Category Archives: ARBuilds

How to build legal semi-automatic AR pistols and rifles.

Great Deals On Pistol Braces and Pistols With Braces At PSA

When the ATF reversed the ruling about braces and enabled folks to use them however they saw fit, the demand and supply of pistol braces went into orbit. I have carpal tunnel and a hereditary tremor so for me, using a brace is the only way I can wield a heavy pistol – such as one based on an AR, AK or MP5 type of action.

Examples of Braced Pistols

SB Tactical’s PDW brace is great on AR pistols
IWI Galil Ace in 7.62×51 with a SB Tactical SBA4 adjustable brace
PTR PDWR .308 pistol with a SB Tactical folding mechanism and SB Tactical SOB brace

Palmetto State Armory (PSA)

PSA has come a long way. I’ve used them as my go-to AR parts supplier for years and now they have great deals on parts, kits, receivers, and firearms. They also offer some great deals on braces – by themselves as parts, as part of a kit offering or even on firearms.


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Palmetto State Armory’s Angry Joe AR-14 Lower!!! Awesome!!

I can’t stand Biden and think this is absolutely hilarious – The” Angry Joe-14″ AR-14 Stripped Lower. LMAO!! Complete with a dog face pony soldier logo!

Click here to go straight to the pre-order page: http://bit.ly/2W7uTqW

I’m laughing my butt off!!


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


My Favorite .50 Beowulf Muzzle Brake

I now have built my second Beowulf and guys ask me about the recoil all the time – the short answer is that it’s very manageable. With just a bit of tuning, I’d put it somewhere between a 20 and a 12 gauge shotgun shooting 2-3/4″ magnum loads. Now that there are a ton of options both from Alexander Arms as well as generic 12.7×42 uppers (the metric designation for the Beowulf so they don’t have to pay royalties to Alexander Arms), a lot of guys are getting into the .50 Beowulf cartridge and ask me about what brake to run with.

My favorite is the Timber Creek Heartbreaker. It does a remarkable job of venting gasses backwards to compensate for the recoil it would otherwise have. I liked it so much on my first build that it was what I used in my second build. It’s very affordable and I’d be surprised if you can find a brake that does a better job!

Side view of the Heartbreaker and you can see where it gets its name.
View from the top. Note the brake includes a jam nut.

Finding The Brake

My first recommendation is to check out Primary Arms – they carry them and ship fast.

The second option is to buy the brake from is eBay. Just make sure that the thread of the brake matches the thread on your barrel because there are two different threads floating around out there.

My Alpha Wulf

I did a series of blog posts when I built my second rifle. My pet name for it was the “Alpha Wulf” or the leader of the pack. It’s all premium parts and probably my best AR build when it comes to paying careful attention to details during assembly. Here are the posts:

I’m a big fan of the .50 Beowulf cartridge and hope you find this post helpful!


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


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 share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Building A .50 Beowulf – 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.

12/28/2020: I am tinkering with the combination of buffer and buffer spring. Click here for a post about them.

By the way, the PRS is an expensive stock and it pays to watch for sales. 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. Here it is for sale at PSA.

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.

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.

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 share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


My apologies but I have no way to filter out items that the vendors have sold out such as ammo. For example, most places sell out of the ammo fast but you should keep an eye on both Midway USA and going to Underwood Ammo directly – Underwood makes very good ammo by the way. I usually run Alexander Arms ammo but they are sold out most places and while you can place an order directly, you will need to wait quite a while for it to be made and shipped.

Sources For AR Parts

The following are all vendors of AR parts including barrels, handguards, triggers, magaziness and what have you that I use and recommend:

Beware no-name knock off websites selling generic import stuff. Some of the parts are counterfeit and not rated for firearms use.

Building A .50 Beowulf – 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. It’s the Alpha, or the dominant Wulf in my mind.

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.

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 videos of the AR build process, 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.

Sources For AR Parts

The following are all vendors of AR parts including barrels, handguards, triggers, magaziness and what have you that I use and recommend:

Beware no-name knock off websites selling generic import stuff. Some of the parts are counterfeit and not rated for firearms use.

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.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



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.

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 share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


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?

I use 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 share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.