Sunday, July 26, 2009

Building an AR-15 type rifle in the midst of "the panic"

I might repeat myself, I hope not, but if I do, please bear with me. I'm just trying to get the whole story in one place.

In 1984 I went to a gun show and bought a Colt SP1 carbine with a Colt 3X scope for $500. No stupid paperwork, just a good deal and a private purchase. It was a bit of money to me at the time, but worth it. We used the guns to kill some groundhogs, crows, and time. Great gun, it shot well with every weight bullet up to the 70 gr. Sierra semi-point. It wasn't supposed to. This 1968 gun supposedly was fitted with a barrel with too slow a twist, too short, too light and was too loose to shoot well. Of course it didn't have the later forward assist. It didn't need it. Never wanted for one. It was a great gun. In 1994 and Clinton's assault rifle ban it went for $1500 and got me into Contender carbines. If you ever run into serial SP145525 you have a wonderful gun. Treat her right.

For many years I felt absolutely NO need to have one of those "evil" black rifles. I personally feel that if you really, really need one due to TEOTWAWKI or some such you WILL be able to find one although you might have to make a serious ethical decision in that circumstance. I fully believe that the Marlin 1894C .357 Mag is completely sufficient for PERSONAL protection and nearly every hunting requirement east of the Mississippi. But, I am no Zumbo-ite. I don't care if every other person on my block has a collection of these in their house along with many thousands of rounds of ammunition. This is, after all, a "free" country, right?

Still, after years of pursuing other firearms interests from flintlock smoothbores to milsurp bolt actions I wasn't yearning for the AR-15. After all, I had spent 27½ years with the military issue guns. It wasn't an unknown thing or forbidden fruit, there was no motivation. Then things changed.

First, the assault weapons ban (AWB) sunset/expired. We fought hard to convince our Virginia senators to not vote to extend the ban and I think that made the difference. Then we had the 2008 election. Everything was about change. I didn't think the change would be good. I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I might want to consider an AR-15 type gun.

It was the politics that made up my mind. You see, I feel that we needed to make a statement about firearms ownership. At the very worst I would sell the gun for what I had in it and it too would join the increased population of such guns in the free world. I think that is a good thing. It is a "tax" I'm willing to pay. So, what gun to get?

I had already spent 1-2 years looking at the continuously changing field of rapidly proliferating AR-15 type rifles and was thoroughly convinced that I basically wanted a optics equipped version of my old rifle. That meant a 16-1/4" barreled carbine with collapsible stock. The things I wanted to be different included a faster twist barrel to permit utilization of heavier bullets and a flat-top configuration to ease the mounting of a telescopic sight. While I wanted "back-up" iron sights I didn't want the standard issue front sight gas block of the old rifles. I felt that would put the sight right into my scope-sight's field of view. What I did NOT need was the tacticool add-ons such as the vertical fore-grip, unending Picatinny rails, $2000 battery operated sights, or grotesquely shaped pistol grips.

All of this took quite a while to come together for me. I didn't rush the process but bided my time. Almost immediately after the 2008 election when the Democrat Socialist Barack Hussein Barry Sotero Obama was elected President of the United States and all sorts of people all over the country realized that loss of their liberties was possible, there was a run on semi-auto firearms and ammunition of all types. I didn't think that such a firearm was going to be in my immediate future and, as it turned out, it wasn't!

What did happen was that I took a job offer at a local gun shop and one of the other employees had a Del-Ton stripped lower receiver for sale. I bought it and began looking about for parts to complete the gun. After quite a bit of research I finally decided that Del-Ton might as well get my business for the rest of the gun. So I ordered a parts kit for the lower and also a flat-top upper with a 1-7" twist barrel. I then began the wait.

That delay between order and receipt was 195 days, that's 6-1/2 months! That delay was directly caused by the immense post-election demand placed on all AR-15 (and derivatives) manufacturers. It would have been longer but I changed my spec from the unavailable 1-7" barrel to a 1-9" twist barrel. Also, as reported earlier, there were some problems with the order and some parts were missing.

However, most of those issues were resolved via an e-mail conversation with Pam at Del-Ton and the required parts arrived and the lower receiver was completed/assembled. This is NOT a particularly difficult task. I think that anyone with a modicum of mechanical ability can do this. All it requires is some care and attention to detail.

One of the things I had to order was a side-mount front sling swivel. Unable to get the military part used on the M-4 carbine, a Pro-Mag unit was ordered. Unfortunately it was too wide for installation with the flat-top gas block on my gun. Use of a Dremel tool to narrow one leg of the sling swivel mount quickly resized this part to function with my gun. UNFORTUNATELY, that was the width of the legs not the depth of the little ends of the legs. Despite the width being corrected, one can't insert the "legs" between the gas block and the barrel. A big no go. $30 wasted. In the end I abandoned the standard sling system and went with a one point system.  This is sufficient and works well with how I use a sling.  If hunting/on patrol, the sling is off completely.  If I need it to hold the rifle off the ground I merely have to snap it on the single point at the rear of the receiver.

One other problem I had was that the rings I'd ordered to use on this rifle were too short for me to use with the flat-top gun. With new rings on order (neither were available locally), I took the gun to the range for a test firing. Afterward convinced that I'd actually managed to get parts and assemble them to achieve a functioning firearm, I felt much better about the process. Still, I had to await the scope rings.

A moment for digression... Why, you might ask, did you want to install a rather common hunting optic on this gun? It isn't very tactical! Well, you're right, it doesn't appear to be very tactical. However, the Weaver 1-3X variable is about perfect for this particular gun which will be most likely find use exclusively for hunting. If it is used for anything else we'll all be way beyond caring what sort of scope is mounted.

With these new scope rings installed the scope was usable.  Hoorah.  At least something is now going right. 

- Bill Springfield Triggers
- M-16 Rifle History Video

1 comment:

Zane D. Clark said...

A lot of truth in this post and it goes considerably beyond the issue of putting an AR together from parts. I've been wanting an M1A for about 15 years or so. I have my legally registered AR 15 that I carried and used in my Law Enforcement career in California (now retired, but where can you find an M1A? My local dealer that I patronize use to have them hanging on the wall and I would wander in and look and then leave. You certainly don't find much now.

I didn't particularly want to keep large amounts of gun powder and primers in the house and figured that I could simply purchase them as I needed.

I wonder what O is going to do for us today?