, but Colt seems to be the most disparaged) because of the pony on the lower. In reality, many people buy them because that pony represents a quality rifle; it is not because they like how the logo looks. Most would buy that rifle if some other logo was put on the side. So to insult purchasers of Colts as being nothing more than ignorant fanboys who would buy anything with a pony on the side is disingenuous and confusing to those looking to learn about ARs.

Edit: Right now you can get a Colt 6920/6720 for $800-900 which is a great deal for such a high quality gun and represents the best value:dollar ratio out there now.

Warp
February 7, 2016, 09:34 AM
To the OP,

Look into the TDP and get an idea of what a quality AR looks like so you have some basis to make a decision later. If you want to change some things you can, but you will know why you are changing them. I would, for example, probably look at a better stainless barrel and better trigger while also making sure my receiver extension and bolt was TDP spec. You are right to point out that you will probably never have to use the rifle to protect yourself, but this way you can get an idea of what matters to you without getting stuck with a gunsmith special.

For JWH: If its not clear, I believe Warp is saying that its a tired argument that people only buy Colts (or other higher-end rifles, but Colt seems to be the most disparaged) because of the pony on the lower. In reality, many people buy them because that pony represents a quality rifle; it is not because they like how the logo looks. Most would buy that rifle if some other logo was put on the side. So to insult purchasers of Colts as being nothing more than ignorant fanboys who would buy anything with a pony on the side is disingenuous and confusing to those looking to learn about ARs.

Edit: Right now you can get a Colt 6920/6720 for $800-900 which is a great deal for such a high quality gun and represents the best value:dollar ratio out there now.

Yes.

Part in bold: Spikes comes to mind. Their default logo looks like two male genitalia fighting it out, but Spikes rifles have good spec's and a good reputation for quality, so people buy them, if they want a good rifle, and when the price is right.

tark
February 7, 2016, 12:35 PM
Warp, I'm having trouble making any sense of your reply. All I said is that many aftermarket parts are better than mil-spec. That is fact, and not open to debate or discussion. I don't recall using the word "Cheap" any where in my post. In my post previous to this one I stated that the Mil-spec standards were high. I never insinuated they were cheap of substandard. I did use the word "Inferior" So.....is a Buick inferior to a Rolls Royce? Some would say so.....but that doesn't mean that the Buick is a bad car. Just, that it isn't built to RR standards.

Some Mil-spec parts are inferior to some aftermarket parts. That doesn't mean they are worthless, any more that the Buick is worthless. That was all I was trying to point out.

tark
February 7, 2016, 12:40 PM
By the way, Warp, I don't use a Geissele trigger, never implied that I did, and I certainly didn't imply they were cheaper. Where you got that line of thought I do not know...

Warp
February 7, 2016, 12:40 PM
Warp, I'm having trouble making any sense of your reply. All I said is that many aftermarket parts are better than mil-spec. That is fact, and not open to debate or discussion. I don't recall using the word "Cheap" any where in my post. In my post previous to this one I stated that the Mil-spec standards were high. I never insinuated they were cheap of substandard. I did use the word "Inferior" So.....is a Buick inferior to a Rolls Royce? Some would say so.....but that doesn't mean that the Buick is a bad car. Just, that it isn't built to RR standards.

Some Mil-spec parts are inferior to some aftermarket parts. That doesn't mean they are worthless, any more that the Buick is worthless. That was all I was trying to point out.

We weren't talking about people saving money and being anti-brand-snob, buying as-good-as rifles, because they get a Geissele SSA for their rifle.

Your post about more expensive, name brand, quality, proven rifle parts is pretty much irrelevant to the person who wants to buy a lower-quality rifle just-because they are hipster and "I don't need a fancy pony on the side of my rifle to be a cool kid"

ColoradoShooter77
February 7, 2016, 12:44 PM
Dollar for dollar, you'll have a hard time beating the S&W M&P Sport, either version 1 or 2. Mine has been flawless through 1500 rounds and I'm seriously impressed with it.

d2wing
February 7, 2016, 04:44 PM
I would buy the RRA. If you want to change something you can. I would build a gun later when you have a better idea of what you like or may want another style gun.

JWH321
February 8, 2016, 09:37 PM
"For JWH: If its not clear, I believe Warp is saying that its a tired argument that people only buy Colts (or other higher-end rifles, but Colt seems to be the most disparaged) because of the pony on the lower. In reality, many people buy them because that pony represents a quality rifle; it is not because they like how the logo looks. Most would buy that rifle if some other logo was put on the side. So to insult purchasers of Colts as being nothing more than ignorant fanboys who would buy anything with a pony on the side is disingenuous and confusing to those looking to learn about ARs."

HGM22 -- Thanks for the clarification. I did not intend to demean or disparage anyone. What I meant was that I have had folks look at my gun and tell me that I should have not bought the upper and lower that I bought because it was no good. I had one guy tell me that I was an idiot for putting an expensive (to me) barrel on low cost receivers. What I intended to imply is that my rifle shoots straight and that I had a hell of a lot of fun building it. My son-in-law shoots an LMT rifle that is truly an impressive gun. There is no question about its quality. Yet I shoot my gun with no less accuracy than I shoot his. Others will shoot both guns much better than will ever be capable of doing (70 year old eyes). What I really wanted to say is that the fun is in the shooting, regardless of one's technical expertise. Obviously I did a poor job of saying that, and for that I apologize. Having been on the receiving end of brand-name ridicule, I would never seek to impose that on anyone else. And I had never before heard of the Colt argument that you reference. When I set out to buy an AR, I had a short list of brands and models. I found none that had EVERY element that I sought so I quickly discovered that you bought a gun and then came home and revised it. That's what led to my decision to build one. I knew that each and every part would be the part that I chose. There are many many learned arguments for and against every part that I selected. Some I chose on price alone with the full knowledge that I was introducing compromise. But, in the end, I still love my little gun -- more than I thought I would when I started building it. I suspect that my son-in-law will eventually convince me that I need an LMT. But my little home-built will stay with me, regardless.

strambo
February 9, 2016, 08:32 PM
I don't own a Colt, but I've carried them in combat. If I were buying a factory AR today and price was a concern, I'd get the best deal I could on a 6720 shooting for $800. Not for the Pony logo, but for the balance of quality and cost it represents. That is if defense would even be a possible use for it. If I was 100% sure it would just be a range toy with defensive needs covered by different guns, then it doesn't matter.

All my ARs, I assembled lowers and bought factory uppers of known good quality (LMT, DD) and have a couple full builds but they aren't for defensive use (a .22lr and a light weight 5.56). For factory, I'd stick with Colt, DD, BCM, LMT, Spikes at around the $1k-ish price point. The PSA Premium line and S&W if wanting to be solidly sub $800.

RRA isn't bad, but its cost is in line with better quality options provided you shop around so it doesn't represent a value. The S&W M&P sport is a good value.

FL-NC
February 10, 2016, 09:12 PM
If that's the rifle you like, normally I would say go for it- but from what you described you will be using it for, it looks (and costs) like much more rifle than you need. I believe in the KISS principle. If you went with something more basic like a S&W M&P sport or one of the similar mil-clone type guns from PSA, Del-ton, etc., it would still be a "factory gun", at a much cheaper price- meaning you could put more $ into important things like sights, mounts, lights. ammo, mags, etc. If you need a "little rail" for an accessory or 2, I like those cheap magpul handguards (MOE?) that you just add sections to suit your needs. As far as mounts returning to zero, Larue's mounts seem to do the best job at that. A little pricey, but def. quality (you get what you pay for)- and remember what you want them to do. That won't happen with a $5 set of trashco rings from wally world.

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