Sunday, February 28, 2016

Aero Precision M4E1 Upper Receiver and Ambi Lower Pistol Review

Aero Precision M4E1 Upper Receiver and Ambi Lower Pistol Review

It should be no surprise that Aero Precision keeps turning up in my articles. They make some of the highest quality upper and lower receivers in the industry. was actually one of the first editorial sources to feature Aero Precision back when they did not have a website and their primary business was still in aerospace. At that point they were just getting ready to release the COP platform which was licensed by Armalite and now today they make receivers for “many” AR brands you know.

Aero Precision has been extremely aggressive with their marketing and has taken full advantage of the surge in sales over the last eight to nine years to become a real powerhouse brand online and offline. 

From lower receivers to uppers, to their COP platform to their new design integrated M4 upper and handguard, full based AR rifle builder chassis ready to shoot minus the furniture, fun limited edition lower receivers, a strategic partnership with Ballistic Advantage barrels delivering sublimely made barrels, a couple company acquisitions, and now limited edition builder sets custom cerakoted by Blow Deadline. Aero Precision has been on fire.  This AR15 pistol build was to showcase a part of what Aero Precision can deliver to your next build.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES, & FUNCTIONS has reviewed and abused pretty much every one of Aero Precision products in custom builds at one point or another except the M4E1 upper which brings me to this build. Aero Precision M4E1 based uppers are not your typical AR15 upper in that they have a BAR handguard compatible mount forged into the receiver. This one-piece upper combines the handguard mount and upper into a single incredibly strong upper/handguard union. Instead of having a handguard bolted to a collar which is screwed onto the receiver, the handguard is just bolted directed onto the receiver itself and thereby has no contact with any portion of the barrel.

The system is significantly stronger, overall lighter, and runs cooler than a standard receiver and handguard mount. Another reason for this style of handguard is that it delivers a huge 1.8” internal diameter that will accommodate even largest suppressors and compensators. Although this handguard may seem a bit proprietary, it is actually compatible with other BAR style handguards. For example Seekins Precision and Spikes Tactical BAR handguards are compatible with the Aero Precision M4E1 upper or you could just buy one of Aero’s stunning BAR compatible handguards. Aero Precision M4E1 handguard is a great custom setup which provides monolith level strength with railed, keymod, or MLok rail options. The final large gauge handguard is extremely comfortable to handle, offer improved heat dispersion, and compatibly with any suppressor.

Aero Precision now also offers Complete M4E1 Uppers which include a complete factory built upper including barrel and flash hider minus the charging handle and bolt carrier group.  

According to Brian Deal with Aero Precision, “Customers often have some particular charging handle and BCG in mind for a build, so we sell the base Uppers without these items, but have them available as add ons.”  In this case I slid a Phase 5 Tactical Ambi Charging Handle and Complete BCG into the upper and it was technically ready to fire. I did swap out the A2 birdcage flash hider with a Phase 5 Tactical “FatMan” Compensator which probably the coolest looking comp on the market which also delivers a superb braking effect.

Of course if you have a really cool upper, you need a really cool lower to go with it and I chose the Aero Precision Ambi Lower receiver. If you asked me quietly in off the record, I would tell you that the AP Ambi Lower is the most ergonomic and functionally well thought out ambi AR15 lower on the market. I may even add that it uniquely delivers both bolt release and bolt catch functionality with one lever and is fast and easily masterable with very little practice, but that would be… ya’ know off the record. For this custom AR15 pistol build, the AP Ambi Lower was an easy choice.

Beyond the Phase 5 Tactical Ambi Charging Handle, Bolt Carrier Group, and FatMan compensator, a super cool Phase 5 Tactical Hex-2C buffer tube assembly was added to the lower. Though the Hex-2C buffer tube features a nice foam cover on half the tube length, I opted to do a midnight blue paracord overwrap. The same paracord was used on my own custom cut down and re-textured A2 pistol grip as well as wrapping the Hi-Lux Micro Max-b-Dot riser.  

The featured Hi-Lux Micro Max-b-Dot red dot is an amazing red dot with a 50K+ hour run time, which features a near tint-less tube which in turn provides an extreme amount of clarity and enhanced low light vision. The Micro-Max is extremely compact and comes with flip-up lens covers, kill flash filter, and spare CR2032 battery compartment in the battery cover. For a street price of around $200, the Micro-Max is one of my new favorite red dots.

A few months later I added a Law Tactical Folding
Stock Adapter to allow this awesome little AR pistol
to slip into any small backpack.
Other little touches include a KNS JJ Anti-Rotate pin, Seekins Billet Mag Release Button and Trigger Guard, and a HiperFire EDT trigger. The HiperFire EDT are a huge step up from mil-spec with less creep, and a more crisp break all for only around $80 on the street.

This build is far from done and destined for a new custom paint job and a few more upgrades so stay tuned. As the build sites, the Aero Precision 1:7 twist barrel (made by Ballistic Advantage) delivered a light and accurate AR15 build that operated flawlessly.
With the added Law Tactical Folding 
Stock Adapter it added an very much appreciated
inch of overall length to the buffer tube.

The FatMan comp is loud, however not as loud as expected and not nearly as loud as most other chambered brakes previously tested. My suspicion is that due to the size, the brake is actually partially shielding the shooter from some of the blast which was nice. All around this build was a lot of fun to shoot and turned out to be my lightest AR15 build yet which was an unexpected surprise. 

As a Brand Ambassador for Optics Planet, they provided us with the very well made and high quality Hi-Lux Micro Max Red Dot for this build. The build easily delivered a few 1” 25- yard groups with just the Hi-Lux Micro Max Red Dot with just some PMC Bronze ammo off a sandbag and hammering through the 4”-6” steels at 50-yards was simple. I love this build… now one to the next phase of paint and a few other additional upgrades.

M4E1 Assembled Upper Receiver
Enhanced Handguard of choice (Keymod, M-Lock, Picatinny)
7.5" 5.56 Pistol Length CMV Barrel, 7.5”, 1 in 7 Twist, 1/2"x28 Threading, Chrome Moly Vanadium, QPQ corrosion resistant finish both inside and out, .750 gas block, Pistol Gas System Length:

Receiver forged from 7075 T6 aluminum
Precision machined to M4E1 specs
M4 feedramps
Matte black hard coat anodized Mil 8625 Type 3 Class 2
Laser engraved T-marks
Assembled, with port door and forward assist installed
Accepts standard AR15/M16 components
Handguard mounting platform is forged into the receiver
BAR compatible handguard system
Barrel nut and wrench are included
1pc free float handguard design
Handguard Rail is Machined from 6061-T6 Aluminum
Built in Anti-Rotation tabs on handguard
Scalloped rails
Continuous top rail
1.8" inside diameter fits most muzzle devices and 1.5" suppressors
Chamber: 5.56
MSRP $345 (Includes complete upper excluding BCG and Charging Handle)

Aero Precision Ambi Lower
PDQ Ambi-Bolt Release: Allows user to lock the bolt back as well as send the bolt forward
Material: Military grade steel
Coating: Matte black hard-coat anodized Mil 8625 Type 3 Class 2
Made in the USA
MSRP $165

Other featured Products
Phase 5 Tactical Hex2-C Buffer Tube - $79
Phase 5 Tactical Fat Man Comp - $115
Phase 5 Tactical Bolt Carrier Group - $160
Phase 5 Tactical Charging Handle - $80
Phase 5 Tactical Lower Parts Kit - $65 custom paracord - $10
Hi-Lux Leatherwood Micro Max b-Dot - $249
HiperFire EDT3 Trigger $99
KNS Precision JJ Anti-Rotate Pins - $40
Seekins Precision Billet Mag Release button - $10
Seekins Precision Billet Trigger Guard - $20
Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter -$260 (added a few months later) Highly recommended.

Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

Aero Precision -
Hi-Lux Optics -
Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter -
Phase 5 Tactical - -
Seekins Precision -
Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot Sight:
Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot Riser:
Hi-Lux Leatherwood at OpticsPlanet:
Use code "MAJOR5" for 5% off your entire order

Thursday, February 25, 2016

OKAY Industries SureFeed Genuine Military AR15/M16 Metal Magazine Review

OKAY Industries SureFeed Genuine Military AR15/M16 Metal Magazine Review

For an of my regular readers you know that I have a meandering path of interests which lead to my [cough] unique editorial content. As of the end of 2015 and the start of 2016 I seem to have a developing interest in the more traditional origins of the AR15 and by accident discovered the OKAY Industries SureFeed AR15/M16 magazines. Surely you are sick of some stupid editor pitched the virtues of yet “another new AR15 magazine”, but I was surprised to find out that the SureFeed mag was the original and first 30-round magazine every developed and are still considered so good that the remain as the preferred U.S. Government M16/AR15 magazine today. OKAY developed the first 30-round M16/AR15 magazine when the military wanted to bump up capacity from the first twenty round mags. Interested peaked? Read on.

OKAY’s military magazine manufacturing history dates much further back than the company’s 1973 development of the 30-round AR mag we know and love today. The company, previously called B Jahn, actually was one of the manufacturers of the WWI M1 Carbine magazines, which they made in the millions.

Due to the high manufacturing demands of the US military contracts over the years, the OKAY SureFeed mags have been difficult for consumers to obtain due to being tied in part to the now halted Colt Military contract. OKAY had a lot of fans of their SureFeed magazine in the military and made a decision to expand into consumer sales.

With a longstanding reputation of reliability when lives are on the line, OKAY has made reliability mandatory. All the SureFeed magazines are 100% USA made with all American made components that meet or exceed MilSpec requirements. All SureFeed magazine bodies and floorplates are made from lightweight aluminum which is then heat treated to Mil-Spec requirements for strength and durability. OKAY then hard-coat anodize and finish the mags in either Mil-Spec dry film lube grey or Tactical Black PTFE. A four-way, anti-tilt, self-lubricating, non-hygroscopic resin follower and high performance Mil-Spec stainless steel spring keep rounds properly aligned and tensioned for flawless performance. After running these mags for about a month now through all manner of AR15 rifle and pistol, I am satisfied that they deliver total reliability.

Of much debate within the military ranks have been the reliability of issued mags and some of those mags may have been OKAY SureFeed mags. With millions of SureFeed mags issued, re-issued over and over in military service since the mid-1970s there are plenty of their mag components which have been abused to the point of affecting reliability. It should be noted that although a process is in place to remove damaged mags from service, a large portion of damaged mags end up back in circulation. Additionally SureFeed has updated its magazine follower design several times over the years. The net of this background is to note that you should not judge the reliability of any magazine that has potentially had a twenty year old service life and been beat to hell in the process. New factory fresh SureFeed mags are still regarded as the gold standard of reliability of M16/AR15 metal mags.

We all are infatuated with the durability of reliability of polymer mags over the last couple decades, however metal mags still offer a lot in terms of durability in certain situations. Aluminum magazines still deliver the advantages of avoiding the potential for shattering or swelling in extreme temperature conditions and retain compatibility on all US Military STANAG magazine based firearms. Thus the rational the military as a whole still uses metal magazines instead of polymer magazines. Most people would be surprised that aluminum mags are at least in most cases the same weight as polymer mags and are actually lighter than many reinforced polymer magazines.  If damaged, the aluminum magazines can be bent back into a useable specification, however once polymer magazines are broken then cannot be easily field repaired to a workable specification which is certainly a consideration.

All OKAY SureFeed magazines are made under strict ISO quality manufacturing standards. Each SureFeed mag, weld, and spec is fully and individually hand and electronically inspected and then function tested before shipment. OKAY calls this non-destructive testing the”magazine scuffing process.” The testing process does scuff the mags and cosmetically mars the finish, but the process in no way impacts performance, durability or reliability. No other manufacturer fully tests every magazines this thoroughly. SureFeed has a well earned reputation for being the most reliable USGI magazine available. Top end quality does not mean unobtainium level prices. Most retailers are selling the SureFeed 30-round magazines for $12.99 which is about the same as most polymer mags.

My perspective on AR magazines are that they must be reliable and I have personally tested many polymer and metal magazines which fit that criteria. I have also tested some me to metal and polymer mags that do not. Thankfully most magazines do deliver very good reliability including polymer magazines like MFT, Magpul, Troy, and HexMag and metal magazines from Brownells, OKAY, Elander, and many others. My only challenge with a polymer magazine was a very old hard used polymer magazine failure during a freezing cold day. On the other hand I have proportionally had many more challenges with metal magazines generally due to often tighter manufacturing spec range of non-milspec receivers favoring the more forgiving design of polymer mags.

I am not going to be the editor who says metal mags are better, because I do not believe that to be true in all cases. Depending on the application and destructive test completed, there may be analytically supportable data to reach for one material over another - both have their place. The SureFeed mags are exceptional quality, arguably one of the highest quality metal magazines, and for only $12.99, why would I choose something other than the original SureFeed if I am buying a metal magazine.

  • 30-round, 20-round, & 10-round - $12.99 MSRP each
  • 100% USA made with all American MilSpec level components
  • Bodies and floorplates are made from heat treated lightweight aluminum
  • Hard-coat anodize
  • Finished in either Mil-Spec dry film lube grey or Tactical Black PTFE
  • Four-way, anti-tilt, self-lubricating, non-hygroscopic resin follower
  • High performance Mil-Spec stainless steel spring keep rounds properly aligned and tensioned for flawless performance


Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

OKAY Industries SureFeed Magazines -

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Custom AR15 Paint Job - We don't have to CeraKote to have Deadpool’s Gun

Custom AR15 Paint Job - We don't have to CeraKote to have Deadpool’s Gun

Warning - If you are not a Deadpool fan, you will miss a few self created easter eggs painted into this article.  The weirdness/uniqueness of this build which I have now nicknamed “Deadpool” deserves some background as this was one of those custom projects which was never intended to be an editorial idea or anything more than an experiment.. ya, know like Hollywood actually making a real Deadpool film. It was something ugly which became beautiful in a way I never imagined. Yes… I did touch myself after building this rifle.

My buddy had this weird very early 1970 A2 AR15 with a peculiar giant 1.25” bull barrel presumably designed and produced as an ultimate National Match Rifle. From our research, it was one of the earliest Bill Wylde chambered production National Match rifle made and featured a .223 Wylde chamber. After discovering the barrel delivered lights out ½ MOA accuracy, my friend asked me to swap out the upper for a flat-top receiver to direct mount a scope without a goofy carry handle adapter. Naturally we worked out a trade for that old and retro cool A2 carry handle upper and gas block sight I was lusting over. About the same time Artisan Arms sent me one of their new Match 17.3” Feddersen blank based barrels to test out, so as we know the laws of AR15 building when you have two extra parts that fit together, you have a project started.

I had been craving an A2 carry handle AR15 build for a while after seeing my favorite Walking Dead character named Abraham Ford. He is a badass with an old school badass A2 carry handle M16 - and I wanted one. The traded upper was old, faded light grey, with a huge round forward assist button... it fit the look with an order style I rarely see on modern A2 builds. Now an orphan receiver unmatched to a lower, the upper delivered one of the single ugliest builds I have created when pinned to the Outbreak Ordnance billet lower receiver with its beautiful deep charcoal black anodizing.

To make the initial build look even worse the handrail I was using on the build was a customized Barnes Precision Machine rail. I had been milling the very old and dinged up Barnes Precision Machine quadrail to remove large portions of the rails partly to practice my milling and also to convert a great bombproof rail into something lighter. The milling was decent but the freshly milled uncoated aluminum made the build look even more disjointed.

Another concept I wanted to personally test was co-witnessing a Primary Arms red dot on the handguard in front of the carry handle without a goofy cantilever handle adapter.

About halfway through the project, Star Distributing send over an Ace Skeleton Stock and then a crazy huge Phase 5 Tactical FatMan Brake and amazing brand new AR15 Timney 2-stage flat trigger arrived on my doorstep with nice notes asking that I test them out. I started to feel guilty that that I was going to use these really amazing looking and performing parts in such an abomination of a build. With the above parts, plus Strike Industries polymer ejection port cover and grip, a NiBo BCG, and very old Phase 5 Ambi Charging handle this was one of those builds with $1500 worth of amazing components but looked it still like hell.

It was a project attached to a project attached to a bunch of test ideas and it looked like it. It was like that part of the movie Toy Story where all the weird looking toys had been put together with random parts… it was hard to look at even though I knew it would be an amazingly accurate rifle.  After seeing Deadpool, it was like “one avocado had sex with an even uglier avocado... and it was angry hate sex”. Even after recognizing the potential cost of the build, one of my friends saw it on my workbench and actually exclaimed “Damn that’s ugly.”  It needed a mask.

After seeing the amazing distressed BlownDeadline CeraKote finishes I wanted to try that out on a gun - even a failed DIY paint job couldn’t make this gun any uglier. With that goal in mind, I thought there had to be a way for me to get this finish at home. I know everyone is all jazzed about DuraCoat and Cerakote, however the reality is that neither of these finishes are DIY friendly. Cerakote requires training and a high grade respirator to assure you do not get ceramic in your lungs and DuraCoat requires at the very least a LPHV sprayer and compressor which most of do not own. The finish for this project had to be spray can based because there was no way I was going to dump $400 on a custom cerakote job for this ugly build.

A superb option are the Brownell’s spraycan based AlumiHyde II and is relatively easy for the DIY’er to deliver a professional durable epoxy based finish as good as a professional Duracoat finish. AlumiHyde is not Cerakote, but AlumiHyde is a workable and durable alternative. After many projects, I have zero reservations about spraying down any project with Brownell’s AlumiHyde II assuming the required cleaning and surface prep is completed meticulously prior to painting. In fact even standard white and black epoxy appliance spray paints have delivered really durable finishes even when used in conjunction with the AlumiHyde colors for effects. The problem is that the colors are very limited to muted AlumiHyde camo colors plus the bright white and black of the appliance paints and I wanted some bright colors. Damn it, I wanted a freaky red and black gun with a distressed finish.

AlumiHyde resists chipping exceptionally well, the appliance epoxy has a bit harder finish and is not as chip resistant as the AlumiHyde but delivers a smoother finish. The Automotive ceramic enamel spray paint provides a rainbow of 500 degree heat tolerant color options and a beautiful smooth finish, but will chip like any high grade enamel if you start beating on it. Previous projects have had great durability with several AlumiHyde clear topcoats over the Ceramic Enamel automotive paint even from hard blows. A paint test was completed on a spare Glock Pistol box combining the epoxy appliance paint, ceramic enamel, and AlumiHyde top coat to create the distressed finish and it worked.

Paint prep is essential. If you have so much as one little freaking dot of oil on anything it will catastrophically impact the entire paint job. I disassemble all the components completely and use a clean Dawn soaked scotch brite pad to clean everything, rinse thoroughly, then dry completely by baking all the parts at 200 degrees for an hour, then I wipe everything down again with mineral spirits and re-bake for another hour. After that point the parts are never handled without new rubber gloves on. All the parts or hung or suspended to avoid then moving and banging into each other. For this build the Ace stock was installed after cleaning and the entire handguard, upper, and lower was slide onto a broom handle for painting. This allowed 360 degree painting and a uniform distressing pattern.

I will throw out there that all the cool paint finishes you see on everything from BlowDeadline cerakote custom guns to custom stenciled paint themes have already been done millions of times by some old gal who likes to do craft projects. Your local craft store actually has an entire aisle dedicated to distressed painting themes and another aisle for stenciling, and another just for gold and silver leafing, so none of it is a freaking new idea. All those hot granny paint distressing videos on Youtube straightened me out and delivered some very educational content including the dry brush technique - Yeah! I may have even been holding a unicorn while I was watching the videos.

The old gals taught me that a distressed paint finish is nothing more than one or more base coat colors with a top coat color that is then partially removed by abrasive or chemical means. Apply several layers of a base paint color such as the red ceramic enamel I used here and then a top coat which was a black appliance epoxy paint. The base coat must be fully cured - like if it says it takes a week on the can, wait a week. If you do not, you will easily work all the way through the top and bottom coats during the distressing process. This happened on this project and I needed to respray a few areas to assure the base anodizing was not showing.  Most people typically just use mineral spirits and a rag to do the distressing as I did here. You can use a Scotch Brite as well, but I think that is more work and leaves a rough overall finish. All the distressing on this project was simply with a rag and mineral spirits. Spray on, let dry and and wipe off a little here and there.  

If you want an even cooler effect, two, three or four colors could be used before the topcoat is added. An idea is to think of laying down red, white and blue base colors with a black topcoat and as you wipe off colors during the distressing process you get the colors of the flag. I am sure you get the idea that the distressing process is only limited by your imagination.

After all the distressing was completed and had air dried for a full day, I slipped the entire painted chassis into the oven at 150 degrees for two hours just to speed the curing process. After another day of air curing, I coated the completed chassis with four coats of AlumiHyde II matte finish and baked it again for 150 degrees. The oven is not required it just drastically cuts down on the overall curing schedule. Final touches were reassembly and adding some paracord form to wrap a portion of the buffer tube.

Once this gloriously bad ass build nick-named “Deadpool” was completed, a range trip was required to set up some steel and get “Deadpool” mouthing off.  With that giant Phase 5 FatMan Comp Deadpool is freaking loud and obnoxiously entertaining. The FatMan Comp is a very effective brake, maybe the best I have tested yet with exceptionally flat shooting performance. What is cool about this design is that although it looks long, half of the FatMan is a sleeve that slips over the barrel, so in reality it is an optical illusion that actually delivers a shorter overall compensator than most other compensators - and it looks freaking bad ass.

From a trigger happy perspective, the Timney 2-stage trigger delivers a superb trigger feel. The king of single stage triggers, Timney now offers two drop 2-stage triggers named the Targa. The Targa 2-Stage triggers are available with long and short first 2-lb stages plus the 2lb break of the final stage. Timney provided the $229 Targa 2-Stage Short version and has an incredible feel and brake for precision shots while still being fast during fast shooting.

I am sold on Feddersen blank based barrels and Artisan is the only current company offering finished and chambered barrels for OEM and retail sales. Of course showing the potential of this $260 Artisan 17.3” barrel requires a scope, but at the 25 meter zero target showcased a ¼” five shot group with just the Primary Arms red dot during sight in. Based on a previous builds Feddersen Artisan barrels, I know this barrel will easily deliver sub-½ MOA 100-yards groups with a scope.

The unsung hero of this build was definitely the Outbreak Ordnance billet lower made by New Frontier Armory. The New Frontier lowers and the ones they OEM for other companies such as Outbreak are without question the best deal in the billet lower market. The lower delivers great looks and style with all the cool touches you would expect in a $200+ billet lower receiver. The lower features a heavily flared magwell, threaded bolt catch pin, threaded rear takedown pin detent, and upper receiver tension adjustment screw all for a $129 retail price.

For a gun that was never going to be anything more than just a ugly rifle for testing ideas, it amazes me how well it turned out. Much like Deadpool, this rifle delivers obnoxious report, lots of durability, extreme precision matched with high speed and of course that classic great Red and Black mask that is covering up all the ugly underneath.


Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

Artisan Arms Micro MOA -
Barnes Precision Machine -
Strike Industries -
Phase 5 Tactical -

Star/JT Distributing - Ace Stock -