(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By: Chris H.
What started as a project to do the most with as little as possible has turned into what might be my greatest point of pride and frustration. Initially I wanted to create an AR15 for myself, as I’m comfortable with the rifle from my time in the military. And as election year was coming around I thought it would be prudent to make a move on an “assault weapon” or more accurately a normal semi auto rifle. So I decided to start with an 80% lower.
Fortunately at the time I was a machining student and had access to a fully equipped machine shop. The whole process took about an hour. Maybe a bit more as I had to look up dimensions. For the two of you who don’t know how it works, to finish an 80% lower it’s simply cutting out of aluminum the part of an AR15 that holds the trigger group in place. For those of you who have machined an 80% lower, I hope you used a jig. I didn’t and it was incredibly loud. No changes to my speeds or feeds would do it. Yeesh. But all in all, a prideful moment for me.
So $50 well spent, and I chose not to engrave it. I know others would disagree with this practice but I love the look. No markings whatsoever
The other major component that I machined was the handguard. I got very lucky. Handguards are best made using an extrusion that has the profile of the handguard. But my instructor just so happened to have taught Glen Seekins his first lesson in G code for CNC so they know each other fairly well.
So from him we received a few five-foot sections of the very material he uses to make his high end handguards. Several hours of computer work and about eight in the four axis CNC machine and…viola! My own one of a kind handguard. Not super fancy but something that works great for me.
And my flash hider, made that too.
The second part of this gun that is somewhat unique is that I spent absolutely as little money as possible. Between my birthday, begging friends and trading parts and other stuff, I have a working rifle for about 150 of my own dollars. Pair that with my own machined parts and you have a bit of a strange but awesome franken-rifle. With a few strange parts like a plain Jane Palmetto upper and a DPMS commercial spec stock and buffer tube.
But before I delve into the nuances of my review I must say that this rifle has brought me lots of joy and pride. It’s not perfect, I’ve had issues (as you will see) but I made it with my own hands and nobody can take that from me, and that’s why I chose to share this rifle with all of you. Not because I think I’m the best reviewer. But because guns are a part of American culture and we should share that with each other. Ok, off the soap box. Here we go.
My rifle is chambered in 6.5 Grendel. Why? I can’t hunt deer in Washington with 5.56. Plus I’ve really bought into the idea of higher BC bullets with better downrange performance. Using a ballistic calculator I’m still getting about a 1000 ft pounds of energy at 300 yards with a 16 inch barrel. Well outside my normal hunting range so as long as I do my part there should be no problems in the field.
Talking about the field 6.5 Grendel still has 25 round magazines so I’m not giving up much capacity for the increased firepower. So as a defensive rifle I’m still very confident in my ability to lay down fire if needed. I won’t expand much more on the Grendel round since it has been extensively covered in other articles and other places online.
As long as I’m talking about the round let’s talk about my barrel for a second. It’s a Doublestar 6.5 Grendel 1 in 9 twist 4140 chromemoly with parkerized outside and a M4 profile. Pretty standard as far as AR barrels go, but I did catch a sale and saved a good bit of money from J&T Distributing.
All around, it’s been good to me, but at first it would only chamber when I released the bolt catch. If I ride the bolt home and use the forward assist to nudge it in, it didn’t want to chamber my Hornady 123 grain ammo. But, after a few rounds downrange and a good cleaning that seemed to sort itself out. On the range I did encounter one major malfunction. The C-Products magazines that I bought. Follower tilt. What is follower tilt? Here’s a picture.
And here’s what happens to the rounds if you have this issue.
Ouch. That was annoying. But I sent a courteous email off to the folks over at C-Products. They told me to box em up and send them back. After a week or so I got a box back with two brand new magazines and that fixed that. Beyond that, it feels and handles like any other black rifle just like you would expect fairly light, and easy to point and carry. I should also note the Magpul grip is a big step up from a milspec version. No finger bump and the texture is much better.
I mounted a nice little 2.5 power scope. A little hand-me-down from my boss. With that and my average skill it can produce groups as well as I can shoot with what is essentially a stock trigger.
The fancy exterior coating on this rifle is rattlecan tan. I never did like black. In the army everything has camo pattern. Except our rifles. This seems like a huge oversight in my book but hey, what do I know? So this is my homage to that time, painting over bare aluminum and black anodized so that it has a nice uniform look. Plus as it wears off the weathered look is pretty cool to me and isn’t that what’s important?
Without a shadow of a doubt I think every person of the gun should go down the road of building their own AR15. There’s a lot of personal growth that can be had and in my experience most people enjoy working with their hands. But, I would not recommend doing your own machining. It is labor intensive and considering the tooling and man hours a very uneconomical choice. Having said that pride of ownership on this one is through the roof.
So while it’s just another AR15 and there are many like it, this one is mine.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * *
While tan is a great color I really need to swap out the stock for something more acceptable. Otherwise my forend is super cool and all my own.
Ergonomics: * * * *
It’s an AR15…no surprises here.
Reliability: * * *
With the few issues I’ve had I’ll be replacing a few parts in the future.
Accuracy: * * *
Stock trigger on an AR15. A drop-in will be a worthwhile investment.
Customize This: * * * * *
It’s an AR15.
Overall: * * * *
Currently not a perfect rifle. But with all the time, sweat, and tears, this rifle isn’t going anywhere