Tactical Wire’s Tiger McKee writes:
I was organizing my shop, a constant process, and noticed I had a lot of old, beat up AR parts. Years ago I used to build hot rods and Harleys. The older I got the less I worried about looks, concentrating more on function. They ran like hell, but were painted with spray cans and looked rough around the edges. Technically they would be called “rat” rods or bikes. Today this is a huge trend; you can’t pick up a bike or car magazine without seeing these rats. As I was sorting through boxes of parts I thought, “Why not build a Rat Rifle?” . . .
Later that evening I had my first Rat Rifle, and it’s the most fun I’ve had with a project in a long time. I have to make all the parts match. I just picked and chose what looked good. There was no worry about scratching something up during assembly. Everything was already beat up. And it was cheap because I had everything needed.
The only problem was the lower receiver. It was shiny, new and black. Technically, with this being a Rat project, I could have just used the black receiver and rolled on. However, part of a Rat Rifle is art, and I wanted that retro look. The black just wasn’t going to fit with the gray parts.
To “distress” the new lower, aging it so it visually fit with the retro look I was after, I put it in the blast cabinet and hit the areas I wanted wear showing with light pressure and a small nozzle. I made sure to stay away from any critical areas, and worked on the edges of the magwell, behind the extension and the raised areas of the outside of the receiver. I used 800 grit wet sandpaper and smoothed out these spots for that shiny worn look, then sprayed the receiver with Perma-Slick G, a gray mil-spec looking finish. Once it was dry I scuffed it up to reveal the shiny, sanded areas. I did the same thing to the black barrel. I also ground and sanded down the front sight base to take off the casting marks, just like Colt used to do in the old days. To keep that old look I used cut down triangular handguards.
The Rat Rifle concept is to build it and use it. Don’t worry about saving up for that perfect part. Put something on there and get it on the range. You can always replace a part later. If it gets scratched, who cares? There’ll be a story that goes with that mark. The thing is to actually use the rifle, keeping it up and running as opposed to letting it sit in the safe.
The modular design of the AR makes it perfect for projects. You still have to know what you’re doing and have a few specialty tools, but with a good education and some time you too can own a Rat Rifle.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns,” writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911“