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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I came across an interesting post online made by a user named "Bartholomew Roberts" on THR. It's over a year old now, but it's news to me and I thought it might be news for a few other people who are new to the AR and planning to buy or build one. It lists 34 cost-cutting things AR manufacturers do to keep the prices down which may affect the reliability or quality of the firearm.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=243382

34 Ways to Cut Corners on Manufacturing an AR15

Ever wonder why a Colt LE6920 sells for over $1k while an Olympic Plinker sells for under $600 on occasion? One reason is that there are dozens of places to change parts away from the specifications military contractors must provide to cheaper parts and practices that may not be necessary for commercial ARs. Not all of these changes are bad. Many of them will never be noticed by 99% of shooters; but some of them can effect function and I think it is important that a buyer understand what type of trade they are making when purchasing a rifle.

For an easy to follow shorthand, I've set up the following reference system (reflecting only my own opinions):
* Most likely will not make a difference for all but the most demanding shooters who put their rifles to hard use.
** Unlikely to make a difference for the vast majority of recreational shooters, may see occasional issues among those who train frequently.
*** Known to effect reliability for all users, though it may still not be an issue if you don't shoot that much.

1. Use cheap extruded or cast charging handle instead of proper forged charging handle.**
2. Cheap shot-filled or plastic buffer instead of correct military rifle or carbine buffer.***
3. 4140 barrel steel instead of 4150 MIL-B-11595.*
4. Don't proof test the barrel or bolt.*
5. No need for magnetic particle inspection of barrel or bolt.*
6. Don't test-fire the rifle prior to selling it.***
7. Replace heat-shielded handguard with lower grade plastic and no heat shield handguards.**
8. Use the same front sight base for every model instead of F-marked front sight base for flattops.*
9. Cast front sight base instead of forged.*
10. Cast upper and lower receivers.**
11. Plastic upper and lower receivers.**
12. Have a bunch of uppers that don't quite meet the Picatinny spec? We'll take them at a discount!**
13. Torquing and staking the gas key is something the customer can do.***
14. No chrome-lining.*
15. Why buy chrome-silicon springs designed for the weapon when we can use a cheaper steel and cut them to fit?***
16. That part is only a little out of spec. We can make it work with a little grinding and save money on parts too!***
17. Why use trained monkeys for assembly when regular monkeys work for half and can do the job almost as well?***
18. Make so many exceptions to your "lifetime warranty" that it will be impossible for anyone to ever make a valid claim against your "warranty."
19. Nobody will ever notice a few .001" difference on that part.**
20. Our patented spray-paint finish is much better than anodizing.**
21. Shipping every rifle with an HBAR profile to save machining costs, even if it is an entry rifle/"lightweight" carbine.*
22. Replace metal parts with plastic -plastic magazine release, trigger guard or delta ring.**
23. Use an Unmarked/mismarked A2 Elevation Adjustment Knob for the rear sight.**
24. Plastic A2 trapdoors in the butt of the rifle stock.**
25. Replace forged AR15 hammer with cast hammer.**
26. No drain hole in stock screw.**
27. Dremel cut feed ramps instead of feed ramps cut prior to anodizing.***
28. Use cheaper cast/extruded receiver extension instead of military extension (different diameter also).**
29. No parkerizing under the FSB.*
30. Straight pins or even roll pins instead of taper pins in FSB.***
31. Using A2 windage drums on detachable carry handles.**
32. Don't mark the barrel with chambering or twist rate.**
33. Don't stake the castle nut in place.**
34. Don't shot-peen the bolt during manufacturing.*

Note that there is often disagreement about how crucial some of these issues are and likely people will disagree with some of the arbitrary judgements I've made just to simplify it for those who don't want to read through a discussion on each of the 34 points. Also note that you can often learn more about any one of these subjects using a quick search in the rifle forum.

Thanks to the members of AR15.com who helped me flesh out and condense this list.
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
This is what Me, Mike, Alaskapopo, and a couple of others have been saying for quite sometime. Often getting brushed off every time we reference "The Chart".
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I brush off the chart because there are errors on it, but is stated to be gospel and I've been around long enough to recognize and dispute some of them though many seem to just want to follow along what is said which is fine with me too.

There's a lot of info on this that the author is relating to Olympic Arms that is also totally false too.

Dremel work on the feed ramps? Don't test fire, spray paint finish, no lined handguards, etc. Plastic uppers/lowers obviously referring to Bushmaster or cavarms or someone other than Olympic because they don't make anything like that. Though there are enough frankenguns been made by dealers on the cheap over the years to sink the titanic over again, it's hard for me to follow along with this and agree with the author on some of his points. At least on a factory rifle.
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
This is what Me, Mike, Alaskapopo, and a couple of others have been saying for quite sometime. Often getting brushed off every time we reference "The Chart".
The chart has some negative connotations now... It seems every time somebody brings it along (especially on ARFCOM), you get some putz ranting on about how if you buy anything less than colt, youre an idiot, and dont know your ass from a hole in the ground. The fact is that a "lowly" RRA or Stag or S&W will work just as good as a colt for 99% of the shooters out there, and theyll still have money left over for ammo. For the kind of shooting I do, and plan to do, I'd be an idiot to buy a colt...
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The chart has some negative connotations now... It seems every time somebody brings it along (especially on ARFCOM), you get some putz ranting on about how if you buy anything less than colt, youre an idiot, and dont know your ass from a hole in the ground. The fact is that a "lowly" RRA or Stag or S&W will work just as good as a colt for 99% of the shooters out there, and theyll still have money left over for ammo. For the kind of shooting I do, and plan to do, I'd be an idiot to buy a colt...
I like it simply because it lets you know what your getting. Its then up to you Joe consumer to decide if you really need M4 feed ramps or a MP tested bolt etc., and I think you have done just that. If you just shoot cans on the weekends, sure, go for the DPMS or Bushy. However, If you train often, and want the gun for SHTF/HD then you may want to consider some other options. I personally would just go for a STAG, and swap out the components for higher quality ones.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
If you train often, and want the gun for SHTF/HD then you may want to consider some other options.
This is where I disagree. The needs for a HD scenario are so minute that it's more of a silly point to be making than anything besides preventive measures to make oneself feel better about being proactive.

For the majority of owners, it may happen at one time or another, but it's not like it's going to be a regular occurrence and even a 22 pistol in hand is better than a cannon in the closet.

As for the demands that I have put on my equipment, I assure you have been no less than any other professional. If credentials are what you're looking for, I am a former LEO Deputy and Department armorer and arms trainer and ranking officer for a private security firm working directly for the State of Kentucky, and am currently a moderator on a dedicated AR15 forum (OA2.org), and am a class 01 FFL which gives me the opportunity to still play with all the brands out there. Up front and honest, I like Colt the least of all of them, but I am pretty partial to LMT as well as to others that aren't in the "#1 tier" of "the chart" also.

My main point is just because a bullet comes from of a tier 1 gun, does not make it any more effective. (Though chrome lining that reigns in the tier chart does degrade accuracy in the AR platform but is still close enough for real world use to be fair about it, but if accuracy is what you're after, you may want to consider something that doesn't have a silver lining;)).

That's my whole point to the tier rating. Just because someone looks for certain features that a company does, doesn't mean that every other brand doesn't go bang or is any less of a gun depending on the users needs, which you have implied in the quote that is at the top of my reply of how I took it. Things sometimes break or springs weaken with use no matter what name is on the side of it. I bet if someone made a running poll on what brand of rifles they own and how many failures they've experienced, you'd be hard pressed to find as many REAL problems as you think.

As for reliability in a gun, even the teir 1's can sometimes break or fail and hence the need for armorers on a divisional level.

But if the chart got the corrections that should be made to it, I wouldn't have a problem seeing it more often if it was right and maybe presented a little differently. The way it is usually posted is the be all end all of who's who in the business, and if it isn't X brand is junk, but it's just not.

I've been around AR's for nearly a decade and a half and can count on both hands cycling errors on otherwise functional guns. Estimate of rounds fired... 18K maybe????? I'm perfectly capable of choosing my own gear and am confident they will work when needed and don't really need to see a chart that has errors in it to help me decide thanks.
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Its all up to the end user. Which again is why I like the chart. Im not saying that you shouldn't buy an DPMS. Im just saying know the sum total of its parts compared to others then make your decision.

Theres no way your gonna convince me your $600 DPMS is gonna hold up better than say a Noveske or LMT. It just aint happening. And while a SHTF scenario MIGHT not happen, that in it of itself is no defense for purchasing a lesser rifle. I MAY not get robbed today on the way to my car, but I'm still gonna carry my Glock 19 today regardless.

Furthermore, Its like your average SUV owner, 90% of them will never go off road, but its nice knowing your Range Rover can if the need ever arises. I like knowing my AR has 4150 steel vs. 4140, will I ever heat up the bbl enough for it to matter? who knows. Can a magnetic particle tested bolt break? sure, but I feel more comfortable knowing at least it was MP tested as opposed to one that was not. Will Glocks jam? sure, but would you rather pack a hi-point or a Glock? Saying all things can break is true, but in no way is it an excuse to use lesser equipment.

Just my opinion.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Sounds like my post struck a nerve here...
Yup, this subject always does. People like to feel confident about their purchase. When they discover it may not have been the best decision, or some one says product "A" is better for "X" reason, they then become defensive. Not saying thats the case here, but thats the way these threads usually head. So far, everyone has remained civil. :cool:
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well, since I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground, at least on this topic. I had planned to buy a Del-Ton kit to go with the Stag lower I picked up this weekend. Is that going to be a mistake? It is cheaper than other kits and there has to be a reason for that. Do they cut alot of the corners like those listed on "the chart"? While I am asking questions, is the M4 feed ramps worth $25 and is the chromed lined barrel worth $45? I don't want to spend more just because something has a name attached to it, but I also dont want to go cheap and end up with a POS. :confused:
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well, since I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground, at least on this topic. I had planned to buy a Del-Ton kit to go with the Stag lower I picked up this weekend. Is that going to be a mistake? It is cheaper than other kits and there has to be a reason for that. Do they cut alot of the corners like those listed on "the chart"? While I am asking questions, is the M4 feed ramps worth $25 and is the chromed lined barrel worth $45? I don't want to spend more just because something has a name attached to it, but I also dont want to go cheap and end up with a POS. :confused:
The STAG lower is good to go. Id skip the del-ton and go with a Stag upper. Or, a LMT upper will only run you about 100 beans more. Its better to wait and save, and get what you really want. Don't go cheaper just so you can have the gun sooner. You still have about a year before Hitlery or Osama takes over.


LMT UPPER $485




Or, the STAG will run you about $100 less.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
If your primary concern is making sure your rifle and all of its components will last as long as possible without repair or replacement, in case SHTF, then why would you get a short (M4) gas system? Wouldn't one of your primary concerns be to make sure that the bolt doesn't get beat up with higher pressures than necessary? When SHTF, you can tighten a castle nut. You can't replace a bolt if you don't have a spare, though. :confused:

I have to say, as a newcomer to the AR, this topic has been the most depressing thing. Just when you get excited about your first build, you go and hear people talking about how you could have done better. It is frustrating. It's like letting a kid cheerfully open his Christmas present and then telling him it's worthless crap-- especially if the kid requested the present and/or did something to earn it.

I think the bottom line is that you get what you pay for. If I had a job that required top-notch reliability, and if my life were on the line as well as the lives of other innocent people that I'm trying to save, price wouldn't even be a question in my mind. I'd skip Tier I... I'd buy a freaking Tier 0 rifle. Hell, I'd go beyond that... Tier -I. I'm not even sure I'd get an AR. Price wouldn't be a concern at that point.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
An AR is the next firearm on my to get list and I'm willing to wait and pay cash for it, but since it will be my first, and depending on any law changes, my only, I'm going to hold out and spend the money on a piston system over the direct impingement.
 
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I was planning on a mid-length upper, so that kinda counts the Stag out. I can get a RRA mid-length upper local for $455, but I have to add extra for the chrome barrel and it doesnt come with a suppressor or anything. Wanting the mid-lenght kinda limits my options it seems. One reason I was looking at the Del-Ton kit.
 
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
An AR is the next firearm on my to get list and I'm willing to wait and pay cash for it, but since it will be my first, and depending on any law changes, my only, I'm going to hold out and spend the money on a piston system over the direct impingement.
Oh, but no... if the proverbial S ever HTF, then there won't be gunsmiths around that know how to work on your exotic gas piston rifle :rolleyes: And if you DO find one in the midst of the dystopian urban chaos, he won't have the parts he needs. Best to stick with a standard, simple direct-impingement rifle, don't cha'know?
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I was planning on a mid-length upper, so that kinda counts the Stag out. I can get a RRA mid-length upper local for $455, but I have to add extra for the chrome barrel and it doesnt come with a suppressor or anything. Wanting the mid-lenght kinda limits my options it seems. One reason I was looking at the Del-Ton kit.
Don't discount others like CMMG. I have one on order myself.
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
You still have about a year before Hitlery or Osama takes over.
That was funny. I'll have to remember that one. :-D

And yes this conversation has remained civil. I'm not going to bash anyone for their opinions as long as I don't get pounded for mine either. That's all I was trying to say.

XDnme, if you had a job where your life and others were on the line, you'd have an office full of bureaucrats making the decision for you of what you used based on what they thought and how much it costed --price is always a concern to them ;). But I know what you're saying. The dollar shouldn't be the bottom line, but it usually is. I don't think you made bad decisions for your build based on the amount of time you've spent researching it. In fact, I think you did down right good :cool:
 
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