Category Archives: Gunsmithing and BIY

How To Find Out Torque Specifications for Screws and Bolts: An Outstanding NASA Reference Guide

We’ve all been there – you’re working on a project and wondering how much to torque something so either we don’t bother or just take a guess. What I only found out recently was that in 2017, NASA published a really cool guide called “Installation Torque Tables for Noncritical Applications” – with the document ID as NASA/TM—2017-219475.

The document provides the torque specifications for a ton of general purpose fasteners that do not have an exact specification assigned – hence the term non-critical. As you can imagine, they get very specific in critical/risky situations.

At any rate, given the size of the bolt or screw, the thread pitch, the material and the depth, they provide a reference torque specification you can follow for both metric (M6, M8, M10, etc.) and SAE (#8, #10, 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, etc.) fasteners. Note, they provide an assembly torque (which is a 65% load from failure) and 100% torque. I use the assembly torque spec.

They also recommend that the depth of thread engagement be 1.5x the diameter of the fastener. So a 1/4″ (0.25″) fastener should have at least 0.25″ x 1.5 = .375″ (3/8″).

Here’s an example table. This is for fasteners going into 6061-T6 aluminum with a thread depth of 3/16″. If we go down for a 10-32 UNF screw, the assembly torque is 22.2 inch pounds. I’d use that lacking any other detailed information. I could go up to 34.2 inch pounds but I have stripped so many fasteners I don’t risk it. I’m a huge fan of Loctite so I go with that and the assembly spec.

Kudos to the two authors and to NASA for making it available. The PDF is a cool reference document and one I use whenever I can’t find a specific torque value for a given application. All you machinists and engineers – you know way more than me so please let me know if you have other resources you recommend.

To access this cool guide, click here for the NASA link or click here for the copy on our server.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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The Fastest Way To Convert Aluminum 5.56 AR Magazines For Use With .50 Beowulf

Back in 2018, I documented how to convert a basic aluminum AR magazine using a Dremel and a small drum. With the new Alpha ‘Wulf build, I made four new ones real fast using a slightly new method.

With the Alexander Arms (AA) .50 Beowulf DIY Upper comes one actual Beowulf magazine built to AA’s specifications by E-Lander Magazines of Israel. This gave me a chance to see what they did differently to support the ‘Wulf and it comes down to a relief in the front of the otherwise normal AR magazine. This allows the shoulder of the cartridge to pass by without hanging up on its way towards the chamber. Everything else appeared the same in terms of the feed lips and the follower.

E-Lander of Israel makes the Beowulf magazines for Alexander Arms. One is included with the DIY Upper Kit.
This is the top front of the E-Lander magazine. Note the notched out area. On a normal AR magazinet his goes straight across,

So, armed with how basic this was, it immediately hit me that a flap sander could make a quick angled surface faster than the drum mag. So, I loaded up a 3/8″ 120 grit flap sander with a 1/8″ shank into my bench rotary tool.

The first step is to remove the floor plate of the magazine. On these D&H magazines from PSA, I just use a screw driver to lift the floor plate for the tabs to clear the magazine body. Pull the floor plate off while trapping the magazine spring. Remove the floor plate, spring and follower so they are out of your way.

I slide a small screw driver between the magazine body and the bottom plate to then lift and remove the plate from the magazine. Note, the magazine spring will come fling out.
See the tabs/ridges stamped in the floor plate? That is why you need to use the screw driver to lift the plate so those tabs can clear the magazine body.
Any rotary too will use. This is my benchmounted unit that I use on grips and what not, Any Dremel or other rotary tool would work.

So you basically use the flap sander to to cut a ramp on the inside edge of the magazine. You do not need to replicate the notch – just use the flap sander to quickly remove the material.

The left magazine is an original unmodified magazine. The middle has the ramp cut and the right unit has been reassembled. Be sure to blow out the mags before reassembly.

Using the flap sander can get the job done in 30 seconds or so – it’s literally that fast. Be sure to blow out the magazine bodies to remove all of the grit before you reassemble them. Failure to do so may cause you problems later either with the magazine failing or getting into the rifle.

The final step is to test each magazine to make sure it feeds properly. Load two rounds to test chambering in a safe place with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Never take a risk.

That’s all there is to it. You can convert a magazine faster than the time it took you to read this post. I hope it helps you out.


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Building The Alpha ‘Wulf – Part 3: Observations On Building the Upper, Lubrication and Vortex Strike Eagle

So things were going together really well for the Alpha ‘Wulf and no, I’m not going to say “and then I hit a snag.” I was impressed by all the parts so far. In the last post I talked a bit about the lower assembly and the upper parts I picked in addition to the Alexander Arms DIY upper. In this post, I’m going to share a few observations on the handguard, brake and lubrication.

The MI Combat Handguard

I don’t recall exactly when I first found out about the Midwest Industries (MI) Combat series of rails but used one this past Spring when I built a 10.5″ 5.56 AR Pistol. The biggest thing I like is the barrel nut. Now that may sound like a crazy thing to get excited about but there’s a reason. Look at the MI Combat barrel nut – it is a knurled circle with a groove in it. The reason this matters is that the handguard can rotate however it needs around the nut and is secured by a steel key and clamping onto the knurling. If you don’t have this kind of a design, you need to use shims or do some combination of filing and potentially crazy levels of torque to get the handguard’s top Picatinny rail to “time properly” (or align properly) with the rail on top of the upper receiver and also to get the gas tube to pass through into the upper receiver’s bolt carrier channel.

This is the MI barrel nut that the combat rail uses along with a small tin of AeroShell – 33MS/64 Extreme Pressure Grease, MIL-21164D and an acid brush to apply it.
The key shown just to the of the screws is part of the cool design. The small nub sitcking out goes into the groove to lock the handguard into position front to back. The two screws go into the handguard to both secure the key and to provide the clamping pressure onto the knurled surface of the barrel nut – it is a very elegant and effective design.
Here the key is inserted and the two screws were just inserted. They have blue Loctite on them and will be torqued down to 55 inch pounds.

I do have a few tips for you to bear in mind. Bear in mind the Beowulf has a kick. Bring everything to a torque spec and use Blue LocTite 242 or 243. Both are “medium” formulas that can be readily disassembled with the right tools and 243 adds a bit better oil resistance. I’m moving to 243 as I use up my 242 supply but it’s up to you one which you want to use.

Install the Barrel Nut First

First, just back out the set screws and the low profile gas block will slide right off the barrel. You need it out of the way to install the barrel nut.

Next, secure the upper assembly in a vise. You will need to use a fixture to hold the upper when you do this. Absolutely do not use your lower to hold the upper. You will bend things. My tool of choice now is the Magpul Barrel Extension Vise (BEV) Block. It very securely holds the upper by engaging the barrel extension. It’s the best tool I’ve found. Some guys swear by the Geissele Reaction Rod but I simply have no first hand experience with it.

This is my BEV Block along with a spare bolt carrier I use to secure it into the barrel extension akong with a cross pin.

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The following is the approximate process for installing a barrel nut:

  • Degrease the receiver threads and the barrel nut. The Combat rail comes drenched in oil.
  • Apply the AeroShell – 33MS/64 Extreme Pressure Grease, MIL-21164D to the receiver’s threads – I use an acid brush to get an even light coat.
  • Torque the barrel nut down to 35 foot pounds (yes, this is foot pounds unlike the gas block) using the spcial MI torque plate they provide and your 1/2″ torque wrench
  • Loosen the barrel nut – ideally not with the torque wrench to save it from wear and tear.
  • Torque it again to 35 foot pounds again and loosen it again.
  • Now, this is the final torque – take the MI nut down to 35-80 foot pounds. I took mine down to 40 foot pounds and called it even. Why the huge range? Well, if you have an old school barrel nut, you may need to torque it quite a bit to get things to align but in our case we just need to apply enough torque to call it even.

Installing the Gas Block

The gas block set screws do have a torque spec if you hunt long enough. Alexander Arms (AA) does not provide it in their general purpose Beowulf manual or instruction sheet that comes with the DIY upper. People cite 25 inch pounds (not foot pounds) with one drop of 242 Loctite per “echnical Repair Standard (TRS) SOFWEP-07-G12P-00032-00 Rev 1 Appx H” that I have yet to locate a copy of that manual. With that said, that is exactly what I did but I used the 243 formulation of Loctite.

Also, AA has done all the machining and used centering set screws to go into the divots in the barrel. You do not need to worry about needing to measure a set back from the barrel’s step lip – just slide the gas block on, put a drop of Loctite on each screw, carefully align the tube and then torque down the screws.

One drop of 242 or 243 Loctite and then torque each set screw to 25 inch pounds – I used my Vortex torque screw driver to tighten mine down.

Timber Creek Heart Breaker Brake

Based on my first Beowulf, it’s very critical to get a good muzzle brake. If you want to reduce felt recoil, the best things you can do in order are: 1) install a good brake. 2) have a good recoil pad 3) make the rifle heavier. Now, I do all three plus I use a hydraulic buffer that helps a tad but a good brake is absolutely critical. For me, it is absolutely my first priority and I knew I wanted to use the Timber Creek Heart Breaker again.

Here’s the Heart Breaker from the side and you can immediately see the heart shapes that give the brake it’s name. Also note the jam nut behind the brake.
A view from the top with the ports shown. The bottom does not have ports – just the top to reduce climb.

The AA barrel uses a unique 49/64-20 RH thread. If you are not using an AA barrel, confirm the thread before you order a brake.

To install the brake, I run the lock nut to the bottom of the thread and then thread the brake on as far as it will go, rotate it into final position and then tighten down the lock nut to 20 foot pounds using a crowsfoot head on my torque wrench. I’ve not used Loctite but you can if you want extra protection – I would still go with the medium strength 242 or 243 formula.

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Lubrication

To lubricate the whole rifle, I use SuperLube grease and oil. I know it sounds like an infomercial name but it actually works really good. The base is a synthetic lubricant with “micronized PTFE” (think tiny Teflon particles) added in.

If it slides, I apply a light brushed on film of Superlube grease. If something rotates, I use drops of the Superlube oil. Now some folks will disagree with me and go with all CLP or LSA or some secret blend they like – fine. This is just what I do.

After lubricating it, everything was nice and smooth plus I did function testing to make sure everything was working properly in terms of the selector, disconnector, trigger, etc. In fact, Brownells has a nice page on attaching the upper to the lower, lubrication and function testing.

Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24 Optic

Before I pick an optic, I think about how the firearms it is going on will be used. For the Beowulf, it will be hunting and target shooting typically within 100 yards and maybe out to 200 max plus low light situations might well occur.

Armed with that, I decided to use a Vortex Optics Strike Eagle with a 1-6 power magnification, a 24mm objective and a lit reticle. My eyes aren’t so red hot any more so I knew I would need some basic magnification while still having a wide field of view at 1x. Also, I am a huge fan of Vortex due to their quality and no BS warranty. If anything goes wrong with a Vortex optic, they will repair or replace the unit and not run you ragged.

I also opted for a quality offset Vortex mount. You need a solid mount and not something that is going to constantly shoot loose or break under strain.

How Does It Look?

I haven’t had time to take it to the range yet, but am definitely liking how it turned out. The Alexander Arms DIY upper was great to work with as were the Geiselle trigger and MICombat handguard. The PRS stock helps balance out the rifle and adds weight plus the great recoil pad that comes with it. Now, If I can just find some time to go to the range 🙂


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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Building The Alpha ‘Wulf – Part 2: Observations On Building the Lower and Upper Parts

As mentioned in the last post [click here] – building a Beowulf is pretty much like building any other AR15-class rifle. I put it that way because the AR10s are different and the Beowulf uses the AR15 platform with the notable exception of an enlarged ejection port. The modular capabilities of the AR platform are what make it versatile.

Lower Build Comments

First, I’d like to point out I ran into one small snag with the Spike’s lower. The detent spring and pivot pin hole had some kind of debris in it or maybe a bur. I had to chase it to clean it out. Other than that, it went great.

Normally, installing the front pivot pin is pretty easy with a tool like the one shown that helps you trap the deternt and spring. Because of somethign obstructing the hole inside, the deternt didn’t push down and actually scored my relativelyt soft tool. So, I chased the hole and it installed no problem. Two lessons learned – #1 chase the holes first. #2 – I decided to mve to a stainless steel install tool.

My second comment is about the Magpul PRS Gen 3 stock. Wow. It is really cool. First, I went with the rifle buffer tube because I assumed the Gen 3 needed it – in fact, it does not. When you look at the Gen 3, it has a modular front nose that comes apart just behind the front swivel hole. It comes from Magpul all set to use a carbine buffer tube! Now it is a fixed stock and will not adjust but you do not need to change tubes. Had I known that, I would have used a carbine tube to avail of all the different buffers that are out there.

By the way, the PRS is an expensive stock. It pays to watch for sales. I bought mine from PrimaryArms for about $189 on sale vs the $217-244 prices you normally see. Also, this is specifically then third generation model – you will see older stocks pop up on eBay, etc. The older ones will not have the really thick recoil pad or the ability to use a carbine tube.

The PRS Gen 3 is sweet! Note the really thick recoil pad and modular front end that can accomodate either a carbine buffer tube or be swapped out to support an A2-style rifle buffer tube. This gives some nice flexibility.
The carbine modular front end is to the left and the rifle is in the right.

By the way, I took the time to torque down everything including the rifle buffer tube in this case. The Magpul wrench makes it real easy to bring the nut down to the torque spec of 35-39 ft lbs.

Screwed in the rifle-length buffer tube with just a bit of moly grease on the threads.
Used the Magpul wrench and a toruqe wrench to bring the receiver extension / buffer tube down to a 35-39 foot pound torque spec. In general, I set my wrench at the lower end of a scale unless there is something very specific.

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I think I will stick with the basics going forward. In other words, I’ve tried extended head pins, bolt catches with giant heads, ambidextrous selectors and in the end, I find I really don’t need them. The takedown pins and controls are all mil-spec in this build.

Upper Build Parts

The upper is the actual DIY (Do It Yourself) upper from Alexander Arms and they do all the engineering and machining for you. I also need to point out that it is really well done. I have zero complaints on the fit or the finish.

The DIY kit includes the upper receiver, bolt, carrier, charging handle, barrel, and the gas tube has already been installed in the lowe-profile gas block. The unit arrives assembled including their already divoting the barrel for the two gas block set screws. What you will need to do is to add your own barrel nut and handguard plus whatever you want to do for a muzzle brake. The DIY comes will a thread protector for the 49/64-20 right hand (RH) threads.

Here’s the upper fresh out of the box.
They already drilled the divots in the barrel an are using centering set screws so you can just remove the gas tube, install your barrel nut and then slide the gas block back on and tighten it down.

Folks will tell you I am either particular or eccentric (maybe both) when it comes to my builds. I knew there were some parts I wanted to use on this upper:

  • MI Combat 15: M-LOK handguard. These are very nicely done with all edges beveled plus I like the barrel nut they use. It simplifies aligning the handguard and receiver rails. Also, I really like having the flexibility to add rails or accessories where needed while having a slim profile where I don’t. Keymod has pretty much died out and M-LOK seems to be the lead attachment method now.
  • BCM Mod 3 charging handle greatly simplifies working around optics to charge the rifle.
  • Timber Creek Heart Breaker muzzle brake. This is an excellent choice for taming the Wulf. I was so impressed by it on my first rifle that it was my automatic choice for this second rifle.

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Upper Build Instructions

A Beowulf upper is very much like any other AR with the exceptions of no ejection port cover and a screw on gas tube block.

Here are some third party resources on assemblign AR uppers in case you are interested:

Here Are Some Videos For Building Uppers

I always like to combine stuff I read, like the above, with videos I can watch. I always pick stuff up both ways and think the two perspectives are very valuable. With that said, here are some build videos.


Brownells also has a ton of training videos online that cover building the AR-15 overall. If you click here, you can then select whatever videos you want to watch.

Closing This Second Post

Hopefully this post gave you some insights into what I actually did with the lower and thoughts on the upper. In the next post, I’ll share some of my observations from when I actually installed the handguard, brake and ortex Strike Eagle Optic.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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Building The Alpha ‘Wulf – Part 1: The Alexander Arms .50 Beowulf 16″ DIY Upper Kit and Lower Receiver

Okay, so I built my first .50 Beowulf rifle in 2018, spent a lot of time planning out the recoil mitigation and documented the adventure – click here for the post. At any rate, I sold it to move on to fund other projects but ran into a problem – I missed the ‘Wulf. There are some bragging rights when you say you have a .50 caliber rifle even when you explain it’s not the .50 BMG round. So, I decided to build another one and make it pretty unique.

The first thing I want to point out to folks is that the 12.7x42mm is the generic designation of the .50 Beowulf round and is mainly used by firms who don’t want to get into intellectual property issues with Alexander Arms (AA). If you look on Gun Broker and do some searching with Google you will turn up tons of listings for complete 12.7x42mm uppers starting just over $300. … Let me put this delicately – I would recommend that you avoid them. You will get what you pay for either in terms of performance out of the box or over time. If you do some searching you will read that I wasn’t the only buyer who had issues with Radical Arms uppers for example because of the wrong bolt being used.

If you do buy a cheap 12.7×42 upper, I’d recommend you test it right away before the warranty expires. I’m sorry – I just don’t have much faith in them.

Started With an AA .50 Beowulf DIY Upper

This time around, I decided to use an actual Alexander Arms (AA) upper and not screw around with cheap stuff. The only problem was that I wasn’t really sold on the handguards of their complete units. That and the prices were a turn off the last time. As I looked down the AA page, I saw they now sell a “.50 Beowulf Upper Kit DIY” that had everything except for the barrel nut, handguard and brake of your choice. They have both 12″ and 16″ barrel versions of the kit. As much fun as a 12″ howitzer would be, that didn’t interest me as much as building a new rifle using a 16″ barrel.

As with many manufacturers, you can buy direct from them or go to the aftermarket. I did some shopping around and found a good deal for one on Gunbroker sold by TheGunDock for $603 — Alexander was asking $735 + S&H for the same unit at the time. So you know, I had a very solid experience with TheGunDock – good communication, quick to ship and I received exactly what they listed. I value service like that.

Here’s the 16″ DIY kit from Alexander Arms. It is very nicely done. Fit and finish were excellent. The manual is for their Beowulf rifles in general and doesn’t help much with the assembly. They do give a bit of guidance with a sheet of paper that comes with the upper. A person new to ARs will need to research how to assemble an upper – I’ll give a quick summary of what I did in this post.
Here’s the upper receiver assembly – good finish. No ejection port door as the port is enlarged. I thought about making one but I really don’t need the cover.
This is their low profile gas block. All the machining work has been done for you. They already fit and pinned the gas tube plus dimpled the barrel for the two set screws on the gas block to center on.
They do include a muzzle nut over the threads. AA threads their barrels 49/64-20 RH for brakes and you definitely want a brake for a ‘Wulf. A brake is essential for reducing felt recoil – weight of the weapon and a good recoil pad help as well.
A view of the bottom of the upper – again, want to point out the nice fit and finish. Nothing gritty like you feel with cheap parts – these are very well done. They need lubing certainly but that is to be expected. Cheap parts can be so bad sometimes that it feels like two pieces sandpaper rubbing together. Everything in the AA upper slides/moves smoothly.
Here are the two set screws for the gas block. Mine were very lightly tightened and thus easy to remove. I’ll mention this again later but when you install use medium blue Loc-tite (formula 242 or 243 if you want the numbers) and tighten the set screws to 25 in/lbs each.

To sum up the AA upper, they make this build real easy. For me, building an AR is like building with Lego parts from different kits to make something unique, which was exactly my plan with this new ‘Wulf. Next, I am going to skip the upper for a minute and tell you what I in terms of the lower receiver. Why? Well, I’m a creature of habit and always build the lower first and then the upper.

An Overview of The Lower and Parts Used

The stripped Spikes Tactical lower I picked is pretty cool! You have the Crusader Cross up front and then look at the selector markings – Pax Pacis (Peace, Truce, treaty)), Bellum (War) and Deus Vult (God Wills).

I thought about using an existing AR lower from another rifle but I decided to build one from scratch. In case you didn’t know it, a Beowulf upper is actually designed to work with any 5.56 AR lower without any modifications being needed to the lower itself – same trigger, buffer, etc. The magazines are slightly modified but we’ll return to that later. So here are the parts details for the lower assembly:

Building the Lower

A Beowulf uses a standard lower so there really isn’t anything special that you must do. Thus, I’m not going to do a complete part by part instruction just for this rifle. Here’s a write up I did a while ago while building an AR pistol, which is pretty similar other than the use of a brace with a pistol vs. a stock with a rifle:

I always found having multiple perspectives to draw on can help. Here are two excellent written resources for you if you are new to building lowers:

If you would like to see it being done as well, here are some links. First, here is Larry Potterfield at Midway with a solid video on building a lower:

Brownells also has a ton of training videos online that cover building the AR-15 overall. If you click here, you can then select whatever videos you want to watch.

Closing This First Post

Okay, so you have an idea of the Alexander Arms DIY .50 Beowulf Upper upper I bought and the lower parts plus assembly. In the next post, I’m going to give you some tips/observations that I had when assembling my lower. I’ll add a link to the new post here as soon as it is complete.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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TIMBER CREEK 49/64-20 .50 BEOWULF TANKER MUZZLE BRAKE - CERAKOTE CLEAR - SILVER

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Midwest Industries’ 9.25″ AR Combat Series Rail is Slick!

I recently was looking for a free floating handguard for a 10.5″ AR pistol build and happened upon the new Midwest Industries (MI) Combat rail series. The name made me think mall ninja but the design is interesting and they did a good job manufacturing the assembly.

The 9.25″ M-LOK Combat rail looked good and three things caught my eye – the barrel nut was knurled, they had an innovative means of timing the handguard to the receiver, and it looked good. Yeah, looks do matter to me.

This is the 9.25″ MI Combat rail as it arrived. I have that small tub of barrel nut grease ready.

So,I availed on Holiday sales and ordered one from Optics Planet. The handguard arrives with everything inside. In other words, you need to unscrew the lower two clamping screws to then remove the barrel nut.

The first hint this is different from a lot of handguard that simply clamp is that insert in the middle – that’s the indexing key.
Here is the knurled barrel nut, the indexing key and the two screws.

Now you may be wondering why I care about the design of the barrel nut. There are two reasons – first, the knurling creates a more anti-slip surface than a smooth surface would. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the groove that the key rides in allows the rail to align any way you need it to with the receiver without having to deal with shims and it inhibits the rail from sliding forward. Combine thee knurling, key and very generous tabs that position the rail on the receiver and this rail is very well retained. In other words, it isn’t going anywhere unlike many rails that shoot loose and all of a sudden you are holding the rail separate from the weapon because it slid off the barrel nut. That’s not going to happen with the Combat rail.

Installation Video From MI

MI took the time to assemble a short video for you to understand what is required to install the rail. It’s very straight forward.

My Installation Tips

To be honest, I read the paper instructions that came with the rail and realized it would really help to see what was needed so I watched the above video. I really do recommend you take just under 10 minutes to learn from them first hand. That’s tip #1 🙂

Tip #2 – I’d recommend you use a Magpul Barrel ExtensionVise Block – a “BEV Block”. You need to apply quite a bit of torque to remove the existing nut and 40 foot pounds to install the Combat barrel nut. Click here for a post that provides more details.

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Note, the Giessele Reaction Rod works too but just costs more.

Tip #3 – When you remove the muzzle device and/or existing barrel nut, I’d recommend you use open end wrenches and NOT an adjustable wrench. Countless millions of nuts and muzzle devices have been marred or destroyed by adjustable wrench jaws giving too much and rounding corners.

I have a big SAW combination set that I use for tasks like this. For example, to remove the PSA barrel nut that was previously installed, I used this big 1-1/8″ wrench and it took quite a bit of torque to break it free. Again, use a BEV Block or Giessele Reaction Rod to safely handle the torque.

Tip #3 – do degrease the parts. You never know what was used during manufacturing or by a previous installer. For example, my PSA barrel nut was lubricated by some white colored grease. I have no idea what is was and used denatured alcohol to remove it from the receiver plus cleaned the new barrel nut.

Tip #4 – Do use Mil-Spec barrel nut grease. It is designed for the appplication and prevents the nut from sticking/corroding onto the upper receiver.

Tip #5 – Do use a torque wrench to install the handguard. I used to do “farmer tight” where you bring something up firm and call it even. The problem with that is either you apply too little torque and the nut loosens up or too much and you strip the threads. MI supplies the appropriate fitting for a 1/2″ torque wrench. The spec calls for 40 foot pounds so do it.


If you don’t have a 1/2″ torque wrench, there are good deals on Tekton wrenches at Amazon. Just be sure to reset the scale to zero before you store it.

Tip #6 – for the same reason as the troque wrench, use a torque screw driver to install the gas tube (if it uses them and torque will be 25 inch pounds or there abouts) and the handguard’s Allen screws require 55 inch pounds.

I use a Vortex torquing screw driver for optics. It only goes up to 50 inch pounds so I installed the handguard screws to 50 and not 55. There are other screwdrivers that go higher but that is what I had handy.

The Wheeler FAT torquing screw driver can go up to 65 inch pounds. I have one and it works – I just don’t keep it on my bench now that I have the Vortex.

In Summary

I’m very pleased. The rail is rock solid and looks great on my AR pistol.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon. With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


How to Safely Change AR Muzzle Devices and Barrel Nuts Using a Magpul BEV Block

If you like working on AR-type rifles and plan to replace a muzzle device or change a barrel nut to install a free-floating handguard or to swap barrels, you are going to need to apply a lot of torque. Torque and aluminum are not friends and this is certainly the case with the upper receiver for AR rifles and pistols.

What not to do?

I actually want to take a minute and tell you two things not to do. First, do not simply clamp your lower in a vise and go cranking on whatever on the upper. Remember that the upper is connected to the lower by two steel pins going through relatively soft aluminim. Not a good combination.

Number two, there are work fixtures that look like a rectangle that allow you to remove the upper from the lower and then pin the upper to this block that is then held by a vise. I’m not fond of this either because then your two aluminum connection points on the receiver take up all the stress and they weren’t designed to do so.

Please do not do either of those or you may regret it. The odds are that you will regret it. I word it this way because you may get by once or twice but these methods are risky so don’t do them.

So what do I recommend?

At this point, it comes down to two options that engage the barrel extension, which can handle the torque of any AR upper operation you may need to perform. The first is the Geisselle Reaction Rod. It’s pricey but it does the job and you can get a relatively good price on an AR tool kit from them on Amazon.

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The second approach, which is what I use, is to secure the upper in a vise using a Magpul Barrel Extension Vise (BEV) block. It’s a very well designed block that engages via the barrel extension with its own steel lugs that are designed for strength but also to not harm the extension.

This is the top of the BEV block. You can see the front engagement lugs, the rear protrusion is for the bolt carrier and I would recommend keeping that O-ring oiled. The hole just under the front lugs is for a cross pin to secure it to the upper.

The BEV block uses a bolt carrier with the bolt removed to further secure it in the upper. You could remove the bolt from the bolt you normally use. I have a bolt carrier body that I keep in my toolbox for just this purpose.

The following photo shows it partially inserted in the upper.

This next photo shows it fully forward with the bolt carrier assembly installed. It does not have a cross pin installed at that point. Even without the pin it can handle the rotation stress. The pin just keeps it all in position and is not load bearing.

At this point you are good to go to change muzzle devices, barrel nuts or whatever else you may need to do without risking damage caused by torque. It’s a solid tool and I highly recommend it.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon. With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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American Defense Red Dot Optic Mounts Rock!

I really like Vortex Crossfire Red Dots and have been using them extensively for a while now.  They’ve survived 9mm POF-5. 12 gauge shotguns, 5.56 ARs and 7.62×39 AKs with no problem.  The only modification they need is a good quick release mechanism in my opinion.

HK SP5 with a Vortex Crossfire and an American Defense AD-T1-L STD low mount.
Lynx 12 gauge with a Crossfire and also the AD-T1-L STD low base.

The designers at Vortex are pretty shrewd.  They designed the Crossfire to share the same base as the Aimport T-1/H-1.  Because of that smart design consideration, it opens up a ton of options for you.  

My preference these days are quick release mounts made by American Defense right here in the US.   The units are made from 6061 T6 aluminum and finished with a T3 anodized unit.  They are rock solid.  I have had problems in the past with cheap import models and these are rugged and reliable.

They have a low profile unit that I like for AKs and my POF-5 where I don’t care about co-witnessing with the iron sights.  It’s their AD-T1-L STD model.

They also make a taller unit that is an absolute co-witness height for ARs.  

This is one of my Vortex Crossfires.  It has the low-profile American Defense mount on it and the co-witness model is the taller unit on the right.   The small lever you see sticking out from the main lever is the lock to prevent an accidental release.
The bases are held in place by four small screws.  Here’s the “-L” low model next to the co-witness “-10” model.
To change bases is just a matter of removing four screws.  To avoid the screws loosening, use a blue medium Loc-tite or Vibratite.  Do not use a permanent formula.
To adjust the fit, you push with one finger from the lever side and the nut is pushed out of its housing straight across.  Turn it one hex side at a time.  Turn it clockwise to make the clamp tighter or counter-clockwise to loosen it.  (righty-tighty and lefty-loosy

These American Defense mounts work like a charm and the quality is evident.  I can easily remove the red dots when I am working on a weapon or even swap optics if I so choose.  They do have a repetitive zero but I would recommend always putting it in the same rail slot for consistency.

I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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Wheeler AR Bolt Catch Punch Set Makes The Job Way Easier

If you are new to building AR lowers, there is one step that is, in my opionion, the most risky in terms of making a mistake and scratching the finish if not even gouging the aluminum.  That’s when you go to install the bolt catch.  You must juggle the receiver, spring, detent, catch, punch and hammer all at the same time while being right against the nicely finished receiver!

The two ears that hold the cross pin of the bolt catch are just above the magazine catch.  In the small hole will sit the spring and the detent pin.

Historically, you had to get ready for battle and would tape your receiver to protect it from slipping punches or glancing blows by a hammer.

I would apply duct tape, Gorilla tape or something thick to protect the finish.  Note, if you are starting out, taping is always a good idea no matter what.

Installing the slide catch is way easier now with the right tools.  I have really come to rely on three punches to get the job done.  The first is a purpose specific punch set from Wheeler this is flat on one side and has a protective rubber coating.

The Wheeler set has two punches.  The starter punch has a hollow end that the pin sits in.  This allows you to focus on the hole and hitting the punch with the hammer.  The other is a roll pin punch that you can use to align the catch at the start and also drive the pin the final distance.

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Here the pin is being started.
See, I use the roll pin punch on the left to align the bolt catch and also to capture the detent pin and spring.  Once that punch is in, you can let go!  Whew.  You can then focus on tapping the starter punch on and making sure everything is aligned.

Now plenty of guys can get their build done with the above.  Because of my tremor, I like to drive the pin in the rest of the way by using a really long roll pin punch that safely clears the receiver.  I have a Tekton gunsmith punch set and the 1/8″ roll pin punch works great for me. 

This is the nice Tekton gunsmith punch set that I really like.
This is me with the 1/8″ roll pin punch.

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I hope this helps you out.  This is what I do every time now.  It’s also what I use if I need to remove and replace an existing catch.


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Wheeler Tool Makes AR Trigger Guard Installation or Removal a Breeze

I was asked how I install AR trigger guards to minimize scratching up the receiver or even risking snapping an “ear” off.  On one hand, you can use a solid backing block to support the ear and then use a roll pin punch to drive in the pin.  That’s what I used to do but it’s a headache to be honest.  As some of you may know, I have a tremor that makes fine motor stuff a headache so finding methods that are simpler really helps me get work done.

This is a Brownells Billet 7075 aluminum trigger guard (078-101-164) and it has a bulge to accomodate gloves.  The set screw goes in the end with a blind hole.  The roll pin goes through the end that is drilled all the way through.

A few years ago I started using the Wheeler trigger guard tool and it works great.  Here’s the link to it at Amazon – click here.

This is how I use it:

  1.  Install the end of the triggerguard that uses the set screw.  That’s the end with the blind hole – the roll pin goes in the end where a hole goes all the way through.
  2. I lightly oil the pin to make things easy and tap it with a small hammer just to get it started.
  3. I then use the Wheeler tool with the shorter starter pin.  The starter pin has a nipple that centers it on the roll pin.
  4. Keep the parts aligned and turn the knob to drive the pin in.
  5. Stop when you have inserted the pin – it’s that easy.

Note, Scott Igert of Modern Antique Firearms recommends you put a business card or something between the frame and your receiver to protect it from scratching.

It has two tips – here you can see one installed and one stored in the frame of the tool.  The short one is for installing and the long one is for pushing a roll pin out.
Simply stop once the pin is flush.

Note, I actually have one from another maker also.    I’m holding it in my hand.  It does the same conceptually but is heavier made.  I’ve built probably 4-6 ARs with the Wheeler unit and it seems to be holding up fine.  The other is a Little Crow unit from Brownells for about $39.99 + S&H and its built like a tank but you do pay more for it.

Little Crow Trigger Guard Pin Pusher

I hope this helps you out.  


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.