So my wife is not okay with me spending 800 dollars on what she refers to as "half a gun." I told her I could piece it out over the next year or so instead, but it would probably end up being several hundred dollars more expensive. She did not seem to care. This attitude is confusing, since we currently have two incomes and not much to spend them on. But hey, that means I get to buy nicer parts, so whatever . . .
So that brings me to barrels. I've been looking at various options for over a week, and I have narrowed down the options to ones that should suit my purposes. If you are curious, my barrel preferences for this build are: 18", rifle length gas system (intermediate is okay), ballpark MOA accuracy, $300 or less, 1/8 twist. Without further ado:
Blackhole Weaponry 18" rifle length from Surplus Ammo. This is far and away the best deal (free stripped upper . . . but not left handed), and polygonal 1/8 rifling stabilizes cheap 55 grain ammo about as well as it does 75+ grain clunkers. Downside: BHW had a fairly serious 6 month-1 yr quality control problem in 2012. They have since fixed it, but I am concerned this barrel might be from that timeframe. The buyer reviews are positive, so I may take a chance in the next few days and order it.
The same thing, directly from BHW. Less of a deal. The wait isn't important. On the other hand, their QC is now back up to par, so I could be fairly certain I was getting their best work. Also, I think they do a military discount.
410 Stainless Steel Barrel from BCM. This is reputed to be a highly accurate barrel. Supposedly 410 is better than 416 for barrels. According to BCM. Still waiting to find out the barrel weight. The downside on this is that I am not sure the 5.56 SAM-R chamber will handle **** ammo as well as the normal 5.56 chambers do.
AR Performance 3gun barrel from AR Performance. The price is right, I am very comfortable with a melonite barrel, and AR Performance has a great reputation. The .233 Wylde chamber is inherently more accurate than 5.56 standard chambers, but again . . . does not have a reputation for handling **** ammo well.
Nordic Competition Barrel from Nordic/Wilson Armory. Upside: great company rep, in stock. Hyper accurate. Potential Downside: A tad heavy, .223 wylde.
Rainier Arms 18SPR Barrel from Rainier Arms. Rainier Arms has great sourcing and QC. Again, it's a little heavy. .223 wylde.
White Oak Armament 18 SPR from White Oak Armament/Wilson Arms. Pretty similar to the Nordic/Wilson and Rainier. .223 wylde. 1/7 instead of 1/8.
And finally, the Dark Horse from Wilson Combat. Downside: I don't know who makes these barrels. There is a good chance I am paying for the Wilson Combat Brand and am getting a Shaw or other blank that is lower quality than Wilson Arms (NOT THE SAME AS WILSON COMBAT), BHW, BCM, or AR Performance. Upside: These barrels have solid, if preliminary, reviews. The fluting makes these lighter than anything else I have on the list. The barrel would look fucking awesome on the AR I am building. They are 5.56 and would probably shoot crap ammo.
With the exception of the Wilson Combat barrel, I am 100% confident any of these barrels would work fine for me. They have different quirks is all. The Wilson Combat Barrel is light and sexy enough that I find my sense of fashion trying to override my common sense. That said, I'll probably go with a Blackhole Weaponry or AR Performance barrel. Most likely Blackhole.
Any other suggestions in my price range?
Got my barrel, last night.
M4 feed-rampy goodness:
So, I guess my lunch time is going to be spent at the gun shop, picking up barrel attachment parts, gas tube, and a new crush washer for the flash hider (this one looks, well, pre-crushed), maybe even a handguard if I see something I like (read: inexpensive).
So, I'm at my first big crossroads, now. I want to do this build 100% by myself, but I also don't want to **** anything up.
I've been reading/watching about gas block installation for a few days, now, and what I've purchased is a "virgin," barrel. There are no cutouts in the barrel for taper pins, nor any dimples for set-screw type blocks. I'm assuming the gas port that is there from the factory is the proper diameter and placement (it is from the factory, as you can see it's melonite treated after the hole was bored).
I don't feel comfortable with doing the taper pin cutouts myself - mainly because I don't have a nice-enough drill press setup. I'm sure I can do the dimples, though.
Now, this seems like one of the holy wars of AR-15dom - there are those that are vehemently against dimple/set-screws, and those that absolutely love them. I haven't seen any agnostics in this subject area, that I recall. I'm wondering, where do the Bullies fall on this?
Dimple/set screws will probably work just fine for your purposes. Frankly, I'm probably just going to go with a clamp on low-profile gas block. I'm already committing heresy by using a left handed upper and left handed chromed BCG, so I might as well go for the damnation trifecta. If I listened to the majority of opinionated AR15 owners who post on the major forums, I would have bought a colt LE6920 on walmart.com and quit bitching about brass going down my shirt.
Once again, Bullies deliver. I didn't know there was such a thing as a clamp-on block, I think I'll go that route instead. Many thanks!
As luck would have it, nobody around here stocks the parts I need for this phase of the build. But, I searched around and happened on a place that had everything in one location, and awesome prices. Here's what I ordered:
gas block w/ dual picatinny
carbine length drop-in 4-rail handguard
delta kit (ring, spring, snapring, and barrel nut)
upper vice block
lower vice block
All that under $120 including shipping! OK, it's probably cheap chinese ****, but I don't think so - I spoke to the proprietor on the phone, and it sounds like he's making all this stuff on site.
I'll wait until I report back on quality and all that to give the name / link.
My stuff came in at lunch, today. Not bad at all, considering it was TX->Florida over the weekend.
My initial reaction was "wow, he fit all that into that tiny package?" so that I must be missing something. But, no, it was all there. He found some creative ways to bundle everything together, thus the low shipping cost (I think something like $6 for USPS Priority Mail).
Everything is completely unadorned by any sort of manufacturer's mark (hooray). I emailed him to ask if it was domestic production or not.
I did quick trial fits of everything, and it seems like we're good to go. I forgot to order the A2 handguard cap to facilitate the install of my rails. I can't really continue the build without that, so instead I'll get a proper review of the parts I ordered together tonight/tomorrow.
What else do you need to complete the AR? We got some BCGs and collapsible stock kits I want to unload.
I managed to get the lefty stripped upper and chrome BCG from Stag Arms last week prior to them selling out . . . again. The parts I am currently lacking:
Originally Posted by dwkfym
Barrel (still undecided)
Gas block (leaning toward a Syrac adjustable clamp on or set screw/detent)
Free float Rail System/barrel nut (Samson Evo, Rainier Arms Evo, or Noveske NSR . . . or other)
Compensator or flash hider (VG6 gamma, epsilon, or Ares Armory Effin-A MKii)
Additionally, I need to buy a few more tools to mount said parts.
After that, I've got a few early front-runners to consider for optics, but nothing jumps out at me.
Is an AR every really complete? This is my first build, but I've already seen a number of things I would have done different, in hindsight.
Originally Posted by dwkfym
To get "functional," I'm missing BCG, handguard end-cap, and some sort of sights. Beyond that, probably some rail covers, possibly a front vertical handle and/or bipod.
OK, the place I ordered from is Rousch Sports, out of Austin. I saw them first via an auction they had on GB, and after clicking into their "other items," I decided to scope out their direct contact info. http://www.rouschsports.com/ is the site, and the phone number is listed, there.
It's a warehouse operation, so don't expect to go browsing anywhere but the web site. In brief email exchange with the proprietor, they make some things themselves, and others are produced at other fabs. I didn't pry into which was which, but he did seem particularly proud of a redesign of their competition muzzle brake which should go to production this week.
What I did purchase, this time, is listed above. Here are the pics:
Vice blocks, a real bargain for the set I think under $30:
Here's the gas block, 4-rail, and gas tube:
A profile shot of the same:
The gas block and rails are anodized aluminum, though must likely from different fabs, based on their slightly different appearance.
The rail was the only thing I noticed a small manufacturer number on the shipping box. Googling that number led me to numerous gun shops selling the same thing, but at significantly higher prices. I think I paid something like $25 for it.
The picatinny on the gas block is M4-rail height, and from the test fit I did, it will butt right up against the hand rail. This is probably not optimal, as the spacing between the hand rail and gas block does not provide a universal picatinny, but rather two slightly off units that will probably have to be for independent attachments. But, they are not sold as a set, it was my choice to get those parts, so ultimately it's my fault if they are not useful.
He shipped the gas tube with 3 stainless pins, and the gas block came with its own anodized pin:
Also pictured, above, is the crush washer - he sells two flavors, again this is something he's particularly proud of. Both are stainless steel, the one I got is black over stainless.
Now that I'm looking at the photos, I notice that the 3 stainless pins are smaller diameter and length than the anodized pin; the anodized pin is the correct diameter for the block, but too large for the gas tube. Not sure what to do, here. The opening in the tube is larger than the gas port in the barrel, so I definitely have some wiggle room, I guess perhaps I'll ream out the pin hole bore in the tube, it looks like there's enough material to do so.
Anyways, I'm otherwise very pleased with this vendor, mostly because price, secondly because FAST shipping. Unless there's a total failure with one of these parts, I think it's likely I'll buy from him again.
That is the beauty of it. With CNC technology so good and so widely available, there are virtually no headspacing issues using off the shelf BCGs. The only times you'll need a 'matched' BCG is if you're doing something like high power service rifle competitions.s
That being said, if you get one from me and it isn't working (firing upon bolt release, or cross-shaped pattern indented a bit too much on your brass.. most AR's do leave a slight indent on your primer. .scary!), you can always return it to us.
I have a few semi-fancy pants BCGs from head down productions but I want to get rid of them cheap to free up more money for more muzzle devices.