Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Aero Precision Limited Edition AR15 Builder Sets

Aero Precision Limited Edition AR15 Builder Sets

For well over five years I have been using Aero Precision receivers for a variety of builds, reviews and articles simply because of one reason - Quality. I can count on the builds looking great, going together without a problem and performing exceptionally. In fact, I was one of the first writers ever feature Aero Precision back when they were primarily an aerospace manufacturer and were just starting to make receivers. From my perspective Aero Precision are the best quality forged mil-spec upper and lower receivers on the market for AR builders. What should not be surprising is that they also OEM manufacture receivers for many AR15 companies people would recognize. Over the years Aero Precision created the COP (Continuous Optics Platform) forged upper which remains the strongest full monolithic upper receiver on the market. They also introduced one of the simplest ambi-receivers on the market and later a lightweight and insanely strong semi-monolithic M4E1 receivers.

The company has always been very creative in their product development and marketing. Aero Precision was also one of the first large manufacturers to start offering factory cerakoted stripped receivers and accessories. That initial custom offering has now morphed into offering Limited Edition Builder sets that deliver a stunning platform to complete your custom build.

A few years ago, AP began offering basic black or flat dark earth finished builder sets which included a M4E1 upper and handguard with forward assist and ejection port door installed, a stripped lower receiver, and extended trigger guard. The kit concept was stunningly popular with AR15 builders. The builders ended up with a well engineered, tight fitting build that was ready for whatever parts they wanted to use.

AP decided to expand that idea by offering a limited edition run each month featuring custom themed finishes. Per their plan, they will never repeat any finish, so each limited edition set is truly limited - they will not make more. The best way to be notified about an upcoming builder set is to follow AP on one of their social media sites. If you see one you like, my advice is you better buy quick. Each monthly run is limited to only 200 units and they do sell out very fast usually within a day or two of release.

Over the last year, AP has offered a wide range of limited run finishes includes some from Blown Deadline, Legal Manufacturing, and many others notable finishing companies plus some custom cerakote colors you just do not see very often including this Noveske Bazooka Green cerakote AR15 pistol. Each of these custom finishes would cost at least $200, these builder kits are a significant bargain at $499 considering AP sells the all black builder kit components for $390. Plus there is no waiting to the backlogged coaters to work your project in. You are almost guaranteed that you will not see anyone at the range with the same AR15.

With several of Aero Precision’s initial titanium, bronze, and silver cerakoted AR15 builds complete, I was a little slow to jump at at least of their limited edition sets and missed one of the Blown Deadline sets that I really wanted. From them on, I have kept my eyes peeled.  Late last year, I was able to grab a Legal Manufacturing coated Nickel Boron Battle Worn finish builder set. A receiver and handguard set coated in NiBo, who would not want that. A couple months later, Aero Precision had Noveske Bazooka Green cerakoted builder kits. I was late to the party however it turns out a short handguard builder set was run as a test and luckily was able to snag that… truely a one off custom.

These days the builder has it pretty easy. For both builds, all the parts with the exception of the Black Hole Weaponry barrel and ELF trigger components were all sourced from either Aero Precision or Brownells which made things incredibly easy. Brownells does have an enormous selection now of AR15 custom parts including some of the more custom parts like Battle Arms Development and VSeven. Notably being able to lay out all the parts in one shopping cart does really help me visualize how everything will work together and saves a ton on shipping from various vendors.

Nickel Boron Battle Worn - I am not sure I am completely done with this build. I think I am still too awestruck at the finish to figure out what I want to do with some of the mil-spec part replacements and which paracord would work to wrap the stock. Likely this build will resurface again. 

The shown working build was completed with a Black Hole Weaponry 18” polished .223 Wylde stainless steel light weight stainless steel barrel, Brownells Ni-Bo Bolt Carrier Superlative Arms adjustable gas block, Stainless steel ALG Defense Brake, Geissele SD-E trigger, charging handle and Super Precision 34mm scope mount, KNS Anti-Rotate Pins, YHM Pivot Pins, and Bushnell Elite Tactical ERS 3.5-21 34mm scope, Magpul grip, and Ace Stock. There is no doubt that the Geissele SD-E trigger and Bushnell scope allowed the Black Hole Weaponry barrel to deliver some stunning groups for this slim lightweight barrel.

Noveske Bazooka Green AR15 Pistol - This true one off custom builder set Aero Precision had done was a production sample to just to test the color. It did have some blemishes since it had been a well handled sample, but I freaking love it. Though I usually love to add in something shiney, I opted to just go with basic black even though pretty much every accessory on the gun was aftermarket custom. 

The unique flat billet aluminum ejection port cover and smooth line bolt release are VSeven. Other accessories are Mission First Tactical grip, BCM Charging handle, KNS anti-rotate pins, Battle Arms Development magazine release, and Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter to keep things compact for storage.  

YHM Bolt Carrier Group and pivot pins were used along with a new pencil profile Ballistic Advantage 10.5” barrel tipped with a Wilson Combat flash hider. I have never tested any ELF components and they are all top tier quality. Featured on this build was an ELF flat adjustable trigger and button safety which were both unique and exceptional upgrades to any AR15. The ELF Button Safety is insanely fast to manipulate.

The quality of these builder kits are phenomenal and the price is quite reasonable considering what you are getting.  

If you have walked through an AR15 build and made your build mistakes with a cheap lower receiver and now have all the appropriate tools, this would be my recommended next step to creating that really nice AR15 for yourself with top shelf components. 

Brownells also does have all the tools to complete your next build the right way. Coated AR15s are the big thing this year from everyone in the AR market, but I think Aero Precision is still way ahead of the curve with these unique limited edition builder sets. Follow Aero Precision on social media to be one of the first to own the next AP limited edition set.

Black Hole Weaponry -

Sourced from Brownells
Ballistic Advantage
KNS Precision
Vortex Optics
Law Tactical
Ace Stock
Mission First Tactical
Battle Arms Development
Wilson Combat
Phase 5 Tactical
Superlative Arms

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Barrett REC7 AR15 Pistol Build

Barrett REC7 AR15 Pistol Build

Here we have a very rare Barrett AR15 Pistol. I know what you are thinking… at the moment Barrett does not make an AR15 pistol and well, you would be right. This Barrett based AR15 pistol is probably one of the few in existence anywhere, but more importantly this build makes for a rather interesting story.

There I was sauntering into my local FFL dealer and I see about ten stripped un-released lower receiver sets strung out across the counter. Among the various names were Saber Defense, Manroy, and oddly enough, Barrett. I snapped up the two naked un-anodized Barrett receivers immediately then asked “how the hell did you get these?”  Those poor REC7 Barrett receivers had been on an interesting journey. As still happens in the industry, Barrett did not make their own AR15 receivers initially, they actually used Saber Defense which was the company who also was making many parts and mounts for the M2 Browning Machine gun and Minigun, stellite .50 caliber barrels, and a number of sundry military defense parts. Saber Defense was indeed one of “the” go to arms manufacturers internationally. Saber Defense was very well regarded as producing one of the most accurate AR and M16 rifles made complete with hand fitted premium match barrels.

The journey of this receiver started when the old Saber Defense owners allegedly illegally imported suppressors from Finland, and also illegally exported firearms to Saber Defense’s sister UK division. As it was conveyed to me, Sabre and its executives were named in a 21-count federal indictment in 2010 that accused the owners of falsifying shipping labels and using false-bottom crates to hide firearms.… ya know and then the ATF raided them, shut down the company, filed charges, and allegedly threw people in jail.

This poor little receiver and its brothers were left in limbo as inventory until Manroy USA beat out Colt in an auction and purchased the assets of Saber Defense for around $5 Million and restarted the company in 2011. A short time after the acquisition, there seemed to be some discrepancy on what happened next. One version of the story is that Manroy USA continued the illegally export firearms allegedly shipping thousand AR15s labeled as “farm equipment” to Russia and other soviet bloc countries. Another version is that Manroy USA was in essence a shell company supported by creditors and manufacturers of Saber Defense to keep the company afloat and fulfilling military contracts while other sources for the critical military parts could be identified. 

Of note, FN did actually purchase some of ManRoy’s assets between 2011 and 2016 which was rumors to be the majority of the non-AR15 military parts. Yet another story was that the financial damage of the initial ATF closure was so severe that it damaged the sales beyond repair. Whatever the reason, Manroy sold off the remaining brand and Saber Defense assets in 2016 to New Empire Industries of Lincoln Nebraska. New Empire wanted to focus on premium barrel manufacturing but from my understanding in talking with New Empire they also still own all the other Saber Defense assets and brand. 

The legacy inventory of AR15 Saber Defense, ManRoy ad Barrett receivers ended up on the counter of my FFL dealer being sold off by New Empire who also happened to still be in the store while I was buying my receivers - very interesting discussion.  Sometimes the story is more interesting than the build. I only paid $75 for each receiver and left very happy.

The Barrett receivers were both in perfect condition, but understandably heavily oxidized from sitting around for nearly seven years without anodizing. After briefly realizing that the last stripped Barrett REC7 sold on Gunbroker for $650, I will confess that I briefly considered selling off the receivers, but I spared them that fate. My best idea for the receiver was to do something really different that was based on showing a weathered look in recognition of the hard road the lower receivers traveled in the last seven years. After looking everywhere for a matching non-anodized upper receiver, I was rescued by PWS/Bootleg LLC who was nice enough to take two anodized Bootleg uppers and bead blast them for me. The problem is that fresh bead blasting does not match well aged seven-year old oxidized aluminum.

The process to get “the old aged oxidized aluminum look” on the Bootleg bead blasted upper required a process of 1000 grit sanding, dremel sanding, Scotch Brite pad and dremel polishing, hand Flitz polishing which I repeated about four times to get the new rough PWS bead blast finish down to the smooth level of the Barrett receiver finish. The upper and lower receivers were them pinned together with KNS Push Button Pivot Pins, hand polished to assure the sheens of both receivers matched, then carefully re-Scotch Brite pad rubbed to give them that well worn look. The two receivers were then carefully wiped down with a 50%/50% bleach and water solution to deliver the heavy “old oxidized look in certain areas”. After a rinse, the set was placed in my Hornady Ultrasonic cleaner and run for an hour total. The exposure to the Hornady cleaner solution and water smoothed out the work of the bleach and mellowed the finish with the additional more subtle oxidizing. A little coat of oil on the receivers was all that was used to protect the receiver from any other significant oxidation.

If you have this cool retro aged looking receiver set such as this, you might as well splurge a little on all the extra parts. It seemed to me the finish was subtle enough that only black accessories would due which included: Mission First Tactical extended magazine release, trigger guard and pistol grip. At some point MFT is going to either send me a nasty letter about chopping down their grips for AR pistol builds or start producing shorty AR15 pistol grips - I am hoping for the later.

Other goodies were KNS Anti-Rotate pins, American Defense Ambi Selector, Mission First Tactical trigger guard, extended magazine release, and magazines, Strike Industries Bolt Release, Timney Match trigger, Phase 5 Tactical Egg Plate QD mount, Hex-One Pistol buffer tube, and Phase 5 billet charging handle. A Fail Zero Bolt Carrier Group was used to drive the brand new 2017 Ballistic Advantage Modern series Pencil profile 11.5” barrel. An ALG Defense Keymod forend and muzzle brake were added to complete the front and of the rifle. For optics I wanted to used something different which ended up being a Sampson Fixed Front sight and MaTech 200-600-yard back up sight with a Burris AR-F3 red dot.

At the moment the ATF is not frowning on shouldering an AR15 pistol with just a buffer tube, so I left this build without a Stabilizing Brace so if the accidental contact to my shoulder happened, ATF would not come parachuting down from the sky to fine and jail me. As I have found with pretty much every well thought out AR15 pistol build, the accuracy of these AR pistols is seriously impressive. I was able to keep the 6-inch hostage swinger swaying all the way out to 300-yards easily and with the MaTech rear sight zeroed, precise shots on silhouette steel torsos all the way out to 600-yards were far easier than expected from a light gun that can be stowed in a standard backpack.

Barrett is likely none too happy about these receivers still floating around out there, but I personally could not be happier. I have a freaking custom Barrett AR15 pistol, who has one of these? The result is a very loud, flat shooting, extremely accurate, little sub-five-pound gun that can be easily stowed into any standard backpack when unpinned… and it even has a story to go with it.

Bootleg Industries -
Mission First Tactical -
Ballistic Advantage -
Timney Match Triggers -
Phase 5 Tactical -
Strike Industries -

Saturday, February 18, 2017

ShivWorks AMIS Armed Movement in Structures Training

Yes Craig Douglas is one of those
instructors who will actually
demonstrate how its done. 
ShivWorks AMIS Armed Movement in Structures Training
… I should have shot Rob

Before I get into why I and others should have shot Rob, the context of the ShivWorks AMIS Amed Movement in Structures training needs to be established. My beautiful wife and I are always looking for training to add to our skill set and we both get extra excited when we are actually able to train together. A few months ago the head of our armed church security team sent out a quick note that a sibling church within our security coalition network was hosting the AMIS class. As anyone should be, I was a little skeptical to out of pocket $450 cost per person for a two-day airsoft based class. We sent a check in anyway without much research based on the enthusiastic recommendation of our sister church team. About the only research my wife did was to Google “Shivworks Sucks” and nothing came up. In fact, the reviews for Shivworks were glowing.

It looks innocent
enough, but its
a kill box.
Having been through some bad training and interactions with some careered but very bad instructors, Craig Douglas was refreshing. He made a point to quickly learn everyone’s name, understand our background, and personally thank everyone for spending their hard earned money on his class - he may be one of the most polite tactical trainers I have found. Yes, of course during the training we all did some rather stupid things and you could see he wanted to blurt out pointed obscenity laced character references, but he didn’t and repositioned the teaching moment into something valuable. Craig Douglas is one of the good instructors who will be patient with you as you learn.

Craig Douglas is the founder and lead trainer of ShivWorks. Craig’s background is military, a highly trained martial artist, law enforcement, plus a career with SWAT and NARC unit experience. '

Generally I have found that the narcotics unit LEO guys have seen and done some shit that military guys will never get exposed to and if they have a lifetime of structure breaches like Craig that obviously adds up to a lot of experience.  

Craig took that experience and developed a number of ShivWorks courses including AMIS to address how to respond when you do not have five other armed and armored up guys right behind you entering a room, securing a vehicle, or dealing one-on-one with combatants. In the case of this ShivWorks AMIS Amed Movement in Structures course, the concept was to provide training on how to move alone through a structure in a hostile situation and get shot less - Craig’s caveat was that “it is a bad idea to clear a room alone unless you really have to, but this is the training how to do it and potentially survive.”

Yeah! Airsoft hurts!
When I heard that the ShivWorks AMIS course was based on airsoft pistols, I felt my eyes roll. Ohhh those are the toy guns kids play in the park with, right? Well I can say after bleeding from getting hit in the face just below my mask with one of the “toy gun” plastic BBs and seeing them embedded into molding, they are not toys. They are harsh incentives to do everything you can to not get shot. The course organizer recommended any reliable high quality green gas powered 6mm airsoft pistol. After a bunch of research I choose two heavily recommended Umarex Walther PPQ M2 (model 2272800) pistols which are perfect replicants of my real PPQ M2 9mm. 

The pistols are available in LEO trainer blue, black and pinkish red. Another reason I did this was because Walther and Umarex are the same company so they offer the PPQ M2 in .40, 9mm, .22LR, .177 Pellet and airsoft versions which offers delivers several low cost training options. 
Yeah! Airsoft hurts
drywall too.

There is a lot to be said for the concept of doing all your shooting with the same gun with all of these caliber options. Of course Umarex offers the various grades of airsoft pistols for popular H&K, Walther, and Beretta pistols so there is good chance you can find something that will work for your training.

Of note there are many tiers of quality in airsoft ranging from $25 spring powered modes, to electric, CO2 cartridge, and green gas powered models. The later CO2 and green gas models are considered the top tier for handguns. 

PPQ M2 Airsoft
Airsoft Trainer
CO2 delivers more velocity but green gas is more economical and far simpler to deal with. Green gas models essentially fill like a butane lighter from a WD-40 sized gas can. Shooters get about two or three magazine reloads out of each refill and I figured about 1000 rounds per refill can. Its pretty economical. I found the big plus was that although the green gas magazines are quite expensive (around $45) they are self contained gas reservoirs and BB magazines so when you slip in a new mag, you have a fresh charge of gas and fresh supply of ammo. With CO2 you would need to stop and swap out the CO2 powerlets.

A real PPQ M2 9mm
For the record, you really do get what you pay for with airsoft trainers and quality training quality airsoft guns are not cheap. The really good ones like the PPQ M2 green gas models start around $120 and go up from there. 

One guy was running a custom $700 1911 airsoft gun that accepted real 1911 parts - the quality was amazing. We all ran these guns really hard and close to an abusive level… and we all did see failures at some point, however the higher quality pistol were more reliable by a wide margin. People tend to get a little irritated when you have to reset the run for the third time because of a malfunction. 

RZ Mesh Dust Mask
Pyramex I-Force Goggles
My problems were solely limited to forgetting to gas up the mags after multiple reloads and due to the abuse on the guns, I briefly lost a non-critical takedown pin but found it and was back in action. If you are going to do serious training then spend the money on a really good airsoft trainer.

A standard airsoft mask, thin polar fleece or hoodie, thin skull cap, premium “match” .26g airsoft BBs all make the shooting more enjoyable, reliable and accurate. I wore a the very comfortable and high visibility RZ Mesh dust mask and Pyramex I-Force goggles since these have more utility than an airsoft mask. It worked perfect. My PPQ M2 was tucked into the same Klinger holster I use for my PPQ M2 9mm.

The course was broken into the science and geometry of room clearing, walk through of the three sets of rooms we used for training, simple four man hide one man seek without guns to identify who sees who first, the same drill with unloaded airsoft guns to understand who “could have” taken a shot first, a repeat with live airsoft guns, and then starting after sunset we did the whole drill in the dark. Most of us were able to run each drill set at least four times and well all died… a lot.

The idea through each run was to work on the room clearing geometry Craig had just taught, however most of us including me decided we knew better on our first and second run and were slaughtered. It was clear that Craig had had a lot of experience with building entry and movement and has thought long and hard about the methods. What Craig does teach you is that there are many right ways for example to clear around blind 180 room partition, but there are a lot of really horrible ideas as well and any of the good or bad concepts might get you killed. His teaching style was to try them all and see what happens… “Every room, building, shooter, and situation are different. You may do a quick peek, slice the pie, or fast dynamic entry. The key is to commit and take action decisively.” noted Craig.

There are those trainings which you seem to get better as the course goes on and those which you get your brain’s butt kicked from the start to the and of the class - the ShivWorks AMIS course is the later. I have never made so many stupid mistakes so fast in my life. Armed entry of a potentially hostile room is an opportunity to make 1000 decisions and none of them are good and most of them horrifically stupid. The class will have me questioning my decisions in that training for many months.

AMIS is an outstanding ego clearing, adrenaline fed, heart racing course which leaves you with a lot to think about mentally and a ton to work on from a mental and physical discipline perspective. Just to name a few stupid mistakes, during the training one guy in our group muzzled a cop entering the scene, I “raced to die” going too fast and seeing too little, muzzle swept innocents, left spaces unchecked, saw and recognized threats I did not address, was indecisive, uncommitted in some actions, was a bumbling idiot in the dark, and fingered the trigger… ahh yes “I should have shot Rob”.

Craig set up a final individual challenge which everyone walking out noting “I have a lot to work on”. Without giving up too much the scenario, the concept was that you were at home alone with a child and hear a very loud noise knowing that your nephew had been asleep for many hours. I breached the door well, cleared the first room, but then I ran into Rob as a bad guy. 

Just entering a room an minding your
own business...
On a side note, during the training Rob was an unwilling, non-complying pain in the ass throughout the training runs. If you told him to put his hands up he would give you the finger and quickly duck around a corner, he would not comply with verbal commands to make it more realistic. 

Then this happens.
Though Rob was actually a really great guy who was helpful, and always there to help before and after each run, during the runs however you really wanted to shot him in the crotch.. twice.  So there I was faced with Rob who was being the same unwilling pain in the ass he was before, I could see he was armed, was not complying to verbal commands but I at least got him on the floor before I heard screaming for the other room. It felt like I spent a hour screwing around with non-compliant Rob. Craig notes that everyone you encounter should be classified as “don’t shoot yet”. Rob should have been shot when I saw the gun.

My new shoot or no shoot formula thanks to Rob - If any two answers are yes lead flies.
Wrong Person wrong place?
Non-compliant (in any way)?
Are they armed?

Back to the final course...just like all but one other person, I left Rob to address the more pressing events and leaving Rob bit me in the butt. Everything in me told me I should shoot him and in fact Rob noted I had my finger on the trigger. My response was “Yeah I was just going to shoot you since you were armed and non compliant”.

Psychologically it would seem that guys do this thing where we get into this nice guy “he is not attacking me yet mode” or we size up someone and overestimate our ability to manage/fight-and-win a person. Though well without my rights to legally shot Rob in the scenario, I did not because I felt I had an overwhelming defensive advantage, but the moment I turned my back he started shooting. I did eventually shoot him and killed the other bad dude, wounded the hostage, and I took two shots in the arm in the process with around twenty something rounds fired just by me - not a proud run at all. For the last week my wife cracks up that I keep mumbling “I should have shot Rob.” If I had, I would not have been shot and there would have been a lot hard plastic airsoft balls flying around the room which would have put everyone in danger in a real situation.

Conforming to the geometry.
Interestingly my wife, the only female in the class, was scary decisive. She cleared the room well and pretty much shot Rob as he aggressively turned toward her and she saw a weapon. Just bang.. right in the naked uncovered throat and then killed the other bad guy and saved the hostage. Only three shots fired, she was not hit and was noted as the most decisive action of everyone in the class. I asked her why? Her response was that as a woman, “We see everyone, especially men, as a potential threat. Not that we are necessarily weaker, but even at my height of 6’-1”, I am not going to take on the 225-lb 6’-something armed Rob, I need to act quickly when a threat is realized.” A couple of the guys called it the mama bear instinct. I think it is something else. Woman do not have the good guy syndrome nor the macho I can take him mentality, so they gain decisive seconds responding to a threat. She saw the same thing I did, she just responded more decisively.  It was an interesting psychological experiment to say the least.

At this point I have been through a lot of training that adds up to around 500 hours. The NRA taught me safety, many other classes taught me accuracy, speed and force/tactical aggression gunning tactics, the Israelis taught me how to run a gun hard and deliver a high level of force aggression in a gunfight, and ITI trained me on vehicle based tactics and driving. I would rank ShivWorks AMIS extremely high in my training with probably the best instructor I have had yet. If I was staging a training order for a new shooter the order would be a safety course, your CCW class, a run the gun course, then the AMIS class before any others. I can now understand why over half the class was filled with people who traveled from all over the US just to attend the class.

Controlling the bad dude and then
the cop arrives. Drop the gun SLOWLY...
The AMIS training was a notable gap for me in my training. The Israelis did some training on Armed Movement, however not to this degree and they are extremely tactically aggressive with very high rates of fire when entering rooms. 

There were a couple limited situations on runs where that method paid off and I was able to push opponents into a corner with a high rate of fire, but patiently clearing a room was new for me. In fact as a high strung impatient person with a lot of run and gun experience it was a brutally painful for me. 

Craig kept telling me to “stop 3-Gunning it” and slow way down and see everything before moving to the next area that could kill you. It was was really, really… really hard to go that slow, but I went from die-ing all the time to a least a couple clean runs.

Would I recommend this course? Yes… yes and yes again. There are more than a couple occurrences during your training which you will look back on and say “that piece right there could save my life.”