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Top tier AR's

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 08:07
mil169 View Drop Down
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I know this has been discussed before other places, but in light of my recent AR dabbling I thought I would ask. With out getting to opionated, what makes a BCM, DD, or Novenske so much better than a RRA or other mid-grade AR platform? How does the rifle I just assembled, stack up? All of the components are from name brand, reputable manufacture's, so what would you do differant to compare it to a BCM or other high end rifle.
 
Here are the components:
Seekins forged upper
Rainier 18" SPR contour barrel, with rifle length gas system
YHM low profile gas block
WOA rifle length gas tube
Spikes tactical full auto BCG
15" MI Quad Rail
YHM 5M1 compensator
BMC Mod4 charging handle
Seekins forged lower
CMMG lpk
Magpul CTR stock kit with carbine buffer
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 08:18
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Materials, Precision, Quality, Quality Control.
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 09:23
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The average user (who puts maybe 1000 rounds through an AR in his ownership of it) will never see a difference.  In contrast, those who shoot with regularity and volume, a few thought to tens of thousands of a rounds a year, see a big, big divide between "decent" and "great."

For the vast majority, who own rather than shoot, "decent" is all you need.

After thousands of rounds, failure rates go up dramatically on the decent stuff, and the good keeps plugging along.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 11:16
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I bought a BCM upper last year.  It had a fixed front sight/gas block on it and I wanted a low profile gas block on it.  I have done this to many standard ARs and never had an issue.  But pounding out the pins on that FS/gas block was insanely hard.  I could not believe how tight those suckers were in there. 

I think it is all the little things like that that will make certain rifles last longer and be more reliable.  I dare bet every single part of the BCM is similar in attention to detail in putting them together as with mounting that gas block. 

There are half a dozen or so machine shops that make a majority of the forged AR parts.  They sell these parts to OEMs.  So if you buy an RRA, or a Stag or S&W, it is possible it is build from the exact same parts and even from the same lot of parts that any of the three were made from.  It is always funny when someone dogs say Bushmaster and then brags about their LAR Grizzly AR when infact LAR makes Bushmaster parts.  Or a CMT vs an RRA, when CMT makes parts for RRA. 

But then you have the higher end stuff like Colt, BCM, and the billet machined parts and they are made to very specific specifications often time in house by the OEM.  I have no way of knowing this, but I had read that forged parts are actually more durable than the billet ARs uppers and lowers.  I bet Rifledude could give us the truth on that being in the industry he is in. 

Rancid is correct for 99% of shooters they don't need a BCM or Colt.  I have Bushmaster I bought in 2002.  It has 15,000ish rounds through it, on its 3rd barrel and the only thing I have changed is the bolt.  It has been very well maintained.  It just shoots and shoot and shoots.  So if a basic AR can have that kind of reliability, and durability I am thinking a BCM or a Colt should really last a long time if properly maintained. 

Your parts list is good.  Seekins makes great stuff.  Spikes tactical is just basic AR parts, I believe they are made by LAR or CMT.   I believe the mid and low grade rainier barrels are just Wilson blanks chambered and contoured by WOA.  Wilson barrels are used by a huge number of AR OEM rifle builders.  Obviously they have multiple quality levels.  The high end rainiers are shilen barrels.  CMMG I believe is LAR manufactured. 

This is a really old list so I am sure lots has changed.  But is kind of gives you an idea of how things all work with AR parts. 
Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT)

* LMT
* Lauer
* DS Arms
* PWA
* Eagle
* Armalite
* Knights Armament
* Barrett

Continental Machine Tool (CMT)

* Stag
* Rock River Arms
* High Standard
* Noveske
* Century (New)
* Global Tactical
* CLE
* S&W
* MGI
* Wilson Tactical
* Grenadier Precision
* Colt

LAR Manufacturing (grizzly)

* LAR
* Bushmaster
* Ameetec
* DPMS
* CMMG
* Double Star
* Fulton Armory
* Spike's Tactical

JVP

* Double Star
* LRB
* Charles Daly

Mega Machine Shop

* Mega
* GSE
* Dalphon
* POF
* Alexander Arms

Olympic

* Olympic
* SGW
* Tromix
* Palmetto
* Dalphon
* Frankford
* Century (Old) 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 15:21
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What really differentiates one AR from another (apart from individual preferences on component selection) is:
1. Barrel quality -- some use higher quality barrel blanks than others. It's a matter of what the "maker" requests. They get the quality level they pay for.
2. Materials used and parts fit in the BCG
3. Trigger quality
4. Magazine quality
5. QC from the company whose name is on the rifle.

The brand of upper and lower receivers and the materials they're made from isn't anywhere near as important as some make it out to be. Some uppers and lowers are made of 6061-T6, some 7075-T6, others 7050-T7 aluminum alloys, and still others are even made from polymers and carbon fiber. Some are machined from billet, some forged and machined, and some cast. Obviously, some materials and manufacturing methods yield mechanically superior physical properties than others in an absolute sense, but those differences are basically irrelevant for the task they're subjected to, except for advertising purposes. The upper and lower receivers aren't subjected to much stress since the bolt lugs don't bear against anything aluminum when locked in battery, and all are much stronger than required. Some uppers and lowers include minor details that others don't, yet they all accept the same industry standard small parts interchangeably. As long as the upper and lower mate together with reasonable tightness and the manufacturer adhered to industry specs, for the most part, none of the upper and lower receivers are necessarily any "better" than another. As Supertool said, a small handful of shops make the aluminum parts on CNC machines for multiple "manufacturers" anyway.

The rest is much less important. Grip and buttstock styles are personal preference. They all work. The same goes for hand guards and gas blocks. A gas tube is a gas tube; pin is a pin is a pin. Outside of the main parts mentioned above, the remaining components used are really no better or worse than other choices that could be made, as long as whoever put the thing together rejected any parts with obvious flaws... which goes back to #5 above.


Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 16:28
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Take a decent company like Alexander Arms. Drop in a good barrel like Shilen. Add a Geissele trigger. The end result is a pretty darn good unit.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 17:20
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Yep. My comments above of course assume a basic level of manufacturing competence to ensure the "simple" details are taken care of (i.e., burrs removed from holes, features checked for size and true positions within spec, gas key properly staked, parts installed in correct orientation, headspace verified, etc.).

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 17:31
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If I had it to do all over again, I'd just get a Colt 6920 and call it a day.....  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 17:39
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Originally posted by cheaptrick cheaptrick wrote:

If I had it to do all over again, I'd just get a Colt 6920 and call it a day.....  


Instead of your BCM? 

I really want to try a Daniel Defense as well.  My cousin has taken several week long armorers courses and he is a big fan of the DDs and BCMs.  A colt would be fun to have as well.

My local Walmart has a colt 6920.  If only I had the cash
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 17:41
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The SWFA SS-AR is top tier.
 
 
Glen Seekins makes the uppers and lowers for us and all the other parts we use are top tier.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 17:46
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Originally posted by Chris Farris Chris Farris wrote:

The SWFA SS-AR is top tier.
 
 
Glen Seekins makes the uppers and lowers for us and all the other parts we use are top tier.


Those are a thing of beauty. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 18:14
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:


5. QC from the company whose name is on the rifle.



The QC is a big issue. I have used a few DPMS ARs that had the factory installed JP trigger and I was unimpressed with it. But the same model DPMS that had the trigger replaced by the local gunsmith with a JP and it is an entirely different story. That was a nice trigger.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 19:32
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Originally posted by supertool73 supertool73 wrote:

Originally posted by cheaptrick cheaptrick wrote:

If I had it to do all over again, I'd just get a Colt 6920 and call it a day.....  


Instead of your BCM? 


Yeah. I like my Bravo and it's been 100% reliable, but I don't think it's worlds better than the 6920. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 20:41
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Correct me if my understanding is wrong. But what I've basically gathered is this: the upper and lower housing don't have much affect on the quality of the rifle as long as you use components that are in spec, gas tubes are basic and not much differant from one to another, barrels affect accuracy but as long as the chamber is in spec it should not affect reliability. But the small parts in the lower (including the trigger)and the BCG are important. The BCG is easy, the BCM is $170 and the Spikes is $140, so for $30 you can have the BCM. But what would you go with for the LPK? Should I just by the KNS turned lpk and add trigger and springs? Do they make that much of a differance?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/08/2014 at 22:04
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Quote) barrels affect accuracy but as long as the chamber is in spec it should not affect reliability.


Barrel chamber and barrel extension tolerances will effect ammo options. The match grade barrels I have used don't feed steel case ammo. I know, why would anyone feed a match rifle cheap ammo. Believe me it happens. I've had to drive more than a few cases out of a barrel. I do like the colt uppers for a rifle that will eat anything you have on hand. But my colt ain't a match grade rifle either. I've also never had a Bushmaster that would feed steel cases. I do recall a few here that said they had no problems with theirs. I haven't been so fortunate. Ofcourse now I have enough brass that I don't consider steel ammo any more. Hopefully those days are long gone.  

As for triggers and springs, it really comes down to what your goals are. If your shooting bench and want a light crisp trigger then you build to that. If your into plinkin and shootin a yote or varmint the same set up will work but is it worth the expense? I wouldn't use a AR for home defense unless it was the first thing I could get to. But I would prefer it to have a crisp but slightly heavier trigger to help prevent a adrenalin punch fire. That's why you see JP Enterprise offer different spring sets for law enforcement vs bench and varmint.  

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/09/2014 at 09:52
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Just want to watch this subject.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/09/2014 at 11:51
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Originally posted by mil169 mil169 wrote:

Correct me if my understanding is wrong. But what I've basically gathered is this: the upper and lower housing don't have much affect on the quality of the rifle as long as you use components that are in spec, gas tubes are basic and not much differant from one to another, barrels affect accuracy but as long as the chamber is in spec it should not affect reliability. But the small parts in the lower (including the trigger)and the BCG are important. The BCG is easy, the BCM is $170 and the Spikes is $140, so for $30 you can have the BCM. But what would you go with for the LPK? Should I just by the KNS turned lpk and add trigger and springs? Do they make that much of a differance?


I bet 90%+ of your accuracy comes from the barrel.

A few years back I bought two exact same WOA 16 barrels with matched bolt.  I wanted to do a few tests to see what would happen.  Once of them was a break in test (in my testing it made zero difference)  The next was I wanted to build an AR with all high end parts and one with basic parts.

So I bought a Sundevil Billet upper an lower, Young Mfg match grade chromed carrier.  Timney 3 lb trigger

The second I bought Del-ton upper and lower, Del-ton bolt carrier.  Milspec Delton trigger. 

I shot the same ammo out of both of them.  Handloads 75 grain hornady match with varget and wichester brass.  They both were free floated

Both of them would easily shoot sub .5s and 100 yards 5shot groups.  I got a few .3s with both of them as well. 

I eventually sold both of those guns in parts, just because I like to build and sell and build again.  But for the most part now, I could care less what the parts are.  As long and I have a decent barrel I am happy.  I still do like to make sure I buy good quality carriers that have MPI tested bolts and properly staked keys, but everything else matters very little.  I don't even care about triggers that much.  I have stock triggers in most of my ARs and for my needs they work just fine. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/09/2014 at 15:52
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I do not have any real high end ARs, but all the ARs I currently have I built myself out of pieces I picked, so I got to look at a lot of them very carefully.

Using quality parts is a big deal and having seen how some, supposedly reputable, people assemble these, I just said screw it and started building them up myself.  I sure as hell pay more attention.

My 5.56 has Voodoo barrel which is very good for the money, but not a top tier barrel.  Still, of the pencil barrels, this is my favourite.

I am a big fan of clamp-on gas blocks.  Every time a gas block moves on me, it has a set screw design.  Pinned gas blocks are good, but a pain to remove.  

5.56 Lightweight carbine:

Double Star lower and upper
Voodoo nitrocarburized pencil barrel 14.5" with YHM flashhider
Vltor clamp on gas block
Generic gas tube (they are all made in the same couple of places)
RRA chromed BCG (I might get a higher end BCG and use RRA as a spare)
Lancer carbon fiber handguard
Geisselle SSA-E trigger
RRA LPK
Ergo grip (but I wrap these anyway)
Vltor Imod stock kit


The barrel is pretty accurate for a pencil weight design, and the trigger is very helpful in extracting that accuracy.  I finished the build not too long ago, but have not had any issues so far after a few hundred rounds.  This is the rifle I use for positional practice, so I expect to have a couple of thousands round through it by the end of the year.  We'll see how it holds up.

ILya
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/10/2014 at 14:44
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The other gun I assembled, I used a clamp on gas block. My only concern was getting the ports lined up. I just kind of guessed at top dead center and went with it. It must have worked, as the gun has functioned flawlessly for the most part. My question is, is there a scientific way of locating a clamp on gas block?

Edited by mil169 - July/14/2014 at 21:12
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/10/2014 at 15:45
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I use a pencil and just draw lines
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/10/2014 at 15:54
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Originally posted by supertool73 supertool73 wrote:

I use a pencil and just draw lines


Me too. And, I do prefer a clamp-on gas block to a setscrew or pinned one.

One other option you can do if your gas block has a flat top (mine has integral rails on top and bottom) is to level the rifle in a cradle on the receiver rail, then once the rifle is level, put the level on the top of the gas block flat, level, and tighten.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/10/2014 at 15:57
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I had a barrel once where the gas port and the barrel extension were not square with each other.  So my gas block was slightly turned.  Still worked fine, but it would not have worked very well if my gas block would have been a front sight. 
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If your dealing with flat top upper and your gas block has a short rail or flat top you can lay them upside down on two blocks and tighten the screws while holdin some down pressure.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/10/2014 at 16:15
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Thunbs UpAnother good tip. Thanks, Mark!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/10/2014 at 16:21
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The flat top gas block would definitely make it easier. I tend to like the low profile versions like YHM clamp on and set screw style. I just didn't know how much tolerance there was to line up the gas block to the port. Is there a general size the gas port on the blocks are machined to?
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