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 Ruger SR-556 (courtesy

TTAG reader MJ writes:

I work at a SMALL gun shop in eastern Wyoming, and we have had numerous issues arise in the past two or three months concerning problems with brand new firearms that seemed to be overlooked when leaving the factory.  Such issues include: crooked buffer tube on S&W M&P AR, dust cover that wouldn’t close on a Ruger SR-556 piston AR (not a big deal, but still), all the compact XD’s we just had to ship back due to recall, and earlier I believe I read something about a recall on the S&W Shield.  We obviously attribute this to the mass surge in firearms purchasing this year, which in turn relates to ramped up production and a lack of tight quality control.  Are we, being a small gun shop, receiving batches of less closely examined firearms? Or are many dealers noticing this? Thanks. Keep up the good work.

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  1. It would appear you have two “divergent paths” of mistakes:

    One is quality control issues (buffer tube, dust cover) and one is engineering issues (recall notices).

    Interested to see other shop owners chime in here…

  2. I have seen more cases of poor QC in 2 years. I have sent back 4 Ruger revolvers for numerous issues. My single action Bisley Hunter was sent back 3 times. On the fourth time they gave me a new gun. I have seen piss poor AR parts from all kinds of manufactures. I have sent back tons of parts to top manufactures that lack QC. Some manufactures have cooperated and some have argued. I have paid money out of my pocket to send back some of this junk. Recently I looked at an LMT 308 at a local store. The upper receiver had such heavy tooling marks that I was disgusted. LMT is an ISO 9000 company. How can this shit make it to the stores? The kid working at the gun store had no attention to detail. I told him to send it back to LMT, and he argued that someone would by it. WTF. This is America. Lets have some fucking pride in our shit. Is that so much to ask?

  3. this is why with ARs, either buy a quality factory (BCM, DD, Noveske, LMT, larue, Colt) or build your own with high quality parts. Buy walmart priced get walmart quality.

    With handguns, if you buy a bubba gun, you get a bubba gun.

      • The post above mine referenced an LMT with obvious cosmetic damage, not an issue related to the design or function of the weapon. In fact, what he might have thought were tool marks were likely scratches from shipment or poor handling.

        You wont find many stories about LMTs having poor “fit” or reliability issues.

  4. From an engineering standpoint I think you have two problems….

    First, I think you are probably correct about increasing production equaling slips in quality. I’ve been there myself. When you have operators assembling widgets at a rate of 10 per day, then suddenly ask them to produce 100 per day they focus more on hitting their production rates than the quality of what they are producing. They’re under pressure to make shipments or their bosses will be reaming them…

    At the same time, I think you also have an influx of new models without proper testing (something that I have experience with also, unfortunately). Along the lines of RF’s earlier post regarding a new AR model every other day, you have companies rushing to cash in on the uptick in firearms sales. They’re rushing things. When you’re rushing a new product release things get missed. Prints don’t get thoroughly checked, incoming material isn’t inspected as tightly as it should be, quality controls for machining/assembly aren’t as robust as they should be…

    Both of these things lead to the seeming abundance of recall notices (again, unfortunately, something I’ve dealt with 🙁 ). Engineers rushing to release, operators rushing to build….

    • Spot on about the increased production. Anyone who has ever worked in a factory can confirm: when demand skyrockets and the workers are forced to do 12+ hour days 7 days a week, they get tired, pissed off, cranky, and generally do poor quality work.

  5. I’m not a dealer, but IMO the only reason we know about problems today is due to the internet.

    The uninitiated might think the Gen 4 was Glocks first debacle.Yet, in the last decade Gastons shop had problems with the NYPD G19 and WMLs on G22 Gen 3s .The reason the Gen 4 defects seem so bad is because we’ve got video proof of the matter today.

    Same deal with 1911s, IMO.If someone gets a bad gun they run to YouTube and boom, another nail in the coffin.I won’t recount earlier quality failures like the original Bren Ten and the S&W Sigma.

    IMO, most problems with guns these days are associated with their owners, not the factory which made them.

  6. I work in a small LGS as well. I think there have been quality issues these last few years. Ruger had all sorts of recalls several years ago with the SR9 and LCP when they first rolled out. Quality in general has gotten worse with anything Freedom Group is putting out (Rem, Marlin, DPMS, etc). My opinion is that all the new models they are coming up with are rushed out (to capitalize on a good market) so quickly that some issue/design flaws are not being fully addressed. As far as Freedom Group is concerned it’s all about the bean counters and I feel they are cutting corners.

    Again this is just my opinion. Seems to me recalls would be expensive and maybe it would be better to hold off on a new release and get it right the first time. Even “quality” makers have troubles too sometimes. I have had guns from LWRC, Wilson Combat, and other high end companies that had to go back with defects.

  7. I have sent back guns from Springfield, Sig. If I’ve learned anything from the process, you can expect to see malfunction prone equipment if it’s popular or new. If it’s both…waiting for less buggy models is advisable. Engineering issues from rushing to market and apparent QC issues from ramping up production lead to the same exact conclusions. Products with a high failure rate per thousand, high enough to garner company attention for recalls.

    The rules for bad QC aren’t exactly the same as bad engineering. Bad QC has a host of possible errors that don’t repeat as often to the exact same degree, like the Ruger buffer tube described above, but Ruger making an “affordable and reliable” piston driven AR gave them good market push since converting the ones we have isn’t always practical and Ruger does make a usually good product. The market share for piston ARs is small enough for them to rush and make good profit. Sheer numbers of produced units produces more failures; even if the rate is low bulk production will exaggerate these issues.

    Rushing to market with the Shield, having no first run issues, seemed different but if one person runs a particular part badly on their shift (as it seemed to be) then the entire work of the machined pistol is questionable. Does that mean bad engineering? Essentially, as any repeated error from the place of origin indicates the same. Though…manufacturer defects are more often human error it is the same basic process as bad engineering as far as RMA tickets and turnaround for repairs.

    In my experience most folks are not completely cognizant of issues with their firearms, lacking the knowledge needed to be able to determine if a malfunction is human or mechanical error and the average owner who has a mechanical failure sells the gun and swears off of X brand. I have heard increasing failure stories of not just bargain and nowhere companies but you have to look and listen. It appears volume is turning probability rates against us but it appears to be par for the course when combined with cost cutting on production.

    I doubt it is the size of the shop. The bigger the LGS, the more horror stories I hear.

  8. My personal quality control experience revolves around a new S&W 63 .22 revolver. The rear sight was missing the ‘click plate’ under the elevation screw and it wouldn’t hold zero. I spent 6 months going back and forth with Smith customer service trying to get them to send me the correct part.

    I finally ordered the $5 part on Numrich and had it fixed in 3 days vs 6 months of dealing with horrible customer service.

    I thought the 63 was going to be my first foray into collecting quality revolvers. As much as I love this little trail gun, my experience has me ‘gun’ shy of having to deal with Smith again.

  9. With all the rapidly ramped up production I’m sure there has been some increase in quality problems due to excessive overtime, new employees, training, less preventive maintenance downtime, etc. Although I am doing it mainly for the fun of learning and tinkering, and hopefully it will result in a bit better rifle for the same cost, this sounds like another good reason to justify building my own AR-15.

    • Not exactly. You can get the same issues part by part and you open yourself up to the fit issues of different parts made different places to different tolerances. Seems a six one way or half dozen the other.

      Building has familiarity benefits but QC is QC unless you are stamping your own parts.

      • None of this is a concern if you choose from only high quality manufacturers. That means EVERY part from the lpk to the gas block should be from a top tier manufacturer. You should never have “fit” issues.

        • It depends, as I said. AR parts being subject to availability issues and rushing to keep supply high can make any manufacturer suspect. If you were building one after December 14th up till a few months ago you got what you got and could afford. Plus, everyone claims they have the proverbial bee’s knees ib quality parts. I haven’t met a manufacturer yet that hasn’t claimed his parts aren’t top tier so…can’t be sure unless you have knowledge I don’t. Machinery is as it does and fails no matter who runs it. Not saying building is a bad move in the least but you can’t expect to foolproof the QC aspect by doing it by hand unless you press out every part by hand.

          I have a hand built AR myself and the human error from the person who built it and the fit of upper and lower receiver were both quite suspect and I have a LaRue Tactical Stealth upper reciever and a Stag Arms lower receiver. The fit is such that you need to damn near karate chop the stock downward to get the rifle open and the builder, who spared ZERO expenses with parts, put in a Timney trigger without securing the pins properly so they walked right out when I shot it. All quality but human error, parts fit, and probability still hit me.

        • A Stag arms lower and a Timney trigger in an AR? I believe you ha e identified the problem.

          The problem does not lie in the person who built it, but in the parts that were chosen.

          I have built three ARs during the great buying craze and not one of them has issues. It certainly wasn’t because if the person who built it, I can assure you! It was from carefully chosen parts from manufacturers who produce high quality parts. Noveske lowers, Vltor uppers, noveske/krieger/BCM barrels, LMT lpks, Geissele rail and triggers. Stick with manufacturers like these and I promise you you won’t have issues.

          • But…it was the person who built it. I picked the two pins up and took the rifle to my gunsmith. Timney, in the single stage 3lb $230 trigger in question, uses a proprietary fit for the pins in the trigger itself. After opening it and consulting a Timney manual the smith found the two screws in the trigger group meant to tighten into the detents in the pins. Timney triggers do not secure the way others do but after that it was smooth sailing. I personally prefer my Giessele 2 stage trigger that replaced it but it took my smith 10 minutes with the gun to tighten a couple of neglected screws. We laughed about it and he didn’t even charge me for it because it was such a simple fix.

            Parts do not make up for knowledge. Nor do they account for guys buying what they can afford not what is top tier. Just because everyone isn’t lucky enough to buy short list parts doesn’t waive the right to complain if QC is not as perfect as advertised. Same token, price tag doesn’t buy out the possibility of QC issues.

            Parts are also subject to issues and nothing I’ve read or seen indicates a Stag Arms lower is anything less than quality. I believe they are stamped right along with HK and Colt lowers and every Stag I’ve touched seems amply quality and I have played with a few different manufacturers. Just blanket assumption of big budget saves the day sounds…ill-advised and not well founded at best. I mean I sent back 2 Sigs so price doesn’t dictate QC even if we think it should.

        • Yeah, that sounds like an incompetent builder. I recall reading guide after guide, watching various videos, and asking questions of more experienced builders before I attempted mine. With that said, the Geissele trigger is a cinch to and no anti rotation pins are needed nor recommended.

          I will say if you are looking for a very experienced builder of match ARs, I recommend the folks at compass Lake Engineering. They are excellent.

          • It isn’t anti rotation pins. There are screws in the trigger group itself that you tighten to the pins in the lower. It’s a proprietary Timney thing. They advertise it as different and it is. If you don’t read the manual of what you install then an infinite budget is worthless.

            I would like to add that I shot 40 rounds before feeling the second pin walk out.The first had already fallen. No malfunction at all but an unsecured trigger group could lead to Havoc.Since then I have had zero issues. But…both Timney and Giessele make great triggers. My smith is an old hand and likes my G trigger but has put Timney in other rifles countless times. Money and quality are small pieces of the whole. Brand whoring and top dollar does not say you get a rifle of the same ilk. Plain Jane beater ARs pieced together out of gunshow parts work (story of a friend’s AR) admirably well if you know how to build. Parts are unfortunately not all built to identical specs and with the same quality materials or processes but that can be overcome. I have seen it and done it. It just sounded like you were saying money and quality parts were the only factors in building a good rifle by hand, why I say all this.

        • Stag Arms is CMT, Continental Machine Tool Co. Noveske used their receivers for years and didn’t change because of quality issues. It is noteworthy that CMT makes several grades of uppers and lowers. You get the quality you choose.

          One item I shoot is a Stag S3G, a fairly early unit. The quality and performance of the CMT components in the gun can’t be faulted. I, too, prefer the Geissele triggers, though I can’t comment on Timney.

          There was a Silver Age of new model production which seems to have slammed shut over the two or three years as the rush began. Prior to that it seemed that manufacturers took extra care with their early production. If there were problems, they fixed them early and eagerly. I think S&W’s launch of their 1911 business was a model of sorts, as they fixed the few problems and took extra care of fit and finish.

          There is very high quality equipment out there. It’s simply back-ordered and expensive at the moment. Or so I see it.

      • No doubt quality issues are just as possible with the individual parts but at the rate I am assembling, at least I should notice imperfections in parts, bad tolerances as I go without disappointing and annoying surprises.

  10. I have seen a couple people have the lugs sheer right off the bolt on their new ARs posted recently both coming from Bushmaster. The first I saw posted the guy said he had only fired 7 rounds. With this scare we just went through so many small machine shops popped up out of nowhere best to buy parts from known est sources but I guess even with them you don’t always know where they sourced their parts from either. Lot of ripoffs came out of the scare too that one out of Texas comes to mind one of my buddies ordered a BCG from them that never showed don’t think anybodies did can’t remember what they were calling themselves but it was pre pay on NIBx coated BCGs that you were supposed to get in a few months. I have seen tons of issues with S&W last few years some of them been on Performance Center guns too would think they would have really paid attention to QC on those. One buddy had a 686 he sent back 3 times because the barrel was canted came back the same every time and he ended up just selling it. I know somebody else that got one of those competition 686s and had the frame crack right below the forcing cone on his first range trip. He was shooting factory stuff too not somebodies bubba handloads. He fired 1 box of Federal .38 Special and a box of .357 Gold Dots 70 rounds total and noticed the crack when he got home S&W made it right though not like the other guy. The Kimber Solo has to be one of the biggest POS you can buy too seen so many problems and they are pretty damn proud of them too I guess with the price they carry.

  11. Didn’t Dyspeptic Gunsmith go on a rant about this just the other day? As Andrew said in the very first comment, issues can be engineering or QC, and a given company can have either, both, or neither. Unfortunately the trend is to rush it (whatever it is, guns or cars or computer software) to market in beta, and clean up the mess later.

    In answer to MJ’s question in the post, I’m not a dealer, but I seriously doubt you’re getting the “picked over” bad apples because you’re a small dealer. The quality issues are industry-wide and I’d bet everyone is seeing them pretty uniformly. There may be a few really big dealers getting pick of the litter, but that’s the exception, and as rule everyone is getting “you get what you get.”

    • The only time when I’m not ranting about the low quality of recently manufactured guns is when I’m ranting about something else. Which isn’t that often, these days.

      • Indeed QC is rather bad compared to before but…the question is how bad will it get before we need time machines to have quality firearms. And no, you cannot select the option of the industry already reaching that point.

  12. Last month I got a DPMS NATO REPR (NIB).

    The bolt carrier key was very weakly staked (not even close to mil spec).

    I checked the barrel with a bore scope and got a couple o interesting surprises. The gas port was drilled through a land AND a groove. Some say the land should be drilled and others say the groove but through both is not right. Also in the barrel, opposite the gas port, was a circular peppered pattern caused by spall from the drilling process. Either drilled too fast, drilled with not enough oil or both.

    I haven’t shot it yet but I will get a chance next month. I’m quite curious to see how it does.

    • these are examples of a manufacturer who has little interest in building a quality product.

      I would get rid of this and stick with a top tier manufacturer where ALL of its product lines, not just it’s more expensive ones, meet, at a bare minimum military specifications.

      • It was a generous gift from a friend in the industry and If I were to make an issue of it there would be a lot of ruffled feathers. So it’s a keeper. Worst case, if it shoots like crap, I’ll have it re-barreled by a top-tier.

        • I would swap out the barrel and bolt at a minimum and get yourself a Krieger or noveske barrel with matching bolt. Compass Lake does excellent work.

    • I’ve been underwhelmed by some DPMS stuff as well.

      Bought as 24″ AR .308 fluted barrel from them which on dry fit up just closed on a go gauge. On final assembly including red loctiting the barrel in place, she wouldn’t close on a go gauge. Ended up buying a Brownells 308 pull through reamer to actually deepen the chamber about 2 thou.

      The extractor had very rough inside corners which heavily gouged case rims which needed a fair amount of work to break the corners and smooth the edges to it would leave chew marks on cases (the chew marks came not from the extraction but the bolt closing as the extractor slipped over the case rim.

      I’ve built a bunch of 15’s and this is the first 10; I know as a builder, I take responsibility for the final quality of what I build but I’m not impressed at parts that need a lot of work before they can be considered ready for use.

      Not defending anyone but I spent a lot of time road racing; the almost the entire automotive aftermarket is a bunch of parts that barely fit, hardly meet rudimentary reliability requirements, and actually do what they are supposed to in the most rudimentary way.

      Yeah, bolt-on means it attaches with bolts; not necessarily any bolts you have or that are enclosed with the item and certainly not using any bolt holes in anything you want to bolt it onto. I eventually came to the realization that I was better off buying machines and tooling to make a lot of parts because if I messed up, I could make the next one better. Having actual tooling left to do other things was just gravy.

      This has served me well as I’ve moved to building guns; nothing in the gun world is fully bolt on and forget it – everything needs to be checked, fitted, aligned, and made right to shoot right. It’s not asll bad because in the end, you really know how something is supposed to work and can fix it when it goes wrong…

      • That is exactly my point. Nothing you can build fits like Legos. They can be close enough and certainly persuaded but the rule is knowing how to build and manipulation of your parts and materials, knowing their capabilities, over expecting a puzzle piece miracle every single time.

        • I think we need to avoid making the mistake of extrapolating examples of poor craftsmanship from manufacturers with well known quality control issues to all parts makers. Otherwise, it’s just FUD that will scare off many potential AR builders.

          To be clear, I have never had ANY fitment issues with all the ARs I built or helped friends build. They did indeed fit together like Legos, but then again, I didn’t use parts from DPMS 🙂

          Had he had gone with a custom hand lapped barrel chambered by a quality gunsmith (CLE, Pierce, GAP, etc.), there would have been no issues.

  13. The way people use their guns has changed, too. We all know deer hunters who fire four or five sighting shots a year, tops. My memory may be faulty, but I don’t recall knowing of ANY shooters in my youth who fired the number of rounds considered a minimum for bare competence nowadays.

  14. I feel about guns similarly to the way I feel about cars — I won’t buy either one in its first model year. It takes about a year for all the bugs to show up.

    • That’s what Dad said too, never during the 1st model year.

      At times if still interested he’d wait till 3rd model year to see it it was still around and selling.

  15. This is kinda why I buy from the secondary unknown manufactures. My Canik’s have turned out to be some of the best hadnguns I’ve owned in a long, long time.

    • Damnit Em, don’t let them know! They have to keep buying the namebrands!

      FYI – I bought a Tristar. Their re-branded Caniks but usually about a cool $100 less. No dolphin on the grips either 😉

  16. I think there is a lot of truth in what an earlier poster said about the internet. Without it we would not know about all the QC problems and recalls or at least not in almost real time like we do now. There is also a lot of truth in the statement about all the AR parts vendors and “manufacturers” that have sprung up in the last few years. On the other hand, I just bought a upper and lower from one of these economy manufacturers and the assembled gun works great. So does my $600 S&W MP15 Sport. I spent almost twice as much on an AR from SIG that had to immediately go back to the factory. The insanity of the last 9 months no doubt led mfrs to cut corners and push product out the door as fast as they could to cash in onthe buying bubble. Some of the big boys can afford to do that and not worry about the down side of piss poor QC. Others will not fair so well.

  17. I work at a smallish shop and I have seen numerous issues with smith and Wesson most notably. 3 of 4 1911 pro series 3″ pistols had issues so bad they needed to be sent back before we could sell them. This ranged from a broken safety to the hammer falling to half cock when the trigger is pulled. SW bodyguard 380s where the mag wouldn’t seat, the slide wouldn’t open without pushing from the muzzle side, the list goes on. And a lot of scratched guns. Mossberg, I’m looking at you. Ruger and Remingtons too. And a khar with a busted mag follower. I’m seeing all quality control issues here in New England.

    • Oh ya, almost forgot, one of the SW1911 pros wasn’t fully milled in the slide. We think that’s what caused the half cock issue, which if true, WTH S&W?

    • I was thinking about the S&W 22-A for a first 22, but reading about the QC issues they seem to have a “standard feature” drove me to buy something else (Beretta Neos).

      At least with the Beretta, you get something that works and only the customer service is faulty (I’ve read it’s slower than cold molasses to get parts out of them).

  18. I recieved a Ruger Gunsite Scout that lost the rear bolt to the reciever after less than 25 rounds. Ruger support was excellent – they wanted to inspect the rifle so I sent it back. Had it back in my sweaty little hands in 9 days free of charge. However thank goodness that didn’t happen on my upcoming hunt. I can’t find anyone else on the intrawebz that has seen the same problem, but my LGS is convinced it was a quality control issue.

  19. In my part of the world (Australia for those unaware), there have been lots of complaints about Remington’s very spotty quality control, and we are not talking about minor cosmetic issues either. The worst culprit appears to be the barrels. On new, out-of-the-box, guns, barrels can be visibly bent or have the chambers cut not concentric to the bore. Barrels can also be fitted not-true to the receiver. Visible tooling marks in the barrels. Inconsistent bores when a tight patch is run up the bore (you can feel the resistance change). The only reason people are buying Remington 700s is the same reason people buy Harley Davidsons. It’s for the after-market customizing which is usually only a Brownell’s catalog away.

    If is joked we get the QA rejects from Remington’s other contracts and domestic production. The sloppy new guns have caused a run on 2nd-hand examples which are now costing almost as much as the new guns.

    But Savage rifles shoot great out of the box.

    • My son bought a brand new Savage .308. It had a bad chamber, burr or something. It was worse than a mosin with sticky bolt and left deep scars on the brass. Any company can make a bad product. The difference is in how they make good on the mistake.

      Including shipping time he had the rifle back, fully functional, in 2 weeks. Didn’t cost him a penny and Savage made all the arrangements to have it shipped to and from.

      • My first rifle–in fact my first firearm– was a Savage, and it has been flawless and accurate. And my next one will be a Savage too.

  20. Quality is a product in and of itself. Both Smith and Colt lost the handle years ago and had a lot to do with their downfall. Unless you were a LEO Shit & Wesson was legendary for snubbing the customer. It was normal to return a pistol to both 3-4 times before they finally would fix a problem. 3-6 months was a normal timeframe for them but you were facing the customer as a dealer and trying to make them look good. We had quit selling Para because they were even worse… We as a dealer NEVER had a Para work out of the box all had to be returned with long waits and piss poor customer service. Taurus, Ruger and Savage all were much better to deal with. The profit above all else attitude seems in effect as anything you can do to save a penny will help the bottom line.

  21. Good QC prevents problems from ever leaving the factory bad QC can get you killed with a firearm.

    Remington is all about making money compare some of the older ones with a new one and you see a huge difference. I have one of their new overseas rifles; it works and functions OK but that is the best I can say compared to my old 700 it’s a POS.

    Customer service after the sale is even more important than actually selling the gun in the first place. Both the people mentioned below returned and purchased several more firearms and they were always those which had repaired or fixed issues with their guns. By contrast those that had bad customer service almost Never purchased a firearm from that company again. Fool me once is fine until you run out of folks to screw over or somebody comes along making better or cheaper products.

    I should at lease mention that I was a dealer and often surprised at what happens to firearms in the field that would warrant a whole blog in itself. The firearms I returned to Ruger, Taurus and Browning were all promptly repaired and returned with either zero charge or a very minimal charge considering the condition in which the gun was returned. I returned a Ruger Red Label early model that had the spring defect the customer was a avid bird hunter, bluing was half worn off the receiver, scratches on the barrel and stock from heavy use. Ruger repaired the safety spring, refinished the gun and replaced the stock it looked and felt brand new cost: he was out the cost of shipping the firearm to Ruger.
    2nd customer fell down a cliff while hunting his Tarus semi-auto departed the holster and must have hit every boulder on the mountain on its way down: rear sight broke off, both grips cracked/chipped slide and frame had many deep gouges and scratches. 3 weeks later pistol was returned looking brand new I think they charged him $30 total for replacement of the rear sight. So his cost was that plus shipping.

  22. You are over thinking this one, just like the cars of today are so much better than those of the 1970s in terms of quality, but people scream about quality issues as much if not more. Guns are safer, more accurate, and more reliable than ever before. We just communicate our issues more.

    Some will disagree with me, did you buy a 1911 during the 1970s? First thing you did was send in to the gunsmith. Most guns today will run outta the box, cosmetic issues aside and of course not counting the pot metal junk guns.

  23. Bent buffer tube owner right here. Purchased a brand new M&P 15-22 at the beginning of October 2013. Found out the buffer tube was bent, so I sent it back to S&W for repair.

    2 weeks later. Unfortunately, they didn’t do any work on it, and without any communication, sent the rifle back to me.

    Now, I will have to do the whole customer service thing all over again.

    Poor S&W Customer Service [M&P 15-22 Repair Unboxing]:

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