For those who have built a few AR15s here and there you are bound to have extra parts laying around; sometimes you have a few, sometimes a lot. All it takes is a tipping point of that one extra part to start off a new AR15 build, because after all you have most of the parts - right? In this case, I had just received a 7.5" AR15 pistol barrel from MicroMOA Artisan Arms to test out and wanted to pull together a build to start testing.
In reality I knew that at some point I would feel the drive to take the great guts of this pistol and drop it into something fancier and less of a home brew looking rat rod AR15 pistol. This was more of a test of the top end guts versus a build to look pretty.
The glut of AR15 parts now on the market has regular forged uppers and lowers selling for well under $100 and blemished units for around half that. I reached into my pile of blemished Anderson Manufacturing $40 uppers and selected one, unpackaged a new complete Sharps Reliabolt Bolt Carrier groups they had provided for review, some random charging handle I had laying around, a used set of YHM fold-up sights I picked up at the last gun show, and a Bushnell TRS-32 which had I scored six of for $69 each. As a side note the TRS-32 is a phenomenally durable red dot for the price, though it usually runs around $80. I also had a Mission First Tactical Tac Light which is perfect for this type of pistol CQB build.
For a complete upper, I was short a few components including a muzzle device and handguard. PWS was nice enough to provide one of their PWS CQB compensators which after testing is the one and only brake/compensator I will recommend for and CQB or home defense rifle/pistol which is intended be shot indoors. Without it, you will likely suffer hearing damage after the first shot of a 5.56 round going off indoors, with the PWS CQB compensator, it still is not particularly quiet, but leagues quieter than any other brake I have ever tested. The design redirects the sound directly forward, so the shooter and shooter's eardrums do not get hammered with the concussion of each shot.
All I had laying around for handguards were a couple longer handguards over 12", so I was faced with a decision to impatiently wait for a couple weeks for a handguard or create my own unique work of handguard rat rod art using my Little Machine Shop Mill. I elected for the later and grabbed a rather beat up and well used Black Rain Ordnance quadrail and started the transformation into an extended pistol length 9" handguard.
Though a big task to cut and mill down all the picatinny rails off the billet Black Rain quadrail to create the handguard features and weight I wanted, it was a fitting project since when paired with my completed 80% Billet Matthews Carbine Company. The MCC lower receiver I also completed using my Little Machine Shop mill. The MCC lower build was completed with a PWS billet buffer tube and ALG trigger group. With a bare semi-polished aluminum forend, I thought the build might look pretty cool.
CUSTOM MILLED BLACK RAIN ORDNANCE
The first step was removing as much of the anodizing as possible. This was certainly not required, but would generate the look I wanted to match the naked Matthews Carbine lower. Four of five coats of Heavy Duty Easy Off oven cleaner removed the anodizing, with a rinse and a little scrubbing between coats. Any little problem spots were hit with a stainless brush bit with my Dremel tool.
I cut the handguard with a hacksaw roughly to length and then milled each side to remove the extra Picatinny rails I didn't want and also squared up my hacksaw cut at the front end.
To get that been there and done that look, all edges were radiused with a file, I polished the entire handguard with with a scotch brite pad, applied one final coat of oven cleaner, rinsed, and then hand and lightly Dremel polished the entire handguard with Flitz. I think it turned out pretty cool and it is really very comfortable to hold after all that polishing.
MICROMOA ARTISAN ARMS BARREL
MicroMoa exclusively uses Fedderson barrels profiled and chambered by Artisan Arms. The big deal about Feddersen blanks are that they feature the hair splitting SIPR - Single Edged Polygonal Rifling and a trade secret lapping process which on their 10/22 .22LR barrels will deliver sub-1/8" 50-yard groups. I love them so much that I have three of their 10/22 barrels. The barrels are extraordinarily consistent and all the barrels will delivering 50-yard playing card splitting accuracy. You can imagine that I was a bit excited to test out a 5.56 Nato chambered AR15 pistol barrel featuring the same rifling.
One of the keys to accuracy according to Artisan Arms and Feddersen is to break in the barrel with around 300 rounds. After that point the accuracy starts to drastically increase. With this build, those first 300 rounds seemed to fly by quickly. Initial accuracy was tested with my 8x-32x Nikon Monarch at 100-yards at around 2" with Hornady Match 72gr Custom rounds. PMC bronze ammo delivered 3" 100-yard groups. But wait, that accuracy was substantially better after a couple hundred rounds were sent down the barrel. With the same 8-32x Nikon Monarch scope attached after barrel break-in, groups with the same box of Hornady Match Custom 72gr ammo, the barrel actually delivered a 1.13" and a 1.25" groups and almost all my PMC Bronze .223 ammo was delivering sub-2" groups. Most people will yawn a bit at 1 MOA accuracy, however the accuracy starts to look really impressive when you consider that even high quality A15 pistol barrels will usually only deliver around 3" 100-yard groups and that this 7.5" barrel matches most standard AR15 16"+ barreled rifles; all out of a pistol format under 25" long.
What is more impressive is when I start banging away on the 12" steel at 300 yards with just the non-magnified Bushnell TRS-32 red dot as an optic with a 7.5" barreled AR15 pistol. So I guess in this case, I can't help but to ask myself why I would believe I would sacrifice accuracy by opting for a shorter format AR15 pistol vs rifle format. Shooting of the bench is a bit more challenging due to the shorter format, however once you get locked in with a standing position, the pistol is simple to shoot in the shouldered shooting position just as easily as any rifle. A bit more cramped? Yes, but this little bastardized concoction of a build has drastically changed my mind about the frat boy image of the AR15 pistol.
SHARPS BALANCED CARRIER & RELIABOLT
Early this year, I reviewed the Sharps Reliabolt and was impressed with the design and engineering thought which was put into the bolt. Beyond Chrome and NiBo coatings, the AR15/M4 bolt has not changed at all since it was initially designed until the Sharps Reliabolt. Sharps engineers looked at all the potential bolt and carrier failure points and redesigned their Reliabolt to improve reliability in extreme wear, impacted weapon, and alignment situations. I personally have never had any issues with even standard phosphated bolts with proper lube, however I can understand how the Sharps design would greatly enhance reliability and continue operation in near catastrophic weapon conditions.
This year Sharps also released their Balanced Carrier. The design was created to prevent carrier tip, assure proper cycling alignment, reduce receiver and carrier wear, and smooth operation even in harsh conditions without the need for lubrication. Sharps is using the same NP3 Nickel Teflon coating for its lubricity and easy cleaning properties. The carrier and bolt can literally be cleaned with just soap and water. Coat the carrier with any of the newer lubes such as Frog Lube and a soft cloth is all that is needed for cleaning.
SIGHTS & OPTICS
The YHM flip up sight set and Bushnell TRS-32 performed perfectly and reliably. I do not anticipate a need to ever use the YHM pop up billet sights as I have never had an issue with any of my four TRS-32 Red Dot sights. That noted, the TRS-32 is battery operated and I am fairly absent minded, so there may be a situation where a nice set of backup sights could come in handy after the battery has run down from being left on. The sights are made by YHM - Yankee Hill Machine, so you know they will be brutally bulletproof.
The Bushnell TRS-32 delivers 11 brightness settings. Setting 11 is bright enough for sunny days outside, however I would like to see a few much lower illumination settings below the lowest setting for night work - maybe a night vision setting. For the price, quality and included lower 1,3 co-witness ring, the Bushnell TRS-32 is hands down one of the best red dot buys on the market along with its more compact TRS-25 smaller sibling.
Instead of having a single point sling setup to continually whack me in the balls, I elected for a two point sling mount. which mounted on the PWS Billet Buffer Tube and a Fortis Single Point Picatinny mount just forward of the upper receiver on the handguard. This setup delivers an awesome controllable and carryable pistol package which does not bang me in the nuts every time I drop it from my shoulder or run from point A to point B.
This was a really fun build initially put together with some spare parts and some great top end parts to form the guts. I will likely move the great guts of this gun over to a new build those new parts instead of this scratch and dent rat rod build of random parts.
The parts worked beautifully together. I am sold on the PWS CQB brake and the performance of the MicroMoa barrels. The Sharps Reliabolt and Balanced carrier works great and from a looks perspective the brake is crazy cool though I have certainly not challenged this BCG with anything that would employ the design features in the first 600 rounds. I will also carry over the YHM sights and TRS-32 onto the new build.
This build was more a less a quick prototype to see if the whole AR15 pistol concept was worth my time and I can say it absolutely is. The challenge is that I really like this forend I created, so I will need to work up another build to use this handguard again. Look for more AR15 pistol builds and reviews coming. Most will likely feature Fedderson profiled barrels from Artisan Arms and MicroMOA.
Black Rain Ordnance - http://www.blackrainordnance.com/
Primary Weapons Systems - PWS - http://primaryweapons.com/
MicroMOA - Artisan Arms - http://micromoa.com/
Bushnell Optics - http://www.bushnell.com/
YHM - http://yhm.net/
Anderson Rifles - http://www.andersonrifles.com/
Sharps Rifle Reliabolt - http://srcarms.com/
Matthews Carbine Company - http://shop.mccfirearms.com/
Fortus - http://www.fortismfg.com/