Brand New AR-15 Bolt Disintegrates, Owner Not Happy

Courtesy SarcasmTroll on Reddit

In the panic buying of the last few months, manufacturers were left scrambling to find parts to complete their rifles and ship them out the door. In this case, it looks like Bushmaster may have skimped on the quality control of the parts they get from third parties. According to Reddit user SarcasmTroll, the brand new bolt he says is a Bushmaster part but purchased from a third party (so really, no telling if it’s true) disintegrated four rounds into its lifecycle. It appears that not only did the locking lugs shear completely off the bolt face, but the cam pin housing cracked and separated as well. If it truly is a Bushmaster part that broke, could this be another instance of a Freedom Group company selling substandard parts to meet demand? Is Bushmaster heading the way of Marlin? Will Superman defeat the dreaded General Zod? Stay tuned.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

81 Responses to Brand New AR-15 Bolt Disintegrates, Owner Not Happy

  1. avatarPK says:

    That’s a fairly catastrophic failure. Way to go, manufacturer. Too bad we’ll never know for sure who made that bolt and carrier.

  2. avatarJSIII says:

    Glad no one was hurt! I wouldnt buy an AR built in the last 6 months myself when production ramps up quality goes down period.

    • avatarJim L says:

      Amen.. I am even avoiding new batches of ammo even if I can find them at good prices for the same reason. QC takes a thumper dumper under this kind of demand-stress.

  3. avatarJeh says:

    I think I just vomited a little bit…
    The past few months have not been good for Bushmaster that’s for sure.

  4. avatarTom in Oregon says:

    Wow. Looks like factory NATO rounds to boot. Wonder what the carrier looks like?

  5. avatarSixpack70 says:

    Glad I haven’t touched any AR parts for my builds yet. That just plain sucks!

  6. avatarjwm says:

    2 words guys. Mosin Nagant. Nuff said.

    • avatarSixpack70 says:

      I have two. I think I need that box of 20 also.

    • avatarCraig says:

      +1

    • avatarWLCE says:

      yup.

    • avatarPeter says:

      Just got mine mounted up with a weaver scope and 6 crates of 12 spam cans. Woohoo!

      • avatarTom in Oregon says:

        Ok, ok, ok. Enough already. You folks keep talking about the mosin nagants. Now I have to go buy one.
        I’m supposed to be saving for Africa next month.
        Thanks a lot.

        • avatarGyufygy says:

          Africa? Sounds like a good place to have a Mosin.

          And a platoon of Marines.

    • avatarRalph says:

      I’m beginning to prefer the M44/M38 to the 91/30.

      • avatarjwm says:

        Muzzle blast is downright stimulating on the model 44. I’ve owned 3 and gave all away. Of course that was when you could get them for 75 bucks and under. I prefer the 91/30 for the range.

        • avatarRalph says:

          Yes, indeed. That four-foot fireball exiting the muzzle, and the sound, both attract a lot of attention.

          Good times.

      • avatarB Woodman says:

        Be careful. The M44 has recoil like the kick of a mule.
        I understand the 91/30 is gentler.

      • avatarWLCE says:

        I bought a M38 at Big 5 a number of years ago (2005? perhaps?) for 90 bucks. best purchase i ever made.

        You cant go wrong with a mosin. I think every gun owner should have one and a tin of 7.62 in times like these. In fact, I would rather someone spend the money and become proficient with one of these than spend 1800 on a AR15 and not shoot it due to the cost/availability of ammo.

        • avatarjwm says:

          Just took delivery today on a spam can of ammo. I still kick myself for passing on the Finnish M39′s when they were 125 bucks.

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      I love mine; a truly beautiful, reliable and enjoyable machine.

      The 25 round mag (well 20 round extension – 25 rounds total, five of which are internal) makes it look a little odd, but a tinkerer’s gotta do what a tinkerer’s gotta do.

      Purists needn’t worry – it’s reversible.

      • avatarneiowa says:

        Purist? A Mosin? The 350 Chevy (or Shick disposable) of the gun world. Do ANYTHING to one and who cares. Cut it, weld it, blow it up. There are millions more.

        • avatarRuss Bixby says:

          I’ll mod it in a non-destructive way, but I respect its history and character.

          I’ll go with the 350, but a disposable anything it ain’t.

          Those baby’s were buit or the long haul.

        • avatarWLCE says:

          if you see a imperial eagle, dont carve it up! ;)

    • avatarSteve1968 says:

      Yea ok. Go up against anyone who has any experience with an AR with your 75 year old bolt action Russian relic and your going to have a very bad day. Why do you think the Russians dumped them all on the US? Seriously, it’s like comparing 1903 Springfields to a 50 cal Barret.

      • avatarjwm says:

        Lighten up steve. How many people in America are ever going to have to use their rifle in a real world situation regardless of what brand or caliber it is? Since you’re more likely to get struck by lighting than use your rifle in a self defense shooting just relax and enjoy the fun of the discussion.

  7. avatarColoradan says:

    Lol, maybe Cody Wilson can print a better one.

  8. avatarJonathan says:

    It’s probably not just a matter of production volume and innocent shortcuts to keep up; as backlogs have been the norm for some time, not just since the election, and often the longest distance between two points is a shortcut.

    Rather, this is a fairly common phenomenon with a business that’s up for sale. You start seeing employee raises capped and bonuses shelved. Then comes the shift to lower quality (read: cheaper) materials. Finally, you’ll see the actual production lines start to suffer from unplanned down time as routine maintenance indefinitely delayed starts to take effect.

    The idea is squeeze as much cash out of the company in the shortest amount of time:

    1.) Because cash is cash in and of itself and in the short run, the less you spend, the more you can keep. By the time the detrimental effects of departed star talent, substandard materials, and overdue maintenance overwhelmingly present, the sale will have closed and those are someone else’s problems.

    2.) Because the company’s valuation to a prospective buyer typically comes down to the net present value of the future cash flows (assuming such is greater than what the company’s assets could be sold for piecemeal, as opposed to being part of a going concern.) If you can artificially inflate the net profits in the short run by foregoing the above costs of doing business, then you can pump up the profit projections used to determine the company’s sales price.

    In my experience, how successful these grossly unethical tactics are depends on how sophisticated and deep pocketed the buyers are. If they’re true manufacturing guys, they’ll know what to look for during due diligence and call the seller on it. If they aren’t, but can later afford years of post-sale litigation, then they can fight it that way. If they’re neither, well, prepare to get screwed as you just bought a shell of a company whose customer goodwill is about to disintegrate faster than, well, a cheap ass bolt.

  9. avatarEnsitue says:

    I’m sure Michele Moore is happy as a clam
    It looks like the bolt was brittle and when the lugs sheared turned into a Blow Back System hence the damage to the carrier. The barrel extention will have to be replaced as well as other parts such as the lower???

  10. avatarHarold says:

    Quote: “Checked the bolt, and it is unmarked. I’ve done a dozen or so AR builds and have never seen this. It was “supposedly” a B%$%Master.” Doesn’t sound too definitive to me. Just just a bunch of internet hearsay bullshit. This wasn’t worthy of a post.

    • avatarLabman says:

      Harold. Yeah, there seems to be some info left out. I noticed there was no comment on ammo brand or type. One suggested it looked like NATO factory but if you look at a lot of my hand loads, you’d think the same thing as about half are once-fired military brass..Lake City to be exact. Lotsa folks reloading out there now. Gotta be careful loading any brass but you have to be extra careful with military brass, especially if you mix and match your brass. In my book, that’s a bozo no no. Military is generally thicker brass and holds somewhat less powder than say new Win brass and if you aren’t careful, you can end up with a compressed load and exceed the pressure rating of the chamber and possibly cause what happened. I’m not accusing anybody of anything…just sayin’. Another thing that can happen is the bolt might only be rated for .223, not 5.56…if you’re building one, you have to know which bolt you’re using. I think almost all AR’s now use 5.56 but there were some around using .223 and there’s about 10,000 CUPs pressure difference in max chamber pressure and you cannot use 5.56 in them or you might be picking pieces out of your face….again, just sayin’.

  11. avatarg says:

    Should have bought… an AK!

    Heh. ;)

    • avatarBondmen says:

      Yeah they’re built tough and most are military spec surplus. Have you seen their prices lately? Still staying up there post ban scare. What an amazing store of value the AK has become in Obama’s America!

  12. avatarJohnny says:

    This is why I’ll go with a “real” Bushmaster rifle and buy from Windham Weaponry.

  13. avatarBlehtastic says:

    Just ordered a new BCM upper and Palmetto State Armory stripped lower. Who buys already built AR’s? Takes away half the fun.

  14. avatarChuckN says:

    Many might chalk this up completely to rush production cycles.
    However, in my experience Bushmaster quality dropped off
    when the original company was purchased by Cerberus/Freedom
    Group. Freedom Group would end up firing everyone from the
    original factory and starting a new one in NC. I don’t think they
    took any of the engineers or machinists. I have a pre-Cerberus
    Bushmaster and to me seems of far better construction than a
    newly made one. It definitely shoots better than several of my
    friends new Bushmasters. That said I never thought quality
    control would ever get this bad.

  15. avatarPavePusher says:

    So, one bolt out of how many? And this proves… what exactly? Saying that this one incident proves Bushmaster is crap is equivalent to saying that one gun murder means all gun owners are criminals.

    Statistics…. they mean something.

    Sheesh.

    • avatarPat says:

      Your exactly right. Many on this forum might as well scream “BAN GUNS” at the top of their lungs after the next mass shooting.

  16. avatarSteve says:

    I was just getting over Marlin. And TTAG brings it up again. =-(

  17. avatarEnsitue says:

    permalink
    save
    parent
    [+]SarcasmTroll[S] 1 point2 points3 points 1 day ago (0 children)
    [–]SarcasmTroll[S] 1 point2 points3 points 1 day ago

    Bought from 3rd party and not from a major retailer so I don’t want to bash anyone. Just passing along what I was told when I bought it.

  18. avatarA-Rod says:

    This is planned obsolescence folks. This is the same gunmaker logic that has people convinced that your barrel life is 10,000 or less rounds and therefore won’t last your lifetime, you have to have some new bells and whistles for your AR – AK – FAL blah blah until your rifle weights 16 pounds. The list goes on and on. They want you to spend more money.

    • avatarmatt says:

      This is the same gunmaker logic that has people convinced that your barrel life is 10,000 or less rounds and therefore won’t last your lifetime

      Shoot ammo with a bi-metal jacket and this would be accurate. Depending on the powder and charge weight, the throat could suffer severe erosion as well. It isnt planned obsolescence at all. And a couple hundred dollars for a barrel is nothing compared to what 10k rounds of ammo costs. You’ll actually save money if you shoot bi-metal jacketed ammo and replace your barrel after 10k rounds than buying copper jacketed ammo. Read this article if you don’t believe me
      http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/

  19. avatarBsr says:

    Hey at least it has gas rings!! Bought a palmetto complete BCG it shot it and it wouldnt cycle! Took it apart and it was missing the gas rings!

    • avatarSouthern Cross says:

      Didn’t you check the gun before using? Any gun I buy is dismantled and thoroughly cleaned and inspected before taking it to the range. Milsurps often have cosmoline all over the metal (and often plugging up the barrel as well), and lots of oil in the stocks.

  20. avatarSteven says:

    Check headspace much?

    The only part not interchangeable in most ARs is the bolt.

    • avatarmatt says:

      Wouldnt improper headspace cause a case head separation rather than a bolt disintegrating?

    • avatargyrfalcon says:

      The bolt is interchangeable, just not recommended after it wears down. Head-spacing is preset/fixed on the AR-15 when the barrel extension is mounted.

    • avatarLabman says:

      I’ll differ with you on the “not interchangeable” statement. How many bolts do you think are factory matched to the chamber? Now, if you buy a competition version, yes, it’ll be matched, that’s part of what you’re paying for. In a mass produced $800 AR, not a chance. Gyrfalcon’s statement above is correct. Not recommended after the parts wear in.

      Turns out the guy bought the bolt off the GunBroker site so it didn’t come with the barrel assembly. Apparently he really didn’t know what he was buying. So he either bought a poorly made (or maybe used) part or he was using some really hot ammo. I think we need to be careful judging any manufacturers by the results of one guy wanting to save a couple hundred dollars and apparently buying the cheapest parts he could lay his hands on and playing mix and match with the components. Not the best idea.

    • avatarFed Up says:

      I was wondering about headspace myself.

  21. avatarCharlie says:

    I’m on a couple of AR forums, and what I’ve heard about Bushmaster quality post Freedom Group isn’t good. What I’ve heard about Remington isn’t good either, so I have postponed my acquisition of an XCR Tactical indefinitely.

    Those are anecdotes. Please feel free to ignore them. :)

    Charlie

  22. avatarHryan says:

    I think you guys with bad Marlins are just plain unlucky; two friends and I bought 1894cs in .357 last year; mine has been nothing short of magical at 1000+ rounds, and yes it is Freedom Group vintage.

  23. That AR-15 bolt found out what happens when you don’t kneel before Zod.

  24. avatarKCK says:

    3 million guns out there and one bolt breaks, sounds like a disturbing trend.
    I need some theories.

  25. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    OK, just from the one picture, which isn’t well posed for examination by someone actually looking for the clues to the problem:

    1. The necks of the cases are flame-stained all the way back of the shoulder. This means the case neck didn’t seal and gas blew back over the case.

    2. I don’t see evidence of primer excursion out of the primer pocket(s).

    3. The detail in the photo isn’t good enough to get a look at the steel on the bolt.

    • avatarJT says:

      “The necks of the cases are flame-stained all the way back of the shoulder. This means the case neck didn’t seal and gas blew back over the case.”

      That is from the annealing process. All XM193 has it.

      http://accurateshooter.net/Blog/xm193x350.jpg

      • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        I have some XM193 right here at my desk.

        My annealing stain isn’t that dark, nor does it extend that far back on the shoulder. There could be lot variations, but in the quantity of production of XM193, I’d hope that Federal/ATK doesn’t have that much variation in their lots.

  26. avatarRuss Bixby says:

    Wow.

    I’ve only once seen anything like that – on a machine tool made from 600° water-quench which instead had been heated to cherry and tossed in oil.

    The result was similarly double plus ungood.

    Such niceties matter…

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Absolutely.

      People who don’t understand the mechanism of how steel hardens when quenched, or how you have to temper most hardened steels to remove brittleness can produce some really fragile product.

      Heat treating failures have bedeviled the firearms industry for a long, long time. It was the Springfield 1903 receiver failures that finally got the US armory system really interested in approaching heat treatment as engineering and science, rather than a craftsman’s work.

  27. avatargreenmeanie says:

    Hey Foghorn,

    It would appear that you, me and the rest of us got the initial impression that SarcasmTroll got the bolt direct from Bushy. Turns out he didn’t.

    I noticed buried down in the reddit thread he eventually mentioned that he bought it from someone off gunbroker. This post is later than your last one so you may not have seen it.
    You may want to amend this article for accuracy. :-)

  28. avatarPeter says:

    Looking at a higher resolution picture
    http://i.imgur.com/1vlSPjN.jpg
    doesn’t really help, if the bolt had cracked on the previous shot and just had enough material left to go into battery, why did the locking lugs fail?
    We really need full disclosure on the ammo used as I would think that a batch of very high pressure would break the bolt @ the cam pin, due to violent recoil ,and then shear off the locking lugs when the chamber could not unlock.
    How far had the brass been thrown on the previous three rounds?

    • avatarLabman says:

      I agree that it’s certainly something to look at, Peter. You cannot assume he was using factory ammo by looking at two cases. Hot ammo could and has caused stuff like this…and sometimes a lot worse. The fact that the primers appear to be seated (but we are only shown 2 of the 4 fired cases) doesn’t really mean anything because they may have unseated and then reseated under the violent recoil. Like I said before, we only have part of the story.

  29. avatarbeanfield says:

    There’s a thread on arfcom noting the same issue with a series of bolts supplied to joebob outfitters (as well as other resellers). Perhaps it’s the same manufacturer? http://goo.gl/bnnoX

    Post 215 on page 3 has a response from joeboboutfitters. If you bought a ceraplate bcg from them that hasn’t had this issue, you can contact them with your order number and they’ll replace it from a known good batch.

  30. avatarRhodes says:

    I have just one word to on this… Kalashnikov

  31. avatarChris45 says:

    Never have I had this problem with my M1 Garand. Go ahead kids, keep playing with your little black plastic rifles.

  32. avatarlouringe3 says:

    I have seen this on a Colt and a Bushmaster during our SWAT academy

  33. avatarme says:

    Jonathan, ChuckN, Charlie: You’re all correct.

    When Cerberus Capital bought out Bushmaster Firearms of Windham, Maine, a company with a long and proud history of producing milspec ARs and complete M16 rifles for the US military, they closed down the plant.

    Current “Bushmaster” firearms and parts are rebranded DPMS parts. DPMS is, to put it bluntly, infamous for its nonexistent QC, among other things. People have nicknamed them “Doesn’t Pass Mil Specs.” They aren’t the worst manufacturer of AR type rifles out there–that particular dishonor goes to Olympic–but they’re not far above them.

    Catastrophic failures of DPMS bolts and bolt carriers are commonplace. If investigated, normally the blame goes to use of an inappropriate steel alloy combined with improper heat treatment. The military specifies Carpenter 158 high-speed tool steel, with a very specific heat treatment and very specific hardness, for M16/M4 bolts and carriers for a reason. Colt bolts don’t fail like this. Pre-buyout Bushmaster bolts didn’t fail like this. DPMS products are infamous for this specific catastrophic failure mode. Carpenter 158 steel is expensive to purchase, and its high hardness and toughness make it very difficult to machine; it wears out tooling quickly. The equipment to temper it properly is expensive. Quality control costs money, especially if you’re actually hiring people who know something about something to do the job, instead of high school kids, wetbacks, and crackheads recruited from the local halfway house to do the job at minimum wage. DPMS/current “Bushmaster” rifles are less expensive because the manufacturer cuts corners during their manufacture. This is why it matters.

    Relevant:

    http://www.ar15.com/forums/t_3_118/254313_Why_do_a_lot_of_people_say_DPMS_sucks_so_bad__.html

    Added: I am unfamiliar with JoeBob Outfitters and do not know where they get their wares–but this type of catastrophic bolt failure has been associated with DPMS products for a very long time. I wonder if they’re from DPMS.

  34. avatarScot Wynn says:

    I find it interesting that a fully sponsored shooter on the FN Team, takes every opportunity he has to bash other gun companies… is this coincidence or not.. whatever the reason.. It shows bad form and even less integrity, has professional courtesy been completely forgotten since Tommy left the team. Stay with FN bubs… you won’t be welcome any place else with your endless rants on the competition.

    • avatarnotdumb says:

      Well said. This is why blogs are becoming the biggest source of misinformation. If you call yourself “TheTruth” About Guns, you should really be more honest. And, integrity should be the apex of any “article” you write.

  35. avatarmagnetik says:

    It’s a Soro’s owned company, so running this gun companies into the ground to push the global agenda, is not too much of a stretch.

  36. avatarAndy says:

    Bought a build rifle from a ffl dealer friend of mine,he built it,Surplus Ammo&Arms lower,Sherluk heavy barrel a-3 upper,Palmetto State Armory Lower parts kit,shoots very good,no problems.Bought it the first week of December,2013,before SHTF ,over gun control.Am starting to find a little ammo coming back,still can’t find any .22lr though.Keep your powder dry.

  37. avatarBonnie Brown says:

    This failure is due to oil or grease on the bolt face. The oil or grease transfer the energy into the bolt hydraulically. Always clean the bolt face thoroughly and leave it dry. This damage is common among bone-heads who never read the instruction manuals or listen to their sargeant. Tis will happen to any weapon not just AR15/M16/M4 rifles.

    • avatarOld Armorer says:

      You are talking complete bullshit. This is the result of an overly hard bolt. Most likely caused by improper heat treating or the use of the wrong steel alloy.

      Notice the how the lugs all broke with the same conchoidal fracture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conchoidal_fracture), just as if they were made out of glass.

      A bolt face should be kept free of grease or oil, but that is to prevent grease or oil being transferred to the chamber where it can prevent proper obturation and impair the adhesion of the case to the sides of the chamber, causing elevated bolt thrust.

      Please do not comment on matters that exceed your competence.

  38. avatarNot2BFound says:

    Glad I bought my Saiga .308 years ago for $400. 2000+ rounds of all types not one failure. Gotta love it!

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