FTC Disclosure: Some of the items reviewed in this article were provided at no charge.
If you’ve been following us for a while now, you know that we’ve been working on a series of articles focused on assembling a purpose-built AR-15.
Yeah, we know, everyone and their brother has done AR-15 build articles and videos. Many of those articles and videos have been produced by people building their first AR. We also know that you expect more from us than to simply follow the crowd of other evil black rifle builders. Fortunately, because we know that you expect more from us, we intend to provide something a little different in this series of articles.
This is the third and final article in our series covering the build of our “Run and Gun” AR-15. In this article we cover our run and gun AR-15 lower build. If you would like to read the first article in the series, click here. To read the second article, click here.
As Yogi Berra (may he rest in peace) used to say, assembling an AR-15 lower isn’t “rocket surgery.” OK, maybe he never said that about building AR-15’s but we like the rocket surgery part.
In our first article, we reviewed the components of our build as well as some of the tools that make the assembly much easier. One of those tools is a lower receiver vise block (pictured below). The vise block helps protect the lower receiver from damage and provides a solid work space for your assembly.
Place the lower receiver on the vise block and install the magazine catch/release assembly. We used a pencil eraser (see photo below) to press the release button into the receiver while threading in the catch lever. The eraser won’t scuff or damage the button while providing a “stop” for the lever as it is threaded into the button.
Improper installation of the trigger guard can result in a broken rear guard tab. Be sure to support the tabs when driving the pin into the rear tabs.
We used the vise block as a support.
Next, install the bolt catch lever.
We used an awl with a plastic handle to hold the lever in place while we started the roll pin (see photo below). The plastic handle won’t mar the finish of the receiver.
Use a roll pin starter punch to start the pin (see photo below). Allow the roll pin to push the awl out of the receiver as you drive the pin through the lever. Use a roll pin finisher punch to complete the assembly. This method saves you the time associate with putting tape all over your receiver to protect it from scuffs or nicks during the process.
One of the tricks that we use when installing the front take-down pin is to rotate the vise block 90° in the vise so that the opening for the take-down pin spring is facing up (see photo below).
Drop the spring into the opening (see photo below) and carefully insert the detent pin. Use a razor blade to hold the spring and detent pin in place as you slide the take-down pin through the tabs on the front of the receiver.
The RISE Armament trigger is a simple drop-in installation. No external springs to mess with.
When installing the fire selector switch and hand grip, flip the receiver upside-down on the vise block. Drop the detent pin into the opening (see photo below).
Place the spring in the hand grip and utilize a long screw driver or Allen wrench to tighten the screw.
Install the buffer tube and rear take-down pin. Use a razor blade, again, to hold the take-down pin’s detent pin and spring in place while threading the buffer tube into the receiver. Be sure to put a little grease on the threads of the receiver and some anti-seize on the face of the receiver where it contacts the stock tube.
Finally, insert the buffer and spring into the buffer tube. Depending on your stock, you may still have to install the actual butt stock. Our Ace Ultra-light needed no additional installation other than tightening the clamp screw.
And … the proof is in the pudding (or the ‘putting’ of rounds down range). Here’s a typical 4″ target at 100 yards with Hornady 55 grain practice ammo.
This is the second article in our series covering the build of our “Run and Gun” AR-15. If you would like to read the first article in the series, click here.
FTC Disclosure: Some of the items reviewed in this article were provided at no charge.
One of the keys to minimizing problems while assembling your own AR-15 is having the right tools. When it comes to assembling an AR-15 upper, a vise clamp or block is absolutely indispensable. Blocks and clamps each have their own pro’s and con’s. We’ve been utilizing a clamp for quite some time and prefer a clamp to a block. The clamp holds the upper more securely and doesn’t place as much shear on the lower lips of the stripped upper. There are plenty of folks building AR-15’s utilizing blocks, though. So, if you prefer a block, by all means use a block.
If you purchased a stripped upper for your build project, the first step is to install the forward assist and dust cover. Both are relatively easy to install. We purchased a Yankee Hill upper with the forward assist and dust cover already installed, saving ourselves a bit of time and effort. If you’re having trouble installing a forward assist or dust cover, here’s a good YouTube video (skip to about 2:29 to get into the actual install).
Once your forward assist and dust cover are installed, clamp your upper receiver in your vise clamp to prepare for the installation of your barrel. In this build, we are installing a Diamondhead handguard. The Diamondhead handguard comes with a proprietary barrel nut that does not require timing. This is one of the many things that we like about Diamondhead’s handguards. Normally, the barrel nut has to be “timed” to achieve the right torque and allow for the gas tube to be positioned properly. That is not necessary when utilizing a Diamondhead barrel nut.
Your barrel should slip into your upper receiver with only a small amount of resistance. If the barrel does not slip easily into the receiver, remove the receiver from the vise clamp and gently tap the back of the receiver with a rubber mallet. Do not tap on the barrel or place the barrel on a hard surface while tapping on the receiver! There is a nub on the top of the barrel that fits into a slot in the threads of the receiver. Be sure these two are aligned.
Before installing the barrel nut, apply a small amount of grease to the threads of the receiver and barrel nut.
Hand thread the barrel nut onto the receiver. Torque the barrel nut to 30 lb/ft of torque. Loosen the barrel nut and re-torque to 35 lb/ft of torque. This tighten-loosen-tighten process “seasons” the threads. Do not exceed 80 lb/ft of torque on the barrel nut!
Obviously, you will need a torque wrench to achieve the proper torque on the barrel nut. Another handy tool, when installing the Diamondhead barrel nut, is a 1 1/4″ “crow’s foot” intended for a socket wrench (the same drive size as your torque wrench). These wrenches are available on Amazon and eBay.
After the barrel nut is torqued to the proper specifications, install the gas block and gas tube.
A note about gas blocks: If you’re new to assembling AR’s, gas blocks come in a variety of sizes. Be sure your gas block diameter is properly sized for your barrel. Your barrel manufacturer should list the required size in their specifications.
Another note about gas blocks: Often, gas blocks do not include the roll pin necessary to install the gas tube. We typically purchase several of these roll pins at a time to make sure we have them on hand for our builds.
Yet another note about gas blocks: Be sure to determine whether or not your handguard requires a low profile gas block. If the profile of your gas block is too high, you will not be able to install your handguard.
A final note about gas blocks (Who knew such a simple part would be so complicated?): The gas block roll pin is a unique size. Although it can be installed with a standard roll pin punch, life will be much easier if you purchase a gas block roll pin punch. We like the Geissele roll pin punch ($11.49 at MidwayUSA).
To install the gas block, carefully slide it onto the barrel until it covers the gas port. A very light coat of oil may be necessary. The roll pin hole should be positioned toward the muzzle of the rifle. Most barrels will have two “divots” on the underside of the barrel to index the set screws that hold the block in place. Lightly tighten the set screws until they index into the divots. Once the gas block is in its final position, finish tightening the set screws. Do not over-tighten.
Insert the gas tube into the gas tube hole on the upper receiver. Slide the tube in as far as necessary to allow it to clear the gas block. Insert the opposite end of the tube into the gas block until the opening in the tube lines up with the opening in the gas block as pictured above.
Use a roll pin starter punch to insert the roll pin into the opening in the gas block. User a gas block roll pin punch on the other side of the gas block to hold the tube in place.
Once the roll pin has engaged the gas tube, finish installing it utilizing the gas tube roll pin punch.
Forward assist and dust cover installed? Check. Barrel installed? Check. Gas block and tube installed? Check. We’re getting close!
Time to install the handguard.
As mentioned earlier, we really like the Diamondhead handguards. They’re easy to install, relatively lightweight, top quality and provide a distinctive look to our rifles.
To install a Diamondhead handguard, remove the hex-head screws at the rear of the guard, slide the guard over the barrel and onto the barrel nut, reinstall the two hex-head screws, ensure that the Diamondhead rail is aligned with your upper’s rail and torque down the hex-head screws.
Told you it was easy! No timing of the barrel nut. No muss. No fuss.
One last component to install before we drop in the charging handle and the bolt carrier group – the compensator.
Your basic $500 bargain bin AR typically comes equipped with a flash suppressor/hider at the muzzle end of the barrel. The flash suppressor/hider does just that – tones down the muzzle flash … but not much more.
A compensator is designed to provide some flash suppression but primarily to counteract, or compensate for, the rise of the muzzle as the rifle is fired. This reduction in muzzle rise allows the shooter to get back on target quickly. That’s a good thing if you’re trying to put multiple rounds on a target in a short period of time.
Incidentally, a brake – which may appear similar to a compensator – is intended to reduce the recoil (often called ‘kick’) of a firearm.
We chose the Precision Armament M4-72 compensator for this build. It’s gotten some good press based on its price and effectiveness. Based on Precision Armament’s product information, it appears that their intention for the M4-72 is to reduce both recoil and muzzle rise.
Because the compensator controls the direction of the muzzle, it is critically important that it be installed absolutely in line with the vertical axis of the barrel. Incorrect installation will cause the muzzle to rise to one side or the other. A compensator must be “timed” to the barrel to ensure this vertical alignment.
A timing kit is basically a set of washers in various widths. The washers are installed one at a time as the muzzle device is test-fitted for vertical alignment. It’s a bit of a tedious process but careful attention to detail pays off in accuracy and performance.
Start by placing the thickest washer on the muzzle of the firearm and then test installing the muzzle device.
As each washer is installed, thread on the muzzle device. The device should hand-thread to within about 1/4 turn of vertical. This will allow the device to be torqued into place at absolutely vertical.
We use a small torpedo level to check alignment of the muzzle device to the rifle. With the upper receiver locked down in the vise clamp, lay the level on top of the receiver’s rail. Take note of the location of the bubble.
If you look closely at the photo above, you will notice that the right side of the bubble is touching the line on the right side of the level tube. This was done purposefully. We utilize a bench with adjustable feet when assembling firearms or installing scopes. The feet have been adjusted so that a level laid on the top of the reads exactly like the level pictured above. This removes any guesswork from reading the bubble in the center of the level tube.
In order for the compensator to be properly installed, a level laid on top of the receiver should read exactly the same as a level laid on top of the compensator. If the top of the compensator is not flat, or if the receiver is not a flat-top receiver, this process will be more difficult.
Note to barrel and muzzle device manufacturers: Proof marks would be really, really nice!
Prior to the final installation of the muzzle device, place a couple drops of high temperature adhesive on the threads of the muzzle. This will help keep the muzzle device from un-threading itself over time and flying off the end of the barrel. We use Rocksett adhesive.
That’s pretty much it. The hard parts are over. If you’re assembling your bolt carrier group (BCG), do so. Once you have an assembled BCG, slip your charging handle into your upper, slide in the BCG and ensure that it operates smoothly.
FTC Disclosure: Some of the items reviewed in this article were provided at no charge.
When we met the folks at RISE Armament at SHOT in January, they were nice enough to invite us to the Oklahoma Run and Gun competition. The competition sounded like a lot of fun and … made for a great excuse to build a new rifle.
The Oklahoma Run and Gun is a 5k or 10k race that combines physical obstacles and challenges with shooting targets out to 500 yards. Competitors are required to carry a center fire rifle and pistol, ammunition for each and any other gear or water they need for the race. The race is held in mid-July so water is critically important.
The first challenge: Build a relatively lightweight, yet accurate, rifle for run and gun style competitions.
This article will be the first in a series of three. In this installment, we’ll list out the various parts, prices and reasoning for each. In the following installments, we’ll document assembly of the upper and lower of our Run and Gun AR-15.
Yeah, we know, everyone and their brother has done AR-15 build articles and videos. Many of those articles and videos have been produced by people building their first AR. We also know that you expect more from us than to simply follow the crowd of other evil black rifle builders. Fortunately, because we know that, we intend to provide something a little different in this series of article.
First of all, we’re experienced. With dozens of AR-15 builds under our collective belt, this is not our first rodeo. You’ll benefit from our experience, learn from our mistakes and, hopefully, pick up a tip or two along the way.
Secondly, we’re building a rifle with a specific purpose. We intend to detail that purpose and discuss how each component of the build was chosen to meet that purpose.
Finally, while there are dozens – maybe hundreds – of articles and YouTube videos with relatively poor photos and shaky, out-of-focus video, there are very few with high quality photos that demonstrate some of the more intricate details of assembling an AR-15. We intend to deliver our usual quality photography to help highlight some of those details.
Yankee Hill Manufacturing A3 Upper Receiver: $101.50
Precision Armament M4-72 Severe Duty Compensator: $90.00
Muzzle Brake Tuning Kit: $10.00
Diamondhead Low Profile Gas Block & Tube: $35.00
JP Enterprises Tuned Buffer Spring: $19.00
DPMS Buffer: $10.00
Briefly, we chose the Yankee Hill upper because we’ve built several AR-15’s on these uppers and have had nothing but good performance at a reasonable price. Tolerances are always in spec and everything always installs easily.
The Radical Firearms barrel was new to us. We were looking for an accurate barrel that didn’t weigh a lot. “A lot” is subjective but the SOCOM profile is a good, middle of the road profile – in terms of weight – and we had heard good things about the quality and accuracy of the Precision Firearms barrels. This was also our first Melonite coated barrel. Supposedly the Melonite coating supposedly increases the hardness of a barrel while decreasing the amount of expansion during the coating process when compared to chrome lining. A chromed barrel must be over bored to allow for the lining which typically leads to a barrel with looser tolerances than those of a Melonite barrel.
We met the guys from Fail Zero at SHOT Show in January and wanted to give one of their NiB (Nickel Boron) bolt carrier groups a try.
Bravo Company’s MOD4 charging handle is pretty much our standard when we build AR’s. We saw no reason to mess with success here. It’s nice to have a familiar feel to and placement of the major operating components of a rifle being used in competition.
We’ve also become a fan of Diamondhead’s handguards. They have a unique look, simplified mounting hardware (no barrel nut tuning required) and have never given us a problem.
Precision Armament’s M4-72 compensator had seen some good press, both in terms of performance and value, so we decided to give it a try.
The gas block and tube, buffer and buffer spring were chosen based on past experience and value for the money.
As we contemplated this build, there was no question as to which trigger to run. The RISE Armament RA-535 trigger is a thing of beauty. It’s installation is simplistic. It’s performance is fantastic. We’ll take a closer look at this trigger in the lower build article in this series but suffice to say the RA-535 is a race gun trigger for your AR.
We found a deal on “blemished” Spike’s stripped lowers and have never had a problem with them in the past so we picked up one with Spartan markings for this build.
To keep the weight down, we chose the ACE Ultra Light stock. As far as we know, it is still the lightest stock on the market.
In keeping with the relatively lightweight design, we chose a Magpul K Grip pistol grip. Much like the ACE Ultra Light stock, we believe the K Grip is the lightest pistol grip on the market.
Finally, we used most of the parts from a Palmetto State Armory lower parts kit to accompany the RISE Armament trigger inside the lower.
Trijicon ACOG 4X32 Optic with BDC Chevron Reticle: $1189.99
Armageddon Gear Carbine Sling: $45.00
Diamondhead VRS 2″ Rail Section: $13.00
Magpul RSA QD Sling Swivel Rail Mount: $28.45
GovTec QD Sling Swivel: $6.50
Although the ACOG optic nearly doubled the price of this rifle, we feel it was well worth the investment. If you’re counting on a rifle in a competition … or to keep you alive … you want the best glass you can afford with the fastest aiming possible. In our opinion, ACOG optics are winners in both categories.
After meeting and competing with Tom Fuller, the owner of Armageddon Gear, they have become a go-to source for slings, cases and other firearms-related soft goods. Their carbine sling is no exception.
The Daimondhead rail section was chosen to match the Diamondhead handguard which is not a quad rail handguard. The Magpul QD sling swivel rail mount and GovTec swivel are proven performers.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series: Building the Run and Gun Upper.
Historically, precision rifle chassis have come in two flavors – heavy or expensive. Often, you could find a hybrid of both – heavy and expensive. Modular Driven Technologies (MDT), a Canada-based manufacturing company, has changed the equation with their Light Sniper System (LSS) chassis. At just less than $400.00, U.S., the LSS chassis could be considered “budget-priced” and, at just 1 lb, 12.1 oz (as purchased), it’s definitely on the lighter end of the precision rifle chassis market.