Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Justification for Packable AR15 Pistols in Vehicles

The PWS MOD2 MK107
is the top tier of AR15 pistols.
Justification for Packable AR15 Pistols in Vehicles

An unassuming $40 Eddie Bauer
pack has a suprise in it
Just a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of having a packable AR15 pistol tucked into my vehicle though I have kept a stowed and cased AR15 or Tavor in the truck for years. More times than I can remember that rifle came in handy during impromptu range trips plus the assurance a few 30-round magazines of Hornady Defense and M855 5.56 can provide when you are stranded at night alongside the road. It also delivered personal assurance that I would have more than just a handgun in an extended survival or personal defense situation with the ability to deliver high precision shots under 100-yards and connect assuredly out to 400+ years if needed. Over the last five years, I have worked through a set of theories based on some discussions with some deep experienced friends which I would like to share. One high ranking Army friend formerly special forces, said “There is no one perfect small arm for any situation, the dynamics of the environment you expect to be engaged in dictate the armament.”  For several reasons, it is my theory that having only a handgun is not enough and an AR15 pistol is the better personal defense and road travel firearm to have stowed in your vehicle.

Discussing my ideas with a few folks who have been there and done that, I began gaming out a few potential theories.  Beyond the zombie apocalypse type events, there only a couple logically probable scenarios which could occur:
  • Personal defense and security during an active shooter situation
  • General support of survival and security needs (such as being stranded or coming home to forced entry situation)
  • Support of movement to a safe location during a hostile/riot situation
  • … and of course an extremely unlikely situation where everything goes to hell and you need a weapon (EMPs, Solar Flares, invasion, zoombies...etc). With all the recent UFO activity, who freaking knows, maybe insane situation #4 is not so insane.

In any other immediate threat situation, the speed and reaction time would require your smaller conceal handgun inside the waistband to come into play first. The logical needs were for a PDW - Personal Defense Weapon which could deliver 90% of the capabilities of a full length rifle with an acceptable tradeoff of shooter comfort. In all those situations Accuracy, Legal Transportation, Accessibility, Maneuverability, and Concealment would all be factors for a firearm stowed within a vehicle.

Over the last couple years I have changed my perspective of AR15 pistols from just range toys to serious viable PDWs - Personal Defense Weapons and probably the best home defense gun you can own. The accuracy of these little AR15 pistols has shocked me. One particular AR15 pistol owned can deliver sub-MOA groups from its 7.5” match barrel - yes it will outshoot most rack grade rifles. Most of my other AR15 pistols with premium match barrels can stay well under the 1.5” 100-yard group mark and will keep my 6” steel target clanging away all the way out to 400-yards with ease. After all, AR15 pistols are in essence the pistol versions of rifles without the stock or rifle classification. The pace at which these little pistols can lay down precision hits is pretty amazing to the degree that I have questioned whether a full sized rifle would really give me that more of an advantage over a PDW for use in, around and out of a vehicle.

The SIG MPX pistol tucks into
almost any small pack
If we look at the reality of most urban combat shooting engagements, they occur statistically well under 100-yards which is a sweet spot for a short accurate PDW - Personal Defense Weapon. Statistically, it is also unlikely that any more than 10-20 rounds would ever be needed to address a single situation, but the PDW can still deliver plenty of firepower with a 30 or 40-round PMag attached. Four or five extra mags thrown into the carry bag delivers a substantial firepower capability. From very light 40gr high shock hollow points to M855 steel core rounds, the 5.56/.223 offers a lot of options for defense, survival and threat engagement. It is also statistically unlikely to have a need for supporting a long term armed engagement, but again the PDW can still handle that requirement as well. Though I was a little sore afterwards, I did spend an afternoon hammering 500 rounds through my truck AR15 pistol. That problem-free beatdown of that AR15 pistol changed my perception of what AR15 pistols could deliver drastically in just one afternoon. The PDW format can bring the firepower. I would gladly suffer a little discomfort for a one foot shorter gun that is 2-3 lbs lighter for this particular use.

A 7.5-inch Aero Precision AR15 pistol
in an ultralight small pack.
One of the most important points as a civilian is the assuring your are arming yourself in a legal manner. If you have a rifle stowed in your car, it can be problematic as you drive from one city to another or across state lines. Many cities and states have goofy rifle laws which can include requirements for rifles to be partially disassembled and cased and placed in a particular way and almost always un-loaded. This can be troublesome.

Conversely if you have a concealed carry permit, carrying an AR15 pistol is covered under your permit because after all an AR15 pistol is not a rifle… its a pistol. Unless you are purposefully doing something illegal or demonstrating how easy it is to shoulder a Sig Brace in front of the police, having a loaded AR15 pistol is just as legal as the handgun on your hip. I would suggest referring to your AR15 pistol as a “legal AR format pistol” rather than just an AR15 if questioned. The point here is that in many cases having an AR15 pistol can avoid unintentionally breaking the law should your rifle not fit the widely varying locals regarding stowage for rifles.

Having a legally stowed, cased, and unloaded full sized AR15 rifle in the back of the vehicle is a viable concept, however accessibility to that gun to put it into action fast is another matter altogether. It hardly seems a sound idea to have an accessible loaded AR15 rifle on the front seat of your vehicle with a blanket over for concealment - you’ll likely get arrested. One the other hand, a concealed carry license allows loaded pistols to be concealed, on the person or within a vehicles or in personal belongings. It would seem that if the need arose, playing a legally stowed, loaded and accessible AR15 pistol in a backpack in the front seat would be far faster than walking around to the trunk, opening it, unzipping the rifles case, and loading the rifle.

Mrs Pandemics Trump Trunk Gun
With a 3X optic, 400-yards is not a
long way at all for an AR15 pistol
Maneuvering a rifle inside a vehicle is a tough situation and most would agree that a short AR15 pistol is more appropriate. If you have ever tried swinging a AR15 rifle around inside a car, it pretty much sucks. Conversely, a 10-inch AR pistol can usually be pivoted from the passenger window to the driver window without becoming hung up on windows, dashes, and steering wheels. Thinking through a multitude of situations which could occur on the road, my theory is that it would be preferable to have a short maneuverable AR15 pistol if facing a survival situation or stranded roadside camping inside a vehicle. If clearing between or around vehicles or through an urban environment to make haste back home, a shorter AR15 pistol would also seem to be the better tool than a rifle.

Though legality is a big issue, discretely being able to move with an AR15 pistol is probably the biggest advantage of all. There is no way even a disassembled rifle is going to slip into a standard sized backpack. If you need to move discretely with your rifle from your vehicle it is going to be really quite obvious you are carrying a rifle around - "Hey over here everyone I am got a rifle! " A 10.5” barreled AR15 pistol equipped with a Law Tactical folding buffer tube adapter or stowed with the upper and lowers receivers unpinned slips nicely into any standard backpack or messenger bag and no one will know.  A 7.5” barreled AR15 pistol with Law Tactical Folding stock can fit into pretty much any smaller pack.

It is my belief that any firearm permanently stored in a vehicle should be easily concealed, and clandestinely moved in a public setting without undue attention. There was one situation where my truck needed unexpected overnight service due to an accident and another where the hotel only offered valet parking. In both situations I had to de-weaponize my truck and walk through some rather public areas with what was clearly a gun case. Those incidents taught me a lesson that discrete cases should always be used to house firearms in vehicles even if it is just one of those non-tactical square soft cases. A similar situation occurred more recently again when I forgot to remove my firearms from my truck before routine oil change, however I was able to grab my Eddie Bauer backpack containing my AR15 pistol and backup Glock 17 and walk over to the coffee shop to wait without anyone taking a second look - that act also happens to be 100% legal in my state. A standard AR15 rifle is just not going to give you that option unless it is disassembled and in a more discrete case like a Hazard 4 Plan C or something similar.

A simple two-point sling or a convertible ALG Defense Quad Dual QD sling delivers a carry option which enhances both concealment and handling. If “it” did happen during a hostile situation where LEO and government officials were on high alert and you did have to trek on foot back home, it would be much better to have a little PDW AR15 pistol concealed and slung under a long rain jacket than walking home with a rifle slung over your shoulder.

Sneaky Bags 31-inch SPYDER accommodates
everything from PDWs, Tavors, and
disassembled AR15s
The discreet carry Sneaky Bags are a wonderful option with plenty of internal tactical storage capabilities. The medium Sneaky Bags 31” SPYDER sling bag which looks like a modified tennis racket bag can conceal several firearms at once, but the weight starts to add up. The standard Sneaky 31” SPYDER bag can accommodate a variety of firearms, for example: a Tavor bullpup rifle, a PWS MOD2 pistol PDW, nearly any assembled 12” barreled SBR or AR15 pistol, and dis-assembled (upper/lower) rifles. It is a handy and extremely well made case.

AR15 pistols of course easy drop into almost any backpack and no one pays any attention to your standard Swiss Army or Eddie Bauer backpack. 5.11’s Select Carry sling pack is designed specifically for PDW use. It has an innocuous shape/style and rapid draw feature that makes it one of my favorites for my Sig MPX 9mm and other AR15 pistols.

An Aero Precision AR15 pistol with Law Folding
Tactical Buffer tube adapter, Dolos QD barrel
System upgraded with a Brigand Arms 
hand guard
If you own an AR15 pistol you are missing half of the functionality of the firearm if you have not installed a Law Tactical Folding Buffer tube adapter. This accessory negates the need of disassembling an AR15 pistol to stow it in most backpacks. Deployment is fast - pull from the pack, slam the buffer tube over and charge the AR15 pistol and shoot. This is a setup that can deploy instantly from any discrete bag when “it” hits the fan. If you are considering an AR15 pistol for your vehicle, then this would be a must have accessory from my perspective.

From tiny to capable in under 5-seconds.
The DOLOS V2 also chops an AR15 pistol down even smaller. The DOLOS delivers a ratcheting quick takedown option to remove the barrel with assembly and disassembly occurring in under 5-seconds. The DOLOS V2 is compatible with any Midwest Industries thread pattern barrel nut handguard which it turns out is pretty common including the very trick Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber handguards.

The stock Dolos V2 QD Barrel removal system
from Pantheon Arms
Combined with the Law Tactical folding Buffer tube adapter, the DOLOS can deliver a 10”x8” AR15 pistol (7.5” barrel) package that will fit in most Ipad sling packs such as the Drago Sentry and most small sling packs. The shown build features a 7.5” pencil profile .223 Wylde Black Hole Weaponry match barrel, Aero Precision receivers, Phase 5 Tactical Hex2 buffer tube, Sig Brace, Nikon 3X BDC optic, and DOLOS adapter with Brigand Arms carbon fiber handguard. This is a 400-yard headshot capable rig that brakes down to only 10”x8” with a 20-round magazine in place ready to party. The last time I was on the range this little pistol shot a .74-inch 100-yard group.

Any firearm within a vehicle has a very high potential to be viewed, handled, and checked during any routine traffic stop. It is my belief that most law enforcement folks are tragically uninformed about what “is legal” when it comes to anything other than a classically sized rifle or pistols. I have had more than a few LEO folks ask me if my Tavor or an AR15 pistol was an SBR. Though we all know AR15 pistols are legally just pistols, however if you are pulled over and you are justifiably searched, I would bet that less than 50% of police would have the knowledge to clearly identify your loaded ready to rock legal AR15 pistol as a pistol - hassle initiated.

The Rogers Rail light is a must for any
AR15 pistol for defense and survival

The Streamlight based light snaps 
on/off any pica tiny rail
and works on pistols and ARs.
Additionally, if your AR15 also looks like an SBR with something a non-firearms educated officer presumes as a stock, you can double the hassle. Sure SB Tactical and Sig Braces are "legal", however this is where I suggest a standard buffer tube might be the better less grey option to avoid extra hassle. Add in that the ATF is again at it suggesting a wildly subjective grade card which could make you heavily accessoried AR pistol illegal, the less to explain to LEOs the better. Notably with the buffer tube extension the Law Tactical Folding Adapter provides, I would submit that shooting configuration to be so comfortable that a Brace is not required. Using a rifle length buffer tube makes for a soft and comfortable shooting AR pistol.

Recently I had a series of discussions with some badass military, LEO, and security folks who were convinced that PDWs were the more correct choice for a vehicle based firearm vs a full sized rifle. Sorting through those discussions, the main re-emphasized points were compact size, firepower, 0-100 yard accuracy/lethality, maneuverability, stowed concealment, and the ability to move with the weapon discretely when not in play. 

From my perspective the AR15 pistol meets those needs perfectly. One of my friends said it well - “If you are going to war a rifle is preferred, but for shots that might be fired in, around and from a vehicle or just for personal defense, a faster handling compact SBR, PDW, or AR15 pistol are tough solutions to beat.”

Mr Pandemics gold and grey tiger stripe
Trump Trunk Gun. The Extended A2 Rifle length buffer tube
improves comfort for my 6'1" wife's wingspan.
After a whole lot of shooting and testing, I like the compromise of a 10.5” barreled AR15 pistol. Its has an exponentially quieter bark and fireball and delivers a velocity jump compared to a 7.5” barrel, and provides a shooting platform that gives the shooter more room to stretch out. 

My new favorite factory AR15 pistol is the PWS MOD2 MK107 AR15 Pistol with Maxim Defense Adjustable Cheek Rest - truly an amazing firearm which packs beautifully in the Sneaky Bags SPYDER.

Since I do not want a $2500 (including the Vortex optic) potentially stolen from my truck, I opted for part-ing together a couple AR15 pistols. The his and hers Pandemic Truck guns are both based on Faxon Govt/Socom 10.5” barrels with Faxon matched headspaced BCGs. 

A very nice, light, and highly accurate AR15 pistol
My wife’s pistol features an Aero Precision upper, YHM Quick Pull Take-Down Pins, ALG handguard, Rogers Rail light, Burris 3X 332 prismatic sight, Black Rain lower receiver, Mega Arms trigger, and Paracord wrapped A2 rifle buffer tube which extends the “cheek weld” for my wife. We call this the Trump Trunk Gun, since Trump likes everything gold plated… maybe minus the tiger stripe.

My truck pistol uses a Clark Carbon Fiber handguard, Rogers Rail light, Nikon 1-4 scope, Aero Precision optic mount, YHM Quick Pull Take-Down Pins, Aero Precision upper, a billet lower, CMC Match trigger, Law Tactical Folding Buffer Tube Adapter, and A2 rifle length buffer tube.

Both of these builds have stood the test of time for me, though I did rebuild my wife's pistol with a FDE paint-job and topped it with a Burris 1-4 MTAC scope. In my kit, I have even added a CMMG .22LR drop-in caliber conversion kit to offer even more utility to the AR pistol.

Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

Thursday, June 3, 2021

How to Build a Crazy Accurate AR15

How to Build a Crazy Accurate AR15

Now with over a decade of gun building and gunsmithing, I have learned a lot and definitely tested the limits of my abilities. What shocks me is with every extra morsel of AR-building knowledge gained, I realize how much I still have to learn.  At one time I believed that only unobtainium level barrels, triggers and components would deliver amazing accuracy, however I have actually found it is more about how the components go together and sometimes really simple things can make or break accuracy. My previously inexperienced brain from years ago had told me things like receiver truing, barrel torque, headspacing were all witch doctor level blessings, but now I know better. 

Truing the Face - Truing is assuring the face of the upper receiver is square and uniform via a lapping process. Similar to blueprinting a Remington 700 bolt gun, this process uses a Brownells or similar drill powered AR Upper Lapping Tool to square up the shoulder of the receiver’s barrel mounting face with an abrasive lapping compound.

This process assures when the barrel is mounted and torqued down, that it mates to a square and uniform receiver face where the barrel nut torque is perfectly distributed around the circumference.

When the barrel heats up, everything will stay aligned instead of a barrel being forced off in the direction of lowest torque point around the barrel extension and stringing shots. 

Honestly it is shocking to me how huge a difference this can make and how out-of-true cheap lowers can be and how much even the premium lowers can benefit from this build technique. I have witnessed this simple process take an unhappy friend’s 1.75-inch grouping match grade barrel and deliver sub-MOA accuracy after Truing. I have yet to find a receiver that had a flawless trued receiver face from the factory, so I would say this process could improve any rifle to some degree - usually about 20%, but could be more. Any surface finish including anodizing will have variances in surface thickness and CeraKote is really bad, so ensuring that all uppers are trued before assembly is critical for shot to shot accuracy.

AR Barrel Extension Bedding - AKA Gluing. After the barrel receiver is trued, the best accuracy will be from a perfect rigid fit between the barrel and receiver that is so tight you can hold the receiver and barrel not will slide out even without a barrel nut. With that noted, we all know that usually our AR barrels will just easily slip-in with the greatest of ease which is not the best for accuracy. The optimal fit is demonstrated by JP Rifles who undersize their receivers and require a cool the barrel, heat the receiver slip fit process to install the barrel. Nearly every top premier tier AR builder beds the barrel to the receiver with at least a “gluing” or heat-fit method… so maybe they know something. My experience has shown that it is well worth the extra time.

Even with a sloppy fitting barrel to receiver DIY setup we can replicate this by bedding the barrel to the receiver. The process is simple and requires something like LockTite 638 or 620 Retaining Compound. LockTite 638 is harder and will fill a wider gap range, LockTite  620 has a 50-degree higher temp (450-degree) rating but half the gap fill range. Yes, you can use Purple, Blue or Red LockTite and maybe even wood glue, however 638 Retaining Compound is the right product for the job and designed exactly for this type of metal to metal bedding application - at $14/bottle will last you a lifetime. My preference is 638 since it will fill larger gaps and is a harder compound with higher PSI rating.

My application is to clean and degrease the barrel extension and do the same for the receiver. I do put the world’s lightest coat of WD-40 inside the receiver to assure that if perhaps someday I would want to remove the barrel, that I can without torches and witchcraft. This also makes post install cleanup of excess 638 a bit easier. Ideally the 638/620 will stick to the barrel extension and not well to the receiver. I screw on a muzzle device and tap the muzzle with a rubber mallet, quickly re-clean the barrel nut threads to remove any trace of 638 with rubbing alcohol and torque down the barrel nut with copper anti-seize on the barrel nut threads. The Retaining compound sets in about 4 minutes so you do need to move the process along. Once together, I clean off any excess 638 from the outside and inside of the receiver and then let everything set up for a few hours. At that point you should have a barrel which is essentially mated to the receiver and will improve accuracy.

Proper Barrel Nut Torque - Similar to the accuracy improvements truing the receiver will offer, proper barrel torque can improve accuracy as well. Armorer spec for AR15s barrel torque is between 30-80 ft/lbs of torque with copper anti-seize (no freaking lock-tie) applied to the barrel nut threads. Most premier builders recommend 35 ft/lbs. With that noted, most home builders wildly over-torque their builds. I have witnessed some home builds exceed 120 ft/lbs of torque and require a torch to remove the barrel nut.

The general rule is to use as close to 30’ish ft/lbs of torque as possible and only increase if the gas tube is not indexing correctly on the barrel nut. Most top builders suggest using a pack of inexpensive shims under the barrel nut to align the gas tube indexing as a preferred method instead of increasing torque. No need to monkey hang from your barrel nut wrench.

Proper barrel nut torque reduces stress between the barrel and receiver which has shown to increase accuracy, but more importantly, it prevents the potential of thread locking the barrel nut to the receiver, or worse, shearing the barrel extension pin and/or torque twisting the entire upper receiver out of alignment. There is a school of thought that very high torque should be used in the 70-ft/lb range, however if the receiver is trued, this high torque nets nothing more than just added stress to the barrel receiver union.

The Zen State of Headspacing - Accuracy is More about Headspace than the Barrel - AR15 bolts ARE NOT self-headspacing but they tolerate a lot of slope before functioning is impared. If there were no locking lugs, self-headspacing could be a little true, however the fit of the lugs between the barrel extension locking lugs and then the bolt face headspace to the chamber are all critical to maximizing accuracy. The relationship between the barrel and bolt is really interesting in that the tolerances for the home AR builder can be too minute to measure - sometimes you just need to find a bolt that gets along with your barrel.  

Shortly before I started to headspace check every barrel/bolt pair, I had this incredibly budget friendly Anderson build using more or less 100% Anderson components including barrel and bolt. Obviously Anderson is not known for premo accuracy, but the shocking part was it was stupid sub-MOA accuracte due to an unusually tight headspace spec usually reserved for match grade spec rifles. Swapping out to another bolt carrier group would show off some rather unimpressive groups, but with that one bolt, it was spectacularly accurate. 

I have always kept that lesson in mind and religiously check headspace with Forrester Go, No-Go, and Field gauges and test different bolts until I can optimize accuracy. When I have horrible accuracy issues with a known quality barrel, 98% of the time I can track it down to some type of headspacing issues or I need to try some different bolts to find one that hits the zen state. Looking back, I have to wonder if some of those premium barrels I could not get to group early in my editorial career that I sold, maybe just needed a different bolt. I usually have a Brownells, Aim Surplus, YM, Sharps, Fail Zero, and WMD bolts to test and it is interesting that sometimes an expensive barrel likes a cheap bolt. 

A “GO” gauge checks the minimum chamber dimension and assures you are a “Go”. A “No-Go” gauge checks the maximum SAAMI spec for the chamber - the bolt should not close on the No-Go gauge, if it does the chamber’s headspace is too loose, but can still be fired until it also fails the longer “Field” gauge. If the bolt closes on a Field gauge, you have a substantial issue on your hands and the gun should not be fired. 

What I look for is a fairly tight lug lockup which just passes the “Go” gauge. The best accuracy will usually be had when the chamber size is closest to the “Go” gauge minimum size. I have found that a bolt that just barely closes on a “Go” gauge will deliver the best accuracy, but sometimes not the best reliability. The closer that spec is to the No-Go gauge size, the less accuracy you will generally have. Many barrels will act as if they cannot perform well, when in fact with tighter headspacing bolt, they can be spectacular. 

Sometimes though the headspacing will check out just fine, but there is some other voodoo at work. As with the Anderson build, I have had numerous other builds which have benefited from just testing various bolts side-by-side until the best accuracy and reliability is achieved. Sometimes too tight of headspacing will impact reliability and too loose impacts accuracy - you have to find the marriage that optimizes both. I have found that buying a factory headspaced bolt from the barrel manufacturer or opting for a factory headspaced barrel/bolt combo will almost always deliver the best possible accuracy. 

For DIY builds, I have seen some transformations that can tighten or loosen groups, however recently a bolt swap on a high dollar Ballistic Advantage Hansen profile .223 Wylde 16” barrel while getting sighted in has been my most extreme example. The barrel was not shooting well at all even with a range of match ammo which these barrels have shown to consistently deliver sub-½ MOA accuracy with match ammo. Both the shown groups were shot with American Eagle ammo which has a reputation as neither great nor horrible in the accuracy department. Same, gun with groups shot only about 3 minutes apart only the bolts were changed. It was an astounding transformation from a 4-inch group to a ½-inch group with just swapping between two high dollar Sharps and Y/M National Match bolts which both headspaced within range just fine. Voodoo I tell you.

This wild and extreme improvement was something I had never before with just a bolt swap where all other components were left identical and the two groups were shot minutes apart. I was so shocked I actually repeated the test and it shockingly delivered the same result. My point is that headspacing can make or break the most expensive barrel in the world on AR15s or even the best ammo, so always check your headspace, and perhaps even test through a handful of bolts for the best accuracy possible. That Ballistic Advantage Hansen barrel went from a future as a tent stake to one of my most consistently accurate builds with just a bolt swap. This technique is something you can try with your AR right now swapping other bolts from other builds. 

The Zen Voodoo of Ammo Selection - I am a big proponent of barrels that shoot consistently which for me means the zero does not dance around a whole lot and does not deliver wildly different accuracy results regardless of ammo. A good barrel for me shoots decently well with the cheapest mil-spec or white box ammo and really well with any quality and/or match ammo. This is a really hard requirement, but one reason I usually like Faxon, Barnes Precision, Black Hole, and Ballistic Advantage, and if you can find the Feddersen (Tri-Arc branded) barrels. Generally, I have found that polygonal, 4R or 5R type rifled barrels are usually less picky across ammo. Unless I have a barrel with insane accuracy with a particular round that I know I can get or reload, I am not a fan of picky “only one ammo shoots well” barrels. 

A good example for me was a gorgeous Proof Research barrel for a Ruger RPR which delivered insane single hole accuracy with one or two specific rounds and was completely inconsistent for me with everything else. The guy that bought it loves it and reloads a special round for it - that just is not me. With that rant noted, finding the right ammo that your gun likes can make a sane man nuts. I have seen some expensive guns and barrels that will only shoot premium tier ammo well and everything else printed like a shotgun and sometimes just one particular offering of those premium match rounds. 

If you have the patience and record keeping diligence to work through a variety of ammo or build up and test your rifle’s favorite, that process can demonstrate a pretty dramatic swing of results that can take your rifle from zero to hero. In most cases, I have found that testing a cross section of match grade ammo of various bullet weights will identify a clear winner of bullet weight and velocity to target finding a less expensive or handloads that closely matches that spec. Oddly enough, I have found that some barrels can favor a rather inexpensive factory ammo over a match grade option. I have a few rifles that prefer Hornady Frontier ammo to match options as an example. Assuming you have your build done right, ammo can help tighten up the groups even more.

Barrel Recommendations - 2021 is a crazy time to buy anything, but if you can buy a factory headspaced bolt from a quality barrel manufacturer like JP, White Oak Armament, Ballistic Advantage/Aero, and Faxon, you will be miles ahead of any headspacing problems.

Most charge a nominal fee of around $50 for the service, but it is worth it. My barrel recommendations would also be in that order. Black Hole is another great barrel option, however they do not offer factory headspace bolts and I do not have much experience with them since they started Columbia River barrels. For the super high end, look to Lilja, Hart, Criterion, Lothar, and Bartlein, but request factory headspaced bolts with the barrels.

AccuWedge - Though the AccuWedge does nothing more than give you a solid lockup between the upper and lower, it will increase accuracy just with a more solid platform that does not move around. For those that are not running higher end AR receivers with integrated tension screws, this is a great option that only costs about $10 per half dozen rubber AccuWedges. They can be trimmed if needed. A more solid platform will net improved accuracy and this simple little accessory removes the wiggle between your receivers.

Torque Matters - A Fat Wrench and a good ½” drive mechanical torque wrench can be indispensable for delivering consistent torque. Equal torque on all your scope rings and base mounts, barrel nuts, and even handguard screws can deliver improvements that stack up and also prevent costly damage. I would place a fair wager that most accuracy improvements/degradation and overall parts damage to ARs during the build process is due to torque. If the receiver is not lapped, it introduces barrel torque that makes shots wander, improper optics torque can definitely impact accuracy, and even over-tightening a muzzle break has shown to impact accuracy.  Of note, muzzle brakes should be secured with red lock-tite and achieve the correct position with finger tightening (no wrench). This tip from one of my pro-friends has increased accuracy for me as the barrel heats. Whether you are using a crush washer or fixed indexing washer, there should be no torque between the muzzle brake device and the end of the barrel.

Comfort - Comfort is usually not discussed much, however it should be after all the AR15 platform can be the most comfortable platform in the world to shoot from. If you do not comfortably drop in behind your rifle on the bench or the rifle does not point naturally in the field, it will undoubtedly impact speed and accuracy. All too often I see shooters on the range contorting themselves in painful looking positions just to shoot their rifle. Oftentimes that means scope rings that are too low/high, cheek rests too low/high, optics that are mounted too close/far from the eye box, stocks that do not fit the shooter, and rifle supports that do not allow for a comfortable position. A great book Long-Range Precision Rifle - Expanded Edition talks about this in great detail that your accuracy will be impacted if you are contorting yourself behind the rifle.


For many, all the above seems like a nit-picky level of detail that can make eyes roll, but as I have learned and been humbled, all these things do make a huge difference. Even if you have a bone stock budget AR and want to get the most from it, working through these tips will likely deliver large noticeable accuracy improvements. If you are into AR15 building and into building a quality AR15 at home, then you should consider the Brownells AR15 Upper Receiver Lapping Tool along with tools like a good vise, punches, calibrated torque wrench, LockTite thread lock and retaining compound, copper anti-seize, headspace gauges, and Geissele Action Rod or some type of action block are all valuable tools to get the most from your platform.


Brownells AR15 Upper Receiver Lapping Tool - $34.99

Brownells Garnett Lapping Compound - $19.99

Fat Wrench

Torque Wrench

Headspacing Gauges/Gages Go, No-Go, Field


Brownells - http://www.brownells.com