Sunday, April 1, 2012



There are undoubtedly a plethora of AR manufacturers... some old and some new, some with long histories and some just starting up. The AR brands which have done well are those which are innovative in their product line and concentrate on doing one thing really well. The AR15 community has been very receptive of these new AR ideas and brands, but those that have been simply just “Me Too” brands probably will not last.  
With this industry background in mind, I was excited to stumble on a CIV Tactical which is literally only about six months old as of March 2012.  They have done something unique and innovative in the market; they provide upgraded and custom grade AR kits and uppers assembled with care by a certified gunsmith and along the way delivery a tremendous amount of value. Their name CIV stands for Custom Innovative Versatile which is a perfect description of what they offer customers.  

I have seen most less known manufacturers concentrate on price point focused kits or just basic standard AR15s.  Nothing wrong with that as we have seen companies like Spikes Tactical, Del-Ton, and Bravo Company explode with growth over the last five years by just producing solid basic rifles.  On the other end, there are now a number of ready-to-shoot top end ARs such a Black Rain Ordnance, Barnes Precision, and JP Enterprises and fully customized versions like we see from Yankee Hill Machine.  

What is missing in the industry is an AR kit focused company who offers entry to high end kits from mild to wild with completed uppers. This is the niche CIV Tactical fills with ready to roll custom uppers and kits they refer to as 90% Build Kits.  You supply and assemble your own lower receiver with the included CIV parts kits and simply pin on the complete upper.  Not to shin kick any of the great manufacturers out there, however none tell you a certified and trained gunsmith is assembling all or a portion of your AR, with CIV Tactical every rifle upper is assembled by the in house gunsmith, the right way to assure reliability. 

Initially I ordered a CIV Tactical Urban Tactical Type 90% Build Kit which at that time, was one of only three kits offered by the company.  After being so impressed with the build I also ordered a Custom 18” Type 1 Three Gun Competition complete upper as well. As of this article CIV Tactical’s offering continue to grow, built with great options by a professional gunsmith, all at a great price.

The lower is probably the most difficult part of the AR build, but the least likely to screw up by a novice, the barrel on the other hand is fairly easy with the right tools, but it easy to screw up and can leave you swearing with accuracy and functioning problems.  Generally I recommend people buy the uppers complete unless they are skilled at AR builds.  The CIV gunsmith assures barrel torque is correct, gas tube alignment is in spec, barrels are lapped to the upper receiver, and headspacing is checked.  With both kits, CIV Tactical delivered two very solid upper builds.

URBAN TACTICAL TYPE 90% Kit - CIV is providing high quality components and assembling the uppers solidly.  Once I finished the build of my Makay Enterprises Lower receiver with the CIV supplied DPMS parts kit, it was happy enough with the kit I picked up the below 18” custom upper as well.
18” CUSTOM TYPE 1 THREE GUN UPPER - This kit features many of the same components as found on the Urban kit, up to the start of the barrel.  At that point the very nice Midwest Industries SS Series free float tube and custom fluted .223 Wylde chambered barrel deliver a very high quality custom rifle upper as nice as any I have seen considering the $725 for the complete upper.

URBAN TACTICAL TYPE 90% Kit - The Urban kit was pretty feature rich for a kit gun.  The complete fully assembled upper included a JD Machine M4 flat top forged receiver with T-marking on 1913 spec top picatinny rail, 1:9 twist chrome lined 16” barrel, JD front picatinny gas block the same height as the receiver, M16 phosphated Bolt Carrier Group, standard charging handle, Yankee Hill Machine Phantam flash hider, and flexible accessory handguard which allowed removal or attachment of included rails at any 45 or 90 degree point on the handguard.  

CIV Tactical supplies a standard DPMS parts kit including buffer tube assembly and standard mil-spec furniture with the option to upgrade to Magpul MOE grip and forend.  For $700 this is a great deal as a some of the primary upgraded components in the kit such M16 BCG, chrome lined barrel, Phantom flash hider, and free-float handguard add up to quick.

18” CUSTOM TYPE 1 THREE GUN UPPER - This upper takes the upper receiver components further and upgrades the barrel to a 1:9 twist stainless version chambered in .223 Wylde which is a match/target chamber which improves accuracy.  

The barrel is twist fluted and tipped with a Midwest Industries Impact muzzle brake, both which adds a very nice custom detail that you would not expect on a $725 complete upper.  

The forend is also upgraded to a 10” Midwest Industries SS-Series forend and the low-profile gas block is tucked under the handguard.

I had zero problems or reliability issues with either one of the builds and they were both tested heavily.  One of my friends who helps out on testing day arrived at the range 500 rounds of .223 and we worked these two CIV builds over heavily.  The Urban kit we flogged from the first magazine but the 18” Custom probably only saw around 150-200 rounds that day as we took turns walking that barrel through a typical break in proceedure in hopes of maximizing accuracy over the long run but both kits have seen at least another 300 rounds each without any issues.

Of note, the 18” Custom upper was amazing to shoot.  Although the Midwest Industries muzzle brake looks pretty gothic it delivered very flat shooting form the upper with reduced recoil and almost no muzzle rise.  This shows CIV is really paying attention to cherry picking through components included in their kits and ensuring they are anything but typical and deliver great performance and value.

On the next range trip I hit the 100 yards range and attached my Leatherwood Hi-Lux CMR 1-4X scope to each and used Hornady 55gr GMX Superformance and 55Gr TAP rounds.  Generally these consistent rounds provide me with a good idea of the accuracy potential of the rifles

URBAN TACTICAL TYPE 90% Kit - Best group of the day was .9” with most groups with the above rounds in the 1”-1.25” range. This is right in the same range of accuracy as you will see any quality standard barreled AR so I was pleased.

18” CUSTOM TYPE 1 THREE GUN UPPER - The Custom upper was very accurate and I think the accuracy will improve even further with more rounds down range. I managed a three-shot .65” group with Hornady TAP 55gr rounds with most groups coming in right around .75” which is very impressive accuracy considering the cost.

I like what CIV Tactical is doing with their product offerings and definately like the price point to performance ratio I saw on the kit and custom upper.  If you want something even more custom or just other custom parts, CIV has noted on their site that they will also do custom work as well.

I think a lot of people have been there and done the purchase of the basic AR and are now looking for something fun in a kit, but without breaking the bank.  Let’s face it upgrades can get really expensive really quick and starting off with top end components will always be the least expensive option.  

As of this article I noticed that CIV has even more AR kit and Custom upper options.  Judging from what I saw in both these CIV Tactical products, they are delivering exactly what their name implies, Custom Innovative and Versatile ARs... maybe they should work RFGV into their name as well for a Really Freaking Good Value.

  • JD Machine M4 type upper receiver
  • 16" chrome lined barrel with 1/9 twist chambered for 5.56 nato
  • Complete M16 grade matte phosphate finished standard bolt carrier group
  • Charging handle
  • Aluminum free float handgaurd with modular accessory rails
  • YHM phantom type flash hider
  • JD railed upper height gas block
  • Headspaced and checked for proper function
  • Complete DPMS lower parts kit
  • Mil-spec 6 position buffer tube with recoil spring and buffer and an M4 type collapsable stock
  • Buyer provides Stripped Lower receiver
  • Price as Tested - $700

  • JD Machine Tech M4 upper receiver
  • 18" stainless steel spiral fluted heavy profile barrel
  • 1/9 twist
  • 5.56/.223 wylde chambering
  • Non chrome lined
  • M16 grade phosphate finished BCG
  • Charging handle
  • Midwest 10" SS-Series free float handgaurd
  • low profile black anodized gas block
  • Midwest impact device flash hider
  • Price as Tested - $725

CIV Tactical - Custom Innovative Versatile

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