A Plastic AR? Oh My!

While browsing at my local range last night, the guy behind the counter was admiring my MOE Handguard, and offered up his new toy for my perusal. Seen above, that’s a mostly polymer lower for the AR 15 platform made by New Frontier Armory. In fact, the only metal parts I could find were the springs in the trigger assembly and the buttstock parts. Even the hammer and trigger were made of plastic polymer. Now I’m not anti polymer by any means . . .

I gleefully own and shoot my M&P’s and XD(m)’s til the cows come home. Or I hit one. Then again, a parabellum puts a little less stress on plastic than does a 5.56 x 45mm NATO round. So let’s just say I have my doubts about long term reliability. But at $109.99 for the complete lower, give ‘em points for being price competitive.

They must be busy because NFA’s website says they are taking 6-8 weeks to fill orders, but we’ll be throwing our hat in there to try to get a plastic fantastic for evaluation and review. Watch this space.

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About Tyler Kee

Tyler Kee is a small town kid trying to make it in the big city of Austin, TX. A salesman by day, he is an avid motorcyclist and aspiring chef out of the office.

44 Responses to A Plastic AR? Oh My!

  1. avatarwillow says:

    The SCAR 16 and SCAR 17 both have a (mostly) polymer lower as well (and the SCAR 17 uses even heavier rounds than 5.56 x 45mm NATO).

    No problems whatsoever.

    • Ya I don’t see why a good product can’t still be achieved. Weight reduction is a big thing to the military, while still keeping durability in mind of coarse.

      • avatarMax says:

        The difference between the SCAR(AR-18) and the AR-15 in operation, is that the AR-15 is almost a bullpup, while the SCAR is a slightly more traditional rifle.

        Blasphemy, right? No, I’m serious. One of the biggest indicators of puppihood is having zer0 “dead space” in the stock, which the AR-15 accomplishes. It comes just short of being a bullpup, because it doesn’t pile the operating mechanism over the barrel like many systems do. It stacks it all behind itself, thus bringing the length out with a longer action.

        The SCAR might use a polymer lower, but the lower/stock doesn’t actually house the operating system in the SCAR. It’s ALL in the upper.

        A polymer AR-15 lower is a good idea, but not right now for longterm abuse. Polymer technology isn’t there yet. Perhaps a polymer lower with Aluminum or steel for the buffer, but all polymer will leave a bad taste in your mouth if you run it too hard.

  2. avatarMike says:

    If it breaks, it will be at the rear where the buffer tube screws on. Note how in normal aluminum lowers, that area has been steadily reinforced over the years by adding material, starting from the prototype AR-15′s to the now universal M16A2 type lower receivers.

    That’s also why the Cavalry Arms polymer lowers included a unitary buttstock as part of the lower.

    SCARs, ACRs and similar rifles with polymer lowers don’t have that problem because the stock is attached to the upper — all they need to hold basically are the magazine, the grip and the FCG parts.

  3. The complete lower that you linked to is their G-15 lower which is a forge aluminum, the polymer lower is even cheaper. As seen here, http://newfrontierarmory.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=245_285, at $109 for a fully built out polymer lower. That is cheaper than most forged aluminum stripped lowers.

  4. PS. I own two and the only issue I have had is the polymer take down pins have broken in half on me but, I have found NFA great to deal with and they sent me replacement parts very promptly.

    • avatarjwm says:

      can you replace the polymer pins with metal? seems that would give you the weight savings of the polymer while keeping strentgh at critical points.

      • You can because these lowers are made to the same spec but I have not as of yet. Only had one break on me and the replacement has been fine.

      • avatarrybred says:

        yes you can, i have one and the FIRST time i put a .22 upper on it the plastic detent pins twisted and the springs shot out. rather than deal with NFA i just put in the standard metal pins and detents. they fit fine but i’ll admit that i haven’t used it yet cuz i live in commifornia and dont have a bullet button OR a rimfire upper that i own. will have to wait till i go out of state or till i get a rimfire upper.

  5. avatarDavid says:

    Along with this product or similar, I was wondering what, if any, would be the practical limit for weight reduction in an AR platform? Plastic or carbon fiber lower, carbon wrapped barrel from Christensen Arms, etc. It would seem that the only TTAG could take on? Thanks.

    • avatarDavid says:

      I typed that it would seem that the only parts that require weight for an AR to function are the bolt and carrier. Is this a project that TTAG could take on?

  6. avatarMichael says:

    I have one waiting for an upper in my parts bin. I’ve seen the torture tests(google them if you are interested) and am curious on what you rate them in your review. I will in fact be watching this space closely.

  7. avatarRoll says:

    Are you going to do a torture test Tyler? Would be interesting to see if you can induce a failure…

    Am interested

  8. avatarAndrew S says:

    PLEASE test this out with a .300 aac blackout upper! (assuming that may make a difference).

    either way, i cant wait for the review.

    • avatarMichael says:

      Also, if possible, in cold weather. Or maybe just stick it in the freezer first. I hear people saying that the polymer becomes brittle in the cold.

      • avatarsurlycmd says:

        And heat lamps if possible. Running hot/cold cycles with the lamps would be faster than leaving them in the sun.

      • avatarTaurus609 says:

        On Handguns TV, Aaron Roberts and his co-host put an XDM through just about every imaginable torture test, including freezing it, and it never had a problem running. So I would think that testing for those extremes have been exhausted!

  9. avatarElliotte says:

    Found somewhere that has them in-stock, in various stages between stripped & complete.

    http://www.joeboboutfitters.com/New_Frontier_Armory_Polymer_Lowers_s/20223.htm

    • avatarMatt says:

      That is where I bought mine. The intent is to build a cheap .22 plinker. JoeBob recommends a modified hammer, as the standard will not fit a .22 upper without dremeling. It was only $10 more, so I bought it as well.

      The torture tests and reviews under your link is what convinced me. If I want to use it towards another AR build, I can always upgrade the LPK down the road.

  10. avatarMoonshine7102 says:

    Since we’re talking polymer, here, I was wondering what ever happened with the plastic AR magazine torture test. Any results at all?

  11. avatarV.McCann says:

    To those with experience with polymer rifle receivers: What effect have you noticed on balance? I always thought my issued M4 got a little front heavy. Or are polymer receivers not noticeably lighter?

  12. avatarBob says:

    I have a friend with one and it feels as heavy as my aluminium one. I think the benefit is only on the cost saving part. By the way, be aware that it is using a commercial buffer, not milspec (no problem unless you have multiple milspec ARs and you want to swap parts).

  13. avatarKD says:

    I immediately ordered one of these lowers the first time I read about it. Taking a chance, I figured if nothing else I would use it on my dedicated 22lr upper. I am impressed with the quality, surprised at the decent trigger, and have had no problems so far firing 5.56, 22lr, or 45acp in my AR-15 uppers.

  14. avatarSanchanim says:

    Wow things just keep getting more interesting every day!
    Polymer based lower? You could make that in your garage if you had the right equipment! the more plastic the more you can build at home. Sure might not be as strong as metal but mass producing would be easy, not that it is legal or anything..
    Time to get the FFL manufacture license I guess lol

  15. avatarAccur81 says:

    I’m seeing a polymer AR lower in my near future, as long as y’all don’t break yours in the TTAG review. Otherwise, I’ll be buying another Palmetto State Armory MOE lower. Good stuff, great price.

  16. avatarOther Derek says:

    Cavalry Arms made these for years before their Civil Rights were violated by the ATF. The model was CAV-15.

  17. avatarAndrew says:

    I have one as well, its on my first ar. Have shoot only say 150 rounds or so no big problems. Had a double feed but that was not the lowers fault. The take down pins are really hard to get out the first time I had to use a punch to get them to move at all. They seem better after a little use. Very light setup and cheap. My budget ar without optics was just under $500 with tax.

  18. avatarJason says:

    This is just the newest incarnation of the Plum Crazy lower. Been around for quite a while.

    • avatar4strokes says:

      I bought a couple of the plum crazy lowers a while back for $99 each. Slapped the budget PSA upper on one and created my beatter AR. I have close to two thousand rounds down the pipe with no problems – several hundred of those were using a slide-fire stock rapid fire. Is it a great gun? No. But it functions reliability and was less than $550 all-in.

  19. avatarJoseph says:

    http://www.JoeBobOutfitters.com has them in stock and ready to ship as indicated above!

    http://www.joeboboutfitters.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=NFA-LW15BLK

    On JoeBobOutfitter’s website there are 117 reviews from the last 6 months of sales, averaging 4.5 stars.

    New Frontier Armory has NO affiliation with “Plum Crazy”. The MOLD is the same, however, they have an upgraded polymer blend, fire control group, takedown pins, and of course an even better price point. They have a Lifetime Warranty, and New Frontier isn’t going anywhere anytime soon!

  20. avatarCellude says:

    Hasn’t Bushmaster been making composite ARs (Carbon 15) for years now?

    http://www.bushmaster.com/catalog_carbon15_az-c1516m4FT.asp

  21. avatarChuck Bobuck says:

    Earlier this year I built a 300 Blackout on a Plum Crazy polymer lower total build cost was $470 (I used a bolt assembly I had in a parts bin and did not include in the cost). I have put at least 500 rounds through this gun, all handloads, without any issues. The gun is extremely accurate and I can proudly say there is not one groundhog within 500 yards of my property. The polymer lower has held up well and looks like it did the day I bought it. The only parts I replaced (with metal) were the takedown pins. The provided take down pins worked but completely pull out when you disassemble the gun.
    Plum Crazy complete Lower – $113.95
    DSA arms 300blk upper – $335.04
    Metal takedown pins – $20

  22. avatarTim Curtis says:

    I bought one a couple of month’s ago for a .300 BLKout build. Makes it super light. Replaced the trigger and hammer with steel right of the bat. Take down pin broke after about 500 rounds through it, replaced with a steel pin. We will see how long it lasts. The store where I bought it said they have only had those two problems (hammer cracking and take down pin breakage in .223 use) and that it should last like a normal polymer lower. .300 Blkout is only a little more stress than a .223. They said most have no problems after the hammer is replaced.

    • avatarTim Curtis says:

      Saw Chuck’s post.

      DS Arms complete upper: $320 plus shipping
      DS Arms charging handle: $14
      Complete Bolt Assembly: $119 including tax
      New Frontier Lower: $170 including tax, bullet button (CA), and DROS

  23. avatarStardude82 says:

    I just put one into jail at Riflegear.com. $133 out the door. Going to shop around for a 22lr upper. I was told that the stock hammer wasn’t enough to reliably set off bulk 22lr rounds.

    • avatarJoseph says:

      “I just put one into jail at Riflegear.com. $133 out the door. Going to shop around for a 22lr upper. I was told that the stock hammer wasn’t enough to reliably set off bulk 22lr rounds.”

      Not quite. The 22LR should be set off just fine, however, depending on the blowback carrier the hammer may be too wide due to varying specs on the blowback uppers. You may need a blowback hammer New Frontier hammer:

      http://www.joeboboutfitters.com/New_Frontier_Armory_Blow_Back_Hammer_9mm_22LR_p/nfa-blowback.htm

      However, you can also shave down the hammer a bit on each side to fit the 22LR carrier. I’d probably wait until you purchase the upper and test fit things before you modify/exchange the hammer.

  24. avatarGary Smith says:

    I’ve purchased four of the New Frontier Lowers and replaced all of the internals to test. All have DPMS lower receiver parts and KNS precision pins. They work flawlessly. I can out shoot my friends with their high end AR’s and rapid fire as well. Accuracy is intact, and it lightens the weapon. I am using an Adams Arms upper piston system to test these and have had no problems whatsoever. I believe the concern is in gas impingment systems with the addition of heat. I probably wouldn’t use this on a gas impingement system. I’m sold on these. I haven’t had any issues with over 1000 rounds so far. I’m not expecting any failures. I would trust my life to my setup.

  25. avatarjohn says:

    the aluminium ar recievers can break were the buffer tube attaches i own a PLUMCRAZY carbon fiber lower reciever & the rear were the buffer tube attaches is alot stronger than a weak aluminium lower reciever. the upper is also carbon fiber with ejection port cover/flap im planing on building a 5lb M4 style rifle & with a christensen carbon fiber handguard. i also want to use a adcor bolt carrier & piston system but i dont know if it will be possible. cool huh? lol if anyone has any answers or advice on it. e-mail me at darkwatch1x@gmail.com ask for john thnx

  26. avatarchristina says:

    hello i was just woundering if you could tell me if i order a metal hammer for my polymer hammer that i broke since i cant find another polymer one if the metal one will affect the gun after shooting it several times ???

  27. avatarRyan says:

    I have a bushmaster 15c. The lower receiver just snapped in half with only 200 rounds through it. I really liked this rifle all I can say is hmmm. Haven’t contacted bushmaster yet but I will tomorrow.

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