Tag Archives: AR

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 ūüôā

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.

Magpul BEV Vice Block Armorer's Gunsmith Tool - MAG536-BLK - New Genuine

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MAGPUL BEV Armorer's Vise BLOCK Tool MAG536-BLK GENUINE FAST SHIP

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MAGPUL MAG535 & MAG536 Armorer's Wrench & BEV Armorer's Vise Block Tool SET

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Magpul MAG536 Black BEV Block (Barrel Extension Vise) For 223 Rem Gunsmith Tool

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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 ‚Äď even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries ‚Äď 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.

[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”B01F48QSDK”]

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 ‚Äď even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries ‚Äď we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


Magpul BEV Vice Block Armorer's Gunsmith Tool - MAG536-BLK - New Genuine

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MAGPUL MAG535 & MAG536 Armorer's Wrench & BEV Armorer's Vise Block Tool SET

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Magpul MAG536 Black BEV Block (Barrel Extension Vise) For 223 Rem Gunsmith Tool

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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.

[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”B012TKY0VI”]

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.


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 Рeven unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries Рwe get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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.


Slick AR Rifle Shirts and Sweatshirts

I like weapons based on the Armalite Rifle (AR) design and have owned a variety of them over the years including a variety of AR-15s from Colt, Rock River, Palmetto State Armory and others plus a whole slew of pistols.

I also like having cool T-shirts and hoodies that reflect my interests and opinions about firearms and the Second Amendment.  So, I did some searching and found there are some great designs on eBay that you just might find of interest:

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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 Рeven unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries Рwe get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


 

Taming the ‘Wulf – My Adventure With a .50 Beowulf AR Rifle

When I first heard of the .50 Beowulf cartridge, it got added to my bucket list immediately. What’s not to like – the ballistics of the .45-70 cartridge in an AR platform that hits like a freight train. Somewhat humorously, I’d also point out that it drops noticeably at 150 yards and like a pumpkin after 200 yards but boy, does it hit hard when it does.

I have fun assembling AR lowers the way I want them and figured I would save time and get an assembled upper. In early 2016, I looked at two different vendors of assembled uppers – Alexander Arms (AA), who was the originator of the cartridge, and Radical Firearms, a discount AR rifle and assembler of uppers and lowers in Texas. A basic AA upper was around $719 that did not have a brake (or threading) and basic handguards. A decent looking Radical unit in the generic 12.7×42 chamber was only $598. It seemed like a no brainer and I went with the Radical unit.

To jump ahead just a bit —¬†I wish I had bought a better AA upper for $923-1190. The Radical upper caused me quite a bit of grief and I am going to chronicle my adventure here because I did get it to work out in the end and was very happy with the results but I had to work for it.

Radical Arms Challenges

When I first ran across Radical, I had high hopes. In an impulse buy, I purchased two 5.56 uppers and the 12.7×42 upper. In case you are wondering why I am listing 12.7×42, that is the generic designation for the .50 Beowulf cartridge that AA owns the intellectual property for. By using the metric designation, Radical could build an upper without paying anything to AA.

When I bought my uppers, Radical was undergoing a huge growth spurt and I had to wait some period of time (4-8 weeks maybe) for the uppers. That was not a big deal to me. The AR uppers arrived and while gritty and needing polishing, they worked.¬† Basically, what you’d expect with relatively low cost mass assembled products.

The 12.7×42 upper was a different story. Sometimes it would cycle and sometimes it would not. Radical took forever to respond to emails and what not so I figured screw it, I’ll just treat the assembled upper as a collection of parts and move ahead. To be perfectly clear, I parted ways with Radical and did not give them a chance to fix it after I got frustrated by how everything was going.

So, I started researching on the web and found that Beowulfs use a bolt head that is slightly different than a 7.62×39 AR bolt. After cycling my rifle by hand over and over, I concluded the cartridge was not seating properly in the bolt face and ordered a true .50 Beowulf bolt directly¬†from Alexander Arms (not Radical). Problem solved. It’s run perfectly ever since. Whether Radical installed the wrong bolt or an out of spec bolt, I don’t know. I threw the offending bolt in the trash and called it even,

Another irritation Radical caused me was when the handguard loosened up because they hadn’t used Loc-tite on the screws. My recommendation is to just use Blue Loc-Tite if you run into this – it worked fine for me. I like the handguard otherwise.

The one thing they got right was the barrel. I heard Satern made the barrel but don’t know for sure. It is wonderfully accurate with the big 350gr XTP hollow point cartridges that AA makes. I am very pleased with that combination.

Yes, I eventually got it to work.  No, will not buy from Radical again but I definitely would buy more stuff from Alexander Arms.  I dealt with them on the phone a few times for ammo as well as the website.  The staff were pleasant to deal with and shipping was always prompt.

Addressing Recoil

I was not impressed by the muzzle brake that Radical supplied and started researching the best brake for the Beowulf. Bear in mind the muzzle has a pretty unique thread at 49/64″-20 threads per inch (TPI).¬† In addition, I knew I would need a jam nut to address the timing so the brake could be level on the barrel and it needed to be steel and not aluminum.

The Timber Creek Beowulf Brake Rocks!

To make a long story short, Timber Creek makes a Beowulf brake that does a great job. It seriously cut the recoil back and made the biggest difference of all my modifications.  They make them with two different threads so make sure the one you order matches your rifle.

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

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TIMBER CREEK 49/64-20 .50 BEOWULF TANKER MUZZLE RECOIL BRAKE WITH TIMING NUT

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Here it is on my rifle – notice the big ports that redirect some of the gasses backwards:

Added a Limbsaver Recoil Pad to the Magpul ACS Stock

Limbsaver makes great recoil pads – I discovered them some years ago and have used them on a number of rifles and shotguns over the years. What is cool is that they also make a recoil pad specifically for the butt plate that the Magpul CTR and ACS stocks use – plus some other models. I like ACS stocks so it was a no-brainer for me to get this thicker spongy pad to help absorb recoil.

Limbsaver Model 10025 Magpul Collapsible Stock Precision Fit Black Recoil Pad

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Limbsaver Model 10025 Magpul Collapsible Stock Precision Fit Black Recoil Pad

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Limbsaver Buttpad For Magpul 400, 310, 470 Stocks

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LimbSaver 10025 Black Recoil Pad for Magpul Collapsible Stocks Rifle

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Odin Works Zulu 2.0 Stock Kit - Red

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Weighting the MagPul ACS Stock

The next important element I did to reduce recoil was to add a mixture of bird shot and epoxy into the compartments of the MagPul ACS stock. I just stirred up a mixture of #7 lead bird shot with epoxy, filled all the voids I could and wiped off the excess liquid epoxy checking all the seams until it gelled enough. Here, you can see a hint of it sticking out.

Another benefit is that it really helps improve the balance of the rifle because otherwise it is very nose heavy.
H2 or Hydraulic Buffer

The last thing I did was to try different buffers. Bill Alexander designed the cartridge to work with a normal AR buffer. I went from a normal/H1 buffer to an H2 and finally to an Enedine Hydraulic buffer, which is in it right now. With each step, the recoil seemed to go down a tad but did not make a huge difference.

Vortex Scope

I was thinking about using the rifle either for hogs or deer so I wanted a scope that could go from a fairly wide field of vision at 2.5x all the way up to a decent zoom at 10x. Vortex is always my first choice in scopes so I bought a Viper PST 2.5-10×44 scope and Vortex rings.

This is a wicked combination. I have thoroughly enjoyed this scope on the Beowulf. It holds zero and is nice and bright.¬† You can’t go wrong with Vortex scopes in my honest opinion. Because of the Beowulf’s recoil, use quality rings and be very sure to torque all the screws down to spec so the optic stays put.

By the way, you may scoff at the notion of buying quality rings.¬† A lot of the cheap imported rings are just aluminum.¬† You’ll notice they don’t list a torque spec.¬† Quality rings such as the ones fro Vortex will tell you a torque spec to hit and they often have steel inserts for the threads.¬† You get what you pay for.

Note, in mid-2018 Vortex came out with what they call the “PST Gen 2” series of scopes and this first generation model has been discontinued.¬† The closest scopes now are 3-15×44 and 2-10×32¬† -I don’t think you can go wrong one way or the other.¬† I’d probably opt for a 2-10×32 MRAD scope to have the widest field of view at a low power.

Magazines

The Beowulf actually can use easily modified standard 5.56 aluminum magazines.  Click here for a blog post about the easy procedure.

End Result

The rifle turned out great.¬† The final “felt” recoil was about that of a 20 gauge slug gun, if that.¬† I could shoot round after round without regretting the kick ūüôā

I had fun building and shooting it. As I get older the more I realize I enjoy learning about the engineering and history of arms. The “Wulf” has a new owner now and I hope it serves him well.


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.



All Steel Tanker Style Competition Muzzle Brake 49/64x20 Thread for .50 Beowulf

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TIMBER CREEK 3/4"-24 THREAD .50 BEOWULF TANKER MUZZLE RECOIL BRAKE + TIMING NUT

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for .50 BEOWULF , 49/64x20 TPI Tanker Style Muzzle Brake, with free crush washer

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New .50 Beowulf 49/64x20 TPI Heavy Duty Competition Muzzle Brake With Jam Nut

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A 16″ Palmetto State Armory/PSA 5.56x45mm Tactical AR Build

ARs are a fun, quick build and because they are modular you can take them in a ton of custom directions. ¬†When you build an AR, you need to first ask yourself “what am I going to use this for?” and then plan your components accordingly. ¬†In this case, I wanted a 16″ carbine that was relatively light, chambered in 5.56 and had an optic for short to medium ranges. ¬†In some ways you could say my plan was to build a tactical style rifle.

So, let me explain the components used and why I selected them:

  • At the heart of the AR is the receiver and I tend to use Anderson. ¬†They are Mil-Spec, inexpensive and well finished. ¬†In short, I’ve never had a problem with them and I don’t know anyone else who has either.
  • I like PSA’s lower build kits as a starting point for all the internals. ¬†Sometimes I have left overs depending on what all I upgrade but even their based build kits is solid.
  • The fire control group (FCG) is PSA’s enhanced set meaning the trigger and hammer are Nickel Boron (NiB) coated for lubricity and ease of cleaning. ¬†In general, PSA already has some of the best feeling triggers out there in terms of the Mil-Spec out-of-the-box AR triggers. ¬†The Enhanced set feels a tad slicker but still falls in the 5.5-6.5# pull range.
  • The grip is a Magpul MOE.
  • The butt stock is a Magpul STR. ¬†I like the Magpul stocks that clamp in place – they are rock solid. ¬†The STR can do this and has a great angled top for a solid cheekweld.
  • It has a Spikes H2 buffer to soften the operation up a bit.
  • I like Yankee Hill Machine’s (YHM’s) oversize pivot and takedown pins and get them from Brownells.
  • The selector lever is PSA’s ambidextrous model. ¬†To be honest, I’m going to stop getting the ambidextrous selectors – the capability sounds great in theory but what I find is that I am so used to the traditional selector lever that I rarely use the operating-side lever.
  • The slide release lever is a GIANT Wilson. ¬†I bought it sight unseen via Brownells and had no idea it was going to be this big. ¬†On the plus side, it sure is easy to find and operate. ¬†On the con side, it is big and kind of fugly if you ask me. ¬†My go to release lever these days are the Strike Industries models. ¬†By the way, if you use the Wilson, be sure to apply Loc-Tite to the set screw that locks the paddle in place or it will loosen up.
  • The upper is a 16″ Palmetto State Armory with a 5.56 M4 profile barrel with a 1:7 twist hidden under their cool slim Keymod handguard. ¬†Honestly, I think PSA makes great uppers. ¬†They are running a budget operation and you may have to wait to hear from their customer service department but I have never actually had an upper from them have a problem. ¬†They’ve missed a part in parts kits before but always moved fast to ship me a replacement part. ¬†By the way, PSA also soures some really barrels, that is one of the big reasons I use their uppers.
  • The bolt carrier group is a Nickel Boron (NiB) coated assembly from Fail Zero. ¬†Boy are they slick. ¬†In general NiB BCGs are cool – you can feel they slide easily without a gritty feeling and clean easily. ¬†With Fail Zero you are buying experience – they know BCGs and they pioneered the very slick polished NiB process they call “EXO Nickel Boron”. ¬†I’ve not had the coating flake on me and it is slick.
  • The charging handle is VLTOR/BCM Mod.3 with the large handle. ¬†I like the oversized handle both for working around optics and it is really easy to find and operate. ¬†This is my preferred charging handle and has never let me down. ¬†Beware of the cheap import ambidextrous knock off handles. ¬†You will get what you pay for. ¬†Stick with name brand.
  • For magazines, I like MagPul.
  • The optic is a Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24. ¬†In general, Vortex scopes are excellent and they have a no-nonsense “if it breaks we will fix it” warranty that you can’t beat.
  • The offset scope mount is a generic unit sold by TMS. ¬†It’s my third TMS but I now just use Vortex mounts.
  • The offset backup sights are something I do now on my rifles with optics. ¬†If you have any kind of optics failure you rotate the rifle 45 degrees and use the iron sights. ¬†They look awkward but the transition is actually very smooth and fluid. ¬†If you haven’t tried this, I’d recommend giving them a whirl. ¬†These are surprisingly inexpensive ADE brand sights and they’ve held up just fine. ¬†This is my third set from them via Amazon.
  • The light is a test unit. ¬†The light itself is a LiteXpress X-FIRE1 LED unit that is sold on Amazon. ¬†The mount is from them also and is the only part I am not too keen on as it flexes. ¬†They do have a new model now so I am not sure how the mount is. ¬†The light itself has held up just fine.

Here are some photos for you of the rifle:


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Assembling an AR Lower – Step 11 of 11: Other Resources To Leverage & Learn From

The cool thing about ARs is that there are a ton of them out there and people are sharing ideas on how to build, use and maintain them every day. ¬†This series of blog posts I just wrote shows my current take on how to assemble lowers. ¬†I will continue to improve my techniques over time and I do this both through trial and error as well as researching what others do. ¬†In this post, I want to share some links with you that might just give you an “ah-ha” moment because of what these folks are sharing.

Please note that when you click on the below links other than the Youtube videos, a new tab or window will open and you may need to manually switch to that tab or window in your browser to see it.

Lower-Receiver Assembly Resources

Upper-Receiver Assembly Resources

Cleaning and Lubrication Resources


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Assembling an AR Lower – Step 10 of 11: Installing the Upper Receiver Assembly

We’re in the home stretch. ¬†You can buy completed AR uppers from many sources. ¬†I’ve had very good luck with Palmetto State Armory (PSA), Ghost Rifles, White Oak Armory (for precision uppers), Del-Ton, and Rock River Arms. ¬†I bought a few Hardened Arms uppers with bolts and simply was not impressed – they seemed gritty and with a 12.7×42 Beowulf build their bolt did not work correctly but I digress.

With that said, the short barreled upper with the Magpul furniture is from PSA and the 10.5″ upper is from Ghost Rifles. ¬†If you were to ask me who I use the most, I’d have to say PSA. ¬†Subscribe to their Daily Deals email list and you’ll see some pretty wicked deals. ¬†With all of the uppers, take note if they are selling the complete upper with the bolt carrier group (BCG) and charging handle or a stripper upper that does not include those two things. ¬†I buy depending on what I want to do. ¬†For both of these pistols, I bought stripper uppers as I had PSA Nickel Boron (NiB) BCGs that I got a deal on in the past plus I planned to use a PSA charging handle that I had with an extended latch and already had a plain Mil-Spec charging handle that I could use though I do have one of my favorite charging handles – the BCM Mod.3 large latch model – on order.

The next photo shows the two uppers side by side. ¬†The PSA upper had the 7″ barrel, CAK Flash Can, Magpul handguards, gas block, tube, and ejection port dust cover installed – all it needed was the BCG and charging handle. ¬†The Ghost Rifles upper had the 10.5″ barrel, handguard that I had to trim down for the look I wanted, and ejection port dust cover installed. ¬†I added the brake, BCG, charging handles. ¬†The side rails on both uppers are M-Lok and were added by me along with the backup sights.

Now when planning an upper, as long as it is Mil-Spec, and they all claim to be, it should mate (a fancy way of saying “fit”) with your Mil-Spec lower. ¬†What I have found over the years is that some brands go together nice and snug and some are looser. ¬†For example, PSA uppers fit Anderson lowers nice and snug. ¬†The Ghost upper was a tad loose on the Anderson lower so I added a spacer to tighten it up.

Okay, so here is how it goes. ¬†First, open both pins on the lower like so. ¬†Note, you see the buffer already installed. ¬†I took an assembled pistol and removed the upper to take the photos. ¬†Of course, when I am writing this blog post then I notice I forgot to remove the buffer purely for the photos. ¬†Just imagine it is not there ūüôā ¬†If it is, no worries – the pins work regardless. ¬†The pins and modular design is what makes the AR like Legos for shooters – you can open them and swap uppers at the drop of a hat.

Step two:  Inspect the bolt and make sure the gas key screws are staked, that the bolt head can move freely, the extractor works, firing pin present, etc.  Normally I do not take the bolt apart Рjust a quick double check.  I have only had challenges with no-name bolts.  PSA, Aim, and Fail Zero. have all worked just fine for me.  The Fail Zero BCG is very well made if you ever get a chance to use one.  If the BCG feels or looks funny then a closer inspection is warranted but outside of the scope of this post.  Both of the pistols I assembled in this post is a PSA Nickel Boron (NiB) BCG.

Step three:  I like to install the BCG and charging handle before I put the upper on the rifle.  You can install the upper and these items if you want.  First, I oil the lubrication points of the BCG and apply grease to the underside of the BCG.  Do NOT put a ton of grease or oil under the handle.  I just put a very light coat of oil on the whole body of the handle.  You do not want to get a ton of grease on the gas system.

Step Four:  The charging handle has little tabs towards the front.  Slide the charging handle in above where it resides, align the tabs on the handle with the keyway in the receiver and press the handle down to where it normally goes.  Do not slide the charging handle in yet because the BCG slides in next.

Step Five:  Ensure the bolt head is pulled all the way out.  You then put the top of the bolt in the handle and slide the assembly forward until the handle locks into position.

Step 6:  Put the buffer in the buffer spring and slide it into the buffer tube spring first.  When you get to the buffer itself, you may need to push the buffer detent down a bit to get it to slide in.  I like the slightly heavier H2 buffers and used a PSA and a Spikes in these two builds.

Step 7:  Line the front upper hole with the lower and close the pivot pin all the way.

Step 8:  Swing the upper down and close the rear takedown pin.

Step 9: ¬†Technically you are done – the two halves are assembled and you can function test your FCG. ¬†[For a review on function testing the FCG, click here.] ¬†At this point, I do what I call a “rattle test”. ¬†If I shake the rifle and the upper is loose in the lower, I add a rubber receiver wedge (these things have a ton of names) to remove the slop. ¬†Basically it sits in the lower and you trim the bottom of it until you can close the upper but there is upwards pressure from the wedge locking everything in place thus removing any play.

And with that, you are done with the basic assembly and can go ahead and add whatever accessories you want. ¬†When you are planning what to do – ask yourself “Is this a range toy or something I need to rely on and if so, what are key considerations?” and use that to govern what you add. ¬†For example, on a defensive weapon, I have backup sights, a quality Vortex optic and a quality Streamlight weapons light. ¬†I do not go with cheap stuff as I have had them fail on me. ¬†For a range toy, I worry a lot less about what reliability for example.

So here are the two finished pistols. ¬†The 7″ is a range toy and the 10.5″ may well serve a defensive purpose so it has a Vortex Spitfire red dot and backup sights.

Okay Рsafety briefing time:  When you test fire, consider using a stand and pulling the trigger with a string from a safe distance.  Be sure to inspect the weapon carefully before and after.   If you do not feel comfortable with any of this, please see a gunsmith.  If you have any doubts at all, please see a gunsmith.  I want you to enjoy assembling your AR and shooting it.

By the way, my AR expert is Scott Igert of Modern Antique Firearms.  He is a police officer and has years and years of real world AR building, maintenance and tactical use experience.  If you need a custom AR built, need to buy parts, or have gunsmithing done, talk to Scott.

Hope this series helped you out!  The next post, step 11, will provide additional resource information.


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 Рeven unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries Рwe get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.



 

Assembling an AR Lower – Step 9 of 11: Installing the Buffer Tube and Arm Brace

There are three types of buffer tubes for ARs and the one you pick depends on what you are building.  There is the traditional long A2 fixed stock style buffer tube, the 6 position M4-style telescoping stock tube and lastly the pistol buffer tube. Since I am building a pistol, that will be our focus.  The pistol buffer tube has no provision for a stock and is just a straight tube.  Do not use a rifle tube on a pistol build just to be safe legally.  Other than that, the installation is almost identical other than the backplate (shown below the buffer tube in the next photo) which is indexed for rifles but typically not for pistols.

Step one:  Install the rear takedown pin assembly.  Insert the pin from the right to left.  Put a dab of Tetra Gun Grease in the detent hole and then push the pin and spring in.  The grease will help retain it.

Step two:  Put the backplate on the tube and thread it into the receiver almost to the end.  Watch the detent spring and make sure it is compressing properly into the hole and not bending.  On pistol builds I will push the plate down with one hand while threading the buffer tube on with the other.  Stop in time to insert the buffer spring and detent in their hole.  Push them down and thread the buffer tube on the rest of the way.  Note, you can stake the tube into position or use a small dab of blue Loc-Tite to hold the buffer tube in position.  Note how the front of the tube overlaps the detent pin just enough to hold it in position.

Step three:  Install the Arm Brace.  The SB Brace I got from Palmetto has a hollow rubber cylindrical hole for the buffer tube to go down.  Of course that thing will not want to slide down the tube by itself.  I lightly lubricate the buffer tube with silicone spray and then slide/hit the brace into place.  Only turn the brace clockwise as you install it lest you unscrew the buffer tube.  I did use a rubber mallet to help get it down the tube faster.1

So with that the brace is installed.  My next post will be about attaching the upper and finishing the assembly.


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