AR endurance findings, at a rental range

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Forget about any military endurance testing of the AR/M16 platform, a rental range in Las Vegas has some extremely interesting findings when it comes to large round counts, sometimes in excess of 200,000 rounds through commercially available and full auto ARs. Granted, none of the grueling testing procedures in place from a military standpoint are there, but for sheer round count alone, it really tells a lot about what some companies can take and what others can’t when it comes to their rifles and products in general. This all stems from a forum thread on AR15.com that was started in June. His screen name is HendersonDefense, and there is a small arms company in Henderson, NV called Henderson Defense, but the range operations he is talking about are occurring at Battlefield Las Vegas, a big time rental range in Vegas. His name is Ron, and he’s been featured here at TFB before in the form of a post about the rental AKs at his range earlier this year.

For what it is worth, here is the original post-

Here’s a little background on what we do. We operate a high-volume range in Las Vegas. You can’t bring your personal weapons in and rent lanes for an hour. Customers use only our weapons and our ammo. We only use factory new ammo and zero reloads. We keep maintenance logs on EACH and every weapon to include cleanings, parts replaced and any other issues that need to be noted. We shoot approximately 400,000 rounds down range each month and the numbers have actually gone up a bit for May and June. Tourists get to shoot everything from the Type 99 Arisaka, M1 Garand C and D’s, MP-44’s, G43’s, M2HB’s, 240’s, 249’s, MG42’s, MG34’s, M-14’s, Luger’s, Swedish K’s, M203’s, M79’s and you get the point. Some weapons are very rare historical weapons that rarely come out of collections or museums and see the light of day.

Here are some “facts” about OUR experience with M4’s on the range.

– Some of our M4’s have well over 200,000 rounds down range. Barrels have been replaced, gas tubes have been replaced, BCG’s have been replaced but what sets it apart from the AK47’s is that upper and lower receivers continue to function. AK’s get to about the 100,000+ round count and rails on the receiver will start to crack. It’s an easy fix with tig welding but they crack. We have yet to lose an upper or lower receiver from cracking.

– We get about 20,000 rounds out of bolts before we start experiencing issues. The headspace gauge will start getting closing on NO-GO but not close on field. We will lose a lug on the bolt. The bolt will start skipping over rounds in the magazine and fail to insert a round. We use LMT and Daniel Defense bolts and some will actually go longer but at about 20,000 rounds is when we will start to see issues appear.

– Gas tubes will erode away at the FSB after 12+ months

– Charging handles will “stretch” allowing the locking lever and spring to fly out

– Hammer pins and disconnectors on the 8.5″ full-auto’s will break after approximately 4,000-5,000 rounds regardless of the buffer weight

– We have yet to lose a single flash hider as compared to muzzle brakes on an AK-47. The muzzle brakes will literally split in half, looking a like bird with his beak open and go flying down range.

– We no longer use ANY piston conversions or factory pistons guns with the exception of the HK-416 “knock-off” TDI upper. I purchased a FACTORY brand-new MR556 and it started keyholing after only 10,000 rounds. I was SO pissed because I spent all that money on the gun and it couldn’t last 10,000 rounds. I had barrels from before we even opened the range with 1,000’s of rounds on them from J&T Distributing (chrome-lined) that didn’t keyhole well into the 80,000-100,000 range. I don’t know who makes or made the J&T barrels but I was so pissed that actually wasted the money on a MR556 and that’s all I got from it. I purchased two of the 14.5″ TDI knock-offs approximately 6-8 weeks ago and they have been on the line daily with ZERO issues. I only purchased them because people will come in specifically request the “416” and even they’ve never handled a weapon their entire lives, they KNOW that the top half isn’t the “416 like in COD/MW”.

– USGI mags have outlasted all of the other brands. We use UGSI (Brownell’s with tan follower) and on a mag for mag basis, they have outlasted Pmags and a few of the other mags that we get from mfg’s with new weapons. We don’t have to worry about various generations with different weapons like the MR556, SCAR, F2000, Tavor or a couple of others that use AR15/M4 magazines.

– Cleaning bolts and carriers is such a pain in the ass as compared to our AK’s, G36’s, SCAR’s, ACR’s and most other platforms. We throw them in the ultrasonic cleaner filled with Simple Green (EPA, OSHA and disposal concerns for us) and they never fully remove the carbon from the bolts. The armorers spend so much time cleaning them and keeping all the parts together as compared to most other platforms.

– The only piston system to last on the range so far is the HK416 and TD415 system. Every other systems we have tried has failed in one way or another. I won’t say who’s broke or how they broke so PLEASE don’t ask. Each mfg has their own system for cleaning intervals and we may not follow their way. We have a way of cleaning and keeping records that suits our needs because of so much use.

– There is company that has an AR system that has some “parts don’t need lubrication” and that failed before the end of the first day. I don’t think some mfg’s understand that people REALLY use their weapons and when you’re rocking full-auto all day they NEED lubrication. My armorers and RSO’s were laughing when it seized up because we knew there was NO way it would last on our range.

– The parts that we see break more often are the bolt cam, bolt lugs shearing off, firing pins and gas keys shearing off the bolt carrier.

Some of the things that I really like about his observations are some of the truisms, that despite all the media and shooting industry hype, old truths just don’t go away. Such as his comments about USGI magazines being much more consistently reliable than anything else, or about standard AR gas systems being almost preferable to the piston operated ones, and then that even then the 416s were outperforming all other piston guns. I also appreciate him calling out some companies by name and saying if they were good or bad. I get it, he’s got to have some anonymity, but this is what people want and need, legitimate information on rifles they don’t know about. Another thing we have to realize here, is that he’s talking about insanely high round counts, far more than anybody probably reading this and to include myself, isn’t ever going to even see in their lifetimes with a single rifle. Regardless, still really interesting.

He’s got this tidbit on barrels and cleaning-

We have to put at least 100,000 rounds down range with M4’s each month and the weapons will stop cycling if we don’t clean the carbon off. We have maintenance schedules for each weapon and if an M4 (or any other weapon for that matter) gets overlooked, it has issues. Each weapon system has a time frame for cleaning from the experiences we see each day. Uzi’s can go on for awhile but MP5-SD’s and other suppressed weapons need cleaning VERY often.

As for FN barrels, I just recently purchased twenty of the complete PSA 12.5″ and 10.5″ uppers to test them out. So far they have functioned properly like the Daniel Defense and LMT’s and have had zero issues. They don’t have a huge amount of rounds through them but no issues of jamming have been reported. That’s a good thing in our business because our customers come for the experience and having a weapon that jams is a deal-killer

And about lubrication companies, in which he mentions they like a certain kind of lube because it doesn’t get on customers clothes. In their case, sure, it works and if that is what they want to achieve, more power to them. But as for those who use ARs in their daily professions, I don’t think getting CLP on a uniform or clothing is something that is looked at. Nonetheless-

We’ve had many companies send us samples and we’ve had sales rep’s show up telling us how much better their products is than others. We even had a sales rep actually eat some of his product to demonstrate its safety to us (if my armorers couldn’t tell the difference between lube and gum/dip and accidentally ate some, I don’t think they would be working for me). Some require a whole protocol in order to use it properly and after following the protocol, there was no notable difference that WE noticed as I am not saying their claims weren’t true.

All of the lubes we have ever used worked as long as we continued to lube the weapons. Some lubes lasted longer than others but again… they ALL worked as advertised. My biggest concern is making sure it’s safe for my employees and there are no issues with EPA, OSHA and disposal of the rags with the residue. Slip2000 fit our business model perfectly.

Up until about three weeks ago, the main lube we were using was Slip 2000 and the grease was also made by Slip2000. We had a rep at a local country festival give one of my managers a case of Lucas Gun Oil. The armorers asked if we could use it and I told them to get the MSDS’s for it and make sure the service company didn’t have an issue with cleaning the rags with it. They didn’t and we tried it out. My RSO’s immediately noticed that it wasn’t spraying any “mist” after being lubed. That is huge for use because so many people come dressed really nice (on their way to a dinner or show after) and they could actually put more lube in the gun and keep the weapons “wet” longer. Slip2000 did the least amount of “misting” after lube but the Lucas does even better. My RSO’s like it because there is less chance of getting lube on a customer’s clothes and better chance of getting tipped.

We continue to use the Slip2000 grease on all of the other heavy weapons like the MG42’s, M60’s, 240’s, etc.

The only weapons to get their own special lube are the M134 miniguns. We only use TW-25 on all of our M134’s.

And about shorter barrels-

Throat erosion is significantly higher on the shorter weapons but our ONLY concern for accuracy is that the bullet doesn’t keyhole. One of the armorers mentioned to me at one point we should consider swapping out the barrels because of throat erosion but when I pointed out to him that we are shooting at 10 yards and we adjust the Eotech to match the point of impact so barrel erosion is not much of concern for us.

The shorties are also the same units that erode the gas tubes. We haven’t lost a 16″ or 20″ barrels gas tube before the barrel itself failed from keyholing.

Also, the gas port holes erode away much faster on the shorties.

And it goes on and on, feel free to read the rest of the post, for another 17 pages! He also has a thread in the handgun section talking about similar experiences.

 

Much thanks to “Martin” for the tip!



Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • TVOrZ6dw

    Plain old-fashioned information from the real world. This was the most informative article I’ve read in a long time.
    Thanks.

  • no

    Can anybody tell me more about the “knockoff TDI upper”? Like any experiences you’ve had with it, exactly what it is, pros/cons, and most importantly where do you get one?

    I googled it and all I got was every blog and forum that ever posted this article, which is a lot by the way.

    • thedonn007

      Sounds like he should have written a book, or started his own blog.

    • Plumbiphilious

      It took a bit after they wrote “TD415.” It’s apparently a fairly rare “Titan Defense TD-415” upper that’s a knockoff of the HK piston and upper design and, as you’ve found, heck and a half to actually found (I found just one mention in Calguns and arfcom on a search).

      I’m not sure how HK doesn’t get in a hissyfit about its design, but maybe the piston is more different than I had assumed.

      • no

        Much appreciation, I shall name my first born son Plumbiphilious.

        • iksnilol

          You know that means “lead lover”? I mean, they will probably call your kid ammosexual and whatnot at school.

  • thedonn007

    I would be interested to see how long a Tavor would last at his range.

    • Ron

      We’ve had a Tavor on the range for at least six months with zero issues. We’ve only used it in a semi-auto capacity until last week when our factory-made Post Sample arrive.

  • Tom – UK

    I think it is worth noting that in the previous AK article it is clearly mentioned that not a single Milled AK receiver had failed. I may have missed the information but other than trunnion failure I didn’t notice any other issues for non-shorty AKs.

    This is a very interesting article, I personally find the information about the BCG to be the most important, can those who have actually used M16/M4 rifles on combat deployment tell me how they have found cleaning their BCGs and preventing BCG related failures?

    I would also be curious how other assault rifles have survived long time usage E.g. Sig Sauers, G36 Etc.

    Oh And the AK-74 or AK in 5.56 would be very interesting.

    • Cal S.

      Typically those only come in 1:10 twist which would only stabilize 55gr bullets. That’s what kept me from purchasing one.

    • kzrkp

      I’m pretty sure the previous article said the opposite, the milled AKs were guaranteed to crack while the stamped surprisingly held.

      • iksnilol

        Nah, it said that the stamped AK receivers outlasted the milled RPD receivers.

        • Kivaari

          Yugo AKs use RPK trunnions and 1.5mm thick sheet metal.

          • iksnilol

            I meant RPDs, the belt fed Degtaryov thingy. They had those at that range as well, from what I read.

          • Kivaari

            I know. I threw the Yugo thing out so people would get the idea Yugo’s were/are superior sheet metal AKs. I am referring to the rifles imported by Mitchell Arms nearly 30 years ago. At the time I had contact with Louis Mitchell (he may still work there), Yugo’s are heavy and “NATO” length of pull – which is too long. They were excellent rifles. Valkiry (spelling) Arms developed a quick change barrel for the RPD. That is the feature most reviews hold out as a defect. Like the US M1918 BAR. FN fixed that with a QC barrel. She also makes semi-auto M3A1 and DeLisle carbines.

      • iksnilol

        Sorry for doublepost, but here’s the proof:

        “– We have every type of AK available to shoot except for Cuban, Vietnamese or North Korean.

        – US (Century), Bulgarian and Chinese milled receivers have yet to fail.

        – Stamped receivers split at the angle of the upper rail and the side wall. N-PAP’s have literally cracked in half perpendicular to the length of the rifle. The receivers cracked just posterior of the front trunion (between center bushing and the trunion).”

    • Risky

      Folks on deployment rarely put a lot of rounds through their rifles. You shoot 10 times the amount during training than you would even in the wildest of places muj territory. There’s no reason that your rifle should fail from some inability to perform maintenance between combat. Complicating the issue is that you never know just how well used your rifle is. You get whatever the unit’s armorer hands you when you check into the unit. Who knows if it’s a brand new rifle or one that’s seen action going back to Grenada (I was issued with an iron sighted M16A2 on my first deployment).

      • Kivaari

        I’ve said it before, when my kid was in Iraq, he never fired his M249 in combat or training. Few M4s get shot much at all. Operators and a few combat patrol types NEED to shoot.

    • Joshua

      Honestly coming from someone who was issued a M4A1 and CQBR I can tell you cleaning isn’t super important.

      In the field my cleaning regiment consisted of wiping off the BCG(note I didn’t disassemble the BCG in the field) followed by wiping out the upper and running a bore snake down the bore a dozen times. I then relubed everything. That’s honestly all you need to clean the rifle.

      If your scraping anything your doing pointless busy work that won’t make your rifle more reliable.

    • lowell houser

      Let’s see,, at 100,000 round you have to tig up ~$15 of sheet steel. Well, hell, might as well transfer the makings to a new flat, bend it, bake on 1600F for four hours and dump into warm salt water then rivet it in. If that’s the only part that regularly fails on an AK versus having to dump in all new guts into an AR at 25,000 I see a slight issue here. Barrels and springs don’t count, those wear out on all guns period.

      • Kivaari

        But the AK is not an AR. If you want the features of an AR not found on an AK, then what? I’ve owned ~25 AKs from all over the world. They were fun when I was young and could see iron sights. ARs are what many of us like.

        • Bill Funk

          You’re right, many of us like ARs.
          Many of us also like AKs.
          I have one that’s about 8 years old (IIRC), a CAI Romanian. I’ve put about 6-7k rounds through it, and it still functions perfectly. Why wouldn’t it? Haven’t done anything to it except clean and lube it.
          I was at a gun show recently, where two dealers were next to each other. One sold AKs, the other sold ARs. The AK guy had 2 tables, the AR guy had 7. He needed them all, and all were filled up. Parts up the wazoo.
          The AR guy saw me talking to the AK guy (I have an AK, remember), and he said I should buy an AR because repair parts were easier to get. I replied that they HAD to be. You don’t see many AK repair parts because they just keep going.
          Oh well, that’s what came to mind for me.

          • Kivaari

            Many of mine saw limited use. I zeroed them and made them safe queens. I used my Valmet M62 7.62mm and a Galil AR .5.56mm the most. As much as I like the basic AK, I just did not have the eye sight to get the most out of them. Now I rely on ARs and glass sights. I really like ARs. The flat-tops really changed my like of them. Before having a good scope on top of the carry handle, just wasn’t good.

    • Kivaari

      Galil receivers crack at the locking area. There are good reasons why the Galil has never seen large sales. Most IDF soldiers use M16-type rifles. Even Olympic Arms, so OA CAN make a good rifle when they want to. Even the USAF bought some.

      • The USAF purchases of Olympic Arms have solely been for the “Cobalt Trainer” drill/instruction rifles. They are purposely designed not to accept ammunition.

        • Kivaari

          That’s great to know. I always held the OA rifles in the junk status. I could see how they would make the bid winning non-firing demonstrator. Still Israel bought a bunch.

    • Ron

      Tom, we’ve lost quite a few bolts and even the gas rings on the G36. To be fair though, we only have four G36’s as compared to a HUGE number of M4’s rifles and the G36’s get used all day.

      • Tom – UK

        Hi Ron

        I think everyone on TFB would like a similar article to the AK and AR articles that have been published for each firearm. I think we all understand the vast majority of firearms won’t see the sort of round count as those used at the range unless the apocolypse occurs but it would be really interesting.

  • Pete Sheppard

    VERY nice article; the good, the bad and the maybe. A fit companion piece to the AK article. AND THE WINNER IS…both!

  • no

    Oh, one more thing. Since I’m not a member over there I can’t search the user’s posts to find the handgun (or .50BMG) thread(s). If anyone could link me, I’ll upvote you long time.

    • no

      I found the pistol one and posted the link, once it’s approved anyone else looking for it can find it here.

  • me ohmy

    I’d love a link to the ARFCOM content to read in full…

    • no

      There’s a red AR15dotcom hyperlink in the 1st or 2nd paragraph.

  • Mark S

    Does anybody have the link to the blog with all 17 pages? I can ‘t find it (doh!).

    • no

      There’s a red AR15dotcom hyperlink in the 1st or 2nd para.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Interesting observations, I wonder why he wont mention the piston systems that failed.

    I use Slip EWL on my rifle and it has worked very well so far but im going to order the Lucas brand for a test run.

    • fartbarfunkle

      Likely because whoever he mentions will start up the flame wars. All it would take is to say an LWRC failed at a low round count then their forums lose their marbles because they didn’t adhere to their recommended maintenance (and aren’t the manual intervals crazy? IIRC there’s an upper out there with lube and cleaning recommended at 100 rounds, then every 300 thereafter which is pretty high for fun range times) which is usually a cheap form of insurance. Set your operating limits low, then any failure of your product can be blamed on the end user not following recommendations. I can’t believe I may have just been sold on lube!

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        This makes a lot of sense.

      • n0truscotsman

        Thats what I was thinking as well. There is so much brand validation there, it is ridiculous.

        And it is a bit ironic, isn’t it? that is, after all, the main selling point of piston conversions: less cleaning.

    • Norm

      He did mention one. POF USA’s tagline is something like ‘lubrication not required’. I’ve owned a 223 upper unit, and I always kept it lubricated on the bolt and guide rails on the carrier. Never a problem. Almost any machine needs lube. It’s nice if they run with less, but it’s folly to run with nothing.

  • Darkpr0

    Fascinating compilation of straight-up, practical info. I particularly like the line

    “The bolt is from a SCAR-L that has been on the line since day one (01 OCT 13). I think I’ve said it in this thread that I initially had no confidence in the SCAR, this weapon AK-47 of the West. It just runs and runs and made me a believer. I talked about the SCAR weapons with some the armorers yesterday and they couldn’t believe how long the bolt on this weapon has lasted. We’ve had several barrel swaps and the bolt was perfectly fine. ”

    I know there are plenty of people who aren’t as impressed by the SCAR as I am, but this is by far the most convincing argument I’ve seen… The whole “run it till it dies” method may be simple, but rocket science is for rockets. Impressed by the longevity of the AR as well. I wonder how large the difference is between modern AR components and USGI from back in the day?

    Props to the thread OP for putting this information out there in our grubby hands.

    • Ed

      Then why did SOCOM and the rest ditch your SCAR.

      • Darkpr0

        Why do they do anything that they do? The military branches aren’t the end-all-be-all of decision making in the first place, and that’s before you factor in that the choice for a large amount of soldiers with an already-established logistics system is not necessarily the same as one person arming themselves. If you can find an article exposing a flaw in the SCAR that renders it unserviceable, I’d be interested in seeing it. Otherwise the only thing I can find is that they don’t see the advantages of it as outweighing the pain and cost of replacing the already established platform. That’s sort of a non-issue for me where my current logistics platform involves finding affordable .303 British to hold back the invading horde of 2 litre diet sodas.

        • Joshua

          Read my post above. I was issued one for a short time.

      • Joshua

        Because they had other issues in the field. Cracked receivers, poor accuracy, broken stocks, etc.

        The bolt however was not an issue after FN changed the bolt material. Original bolt material was getting 6,000 to 10,000 rounds on them. The new bolt material is more along to Carpenter Aermet, which BTW LMT uses in their enhanced bolts.

        • Cornelius Carroll

          Aermet: not cheap. I wonder if bolts made from a slightly inferior material such as 9310 would make more sense for the range mentioned in this article over the long run…. this is really one of those pinching pennies things I guess as the machine time is really where the $ is at not so much the raw materials… but then again it probably takes longer to machine aermet…

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Out of curiosity, was it the 16 or 17 you had problems with? Also, was it the polymer lower or the alloy upper that cracked?

        • CommonSense23

          Its almost like people just don’t want to accept that SOCOM made a mistake with the SCAR. Same as the MK23. The 17s have got to the point these days that they are reliable, but they still suck compared to a good AR10. The 20s are still horrible. I have seen multiple MK18MOD1s shoot better groups at 100 yards than them.

      • Zebra Dun

        SOCOM used the rifles in Combat under combat conditions, not on a rifle range with a back up company armory to sustain it.
        Perhaps that makes a difference?

    • The SCAR has a huge bolt mass and excellent mass ratio. There’s your secret (there are also a few other minor tidbits).

      It also makes the gun a pound and a half heavier, so it’s not a free tradeoff.

      • Darkpr0

        Nothing for free… The AR-15 was made to be an ultralight assault rifle that still did the job. It sacrificed some stuff to get there, but it definitely did what it was supposed to do… Crazy light platform with good effect on target. Some of those sacrifices have turned up really smart, others haven’t and have been rectified. Smart sacrifices get the job done.

        • I disagree. I think for the time period, the AR-15 was lighter, more reliable, and more durable (once you got past the development models) than much of its competition.

          Those involved in its design were obviously optimizing for light weight, but I bet they’d argue they weren’t sacrificing durability or reliability at the same time. And I think I agree, for the most part.

          • Darkpr0

            I’m not so much speaking of durability or reliability… I’m thinking about what the platform COULD have had if different design choices were made. It could have had a .308 a la AR-10, but they went with the .223 because sacrificing the single-shot power for the ton of advantages it brought seemed like a good idea. It probably was. They went with a thin-profile profile barrel for weight savings. This turned out not so great, so they changed it to the A2 profile. Having the ambi charging handle as we know it while lacking a useful forward assist gained general-usability at the sacrifice of worst-case usability. I think the jury’s still out on that sacrifice. Personally I would want my rifle to have a (Edit: USEFUL) forward assist in the event that available ammo isn’t always as stellar in quality as it is now, but on the other hand the one they tacked on isn’t so great. Still, though, design choices everywhere sacrifice some things to gain others. And what they couldn’t have predicted has been iterated on with experience. Systems like the SCAR, the ACR, and whatever else everyone’s favorite new toy is haven’t really had the same opportunity to get the development underneath them.

          • scaatylobo

            My play on all this = we WOULD have gone with the 7.62 X 39 AND then invested millions in making it MUCH better.
            AND then incorporating the best of the M-4 and AK into the perfect tool for our military.
            BUT that was not conceivable as the NIH syndrome came up [ “not invented here” ]. when it came to that caliber.
            MY not so humble opinion.

          • Kivaari

            I’d disagree about caliber. I think the Soviets liked the small bore concept as well. That AK74 did show up 40 years ago. The Soviets were testing 5.5mm rifles PRIOR to WW2. They had a great deal of money invested in .30 caliber barrels and barrel making machinery.
            At normal ranges 0-300m a man hit with a 5.5mm bullet will be sick.
            In live animal testing the very tough 7.6mm M43 slug and the 5.45mm tend to do less damage in tissue. Much less than a 5.56mm bullet within fragmenting distances. Soviets, went to the 5.45mm after considerable testing. THEY say the 5.45mm gave the troops 2.5 times the range of the 7.62. Thanks to the effective muzzle brake and the flatter trajectory. Don’t blame me, blame the Soviets. An excellent sources are found in Ezell’s “The AK47 Story”. Using the footnotes and your state library system will get you tremendous amounts of REAL testing. If you get the Swedish studies, discount it, as they were trying to show how bad the US was in Vietnam. They approved of the SS109, only to find out it did more damage, thanks to the higher RPM of the 1-7 twist. Don’t blame me, blame Dr. Fackler.

          • Kivaari

            The A2 only has a heavy barrel exposed. It is still small under the hand guards. Weight out front helped steady it, but notice the replacement is a lighter carbine, with a skinny barrel under the hand guards.

          • McThag

            They’re changing all the M4’s over to the heavier “SOCCOM” profile barrel.

          • At the time, they did not think the .22 cal round would result in a reduction in effectiveness, and in many ways they were right. The modern experienced with the 5.56mm is a bit colored by M855, but initial use of 55gr ammo revealed some pretty dramatic wounding.

          • Darkpr0

            I think they were right. 5.56×45 has resulted in a reduction in effectiveness under certain conditions, but for general purpose use it does the job. .30-06 and .308 are definitely overkill for modern “battle” ranges, though their added range and power still serves its own purposes. I think small-calibre ammunition still needs further development, but it certainly marked a solid step toward a more ‘optimized’ weapons platform.

      • jcl

        Is there any reason why no one try to make SCAR type six lugs bolt for AR15 ? They just need to change the bolt and barrel extension.

        • Yes, you’d need a new carrier and upper receiver as well, as the bolt turning angle would be wider.

          • jcl

            Oh, right, I forgot forget about that.

  • Bill

    Brownell’s mags are probably the least-appreciated but most cost-effective accessory for any AR. They could not possibly be less sexytacticoolhighspeedlowdrag, but just flat work, anytime, all the time, for a price even I can afford.

    • iksnilol

      Are they cheaper than Pmags?

      • Bill

        Typically by a buck or two. They have models with different springs, some have Magpul followers, all of which effect the cost. They are also usually available in a bulk pack of 10, which takes the price down a little more. They are plain GI mags, but they work, so if having the latest/greatest stuff that makes women throw their panties at you is important, you might be disappointed. Hit the Brownell’s website if you haven’t already, it’s porn for shooters.

        I’m running a couple Lancer mags also, just to see how they hold up in relation to Brownell’s and PMags.

        • iksnilol

          I knew they were GI mags, I just didn’t know they were that inexpensive. Also, is it important what kind of follower they have? Since I see there’s plenty of different followers and whatnot available. Is interesting, since I am looking at inexpensive AR stuff that works for a friend when I visit him in some years.

          I was positively surprised by the Norwegian Brownells, things weren’t as overpriced as the rest of Norway is in regards to guns.

          • Bill

            Some people insist on anti-tilt followers, which some of the Brownell’s magazines come with, but I think it’s more of an issue for full auto-firearms. I have GI surplus mags that I know don’t have anti-tilt followers that work fine for me, but I don’t claim to be an AR expert. I couldn’t tell you which of the rest of my mags have what without disassembling them. I like the stainless springs because I live and work in a damp, high-humidity environment, but they probably don’t make any difference over the chrome-silicone.

            I had no idea that there was a Norwegian Brownell’s. The US Brownell’s has discounts for police. military and gunsmiths, see if you can use one of those. My attitude is that if Brownell’s doesn’t have it, I don’t need it. Be sure to get their catalogs. They are wishbooks for dudes.

          • iksnilol

            Thanks for the advice, I’m thinking it can’t hurt to have stainless springs. Especially in humid areas.

            There’s a Brownels for pretty much every country. I haven’t really checked Brownells too much since I always had this idea that they were extra expensive. I know that isn’t true but it stuck with me for a while.

          • jcitizen

            That has been my prejudice for years, but lately they seem to be the go to place to get so many things, that I’ve gone there looking more often. I’m still not buying much, but I plan purchases months ahead of schedule.

          • iksnilol

            That’s smart, makes it easier to avoid impulse purchases.

  • Cal S.

    Love it! Disdain ARs all day long, but greater interchangeability does have its advantages.

    I liked the bit about the piston uppers. Looks like Stoner knew what he was doing after all.

    • iksnilol

      The guy who made the rifle knew what he was doing in regards to making his rifle?

      Who would’ave thunk that? xD

      • Cal S.

        I know, crazy talk!

    • thssks

      Like the piston upper Stoner was working on when he was let go from armalite?

      • Cal S.

        His likely would have worked.

      • jcitizen

        Eugene Stoner was not “let go”, he left to work for Cadillac Gage where he developed the Stoner 63 Weapons System. That piece of work was ingenious to me, and was fully modular and capable of changing any one weapon to a myriad of features and/or missions. It was a while ago, but I remember reading that many SEALs like that system until the Stoner developed SR-25 series arrived as the Mark 11.

        • thssks

          Thanks for the free educational information. I was really just trying to make the point that piston AR systems began in the same genius mind that developed the DI AR. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and one thread shouldn’t be enough to say ” I knew it”. I am also under the impression that the modern AR 15 is based on “Stoner’s original design” and much more research and development went into it to make what it is today. From before colts acquisition to the trials in Vietnam it has constantly been tweeked to make it better, and if a piston can do that great. I love the platform wether it is DI or piston. I love the smell of cordite in the morning… or anytime really… And I don’t really care what firearm its coming from.

          • jcitizen

            From what I gather Stoner actually like the DI system better; but I always assumed it was because it was so much easier to manufacture. As it turned out, it was inherently accurate too. As an armorer, I hated it because of maintenance issues. The troops in my charge, hated cleaning it so badly that they refused to fire blanks in training! Of course I could have pulled back on my standards of cleanliness, but I would never have lived with myself then.

          • CommonSense23

            The op rod driven was easy to manufacture, it’s why stoner designed the AR18.

          • jcitizen

            It obviously takes fewer machining operations to simply make the bolt the operating rod(piston), and the bolt carrier the piston chamber, as in the original AR-15 system Stoner sold Colt – Colt was bigger so it won. The gas tube was just plumbing from industrial pneumatic stainless stock. It really was, and is a piece of cake.

            Even Stoner’s SR-25 was adopted by the Army from Knight’s Armament, and it was direct gas impingement as well. I remember Stoner put the AR-18 op rod on because the Air Force ordered it that way. I was just a kid but was following the news back then on Armed Forces Journal, and the American Rifleman. They were the biggest contract on that select fire rifle.

          • CommonSense23

            You have a lot less tolerances to deal with in terms of machining, and far less tinkering with all the issues required by Stoners DI system versus running a traditional op rod gun.

          • CommonSense23

            The major advantages of a op rod driven gun is its easier to manufacture. AR15s require far more knowledge to tweak and manufacture than a op rod driven gun, but are more reliable and accurate. And cordite stopped getting used decades ago.

      • Shmoe

        The DI system was still under patent, a patent that was sold by Armalite to Colt. Thus, the short-stroke piston system in the AR-18. It was an “intellectual property” issue not really an engineering issue. So far as I know Stoner always liked DI.

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    I wonder how KAC stacked up against everyone for round count

    • no

      A couple pages into the thread that was brought up. Apparently they haven’t run any of their rifles. I *think* it may have been an availability issue.

  • Christopher Armour

    Awesome, sounds like Anderson wasn’t too popular. Gonna look into slip2000 and Lucas, I normally use CLP, I’m not averse to trying new lubes though.

  • Lance

    Gives on reason why the full sized 20 inch rifle had a endurance over the carbines is the bolts don’t get as heavy of a dose of gas during firing full length system was made to dissipate a bit in the longer gas tube. Carbines shortened the gas tube and hence more pressure is forced on the bolt and BCS.

    • iksnilol

      Also you should factor in shorter barrels heating up more due to having less material and surface to distribute the heat. That’s the reason RPKs have so long barrels.

  • lowell houser


    Cleaning bolts and carriers is such a pain in the ass as compared to
    our AK’s, G36’s, SCAR’s, ACR’s and most other platforms. We throw them
    in the ultrasonic cleaner filled with Simple Green (EPA, OSHA and
    disposal concerns for us) and they never fully remove the carbon from
    the bolts. The armorers spend so much time cleaning them and keeping all
    the parts together as compared to most other platforms.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. This is why I don’t own one.

    • Rock or Something

      Understandable, an AR-15/M-16/M-4 bolt is going to be naturally more pain in the butt to clean then any other platform. But most owners are not going to fire enough rounds in their weapon’s lifespan to warrant a white-glove inspection cleaning after each cleaning. In my opinion, the obsessive need to clean the bolt and carrier of carbon is vastly overrated.

      • lowell houser

        Had to live with one in the desert, so, no. Just no. I might make an AR as a CNC project some day but I’ll never pay real money for one.

        • Joshua

          I spent a lot of time in a desert to with sand 100 times worse than anything in the states and cleaning my M4A1 took me 5 minutes.

        • Their guns are on 100,000-rounds/month full auto firing schedules.

          An AR-15 doesn’t need cleaning for about 2,000-3,000 rounds, and cleaning it for function is easy and takes a minute.

        • Joe

          Cleaning and preventive maintenance is NOT what the D.I.’s had you do at boot camp. The Military does NOT track rounds fired through each barrel, bolt, extractor etc.

        • CommonSense23

          So you never actually got taught how to actually maintain your rifle did you.

    • codfilet

      They are cleaning multiple rifles firing thousands of rounds every day-it’s going to be a chore. How tough is cleaning one AR?

      • Zebra Dun

        I recall taking my M-16A1 into the shower along with my buddies and their rifles after a field exercise CLNC and while deployed OCONUS using blanks and live ammo on ranges, rinsed clean, punched out the bore, Q-tipped the gas tube, tooth brushed the bolt and sprayed them down with WD-40 and luberplated the bolt/carrier and was good to go till next time.
        Rifles functioned right out of the armory the next time around.
        Of Course we didn’t put anywhere near a thousand rounds through the rifles, blanks or live rounds.
        I’m no expert never said I was nor anything more than a former terminal Lance who did four years and got out but it stands to reason cleaning can be simple or involved according to the amount of use and the environment your using the rifle in.
        I would imagine if this range were to do the same amount of shooting business deep in the heart of the Panamanian rain forest they would have to clean and repair more weapons often.
        Remember, this information is taken from customers shooting on a controlled range not combat conditions.
        That makes some difference in my mind.

    • Kivaari

      When do you fire as many rounds? A few hundred at the range under nice conditions and then cleaning the same day. I’ve had an AK rust overnight while “armed camping”. It wasn’t so much the gun parts rusting, but the vaporized bullet jacket material getting deposited in the gas tube and where the piston rests. I never had an M16/15 do that. Use oil in the right places at the right time and most of the rifles function.

      • Norm

        It sounds like you were using Yugo corrosive ammo. Was that the case?

        • Kivaari

          It was Chinese. I’d never seen such a collection grow in such a short time period. Chinese ammo, GI steel core, was the most consistent military ammo I have ever fired over a chronograph.

  • tony

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Very informative article,

  • Cornelius Carroll

    For anyone who read the original article: does the author mention if they use brass or steel cased ammo?

    I’m surprised hammer pins are a bit of a “weak link”. I did not see that coming. Disconnectors I understand.

    • ARCNA442

      I don’t remember which of the threads it was, but I’m think he said that they use Magtech ammunition pretty exclusively.

      • iksnilol

        How is Magtech ammo? I have seen cases stamped with their marks on the range I frequent. I also saw some separated jackets on the floor. Kinda makes me sceptical of them.

        • Dan Atwater

          I’ve never had any real issues with it.

          • Sulaco

            I have noted some under powered loads but that was quite some time ago…

        • Not_a_Federal_Agent

          Fairly dirty… It doesn’t foul up barrels much, but chambers, breech faces and the like get pretty dirty. Also, in my non-expert analysis, It seems the brass is perhaps on the brittle side as I get lots of brass shavings from my extractor when shooting Mag Tech

      • Cornelius Carroll

        Thanks, so brass. I was thinking maybe they used steel to keep costs down and that would lead to more fouling. With the number of rounds that business puts down range you’d think they could easily justify manufacturing their own ammo! Maybe they don’t from a liability standpoint or maybe they get such a good price from buying in bulk and then reselling their brass that it just wouldn’t make sense.

  • A couple of notes

    The charging handled lengthening is the reason for the BCM Gunfighter CH.

    And the MR556 short barrel life is due to not being chrome lined.

    • ARCNA442

      How does the Gunfighter fix the issue? Different material? Different design?

      • There are pictures and diagrams on the product page. But basically instead of the roll pin taking all the force they designed it so the lever pushes directly against the handle.

      • Joshua

        Different design. It removes the weak point in the charging handle that causes it to break.

  • Todd

    That was top notch.

  • Blake

    This is great, thanks. Nothing beats large amounts of real-world experience.

  • Riot

    Who buys a non chrome lined barrel and gets pissed at it wearing out?

    • Ron

      We’ve used MANY other barrels that are not chrome-lined and we get 10,000’s of thousands of rounds with zero issues and most continue to run without key-holing. I guess I expected more from an HK.

      • Kivaari

        Are there any KNOWN variations between button rifled and hammer forged?
        I used both, and paid more for hammer forged, expecting better for the added cost. yet I no longer fire thousands of rounds. It sure makes a difference in old age compared to when the government supplied the ammo. That said the long gun I used most was an MP5. Those were retired at 50,000 rounds looking fine. The only failure were early pattern roller plates and one ringed barrel when we loaned one out to another agency. The one week turn around took over 6 months.

  • Ron

    This is Ron from Battlefield Vegas. One of the questions asked below was about the ammo. The only steel case ammo we use is 5.45×39, 7.62×39 and 7.62×54. We had to use steel case 9mm and .223 for about 4-5 days soon after we opened because of a hard time getting ammo (Sandy Hook shooting). The 9mm was a bad lot. You could actually see the bullet fly down range and hit the trap or watch it hit the floor because it didn’t even have enough power to hit the trap. The other was .223 and it really fouled up the M4’s and the SAW much, much faster than any of the brass ammo we had used.

    • Bill

      Any experience/opinions you’d care to share regarding Froglube?

      • Ron

        The process that was explained to us in order to use properly wasn’t consistent with how we keep OUR weapons lubed. I am not saying that it’s a bad product but we have a different protocol for keeping weapons lubed because of the high volume use.

        • Bill

          Got it – it doesn’t seem like something you can just slap/pour on. Thanks.

    • Cornelius Carroll

      Thank you. Considering the volume of ammunition you guys put down range, any reason you don’t manufacture a lot of your own ammo? I’m just curious from the business side of things. Is it cost, liability, or just the lack of human resources to deal with such an undertaking? Thank you, btw, for sharing your knowledge with us.

      • jcitizen

        I would think liability is already great enough without adding properly manufactured ammo to the legal problems of running such a business. I wouldn’t let anyone touch those guns without a back ground, and credit check, and even then I’d be nervous as hell!

  • All the Raindrops

    PSA uppers ftw lol.

    Haters gonna hate 🙂

  • Robert Rodriguez

    Or if the rifling is worn out, there is throat erosion or muzzle erosion, the bullet will keyhole as well. So yes, as someone who puts a load of lead down the range, he does have much more experience with firearms failures and shooting.

  • Beyondbreakeventrading

    It was very generous of the author to spend the time to organize his thoughts on all this experience, much less type it all out. Many thanks for posting it here.

  • Jeff

    I can appreciate this article greatly considering the Treasure Trove of Info and the number of ARs we have. This is exactly the type feedback that is rarely find in just one article! Good Stuff!!!

  • mmathers

    Q: while it does seem like a place like this is minting money, how do they get the MGs they rent?

    Since the underlying business owner is an FFL, are they just mfg/aquiring post samples or has this biz invested in a bunch of pre86 stuff? If poat samples, does running a business around what are supposed to be law enforcement demos? I also wonder how you could have say 3x the same gun if they are supposed to be samples (since you’d only need one). I suspect they are all registered MGs…
    -g

  • RoadHog

    Great info. Bit why would throat erosion would be greater on short barrels? I understand on gas tubes. All the same physical realities would be experienced for either barrel length, 8″ or 20″, in the first two inches after cartridge ignition. Why would erosion not be the same? Any thots out there?

    • Kavall

      My guess based on them being basically the same every other way. The full auto cyclic rate would be higher due to the higher operating pressures. Faster rates of fire = higher barrel temps. You could probably assign a bit of difference to the reduced thermal mass causing the barrel to heat up a bit faster too, but that’s likely stretching the theory part pretty hard.
      Those are just the ideas I’m coming up with off the top of my head.

  • RPK

    Clean your personal weapon faithfully and do not abuse it, and it should last a lifetime. This is a business model and you’re going to have issues and breakdowns no matter how much maintenance is applied. As Beretta used to say, “and that is the name of that tune”.

  • scaatylobo

    ABOUT TIME ,an article without a agenda or ‘spin’.
    I see THE most important information I got was that in my LIFETIME,I will not have any problems with any of my tools [ guns ] as long as I do the simplest of cleaning etc.
    THANK YOU for calling all the names as they did —– of DID NOT work.

  • jcitizen

    This sounds pretty much like what I ran into at MATES in the Army. My unit usually only had barrel problems, we would replace 10 a year on our training schedule. I agree that cleaning the internal piston on the M16 system is a real pain. I still don’t own one yet, although I do want to some day. I like the AR180 better, but the stamped receiver was a big disappointment. I never ceased to be amazed at how robust the upper and lower Colt receivers were. However we couldn’t get rid of Colt magazines fast enough – they’d double feed and do every feed failure in the book! We found we could rely on issue mags made in Parsons Kansas, so we stocked up on as many as possible.

  • Zebra Dun

    Interesting data from real world shooting.
    There are no perfect weapons.
    All have some idiosyncrasies that affect their handling, endurance and ability to keep shooting.

    Look for people to cherry pick events to show their pet weapons are superior in some way shape or form.

    Some are better at reliability and function longer than others but all will fail eventually.
    Even those you can shoot till your can bar-B-Que a chicken over.

  • CommonSense23

    Depends on how much full auto shooting is done with the gun. The more that’s done, the faster the barrel degrades.

  • Jim S.

    Great info, I do wish more mfg’s were identified as I do build for a select clientele and only want the best parts for them, cost is not usually a problem. Although I don’t build class III weapons, many of my friends and I do run high round counts and also find the LCAS lube to be preferred. Thanks for the info.

    • Jim S.

      * LUCAS lube…

  • John Daniels

    I want to know what they do with all their brass. Lol

  • Tokenn

    Could someone provide a link to the original article?

  • Kivaari

    Don’t forget that the US DID do R&D on such cartridges. Smaller cases were tried with the 6mm Navy, .30-40, .30-03, .30-06, .30 Carbine, .276 Pederson, .280 EM2, 6mm SAW, even 6.5 Italian (for a test comparison-1989 c.), 6.8mm and many more. Even the 7x57mm was intensively looked after S-A War 1898 to 1903. The US has tested just about every thing in use by our allies and enemies. Like nearly every other army having resources to develop their own to do so. Or simply buy what is in use by others.

    • scaatylobo

      Sorry, you seem to have missed my point .
      IF not for the NIH syndrome = we might have gone with a round we did not “invent”.
      That is the problem and I see it as THE reason we did not go with a 7.62 X 51 ‘light’ .
      That would have been a round that COULD have been adopted to SO many uses and to so many different rifles / carbines.
      BUT as stated that is my NOT SO HUMBLE OPINION.

  • billrandall

    heavier ammo is a big mistake. the guys MISS with almost all of their ammo, so why make them carry less of it, hmm? Why give up the 22lr conversion unit for training? There’s no reason, the AK rd is inferior at everything that matters.

  • billrandall

    all you have to do, to make the m4 a dramatically effective package, is load it with Nosler, 60 gr Partition, deep penetrating softpoints. Tests on deer prove it to be just as effective as 30-30 sp’s ever were.

  • billrandall

    the heavy barrel is a big mistake, too, for civilians. YOu won’t be having uncle sugar come rescue you, so MISSING a lot is not the answer. If you need a speed reload, with a 30 rd box mag, you are really unlikely to survive, except by luck. 1 man, vs more than 5-6, when they have autorifles, is REALLY bad odds, and missing 80% of the time is not the way to win.

  • billrandall

    if you HIT more than 5 guys, in any one engagement, you’ll have done as much or more than any of the medal of Honor winners did (with a rifle) since the advent of the AK47. vs bolt actions, or spears, sure, you can do a bit more.

  • Ed Gruberman

    If you are in Vegas, go shoot a machine gun! It is a blast, and not much more expensive than a few minutes at the slots and tables…

  • marcus johannes

    I noticed the Man mentioned PSA 12.5 inch uppers , I have one of these and must say they are well made and I have had zero issues , Palmetto State Armory and their products -Good Price ,Good Quality

  • jim

    A lot of interesting info but shooting a mini gun, beltfed or sniper set up at 10 yards ? I looked at the site and pricing seems odd, same price to fire an SKS as an HK53 or HK33.

  • jim

    BTW I hope these are dealer samples they’re going through and not transferables. It seems a shame to waste them renting them to foreigners and people who probably don’t care if they ever own any.

  • William L

    Maybe its just me,but you don’t bring in your own firearms to shoot?…. OK i guess having the desert all around to shoot helps…

  • taurus7125@aol.com

    Good reading I like that they mention some names