Sunday, September 16, 2012

Young Manufacturing Match M16 AR15 Bolt Review

Young Manufacturing Match M16 AR15 Bolt Review

For every round fired, the BCG (Bolt Carrier Group) is generally beat like a red-headed step child. Pull the trigger and the BCG goes to work. The firing pin is whacked by the hammer with thumb crushing force (don’t ask how I know), the tiny firing pin tip hits the primer detonating the round, a bullet zips down the barrel and then things really heat up for the BCG.  

Once fiery gas builds up in the barrel, the gas block and tube reroute some hot gas back to the BCG gas key.  The red hot rerouted gas delivers a 100-125 psi blast behind the three bolt rings which push the bolt forward in a cam-ing effect about .25” forward and turns the bolt face clockwise to unlock the bolt from the barrel. The remaining gas pressure slams the BCG rearward from its previous motionless state, extracting and removing the empty case.  The BCG continues rearward until the buffer and spring deliver a brief delay before violently reversing the rearward direction and slamming the BCG right back into battery at about 6.88 ft/sec or around 5MPH all while still managing to pick up one and only one more round in the process. It does this entire roughly 6” round trip in around .092 seconds. 






This is a pretty impressive feat and elegant when working perfectly, however poor materials, design, and workmanship can make any or all of the fourteen components vulnerable.  It is without a question the most difficult design challenge of an entire AR, performing the most complex mechanics, all while being both durable and graceful enough to eject and grab the next round in the process. 


If any of the fourteen Bolt Carrier Group components fail or be out of spec, then the gun will not fire, not cycle, not feed another round, jam, or cause some other more catastrophic issue. It is the most complex part on the rifle affecting every critical function of the rifle from accuracy to reliability.

Ask a hundred AR owners who makes the best BCGs (Bolt Carrier Groups) and most will name a bunch of manufactures whose name appears on the side of rifles.  The reality is that the industry rarely works that way.  There are only a few true AR component manufactures making AR parts and fewer who made the highest stressed and most functionally critical component sets in any rifle; the BCG. Young Manufacturing - YM is one of the preeminent BCG manufacturers and considered the best in the business.  

ABOUT YM – YOUNG MANUFACTURING
Most of you probably do not know the name Young Manufacturing however you probably do know their products and chances are high you already own a YM BCG if you own a higher quality AR.  Les Baer and Ruger are among a few premium AR manufacturer names that use Young Manufacturing’s BCGs (bolt and bolt carrier groups) however YM has a very long list of customer names.

Manufacturing high quality BCGs is not simple, easy or inexpensive and that has lead to many AR companies using imported BCG parts to hit low starter rifle price points back in the initial AR craze of the late 1980s.  In fact, this is one reason Dan & Debbie Young founded the company in 1991.  Even back then, the surge of AR15 purchases was driving a huge influx of sub-standard, foreign-made parts into the market. Obviously today we still unfortunately seeing this situation more than ever.

Young Manufacturing, Inc. has been at the forefront in high quality Aerospace and Firearms Parts manufacturing with clients such as Talley Defense Systems, Allied Signal Aerospace, Honeywell and of course DoD customers such as the Naval Surface Warfare center.  In early 2000, Dan and Debbie decided to move away from the Aerospace business and focus solely on the exploding firearms related production growth.

To assure the highest quality, Young started by sourcing 100% USA virgin steel instead of the less expensive but inferior imported “re-melt” steels. YM then machines components in its Pheonix USA plant on state-of-the-art CNC machines.  Obviously starting with the highest grade materials and using top end machining technology with a focus on each detail delivers the best BCG in the business. Previously YM purchased bolts from FN and BPM, however as of late 2013, YM has begun manufacturing the bolt as well as all other parts including cam pin, gas key, firing pin, and carrier in house. 

This picky material sourcing and production delivers BCGs which consistently surpass US MIL Specs including their own patented National Match AR-15 bolt carrier and superlight National Match carrier which are prefered by those that like to shoot tiny little groups.  Although their website does not reflect their complete product line, the company also produces a broad array of phosphate and chrome AR-15 and AR-10/308 bolt carriers, flash hiders, rail systems, bolt assembly tools and many other AR related products. At some point I will review a few of those as well.

I decided to highlight these underdog and often forgotten products which are core to the functioning and accuracy of any AR15/M16 by showing two different Bolt Carrier Groups. On one spectrum, I chose the M16 National Match BCG and on the other the AR15 National Match “Super Light” BCG.  In a future article I will include both these BCGs in an article discussing how weight and adjustable gas blocks impacts functionality and recoil, however note that both these bolts delivered premium reliability one is just lighter than the other for reasons I will get into later.
FIT, FINISH, & FEEL
YM – Young Manufacturing offers both a phosphated and chrome lines.  Obviously we know by now that the chrome coated bolts are the more expensive option however Dan points out that the chromed components are designed to aid in cleaning and are a corrosion preventative versus increasing reliability as some claim.  He noted there may be some lubricity advantages to the chrome plated BCGs however he believes the advantage has significantly more to do with providing a more serviceable/cleanable BCG. In any case the fit and finish of both of these M16 National Match and AR15 Super Light National Match BCGs were outstanding.

The only finish I have seen which trumps either of these bolts is the more glitzy FailZero BCGs which are specially surface finished and then Nickel Boron coated; hardly a fair comparison.  My first experience with YM was actually with the Ruger SR-556 line which had bolt carrier groups made by YM. I remember pulling out the bolt and thinking it was the finest quality bolt finishes I had seen.  For a chromed bolt, these are still the best fit and finish of any BCG I have seen with an absence of tool marks and an overall refinement you rarely see on most bolts… you know it looks like someone actually cared about what they were making. 

FEATURES & FUNCTION
YM has a number of unique and distinctive features.  The first is that all the edges are nicely chamfered which adds a level of refinement to the their BCGs.  One of the more distinctive features of their carriers is the angled sides.  Dan noted that this is a design unique to YM however a few manufacturers have copied his design. The angled carrier design it to add a slight stability improvement to the carrier during cycling and reduce manufacturing cost.  Although I do not have a high-speed camera to prove his feature enhancement, both BCGs have been perfectly reliable when tested in a variety of ARs.
Young manufacturing does offer their carriers complete as a group or without a bolt and have various styles including their unique angled design or standard mil-spec rounded styles, and in phosphate or hard chrome finishes.

Functionally both did their jobs, however the feeling was a bit different.  Of course the M16 National Match BCG performed perfectly just as any M16 carrier would however it surprisingly seemed to allow my White Oak barreled Aero Precision Monolithic upper build to group just a bit better. It may have been the wind or some magically force, however this National Match grade carrier reduced my groups over previous groups by about 7%-11% over a month of testing.  

The Superlight BCG had a bit snapper recoil in most of the AR rifles I tested, however it did allow me to fully take advantage of an adjustable gas block on the final home on my JP Barrel upper with an adjustable gas block.  Actually it performed stunningly well and made me remember the reason YM developed the superlight carrier in the first place.  Dan is actually a National Match winning competitor and these guys do some custom things such as having custom gas port locations and sizes to further reduce recoil and increase accuracy (something about bullet dwell time versus recoil forces.. over my head). 

The end result is that obviously the lighter the bolt the longer the gas tube can be which reduces recoil and increases accuracy.  I used the carrier in the more reasonably sane way and just used it with an adjustable gas block which worked SUPER well.  At this point the only BCG lighter is the JP Ultralight carrier group which has its own reduced force spring and buffer. If you really want to take advantage of an adjustable gas block, then you need the YM Superlight BCG.

TO STAKE OR NOT TO STAKE, THAT IS THE QUESTION
There has been a lot of talk about the pros and cons of staking the gas key on the carrier. Many an “expert” including me has advocated or indicated a preference of having the gas key staked. Young manufactuering’s opinion is that they will not stake keys, nor have they since 1991 and this has never been even a minor issue from customers. 

Per YM, the US Mil-Spec assembly drawing requires the carrier key to be staked and “sealed” with Permatex gasket sealer. Contrary to some popular opinions staking does not “SEAL” the gas key and in reality only has one function; to keep the screws from backing out. In addition, staking can cause problems. If you do not properly torque the screws to 56 inch pounds you will be staking a screw that is loose or one that is over torqued and prone to breakage. Although required, to YM’s knowledge, this is a process no one other than YM does.

To complete Permatex sealing and prevent the screw from backing out they first clean the oil from the gas key and the mating surface on the carrier, clean the oil from the screw threads, apply a light coating of Permatex high strength threadlocker gel on the bottom of the key, and allow to cure for 60 minutes. Next they coat the screw threads with the same gel. Install the key and torque the screws to 56 inch pounds. Even the really nerdy AR rarely if ever assemble a BCG from parts because of this precise and somewhat delicate procedure of potentially gluing shut the vent holes. In fact I know of no one who has even done it; it is a task left to professionals such as YM and if the top BCG manufacturer says staking is unnecessary and potentially decreases reliability, I for one believe them.
FINAL THOUGHTS
YM - Young manufacturing is a super premium BCG and a brand which is very well respected in the industry.  In fact many regard Dan as the new godfather of BCGs as his work on bolt refinements have made the AR plateforms work better and longer than we thought was possible.

Whether you are looking for a special Chrome National match BCG or stock level BCG or some thing in between, each and every bolt carrier group is of supreme quality and will enhance the overall functioning of your next AR build.

SPECS
YM M16 National Match Bolt Carrier Group
Weight .70lbs
$245

YM AR15 Super Light National Match Bolt Carrier Group
Weight .55lbs
$265

SOURCES
YM – Young manufacturing, Inc.
www.youngmanufacturing.net

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