Tag Archives: ar

Budget “Precision” AR

In case you haven’t noticed, the entry price of ARs has fallen off a cliff lately.  A look at the front page of Bud’s Gun Shop will usually show you at least one budget entry AR from a maker you’ve either never seen, or didn’t think you’d ever see in the AR Market, for right around $500.

Remember just a few years ago when these were hovering at $1k?  Good times.  Anywho, the price to build ’em has likewise plummeted, so if you’ve ever wanted to put one together, if you’re sitting on a closet full of lowers you bought during the great panic, you’ve been thinking of dabbling in a different caliber like .458, or you just want to mix ‘n match a new complete lower and barreled upper to get what you want, now’s the time.

I happened across some good sales around Memorial Day, but since checking, the prices on some of these have actually stayed at the sale price, so this info should still be pretty close to accurate.  As the first thing I acquired to kick this off was a Palmetto State Armory complete lower, I figured I’d keep it simple and go with a barreled upper and see if I could put something together that would reliably drive tacks at paper or varmints out to 300 yards on the cheap.

Since I was yet to foray into FDE colored stuff, I figured for my cheapo “blemished” lower, I’d have Palmetto send me one with FDE furniture.  I figured I’d probably be chucking it anyway, so  why not have a few FDE bits in the parts bin with all the black stuff.  Note on the “blemished” lower – best I could find that counted as a blemish, was an ever so slight discoloration in the finish.  Most people I know that get these never find the “blemish.”  Unless someone with inside info tells me otherwise, I’ve got to assume if it gets knocked over, or someone sneezes on it at some point in production, it’s marked “blem.”

For the barreled upper – I tried to find something over 16″ in a profile that made sense, but failed to find either while keeping the price point, so settled on the ubiquitous 16″ M4 profile.  Specifically, I went with what was on sale at Primary Arms.  I’ve heard mixed thing about Radical Firearms’ stuff, but most of the issues are with complete rifles, and typical of cheap BCG assemblies.  In this case, I’m just going for a barreled upper, and at that price, I’ll work it out, even if I have to replace the gas block or something. Plus, it’s always nice to throw business to a local manufacturer.

It’s also worth noting that the cheapest they had on sale came with a rather interesting hand guard.  It’s a free floated round tube with MOE compatible slots.  As best as I can tell, it’s a Radical Firearms original part (it is marked with their logo on the forward part of the rail).  While I like the look, and the round shape and size are pretty comfortable – the finish wasn’t great, and after now having used it, I can say, MOE attachment sucks – no wonder they developed m-lok.

So, upper and lower mated with no problem, rifle now needs a heart.  Luck had it that PSA had a Nickel Boron BCG on sale for $100 (and, despite being advertised as a daily deal, appears to *still* be on sale for that price).  I’ve never had a bling BCG, so figured I’d get it a shot.

Note: it’s not a full auto BCG, as a lot of folks tend to like using, with the thought it gives it extra strength / weight due to the extra material, but it’s also a $100 complete NiB BCG, so make of that what you will.

Also needed a charging handle, and figuring I was going to scope this one, and riding on the bling high of the NiB BCG, I went with a Gunfighter Mod 4 CH from Primary Arms that I’d already had waiting for a project in the parts bin, so in it went.

So that’s it, the rifle now passing function check, it was time to put some bits and pieces on there to make it capable of what I wanted out of it.  I already had a perfectly decent optic not in use, an older Bushnell Banner 4-12x40mm Adjustable Dusk/Dawn scope.  It hadn’t had a home in a couple of years, and punching paper at the range or bulls-eyeing prairie dogs doesn’t require mil-dots or fancy target turrets, so this will do.  I also had a cheap, but serviceable AR mount that would work for said scope.  I’ll include both of these, as well as the charging handle in the final price, but in my case, I didn’t have to worry about them.

This brings me around to one of my final points – with the FDE funiture on there, I figured I’d delve into one more thing I’ve been meaning to try out, and this being a cheap build, I’ve got no qualms about it – rattle can painting a rifle.  After doing a bit of research and running across this:

(Credit to jwfuhrman on m4carbine.net)

I went with Rust-Oleum Satin Dark Taupe.  It still ended up being a bit lighter than I wanted, probably a closer match to Magpul’s new “Sand” color, but matching shades of FDE is pretty tricky business, and I’m still happy with the way it turned out.  It’s also worth mentioning that this paint took a good 12 hours before it wasn’t tacky, and about a full day before I was comfortable handling it.  It’s also a tad glossier than I’d have liked, but the feel to the touch reminds me of the satin Cerakote finishes, which is exactly what I wanted.  Also, it’s already began to dull a tad, and should lose that extra sheen with regular use.

Spraying it was as easy as masking parts off and dusting until the black was covered.  It’s worth noting that you’d probably want a good clean and degreasing with brake cleaner or similar before doing this under normal conditions, but as these were new in the plastic and unlubricated, I didn’t need to do that kind of prep.

While I haven’t gotten a chance to test it at range due to weather lately, I did a 25 yard 100 yard zero at a local indoor range using free-to-download targets from ARMA DYNAMICS.  These are a pretty good resource to get a quick and dirty zero if all you’ve got access to is an indoor range.  In shooting it, I noticed two minor things this rifle could still use to make it that much better at it’s given objective, that would still be within what I consider a budget price range:

A bipod (which also required mounting solution, and as this tube had MOE slots, I went with a Magpul MOE 5 slot rail segment)…

…and a fixed stock.  I’d been wanting to try out the the carbine MOE Fixed stock I’d been seeing.  With the extended pad, it’s still just a tad shorter than I’d like, about the length of a 6 position one in from the longest, but it’ll do.

So that’s that, for now.  I’ll give an update when I get to stretch it’s legs a bit, but for the all-in on this one, even if I had to buy the parts I already had on hand, it’s a steal.  As stated at the beginning, if you’re not yet in the AR club and want to, or simply have AR projects you’ve been wanting to start (or finish), now’s the time.

Build Price Breakdown:

BLEM PSA AR-15 FREEDOM CLASSIC LOWER – 7779346B
$129.99
PSA FREEDOM 5.56 NICKEL BORON BCG – 516445123
$99.99
Radical Firearms 16″ 5.56 M4 Barreled Upper – with 10″ MOE FGS
$179.99
Bravo Company / Vltor 5.56/.223 Charging Handle Mod 4
$49.95
Bushnell Banner 4-12x 40mm Adjustable Obj Rifle Scope
$89.99
CCOP High Profile AR-ArmourTac Rifle Scope Mount Rings
$33.55
Rust-Oleum 241238 Satin Enamels Spray, Dark Taupe
$3.98
Leapers Tactical OP Bipod
$32.97
Magpul MOE Polymer Rail Section – 5 Slot
$4.49
Magpul MOE Fixed Carbine Stock
$23.99
Magpul PRS Extended Rubber Butt-Pad 0.80″
$11.95

Total Price as Configured: $660.84
No shipping prices were required in the above build

If I was to spend a bit more on it, the first thing I’d go for would be replacing the milspec trigger PSA included.  It’s not the worst, but it’s a typical milspec AR trigger.  I’d try to catch a sale for a Timney or Geissele.

Magpul AR Furniture, Finishing Touches

Windham Carbon SRC Project, Part III

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Alright, so we’ve got the rifle, we’ve got the free float handguard on there, now lets get this thing dressed right.  Don’t get me wrong, the OEM Furniture Windham ships on their rifles isn’t bad as far as standard AR furniture goes.  Standard A2 grip and milspec style handguards with internal heat shields.

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But, there’s always room for improvement.  I’d already decided to go with Magpul furniture, they make a solid product with a lot of nice features, and it gave me the style I was going for- they even had it in a pleasant OD Green shade I liked.

magpulI’d also been wanting to try out an Angled Foregrip (AFG / AFG-2).  In addition to the above, I also ended up picking up a Ranger Green MS4 Dual QD Sling from Magpul that’s a combo 2-point / 1-point sling, and allowed me to make use of my QD points on the CTR stock and Midwest Industries free float tube.

It’s definitely worth pointing out that the Windham rifles all use Commercial Length buffer tubes.  This is a fairly important distinction when buying furniture.

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Install of everything was easy enough, no additional modifications required.

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That’s that.  Looks good (to the end user, anyway), feels good, and after a range day test, shoots plenty good.  I’ll have a full review to come shortly.  I may also do individual upcoming reviews of the additionally pictured Aimpoint PRO, Burris AR Tripler, and Lancer L5AWM Magazines.

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Midwest Industries Gen2 Two Piece Free Float Handguard

Windham Carbon SRC Project, Part II

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I was initially going to do a review and write up on the base rifle prior to doing anything to it.  I think I’ll change that up a bit though, and get it put together before testing extensively, killing two birds with one stone.

That being said, the first thing we’re going to do is get ourselves a base platform to work from, which means getting the factory handguards off of this thing.

The rifle shipped with a decent enough set of standard AR handguards, heatshielded and whatnot, they’d get the job done if that’s all you wanted.  But that’s what not we’re going for here.

I wanted to stick with something that is an easy enough install for most readers, but still gives me what I was looking for in this build.  Specifically I wanted a free floated tube that was lightweight, didn’t require removal or alteration of the Front Sight Base (on this case, worked with the integrated railed FSB), and VERY specifically in the case of this rifle, it needed to install on the factory barrel nut, rather than use one that’s proprietary, as many do, as Windham uses a barrel nut on the Carbon SRC whose external dimensions are standard, but the threading size is different, part of the reinforcement done on their carbon rifle vs. others in the market.  Finally, I wanted one that had integrated QD mounting points.

With those requirements, my best choice was a carbine length (7″) so as to not alter the FSB, and keep the weight down.  That’s still plenty of room to get what I need on there.   Additionally, I’d be going with a 2-piece, to keep things easy on the install.  Lastly, as mentioned, I’d be going with one that would use the OEM barrel nut.  I narrowed my search to two options:

Troy 7″ MRF 2-Piece Free float

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Midwest Industries Gen2 Two Piece Free Float, Carbine Length

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Both seemed decent enough options, but just based on price, and a friend’s report of great customer service on Midwest’s part, so that was that.  **DISCLAIMER: Installation of this part involves very slight modification to the upper receiver.  As I haven’t yet received a yay or nay from Windham Weaponry on whether or not modification in this area is advisable, I have to note that this is done at you own risk.**

The install was easy enough, but did require a bit of cutting to remove the aluminum factory Delta Ring.

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The ring is aluminum, whereas the spring and barrel nut are steel.  Using a Dremel or rotary cutter with a metal cutting disc, it should slice through the Delta ring like butter, without harming the barrel nut below.  Pro Tip: Wrap plastic or some other material around the barrel, FSB, and receiver nearby, there *will* be debris, lots and lost of aluminum dust.  You don’t want that all over the place on your rifle.

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You’ll want to make 2 straight cuts on either side of the Delta ring.  It’ll get hot, so be careful.  Just cut through, being careful not to mar your receiver, especially being that it’s Carbon Fiber and would easily get cut here.  If you’re generating sparks, than you’re too deep, but the sparks should be your disc, not the steel.  Be extremely careful, however, to cut on the sides, not the top and bottom, you do *not* want to damage your gas system.

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Once you make the cuts, that thing will break off with a pair of pliers with no problem.  Next up is removing the spring.  Just bend it off of there with the pliers, it wont be “easy” but it’ll come off with a bit of effort.

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Alright, so you’re ready to go.  *One* minor issue specific to the Carbon SRC- this handguard includes “anti-rotation tabs” meaning it grabs the receiver on either side right below the barrel nut near the pivot pin.  The Carbon SRC, being additionally reinforced in certain areas, is a touch more material here than a normal AR.  Approx 4mm needs to be removed from the corner in these spots.   **Disclaimer: I did stay in touch with Windham and verify a few things prior to this build, when I was initially making making inquires about the barrel nut dimensions.  I don’t have a firm answer on whether or not this is advisable, as this area received additional reinforcement.  At this time, as I have not heard from Windham one way or the other on whether or not this is advisable.  PERFORM THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK.**

Once this is done, its easiest to fit the top first, then the bottom.  It won’t *completely* seat together at first, there may be a millimeter-ish gap at the rear, though this should only occur on the Carbon SRC due to the tight fit where we took material off, this likely wouldn’t be the case on a standard AR.

Finally, you’ll want to insert and tighten the set screws, getting them in, then tightening each a little at a time until they wont turn any longer.  It would be a good idea to use the included VC-3 Threadmate adhesive.

Alright, we have our base for adding accessories.  Next up, lets take care of getting the furniture on there.  Stay tuned.

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Windham Carbon SRC Project Teaser

DSC_0060I’m aware that I’ve been absent for a while, but thought I’d come back with a bang.  Since prices have finally settled back to reasonable levels, I’d been doing some AR shopping, and an extremely reasonably priced option caught my eye.

Windham Weaponry, an outfit run by the original Bushmaster team before they got bought out, has an interesting offering in the form of their Carbon SRC (R16M4FTTCF1).  I first ran across one at my local Academy Sports for what I believed was quite reasonable, until I checked Bud’s Gun Shop and found it for what felt like a steal.

I’ll go into more depth about the rifle, as well as all that I plan for it, in later posts, but just a short blurb about the rifle itself- The SRC stands for “Sight Ready Carbine”, and designates is their line of no-sight optics-ready rifles, passing the savings on to you, as it were.  As far as it being a Carbon Fiber AR… I’ll go into more detail, but put shortly, this one stands out from others on the market, and it looks like a lot of attention to detail went into addressing the shortcomings of others out there.

Based on the price, this makes for a great base for a easy-on-the-wallet project.  So, pay attention, things are in the works.

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More to come shortly.