Friday, December 31, 2021

Andro Corp - Another Solid AR Brand to Look for

Andro Corp - Another Solid AR Brand to Look for

Before you start yelling at your screen “Are you freaking kidding me - another AR brand?”, believe me I am with you, but Andro Corp is becoming another go-to brand for solidly built ARs. Andro Corp delivers some very impressive specs and components and has already become a trusted quality AR brand in their Florida geography over the last five years.


After a consistent track record of delivering quality and value statewide, they are now cautiously expanding into the US national markets. From their entry to their premium models, online Andro Corp customers are raving about their quality and value and I can see why.



THE CONSUMER’S CONUNDRUM OF YET ANOTHER AR BRAND

I get the consumer hesitation of yet another AR brand and eye-roll. Just a decade ago, I was rolling my eyes every time someone introduced yet another AR15 manufacturer with nothing more original than a different name on the side of a finish-milled forging that was usually produced and branded for them and then assembled based on “sourced” parts. It was that awkward and confusing moment in the firearms industry where everyone and their brother with access to machining capabilities or OEM parts suppliers was racing to start churning out AR parts and sometimes complete guns. We had every industry jumping into firearms manufacturing from aerospace, medical, automotive, general machine shops, and even folks sliding Haas CNC cubes into empty home garage stalls. Most “me-too manufacturers” actually had no manufacturing capabilities in-house and were just buying boxes of AR parts from every edge of the earth and bolting together their version many times with fairly loose QC and poor build quality. Obviously every manufacturer bolts together firearms to some degree, however there were both potentially good and bad strategies which companies could follow.  It was nutty and confusing time for consumers and even dealer during the firearms industry’s version of the “Me Too” movement and the results reflected the quality and experience of those companies - either good or bad. 


Over time, some of those companies either went under or matured and have delivered fantastic quality products while still others delivered eye-rolling crap based on very dubious parts of even more dubious origin. The industry successes include Faxon who was an automotive general machine shop. Aero Precision was in the Aerospace industry and Ballistic Advantage was started as a garage hobby. Early on, others like Spikes Tactical was a bolt-together manufacturer with a brilliant laser engraving branded parts strategy who did exceedingly well with sourcing high tier parts and assembling basic high quality AR builds. On the other side of that quality range, not many people know that China was actually illegally importing massive amounts of AR parts and in 2019 the ATF reportedly confiscated 53,000 gun parts of which most suspect were just the tip of a very huge Chinese AR import parts market. The shocking part was that less scrupulous manufacturers and unknowing consumers purchased these parts. 

SB Tactical Brace on the Andr ACI-15
SB Tactical Brace on the Andro ACI-15


My favorite story was a friend who walks into my house with a non-working “I made it for $342” AR with a WTF is this made off set of parts, a non-Permatex unstaked loose gas key, crooked barrel rifling that literally almost touched the outside edge of the muzzle, a warped upper and loose handguard, and an overall build quality that screamed you are going to shoot your eye out… or blow your face off. As a writer I saw a lot of that type of build quality from “new manufacturers” with zero firearms experience even on tables at Shot Show. Horror stories also circulated that some new manufacturers were selling from high tier spec builds but delivering, allegedly, Chinese knockoff parts based builds. It was a crazy time and sadly this craziness still continues to a lesser degree.


CONCENTRATING ON DELIVERING QUALITY

The problem is that most companies really did not concentrate on the simple concept of executing flawlessly on the fundamentals of acquiring consistently high quality parts, QC’ing the living hell out of every part, preparing and assembling those parts meticulously, and assuring the function and esthetic quality was maintained throughout the process. Becoming a “Good Brand” in the eyes of customers becomes a trusted reputation thing that only happens over a course of years of doing it right with unwavering consistency.


I note all this industry history, because attention to sourcing quality parts and executing on the basics of QC, assembly and customer service flawlessly since their inception is why Andro Corp has made a local name for itself in Florida and earned the trust of its customers. Based on a fair amount of research including many off-the-record discussions with industry contacts and what I personally see in the Andro Corp HALO Pistol model I tested, they are doing it right and will do well as they expand nationally. 

Andro is building a
great DUTY quality firearm


ACI - Andro Corp was one of those companies that bootstrapped their way into a solid business model concentrating on smart vs fast growth. They did start in a garage by sourcing quality parts, sold through gun shows and eventually matured the business through an earned quality reputation to the point of opening their shop in Florida. ACI started by only using quality QC’ed parts assembled correctly with attention to the details. They also offered a real warranty if customers ever had a problem which was unusual for gun show parts sales. That business philosophy allowed them to establish themselves as a local Florida manufacturer with high integrity and impeccable customer service. 


ANDRO CORP - LEVERAGING TOP TIER COMPONENTS

Now about five years after they started, it is apparent that Andro Corp - ACI is using some of the best components on the market from some of the most well respected and high-tier core component manufacturers. Based on the forging marks, Andro Corp is sourcing its Mil-Spec forged receivers from Archer forgings and note they are machined by AO Precision who is well regarded for their receiver quality and fit.


The barrel and gas blocks used on my Andro Halo pistol are marked Ballistic Advantage and in my mind that BA reputation jumps the quality up considerably. Andro has left itself open to use other OEM receivers and components include OEM branded New Frontier billet lowers in the PCC line, and another Florida based manufacturer, SLR Rifleworks for Andro branded versions of SLR’s billet receivers and hand-guards. If you are familiar with SLR rifleworks designs and premier-tier quality, you can see those underlying handguard designs on even the more entry level models and the very unique billet receiver design on the ACI premium firearm models. Since SLR is showing a branded Andro Corp receiver on their site, it is pretty obvious they are milling these for Andro.  Andro is also using MFT - Mission First Tactical magazines and furniture components on the more upgraded models. All of these companies are great first quality brands to base builds from.

My Andro HALO AR pistol included
an MFT magazine. Testing included
the new windowed MFT magazines
compliments of MFT.


The receivers, barrels, and BCGs all appear to be top quality components and it is good to see considering an Andro Corp base model rifle/pistol is selling for just a bit more than more well known brands are selling only a complete upper receiver. A very good value indeed for potentially the same or better components. This strategy should add immediate national credibility to anyone considering ACI - Andro Corp firearms and products. Based on what ACI is MSRP listing their ARs, customers should feel very comfortable with the parts, value and quality they are getting with ACI firearms.


EDITOR’S EASY WAY TO TEST QC

As an editor that has been in the business for nearly two decades, my review philosophy is to procure an entry level model versus a model with loaded down awesomeness. Generally, the entry level models tend to make it hard to hide QC, build and component quality - it is either a solid well made build or it isn't. Quality is almost impossible to fake when I request blemished stock. 


Blemished models really allow me to see the cutoff of what drops into the Blem category. If what arrives is scraped and beat up or even an uncleaned test gun, this is a big indicator on the lack of care they take with their builds and business strategy. If a blem model arrives with an almost unnoticeable blem, then the company generally has a very well refined QC process - this was the case with the FDE Andro AR15 Halo pistol I received. In my case, a detailed strip only highlighted an almost imperceivable imperfection in the cerakote finish with all the other components in perfect condition and working order. In a lot of companies this would have been sold as first quality and this gun speaks highly of their quality.

The primary optic for testing
was a Sig Sauer ROMEO 4


The specific model I purchased was a blemished AR-15 556 HALO 10.3 MFDE (ACI-15) with an $849 MSRP (normal sale price of $799) selling for $649.00. This was a great deal considering the component and build quality and included a hard lockable case, FDE cerakote and new Mission First Tactical magazine. Oftentimes, Blems do not get the same “packaging” as first quality models. The net is that Andro appears to be intensely focused on delivering high quality and high value in even the cast off blemished models.


AR-15 556 HALO 10.3 MFDE (ACI-15) SPECS

No extra sugar sprinkles needed to glorify a solidly built Duty/MilSpec class 10 .3” AR pistol, because this is exactly what the Adro Corp HALO model is… a well built basic style AR. Aside from the well applied FDE cerakote, solid high-quality free-floated handguard and SB Tactical brace, the Halo includes 7075 forged upper and lower receivers, high quality Mil-Spec components including grip, trigger guard, charging handle, castle nut and egg-plate, carbine buffer tube, and remaining build kit components. The castle nut was properly staked very neatly which shows the attention to detail vs getting whacked with a chisel like I see from other manufacturers. Aside from maybe an upgraded trigger to squeeze a bit more accuracy from the Ballistic Advantage barrel and perhaps a more comfortable Mission First Tactical grip, this pistol needs nothing to be everything you need and nothing you don’t. Bolt on a Sig red dot and get to shooting.


AR-15 556 HALO 10.3 MFDE (ACI-15) with an $849 MSRP

Finish
– Cerakote Magpul FDE

Barrel

– 4150 CMV Melonite

– 1/7 Twist

– M4 Feed Ramps

– Carbine Gas System with Low Pro Gas Block

– QPQ Corrosion Resistant Finish

– A2 Flash Hider

– 1/2-28 Threaded Muzzle

Upper Receiver

– M16 BCG

– 9″ MLOK Handguard

– 7075 – T6 Forged Upper

– Charging Handle

– Forward Assist & Ejection Port Assembly

Lower Receiver

– 7075 Forged Lower

– Mil-Spec LPK

– SB Tactical SBA3 Adjustable Stabilizing Pistol Brace

– 30 Round MFT Magazine


After building and testing 100s of various AR builds, I believe a 10”-ish barrel is a really sweet spot for an AR pistol with a size that is still very maneuverable but with a muzzle blast that is not deafening. The size is also about the maximum barrel length that allows for standard backpack stowing when unpinned and can still deliver pretty amazing accuracy without a huge velocity compromise. In this case, the Andro Halo delivered everything I have expected from an BA barreled AR pistol. With a 4-16 PA scope swapped for the Sig Romeo 4, I was able to hold 1-1.25” 100-yard groups with Hornady Frontier 55gr ammo (ammo which is insanely accurate for the price) and about the same with Fiocci 40gr Hornady ballistic tip bullets. This accuracy is good enough for me.


With the Sig Romeo 4 remounted, it was back to the 50 and 25-yard lines for steel banging. Admittedly, I could not run 1000+ rounds through this pistol still due to ammo availability and cost, but I was able to push 300+ rounds through it without any reliability or feeding issues. Again, there were no surprises considering the components used in the build. 


Comparing the Andro Corp HALO AR pistol ACI-15 to competitors, Andro may have an opportunity to grab some market share. One of the standards I would benchmark a model like the Andro HALO against is the Ruger AR-556 models. Generally the $1099 MSRP Ruger AR-556 sells on the street for around $799 in basic black. With the BA barrel, my recommendation would be to recommend the Andro Corp Halo with a similar price point in black since it features a higher quality BA barrel with a reputation for better accuracy. If you can find a less expensive Blem model that fits your needs from Andro, this is even better. I am anxious to potentially test some of their higher and models.



FINAL THOUGHTS

It is often hard for consumers to consider another AR brand especially if they have been burnt  before. From what I see through my testing, we have another very solid well-made brand we can trust and I think deliver more value for the dollar than even the big manufacturers are offering.


My main observation with Andro Corp is that from a marketing perspective the website is a bit hard to find and understand what you are looking at especially when shopping through the AR models. If I put on my marketing hat from my day job, overall the site needs some organization into shoppable model categories/tiers vs three pages of guns that can only be sorted by price. Breaking out pistols and rifles separately would help a lot as would some delineation between the duty lines and billet upgraded lines.


I think Andro is also losing a lot of selling and marketing points by not meticulously listing the full specs of each component used. If you are using a Ballistic Advantage barrel, gas block and BCG, Anchor Forgings, and SLR components, then you should list that - it is a huge set of selling and credibility points. Consumers these days are pretty nerdy buyers around even whether the Bolt has been HPT/MPI inspected, M16 Carrier Machined from 8620, 5.56 Bolt Machined from 9310, Forged Gas Key Properly Staked, Tool Steel Extractor, Mil-Spec Extractor Spring with black insert and Viton O-Ring, Grade 8 hardware, Shot Peened Bolt, Carrier, Gas Key, Cam Pin, Bolt, & Extractor coated inside and out with Black Nitride QPQ… it should be listed instead of just M16 BCG. Based on what I am seeing the BCG in my model has every indication including HPT/MPI stamping identical to Aero or BA BCG, and if so I would list those attributes of awesomeness and quality. One lesson everyone should have learned from Spikes Tactical was that listing the marketing details sell guns. As Andro Corp moves into a larger US national market, they are competing against players that have the marketing nailed down, but right now at least they are delivering a great quality firearm at a great value.


Andro Corp - androcorpind.com