Tag Archives: magpul

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.

Magazine Review: ETS & Lancer

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First off, let me apologize for the assault on your eyes that is the above image.  It was created in MS Paint on a laptop via touchpad.  If it has caused any bodily harm, please contact me and I’ll give you the contact information of my attorney.

Okay, so there are a couple of fairly new contenders out there trying to give Magpul a run for their money on polymer magazines.  In a recent project, I tested Lancer’s L5 Advanced Warfigher Magazine, or “L5AWM” magazine in it’s most relevant 30-round configuration with my Windham AR.

While these aren’t brand-spanking-new, they’re new enough that some folks I showed ’em off to hadn’t seen them yet or heard of them, whereas I’m sure any of them could’ve ID’ed a PMAG from a mile away.  They have been getting some attention at SHOT and in other marketing venues, as I’ve been seeing them pop up in pictures of new ARs or platforms using STANAG type magazines, and seem to be the preferred magazine used in SIG’s marketing of the MCX.  Of course it’s today’s SIG, so they probably just picked them because they looked decently sci-fi to go with everything else they’ve been doing lately.

So, aside from looking futuristic enough for SIG, how are they?  Pretty good, actually- Mine were the “smoked” color, which seems to be the most popular.  It’s nice to get a visual read on your round count from any angle, and to even be able to quickly visually identify which ammunition is loaded, and not have an open slit on the side like the window’ed PMAGs.  The material feels a bit harder than the polymer used by Magpul (and Troy), but doesn’t feel the least bit brittle or flimsy.

L5-AWM

The metal upper, which gets these referred to as “hybrid” magazines, sets these apart, and inspires confidence.  It also allows use of the standard loading tool when loading them from stripper clips.  While this has gotten to be standard for other polymer magazines, it still feels nice to have that metal-on-metal contact when doing so.

As far as actual performance, I’ve had roughly 1000 rounds between 3 of these and haven’t had a single failure.  While that’s also singing praises to my Windham AR and the Federal XM193 ammunition being used, not having a single magazine-related failure over that span, even while trying to be a bit more rough than usual, reflects well on these.

They were selling for real cheap for a while, and had been available from Wilson Combat on sale for ~$12 when I snagged them, but they seem to be hitting ‘Flavor-of-the-Month’ status with a price and stock level to reflect that.  At the time of writing, they seem to be going for ~$20.

Edit: Also, happened to find this showing a drop test between these and PMAGs.  Glad someone else decided to repeatedly drop their AR for our benefit, because I wasn’t about to test ’em that hard just for your benefit.

 

Next up: ETS Glock Magazines

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Alright, so these actually *are* new enough that I can definitely call them new, as they seem to have just been announced last October and just started hitting the market around the time of SHOT.  ETS (Elite Tactical Systems), in addition to another translucent polymer AR magazine, brings us translucent polymer Glock magazines.

ets site

Currently available in a variety of sizes and capacities, generally made to match common varieties, that is, a 17rnd Glock 17 sized mag, 15rnd Glock 19 sized mag, 10rnd Glock 26 sized mag, and a 31 round Extended mag.  They’ve also got 10-round limited varieties for folks in places where that’s required, and a 22rnd “Competition Legal” length magazine (140mm).  So, no matter what you’ve got as far as 9mm or .40cal Glock, they’ve got you covered.  They’re also fully compatible with Glock OEM floorplates, and disassemble in the same manner, so feel free to slap a 7151 “+” plate and insert on there and get an extra round or two in ’em.

Also, notably, they’ve beaten Magpul to the market, as Magpul has yet to release their Competition length and Extended magazines, which are currently scheduled for release this summer.  Magpul’s offering also seems to be a bit odd in that they have a lower capacity in the same size magazines compared to both OEM and ETS, their competition, with extended magazines being 21 and 27 round capacities, respectively.  They’re also not compatible with OEM or other aftermarket floorplates, as they seem to be proprietary.

While I haven’t tested these as extensively as I have the Lancer mags, I can say, while my initial impression was a bit leery, due to the cheap-ish feeling polymer and what seemed to be a clearly visible thin-gauge spring, the 31 round magazine performed flawlessly in both my Glock 19 and a PSA 9mm AR pistol over the course of 350 rounds, with only a single FTF in the AR pistol which doesn’t appear to be a fault of the magazine.

One notable quirk, however, is that while these drop free when empty, when fully loaded, they seem a bit tighter going into both platforms with which I tested them.  Not prohibitively tight or anything, but just similar to using magazines that don’t drop-free, kind of like I’ve experienced with some other (very cheap) non-OEM Glock magazines, or older G17 magazines.  Loading one less round seems to have resolved this (30 instead of 31) completely, and I’ll update once I install “+” plates on both.  The company mentions typical marketing-sounding statements about being able to store loaded without worrying about the feed lips, and makes statements about drop tests, and I can confirm dropping and banging these things around both at the range and on an outdoor concrete slab wasn’t able to cause an harm to them in any way or cause any failures, but I just thought this was worth noting.

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At ~ half the price of equal sized OEM Glock magazines, I don’t mind using these for practice, but I’m not sure I’ll trust them for carry until I’ve had the chance to beat them up a bit more and see how they old up.

Edit: Having now had about 1,500 rounds through them feeding an AR9 with no failures, I know they’re at least reliable at that, and they’ve held up to getting lightly banged around.

 

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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