Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mega Arms MTS Monolithic AR15 Upper Review

Mega Arms MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 Upper V2 Review

Several months ago, I reviewed the Mega Arms GTR-3S Billet lower receiver.  Initially the Mega Billet lower was the foundation for a DPMS Oracle kit build, but since has been a favorite base testing platform for a number of AR upper builds. Mega’s billet lower was of such high quality that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Mega’s newest MTS Modular Monolithic AR Upper.  Ideally the MTS V2 should be mounted to Mega’s GTR-3H custom billet lower to merge the hex profile around the stock tube, however as you can see it looks just great on their AR15 spec billet 3S version or on any standard forged lower for that matter.  
I have said it before and I will say it again, in five years, the entire industry will be offering monolithic uppers as standard equipment as they are the next logical evolution in the AR15 platform.  Monolithic uppers integrate the upper receiver and a free float forend into a one-piece upper receiver. This offers the advantage of a stronger overall structure from charging handle to the end of the forend, no flex to throw off optics previously straddling a receiver and forend, and nothing to loosen. Generally you save a few ounces when comparing a monolithic upper to a equivalent free float forend mount plus receiver and generally you loose nothing in the process from a functional perspective.  Most Monolithic uppers feature integrated or removable picatinny rails like on this Mega Upper.  The only downside is that you will pay a slight premium compared to a equivalently equipped receiver plus free float forend.

The Mega billet upper offers a number of advantages including strength, weight, and comfort that I will get into in a moment, but only an upper does not an AR15 make.  For this build, I used a number of Mega Arms products including the MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 V2 Upper, Tactical Trigger, Grip Charging Handle, and the GTR-3S Billet Lower.  Adding to the Mega components was a Black Hole Weaponry 16” LTM Mid-Length Barrel straight heavy profile with 3-land Polygonal 1:8 twist rifling and .223 Wylde chamber.  From PRI I used a Low Profile Stainless Steel Gas Block and gas tube.  To drop weight, I chose an Ace Ultra Light Stock Assembly which includes a rifle length buffer. To assure the hammer and bolt were all slicked up for lube-free operation, a FailZero M-16 Bolt Carrier and Hammer kit group was installed. Optics were kept simple and light with a Burris Fast Fire II mounted way up front with a Yanhee Hill ½” riser.
As you are seeing in my latest trend of articles, I am building a number or different task focused high end ARs. For this build I wanted to take advantage of the total 20 oz. weight of the upper and build a ultra-light AR build. The challenge in typical ultra-light builds is that they usually sport a pencil profile barrel  which do not handle sustained fire well and barrel mounted forend which  degrades accuracy. To provide high end accuracy and negate heat problems the Black Hole straight heavy barrel which is in essence .750 from front to back, but this meant I needed to balance out the weight gain. The Ace Ultra Light stock provides over a ½ lb of weight savings and allowed complete build to remain a feathery 6.45lbs.  Swap to a pencil profile barrel and you easily have a sub-6lb gun.

As expected the Mega billet monolithic upper is of the same superb quality as I saw on my earlier billet lower and even matched the deep anodizing of the new upper perfectly.  Quite a feat of consistency considering they are six months apart on the production line.  There were no issues what-so-ever with fitting any of the build parts or the fitment to the Mega or other lower AR receivers in my safe.
After assembly the Mega Monolithic upper makes an AR feel drastically different due to the 1.625” wide forend... drastically different from typical 2”-2.25” AR tubes.  It feels fast, slim, light, and exceedingly comfortable with the ribbed and vented forend.
First off the one piece 7075-T6 billet aluminum Mega upper adds an “O-my-God” level cool to an AR build.  There are not that many monolithic uppers out there presently and I was literally mauled at the range with questions. All the usual design aspects have been treated with Mega’s design flavor for something that is truly custom looking.
Mega has two version of this monolithic upper, this smooth version and a quad rail version for those that need four feet of picatinny rails. This version still has flexibility and is drilled and tapped for Mega’s various sized picatinny accessory rails.  Mega includes one 3” accessory rail, but you can add as many rails as you need for equipment.  They also have Rife, Carbine and Pistol length versions as well.

As with most free float forends, Mega has their own castled barrel nut.  The barrel nut can mount any stock or standard barrel and requires no gas tube indexing. This allows the barrel nut to be accurately torqued without worrying about tube alignment. Because there is no bottom barrel nut access hatch on the upper, Mega includes one serious looking long pipe style wrench with the upper that allows you to tighten the barrel nut. If you run out of ammo you can use your barrel nut wrench to defend yourself.
This new V2 version has a few upgrades from the original version including prolific lightening and venting of the handguard. The dust cover and forward assist are both pre-installed, and of note is the blind mounted hinge pin which is a pretty trick little detail all by itself. The top rail has grey T-marking every other slot, but the most notable feature, when pulling the Mega Monolithic upper from the box, is the very light 20 ounce weight.  Generally most free float forends alone are in this weight category.  For those that want to run a piston kit, only the Adams Arms Piston Kit for the MTS will fit the upper. The kit is available through MegaArms.com or Adams dealers.
The Mega monolithic billet upper receiver worked and fit perfectly together and obviously well on other lowers as well such a Tactical Machining Lower it was featured on in an earlier article.  Builders should not worry about fitment to other Mil-spec forged receivers as it will work just fine.
The Mega MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 Upper V2 is without a doubt the most comfortable and easy to push around rifle I have ever shot.  My expectation was with the venting and smaller gauge forend would deliver heat management issues however this was no more an issue than with any other vented forend.  The downside is that if you decide you want to drop in a specialized JP Enterprises heat-sinked barrel, it will not fit in the narrow forend cavity.  Bull barrels should have plenty of room and work just fine.  My intention is not to use this rifle for “tactical” use, so I left off the picatinny rail, however should I decide to add it on for use with my Atlas Bipod, it only takes a minutes to screw in the accessory rail where I need it.
The Mega Grip Charging handle provided a bit extra grip over a standard handle and maintained the look of the build, but I would have like a larger tactical latch.  The Tactical Trigger is very nice for a single stage trigger and is completely adjustable for take-up and over-travel and is excellent for this type of light weight high rate shooting build.  When paired with the Fail-Zero EXO coated hammer, it delivered a custom crisp breaking trigger.  I will dive into reviews on the Ace Ultra-Light Stock and Black Hole Weaponry barrel in later articles, but I will note that both are exceptional quality products.  If you are going to the trouble of a build like this you might as well spring for the high end stainless gas block and gas tube such as the PRI versions I used which are both quality products.
As surmised by the Burris Fast Fire II mounted in the photos, my intent is not for this gun to be a 100 yard tack driver, however it can be.  In the testing process, I mounted my trusty Simmons Predator Quest 6-24 scope and hammered the magnification up to 24 to see what this barrel could do.  The results were several .5” groups with Hornady 69gr TAP ammo at 100 yards and one just under that.  If I need a little extra range, I may slip on a 1-4X scope such as the Hi-Lux CMR scope I am reviewing now. Probably a shame to just have a red dot on this barrel, but it is an outstandingly fast shooting competition rifle in this configuration.

If you ask me to grab a 1000 rounds of .223 and go out for an afternoon of impromptu drills, plinking, and just fun shooting this is the gun I am bringing.  This mid-length system is so easy to shoot and the Ace stock with supplied rifle length buffer makes the impulse feel even less.  Going on the theory that forward mounted optics increase your target acquisition speed, I went to the extreme and mounted the Burris way out front... and you know what? In timed drills I was faster than moving the sight to the back.  I wanted to keep something original and retained the A2 flash suppressor, however I am betting that a compensator ends up on this rifle sooner than later.  For me the $100 difference in price between a high end forend plus receiver and this Mega MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 V2 Upper is worth every penny.  Maybe I can convince Mrs. Pandemic that I quad-rail version is needed.
• Comes standard with laser engraved "T" numbers*(V2).
• Comes with dust cover and forward assist installed.
• Single-rail with smooth hand guard, featuring multiple holes for modular rail attachments.
• Now fluted for lightening and a more aggressive look*(V2).
• Machined to be compatible with the BAD lever*(V2).
• One 3" Modular rail is included with the Carbine and Mid length MTS, & One 4" Modular rail is included with the Rifle length MTS. Modular rails are also (sold separately) & are available in 2", 3", 4" & 6" lengths for specific tactical needs.
• True light-weight billet monolithic design.
• Redesigned dust cover hinge pin for a quality appearance.
• 7075-T6 aircraft grade aluminum alloy.
• Based off our billet upper design, so it matches perfectly to our billet lower, but is compatible with any mil-spec lower.
• Redesigned barrel nut and thread allows use of any stock barrel.
• MTS-120 Pistol accepts only one 2" rail on the bottom and no rails on the sides*.
• For hand guard dimensions including I.D., length, and hand guard width see the following PDF.
• Weight 20oz.
• M.S.R.P. $592
• Barrel nut and wrench included
• Model MTS-900-M
• Compatible with some Adams Arms gas piston systems however not compatible with the standard Adams Arms gas piston system

Mega Arms MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 Upper V2 $592
Mega Arms Tactical Trigger (4.5lb pull)                       $91
Mega Arms Grip Charging Handle $33
Mega Arms GTR-3S $206
Black Hole Weaponry 16” LTM Mid-Length Barrel     $247.50
PRI Low Profile Stainless Steel Gas Block .750 Dia. $59.50
PRI 223 MSTN Straight Quiet Control Brake SS         $79.95
PRI Stainless Mid-Length Gas Tube                          $16
Ace Ultra Light Stock Assembly                               $114
FailZero M-16 Bolt Carrier and Hammer kit group       $265
Burris Fast Fire II                                                     $175
Yanhee Hill ½” riser                                                  $40
Lower Parts Kit     $60

Mega Arms

Black Hole Weaponry
Fail Zero
PRI - Precision Reflex
Ace Stock - J&T Distributing

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