Sunday, December 27, 2015

You Want a Complete Rifle? Here are My Recommendations.

Not everyone wants to build an AR. Many people don't want to invest in the tools and would rather a professional assembled the rifle. There is nothing wrong with that. You have to compromise on some aspects of the rifle, here and there, but you can rest assured a (hopefully) quality manufacturer built the rifle and you can rely on it to do what the manufacturer promised. The question is: who are the quality manufacturers and which of their products will work the best? I'm here to help you with that.

I look at factory-built AR 15s in terms of price range. How does a the rifle perform against other options that are relatively similar cost? As I see it, there are basically 4 price ranges: $500-750, $751-1250, $1251-1800, and $1801+. What I will do is show any rifles in those prices ranges that I can recommend based on personal experience and/or features of the gun.

NOTE: I will ONLY recommend "Mil Spec" rifles or, at least, ones that use Mil Spec parts for the availability of replacement parts and upgrades. (Such as the Stock or the BCG.) I feel that the benefit of availability of Mil Spec parts for an AR makes it clearly better than Commercial Spec guns, like Bushmaster or S&W. Not only that, but the commercial spec options generally weigh more, as well. I am very partial towards minimizing weight due to SAWC. I plan to update this occasionally, as new products become available and they warrant being added to the list.

  1. $500-800
    • PSA Mid-Legth MOE Upper + PSA Magpul MOE Edition Complete Lower - $400-$600. (Price listed here includes BCG and Charging Handle.) This is going to be the BEST deal you can find for a quality, reliable AR15. Their Black Friday sales are insanely good. It's so cheap, but should I trust it with my life? Yes. PSA sources out parts to Mil-spec manufactures, so you can depend on their guns and their parts. Truly, a great value and a reliable weapon. (Look for deals on their site if you're in the market for an AR.)
    • Ruger AR556 - This gun is a fantastic deal! It features a Cold-Hammer Forged barrel, forward assist, dust cover, and a newly developed Delta-Ring that isn't spring mounted. It gives features that more expensive rifles would offer, but it's being offered at an incredible value. You can find it from $600-700 on the web. Bottom Line: If you are in the market for a low-cost AR that will last and isn't missing any key features, this is the AR for you! And, I would trust it to function when my life is as stake.
    • PSA M4 Freedom -  At $700, this gun is a good deal for those who don't feel comfortable buying uppers and lowers separately. Palmetto State Armory is a well-known commodity within the gun community by now. If you haven't heard of them, they are just down the road from FN USA (and they source many parts through FN) in South Carolina. They are making really high-value products that have been proven to be durable. They source out their parts to Mil-spec manufactures, so you can depend on their guns and their parts. You're just paying for the quality, not the name.
  2. $801-1250
    • BCM M4 SOCOM Upper + BCM Complete Lower = $930. Compare this to a Colt LE6920. You will not be disappointed in the quality here. Bottom Line: Trust this with your life. (NOTE: be sure to add the Charging Handle and BCG. They are included at the price I listed.)
    • Colt LE6920 - This is a GREAT first AR, especially the Magpul edition. You can have confidence knowing that this is essentially what our troops use and it is made with great quality and pride, for $875-$950 online. Bottom Line: If you aren't sure which to get, this gun won't fail you. It's not the most accurate gun listed here (it's about as accurate as any other non-free float option), but you can count on it to function.
    • Aeroprecision M4E1 - This rifle is Free-Floated with a Melonite QPQ 4150 CMV 16" barrel. If you don't know what all that means: it's using Mil Spec steel finished in an excellent melonite treatment that is far superior to almost any coating you'll find and the barrel isn't supporting the weight of the handguard or the delta ring's spring, both of which gives superior accuracy over typical barrels with M16-style handguards. Oh, and it's a deep black color. (I typically use Daniel Defense Light-Weight Barrels in my builds, mostly due to the profile and the fact they are CHF. I view melonite as being nearly as durable with superior corrosion resistance. Chrome linings are significantly thicker, but Melonite has similar hardness. Melonite also protects the entire barrel, as opposed to Chrome lining on just the inside.) It also has good furniture that most shooters would be very happy with. Bottom Line: this is an excellent rifle for the price (under $1000) and it will be a great option for anyone that needs something reasonably-priced, accurate, durable, customizable, and cool-looking.
    • BCM RECCE 16" Mid-Length Upper + BCM Complete Lower = $1070. This is outstanding value! Free Floated, Mil Spec Barrels with a great rail for accessories and great ergos. Bottom Line: I really think this is an outstanding product and it will give great accuracy increases over any of the rifles that are listed at a lower price. I would not hesitate to buy this rifle over a Colt, Ruger, or any other Rifle listed above. This is a clear step up from those. (NOTE: be sure to add the Charging Handle and BCG. They are included at the price I listed.)
    • BCM BFH 16" KMR Upper + BCM Complete Lower  = $1230. This is an outstanding gun! It's really the ideal gun at the closest to ideal price. This fit and finish won't be quite as good as buying a complete RECCE rifle (See below), but this comes with a Cold-Hammer Forged barrel. In my opinion, this is the best factory-built upper/lower combo you can buy and I would save myself $260 and get this over the RECCE 16" for the CHF barrel this comes with. Bottom Line: This would be my first choice on this list at ANY price range. If you can afford it (and find it in stock), I strongly recommend this with zero hesitation. You don't need to pay any more money for an AR than this. There is good reason BCM can't keep this upper in stock. (NOTE: be sure to add the Charging Handle and BCG. They are included at the price I listed.)
  3. $1251-1800
    • Spike's Tactical Crusader -  Really solid gun. Strong construction and lots of 2nd-kind-of-cool features. Good weight at 6.65lbs. A lifetime warranty of the entire gun by a great company should put you at ease about buying it - which is good considering the $1395 price tag. But, it's so worth it. This gun also features Spike's FN-made, optimal profile barrel made to the M249 call-outs for chrome lining - rated for 20,000+ shots! There isn't a gun on the market that I would claim to be more durable. And, you get a factory-tested system with Spike's tungsten-powder buffers, which reduce felt recoil and eliminate much of the sounds from within the buffer tube during cycling. (My only issue with them is that they are heavier than the equivalent standard buffers. If you don't like it, you can easily replace it for $20-30.) Spike's is a made to order shop, so they make the rifle when you call or order online. Bottom Line: Great rifle at a reasonable price. They have a 4-6 week lead time on making these because of the demand - for good reason. I'm an admitted BCM fanboy, but I own multiple Spike's Tactical rifles and have no issues with them.
    • BCM RECCE 16" Complete Rifle - 5.8 lbs!!! No, seriously, that's what it weighs! This is such an excellent Rifle. At $1490, it blows away most premium manufacturers in quality per price. It's a GREAT shooter and it's reasonably priced. Bottom Line: This is a SAWC king and it's great bang for your buck in this price range. It's a great rifle in just about every practical way and it looks and shoots amazing. You'll be the envy of the range, though I would prefer the CHF barrel of the BCM BFH upper/lower combo from a practical perspective.
    • Daniel Defense DDM4 - Daniel Defense is an outstanding company and their products are made to some of the tightest standards in the industry. This rifle, at $1600, is no exception. The best thing about Daniel Defense is that you can Build Your Own DDM4 and they will build it to order. It's a custom rifle, to your specifications, right from the factory. No other company offers that. Bottom Line: I use their barrels in virtually all my builds and would recommend their products to anyone, but I'd rather have a BCM BFH KMR upper/lower combo. DD has fallen behind in terms of weight savings and the furniture on their rifles. If you want a rifle custom-made, this is still an EXCELLENT option, though.
  4. $1801+
    • Noveske Gen III Infidel - This is an amazing CQB choice. It's super refined (except for the flaming pig) and you can tell the quality by looking at it. And, at $2595, you'd better be able to tell the quality! Bottom line: if you're a Noveske fan, or are familiar with the quality of their barrels, and if you like the shortened barrel for CQB, it would be hard to beat this gun. Bottom Line: Over-priced, but you're paying for outstanding quality, quality control, and the company reputation. If you have the money for this, you won't be disappointed with the accuracy or workmanship.
    • Knight's Armament SR-15 E3 Mod 2 16" - According to some, this is the most premium AR 15 on the planet. Everything about it is designed to be long-lasting quality. These are hyper-accurate and very cool-looking. Knight's makes virtually every part of these in-house, under the strictest of controls. You can find them for around $2400 online. Bottom Line: Of all the super-premium manufacturers, this is my favorite. It would be difficult to beat this for accuracy at 100 yards with a match barrel, let alone a barrel that was meant for combat. I've not seen a definitive test that will determine which chrome-lined battlerifle out of Noveske and Knight's is the most accurate, but I doubt you'll be disappointed with either.
    • Wilson Combat Paul Howe Tactical Carbine -  Wilson Combat's reputation should precede them. This rifle should further that reputation. Weighing in at 6.25 lbs and made to possibly the tightest specs and highest quality standards in the industry - it will look the part, too. For $2600, you should expect nothing less. Bottom Line: Amazing accuracy and a great gun. For precision shooting in the real world, this one may be the best "factory" AR rifle ever made.

Size and Weight Constraints - SAWC

How much does the gun weigh?

SAWC: Size and Weight Constraints. This is about how easy it is to carry something, in terms of how easy it is to fit in a pack or carry on a sling and how heavy it is. There is an economy on size and weight - you can only fit so many things on your person and you can only carry so much weight.

People are all over the place on this topic. Some will say you just got to lift more weights and others will go for lightweight options because that's what they heard was cool on some forum. The truth is: size (and weight) matters.

If you will never carry the gun out of your house, except to go to the range with it and shoot it from a bench, you may not understand how important this is. What I can tell you for certain is that if you have to carry a gun and ammo and other gear for long distances, the size and weight matter. Every ounce you save is more bullets or more water you can carry. This is true if you're carrying guns and equipment to a spot to hunt from, if you're a survivalist training for WROL, or making your way through the hills and mountains of Afghanistan. Though I am not prior military myself, any friends of mine that have been military and any current/former military reading this can certainly tell you that carrying the ammo, the armor, the water, and other supplies adds up and it makes it difficult to travel on foot over long distances. (And, that is true of people that are in tremendous shape!) A few ounces here and there turn into pounds and then the pounds add up too. It weighs you down, slows you down, and wears you out. That adds up to you being less effective when your life depends on your ability to act. Why carry an 7.9 lb Tavor when a 5.8 lb BCM AR 15 will do the job equally well?

When you read somewhere on this site that something is too heavy or too difficult to carry, it's not that I can't lift it or never heard of gloves or products like Talon grips. It's that the weight compared to other things that do the same job is just too high to justify using it over those other weapons, parts, etc. SAWC are critical for real-world use of weapons.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Are Caliber Conversion Kits Worth it?

Caliber conversion kits sound great. A marketing department sees them as a great selling point and a lot of people think they have to get a gun with a caliber conversion kit or it's not dynamic enough of a weapon or platform. The truth is somewhat different.

Getting a kit to convert your AR from 5.56 to 6.8 SPC allows you to use multiple types of ammo and can be as simple as swapping uppers. In other guns, such as the Tavor or Glocks, these conversions are even easier - a quick and easy barrel swap and a spring change and you're running 9mm instead of 5.56 or 9mm instead of .40 S&W. But, is it worth the extra money to be able to convert the caliber of the gun?

Well, first off, the money you spend on a conversion kit normally isn't cheap. And, that kit isn't a gun that you can hand to a friend who needs a rifle to defend himself or to shoot at the range with you. If you are building a specialized upper for 6.8 SPC for example, why not just buy an extra lower? You can get complete AR lowers for as little as $140 on sale from Palmetto State Armory. As for some other weapons, it's part of the gun straight from the factory. But, even these are still faced with another challenge - stockpiling ammo and magazines for the conversion caliber. Maybe you're like me and you shoot 5.56 and 9mm and stockpile both, so a 9mm conversion kit may have some practical use. But, how many magazines for the conversion kit do you have? In the case of more exotic calibers, such as 6.8 SPC or 300 AAC Blackout, are you really going to stockpile those and 5.56? Again, price matters - stockpiling those exotic calibers isn't cheap. Plus, swapping to a 9mm round hurts the range/lethality of the weapon.

Basically, the only time you'd need a conversion kit is if you ever found yourself in a Without Rule of Law (WROL) situation where you were scavenging for ammo and you need to be versatile so you can use a greater variety of the ammo you find. But, if you're going to do that, having another gun chambered in that caliber instead of a conversion kit makes a lot of sense. (You may need to arm your family in such a situation and you may be able to use an additional rifle instead of just a conversion kit.) If you already have handguns that use the 9mm you've stockpiled, why do you need a 9mm conversion kit for your rifle? One could argue that having more options can't hurt. The thing is that we have limited resources - what I choose to buy prevents me from buying other things because I have limited money. Instead of spending hundreds on conversion kits, what if you just bought more ammo for the caliber/s you do shoot? Nevermind the possibility that you can't find that specialty ammo in a WROL situation, so both the specially chambered rifle and that conversion kit becomes worthless. And, if you find some place that has the ammo around, they probably have a gun that shoots it, so you may not need to have the extra gun or conversion kit at all.

The conclusion I've come to is that the most important thing to do is to get rifles and ammo in one particular caliber and stockpile it. If you have extra rifles chambered in a different caliber for special purpose, like 300 AAC Blackout for suppressed fire, that's fine - just make sure you keep your primary round stocked. And, seriously consider the fact that any military supported calibers are going to be the easiest to stockpile and to find in a WROL situation. I believe, in any case, it's better to buy more of your chosen ammo than conversion kits.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Philosophy of Use - POU

When you're building, buying, adding equipment, or upgrading an AR, you need to do so with a concept of how the gun will be used. You need to determine what POU the gun is meant to fit into. The POU, or Philosophy of Use, is the way you envision using the gun - and that governs what is best for your rifle. If you don't have a defined POU, then you might be spending a lot of money to make a rifle useless or difficult to operate. When you see a guy with an AR that has a high-power scope, a bipod, a 100-rd drum magazine, 45 degree offset folding back-up sights, a Nightvision optic, and a laser sight/flashlight combo on a 12" barrel rifle, it means they have no clue what their POU is and likely haven't even considered it. Don't be that guy!

There are three well defined POUs that virtually all AR15s fall into:
  1. CQB - Close Quarters Battle-rifle. What this is, is usually self-explanatory. This POU competes with Sub-Machine Guns and compact Pistol Caliber Carbines for use in close quarters, but it provides a more powerful rifle cartridge instead of 9mm or some other erstwhile handgun caliber. There is a strong tendency to shorten the barrel to adapt a rifle to this POU, which reduces the power of the cartridge, but makes the gun easier to use in tight spaces. That is a valid approach, but not required. Many also favor Red-Dot sights for this POU and that makes total sense because the fastest optics (in terms of target acquisition) are Red-Dots because they have unlimited eye relief. Speed and ease of action with these rifles are huge. The key thing here is to have these characteristics:
    • Light weight
    • Fast into action
    • Fast/easy target acquisition
  2. SPR - Special Purpose Rifle. This is a distance shooter in real-world circumstances. Hunting would be a sub-category of this philosophy. The goal here is to make an AR15 that will be able to accurately fire out to 500 or even 600 yards for engaging enemies at a distance. To fulfill that goal, you'll need to make smart weight additions, such as 18 or 20 inch barrels, actual rifle scopes, and maybe even have a bipod. Many people try to make these CQB-capable by adding a very small Red-Dot sight at a 45 degree offset, which is a good idea if you might need this rifle to fill a CQB role from time to time. (That is especially true if you're using something like a 3-9x40 scope.) Again, the focus is on adding as little weight as possible, only "good" weight if you will, so it's easy to carry around over long distances along with the ammo and other gear you bring with you. These types of rifles will have certain key features:
    • Scopes for accurate distance targeting
    • Minimum 16" barrels
    • Extremely accurate, yet corrosion-resistant barrels
    • Smooth/short trigger pull
  3. Competitive Shooting Rifle. This is exactly what it sounds like. Competitive shooters aren't going to war with these guns, so durability is less of a concern. (As long as it won't break or wear out during a match.) Weight is also not a real concern, so heavy optics, having multiple optics, using extremely heavy barrels to increase accuracy, etc are all par for the course. The goal here is to produce the most accurate gun possible. The most common barrel material for these guns is Stainless Steel because of the wear properties and the precision rifling that comes from not chrome-lining or meloniting the bore/barrel. These are very short lifespan barrels, but for this POU, that doesn't matter - you're trying to win tournaments. As Wyatt Earp said: "Accuracy is everything."
So, which is the right POU for you? Let's be honest. If you're reading this blog to learn about the platform, given the little information I put out about competition shooting, you probably aren't a competition shooter, so we can eliminate that POU for your initial rifle build, at least. For most people, the most practical use of an AR15 is for home defense, which is by its nature a CQB POU. What is the greatest possible distance you'll be shooting at within your home? CQB is certainly my focus with an AR15. From my perspective, I tend to think of AR15s in terms of being a 0-300 yard rifle that is capable of reaching out past that if needed. Many would say I view the platform as close-range and I agree. The actual bullet from a 5.56 cartridge is generally only a little larger than a .22lr and one has to use more expensive, heavier rounds (77 gr, for example) to really be effective much past 300 yards. Also, I would have to drive nearly 2 hours to get to a range that had longer than 300 yard targets, so trying to build a 600 yard AR15 would be very impractical for me. As you're considering which POU is best for you, some of what I just mentioned might be a big factor. As for the 3rd option, SPRs, this is where some people will be drawn - whether it be for deer hunting, survivalist uses, or because you don't want to have to get up close and personal to fight if you can help it. If you're going with a SPR build, I think that's excellent, but I have 2 suggestions: 1. Consider making an SPR upper instead of a complete rifle so you can save a little money on the lower, maintain the familiar ergos, and really specialize the uppers for CQB and SPR. 2. If you want to make a single upper that is a "best of both worlds" set up, get a 45 degree offset Red Dot and don't go longer than 18 inches on the barrel.

In general, I tend to ignore the competition use of these guns because I think of them as implements of war and self defense. (And, hunting smaller game or varmints, if you can get magazines that meet the "sporting" requirements for hunting.) However, that doesn't mean they aren't great for competition shooting or that sport shooting isn't a valid reason for owning the guns. It's just expensive and impractical - but, if that's something you enjoy, the expense is well worth it. Golf is expensive too and so are NFL season tickets. To each their own. Unfortunately, there will be a lack of information on the trends of competition shooting on this blog because of my bias.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The AR 15 Builder's List

For those do-it-yourselfers out there, this list is for you. These are parts I recommend from personal use and/or installation of the parts. If you are looking for ideas or just need to make a shopping list to build an AR, this should help. I will be providing hyperlinks so you can see the manufacturer's page for the item and identify it correctly, but I HIGHLY recommend you shop around for your components to get the best prices. My aim here is to provide you with a list of components that you can build a high quality AR 15 from, meaning it will function reliably, be sturdy, be lightweight, and shoot accurately.

Just for the record, I focus on Non-NFA barrel configurations for 2 reasons: velocity/muzzle energy from the length of the barrel and avoiding unnecessary legal/regulatory issues such as filling out a Form 1, paying a $200 tax, and setting up an NFA Trust. I also am not a slave to accuracy and I don't shoot in 3-gun competitions. I view AR 15s as battle rifles, not precision rifles. We're talking about a gun chambered in 5.56, not 6.5 Creedmoor or .338 Lapua, so its range is limited. (Generally, a maximum effective range of somewhere around 500 yards, give or take, depending on the specific rifle and load.) As such, barrels that are NOT built to withstand rapid fire, are meant to be disposed of after 2,000 rounds (or, similar low round count), or have very limited corrosion resistance will not be featured here. I would only build an AR 15 for myself that I could reasonably go to war (GTW) with, if I needed to. You might also note that I do not recommend Colt parts. It's not because they're no good - it's just that they are hard to get and way over-priced. I'd prefer a BCM part over a Colt in virtually all cases, anyway.

Speaking of BCM, it may come across as though I am a fanboy of theirs. The truth is, they make great guns at very reasonable prices and are among the leaders in innovations to the AR15 platform. Truthfully, if I ever buy another complete rifle, it will probably be one of theirs. I love Daniel Defense as a company, but they aren't "lighter, stronger, better" anymore - BCM is. Check out the BCM KMR Rails and the Gunfighter Stocks as examples of how DD is being beat in weight and ergos by BCM. Check out the BCM CHF Barrels and the weight-saving profile they use. Knight's Armament makes a great product too, but it's ridiculously over-priced and not as light-weight. The rest of the industry needs to react or BCM could absolutely rule the market. So, maybe I am a fanboy, but it's for good reason!



RECEIVERS:

  1. Bravo Company: Upper and Lower
  2. Wilson Combat: Upper/Lower Combo
  3. V Seven: Upper and Lower
  4. Spike's Tactical: Upper and Lower
  5. Aero Precision: Upper and Lower
  6. Palmetto State Armory: Upper and Lower
  7. Rainier Arms: Upper and Lower
 Note: Bravo Company does NOT offer stripped lowers, but the tight fit on the barrel makes their uppers excellent and the furniture/parts on their lowers are top-notch. Highly recommend BCM's upper! Daniel Defense is not on this list only because they refuse to sell lowers, per their purchasing FAQ. Generally, I do not recommend mixing uppers and lowers from different companies, mostly for fit and visual appeal, but newer Spike's receivers and Aero Precision receivers match up nicely. In general, any company with a good reputation and Mil-Spec dimensions/tolerances can produce a receiver you can rely on. It's when you want to ensure high quality fit and finish that you need to consider high-end manufacturers, such as Wilson Combat.


UPPER PARTS:


Barrels:

  1. Daniel Defense 16" 5.56mm Mid-length, LW
  2. Spike's 16" Mid-length (by FN) 
  3. Bravo Company BFH 16" ELW
Note: The first 3 are Cold-Hammer Forged, Chrome-lined, and available in 16" with a Mid-length gas system set up. The only one with a .625" diameter gas block seat is the BCM. The others are .750" diameter gas block seats, which I prefer because I dimple my barrels to secure the Gas Block. Spike's barrels are built with the M249 call-outs for Chrome lining, which makes the barrels wider to accommodate the extra Chrome and, obviously, heavier. If you are planning to use a full auto lower and put the automatic setting to extensive use, I recommend the Spike's barrel. In general, I think the Daniel Defense barrel I linked is the perfect barrel and is my default for almost all builds.

4. Faxon Firearms 16" Gunner Profile Barrel

Note #2: I've found that Odin Works, Ballistic Advantage, and Faxon Firearms make very good quality barrels at reasonable prices. Very accurate barrels, especially Odin Works. If you are looking for a good, pre-made barrel for accuracy, I suggest searching their wares. You'll find longer-lasting durability out of the QPQ or Nitrided barrels, but the most precise rifling is found in the bare stainless barrels.


Handguards/Rails:
  1. BCM KMR Handguard
  2. BCM KMR Alpha Handguard
  3. Geissele Super Modular Rail MK14 M-LOK
  4. ALG Defense EMR V3 M-LOK
  5. Troy M-LOK Rail
  6. SLR Solo Ultra Light Keymod
  7. SLR Solo Ultra Light M-LOK
  8. ODIN Works KMod Forend
  9. ODIN Works M-LOK Forend 
Note: ALG Defense provides products with or without continuous 12 o'clock rails. I listed my preference, but endorse their handguard product lines in general. None of these are Quad Rails - those are just too heavy. I also favor Keymod and M-LOK (in that order), but trust the good ole' Troy Alpha. Lightweight, modular designs are optimal - all these fit that bill and are relatively easy to install. If you choose to go with a BCM KMR Handguard, I recommend V Seven parts to lighten the gun - but, be warned, they are pricey.



Gas Blocks:
  1. Spike's Micro Gas Block
  2. Seekins Precision Adjustable
  3. ODINWorks LP Gas Block
  4. BCM Low Profile Gas Block
Note: I linked mostly Melonite Gas Blocks. The heat and corrosion resistance as a result of the Meloniting process ensures these gas blocks will last. If you want ultimate reliability, I'd stick with the non-adjustable Gas Blocks. If you want to cushion the impact of the BCG for lower recoil and faster follow-up shots, that's where the Adjustable Gas Blocks come in. This will help weaker shooters, but it may hinder the reliability of the gun, especially for those with very rapid rate of fire.


Gas Tubes:
  1. Spike's Tactical Melonite
  2. Aero Precision Melonite
  3. V Seven Extreme Evironment
Note:  If you're looking to save money, any reputable manufacturer will do. Getting the Gas Tube melonited makes a difference in corrosion resistance and it will ensure proper function in extreme use, such as rapid fire. It also allows you to maintain the black rifle finish without something shiny underneath. Either of these will work exceptionally well.


Bolt Carrier Groups:
  1. Bravo Company
  2. Wilson Combat
  3. Daniel Defense
  4. Spike's Tactical
  5. Fail Zero (Nickel-Boron)
  6. Palmetto State Armory
  7. Cryptic Coatings (Mystic Black)
  8. Noveske (Nitride)
Note: I have only recommended Full-auto (M16) BCGs - that is no accident. I do not want to save weight on my BCG. Getting the correct combination of BCG, Gas System, Buffer, and Buffer Spring is essential for function and reliability. I want a Full-auto BCG, an H1 Buffer, and a Mid-length gas system. (Standard spring) The tried and true Carbine Buffer, with standard Buffer Spring, Full-auto BCG, and Carbine length gas system works as well. I generally only recommend Carpenter 158 steel bolts, per Mil Specs. (But, 9310 steel has been proven reliable, so if you find a really nice coating for a great price on a 9310 Bolt, go for it.) BCGs absolutely MUST NOT fail during use or you can get seriously injured, so only buy from reputable companies. All of these companies produce quality BCGs and I trust their products. If you're not sure which is right for you, I recommend Bravo Company by default - they have great Quality Control and reasonable prices.


Charging Handles:

  1. BCM Gunfighter Mod 4
  2. Radian Raptor Ambi
  3. V Seven
  4. Tactical Junkie
Note: If you're looking to save money, buy a Mil Spec Charging Handle from any reputable manufacturer. The ones I've linked here are all really good. My personal favorite is the BCM Mod 4. V Seven is one of the best weight-saving manufacturers and their charging handle is light, as well. If you want lightweight, I strongly recommend their parts.


Upper Parts/Kits:
  1. Spike's Ejection Port Door
  2. Aero Precision Kit
  3. V Seven Ultra-Light Port Door
  4. V Seven Ultra-Light Forward assist
  5. Tactical Gear Junkie's huge selection of Ejection Port Doors
Note: Again, if you're looking to save money, any reputable manufacturer will do. You can save a little weight or customize your rig here - totally up to you in terms of what you want to do with these parts.


Muzzle Devices:
  1. Any A2 Flash Hider from a reputable company: BCM, Aero Precision, Spike's, Damage Industries, etc.
  2.  Any reputable Suppressors: Silencerco, Griffin, Gemtech, etc.
I am not an NFA-inclined person. I totally support getting the devices, legally of course. However, I despise paying $200 to use a gun part that is protected by the 2nd Amendment. You have to make your own decision. One thing I don't care for are Compensators. They're loud and rude to use at a public range. (Because gas flies at the person stilling ext to you.)

LOWER PARTS:



Triggers:
  1. ALG QMS Trigger
  2. CMC Standard Trigger (Curved)
  3. Geissele Super Semi-Auto Enhanced
  4. Wilson Combat Tactical Trigger Unit
Note: Pretty much any trigger from those manufacturers will do the job and do it well. If you get a Mil-Spec trigger with a LPK (Lower Parts Kit) from a reputable company, you should be fine. It's important to note that virtually any great shooter will tell you the best upgrade you can make to an AR, outside of the barrel, is the trigger. It's not that a Mil-Spec trigger can't be accurate, it's that the effort required to pull the trigger matters when taking precision shots. For ultimate reliability with high round count and high rate of fire, I recommend you go with a Milspec trigger, like the ALG QMS. If you end up shooting less than 1,000 rounds a year out of the gun and you want to maximize your accuracy with the gun, you should look into Geissele or CMC.


Lower Parts and Part Kits:
  1. BCM LPK Enhanced
  2. ALG LPK
  3. PSA MOE/QMS LPK
  4. PSA K2/QMS LPK
  5. V Seven Lower Parts
  6. Wilson Combat LPK (No Trigger)
 Note: Any reputable manufacturer will do here if you are trying to save money. The key thing to consider is if you plan to get a premium trigger. If so, I recommend ordering the Wilson Combat or ALG LPK w/ no trigger and get that Geissele or CMC trigger you want.


Endplates:
  1. Magpul ASAP QD Endplate
  2. BCM Gunfighter QD  Endplate
Note: If you're going to stake the endplate, I generally recommend the BCM endplate, but I have staked the melonited Magpul ASAP QD. I ONLY recommend steel endplates because I recommend staking them, rather than lock-tighting them.

Buffers:
  1. BCM H
  2. V Seven H
  3. Daniel Defense H
Note: I like all these and they will all work very well. The V Seven, as per their usual, comes in on the lighter-end, while the BCM and DD are a tiny bit heavier. All should function flawlessly in your gun with a 16" mid-length barrel, Full Auto BCG, and standard spring. To avoid issues, I recommend this set up and the Buffers I listed are all selected with such a set up in mind. It is important to get a Buffer that you can rely on to do its job. If it doesn't do the job, you're shooting the most awkward bolt-action gun, ever. (Assuming it doesn't jam.) On the plus side, I've never heard of a Buffer causing an injury - just cyclic problems. Test it at the range and see if you have any problems with rapid fire. If you can fire your rifle slowly and rapidly with no feeding issues, you're good to go. If you're not sure which to buy first, BCM is my default recommendation - it'll probably be the only one you need to buy.

Buffer Tubes:
  1. Spike's Buffer Tube
  2. Daniel Defense Buffer Tube
  3. BCM Buffer Tube
  4. Damage Industries
Note: There are two things that matter here: 1. getting a 7075 T6 tube and 2. getting it in Mil Spec diameter. Truthfully, there is nothing wrong with commercial spec Tubes, but don't try to use them on a Mil Spec rifle. Also, there are more options for Mil Spec than Commercial. Any tube from a high quality manufacturer that meets the 2 criteria above should work and you might consider other options if you're building a FDE or OD green gun, for instance.


Stocks:
  1. BCM Gunfighter Mod 0
  2. Magpul MOE CTR
  3. Magpul MOE SL 
  4. MFT BMS
Note: This is totally personal preference and these are the ones I will consider putting on my rifles. I can tell you with certainty that the BCM gunfighter stock is the best strength to weight option you'll find and it's very comfortable. This is also a place where a lot of guys add unneeded weight because some 3-gun shooter loves a certain stock or the Spec Ops guys use SOPMOD. So, people end up with heavier stocks that aren't giving them a performance increase, but they increase the weight of the gun. There are 3 key factors: 1. Does it feel good against your cheek/shoulder? 2. How light is it? 3. How durable is it? To me, the best choice is the BCM Gunfighter or MFT Minimalist - I go back and forth between the two in terms of preference.

Pistol Grips:
  1. Mapgul K2
  2. BCM Gunfighter Mod 3
  3. Magpul MOE
  4. Magpul SL 
Note: This is very much about personal preference. Many people like Egro grips or Hogue and there is nothing wrong with that. But, I do not like finger grooves, as in Ergo grips, and the rubber Hogues always catch on everything - which is always a pain when you've got the rifle slung. That is also why I dislike the Magpul MOE+. Basically, if you like a thinner grip for ergonomic reasons or because you just have a smaller hands and can't grab larger grips, I recommend the Magpul SL or the MOE, depending on which angle you prefer. My personal favorite is usually the Gunfighter Mod 3, but I flip-flop back forth between the Gunfighter Mod 3 and the K2. The SL and MOE are the lightest weight options (by 0.1 oz) and the BCMs are actually about 0.5 oz heavier than the others, but are meant for modern shooting styles, fill the hand, and provide excellent control. (You could always remove the plug at the end of the BCM Mod 3 to lighten the weight of the grip.)