The Old-School Ways Of NoDak Spud

Credit: brunnels

With all the recent press on retro-styled AR rifle offerings by Colt, Troy and others, I thought it would be fitting to highlight one of the original (and most technically accurate) manufacturers of “clone” receivers and parts. Beginning in 2005, NoDak Spud, a small firearms manufacturing company based in Edina, Minnesota, introduced high quality AK receivers for parts-kit builders like myself.

At the time, kits like those cut from imported unfired Romanian AK rifles that included original barrels, were priced between $70 to $90 from online retailers like Copes Distributing. Within a few years, the supply of affordable AK parts kits began to dry up, due in part to the implementation of the ATF barrel importation ban in the mid 2000’s.

Shortly after entering the AK market, NoDak Spud’s co-owner Mike Wetteland and his partner Harlan Ekre began designing and producing striking reproductions of the M16A1, XM16E1 and very early versions of the “slick side” M16 receivers. Catering to a unique group of clone builders like those found on, NoDak soon became the go-to manufacturer for technically accurate receivers and parts.

Photo Credit: brunnels

AR Clones Built on NoDak Spud Receivers. Photo Credit: brunnels

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Wetteland about everything from NoDak’s humble beginning’s in a small office inside Coonan Arms, all the way to their recent projects like the NDS-18S, a lower receiver for the original AR-180 rifle. Because they use classic lathes and mills, NoDak could be called “Old-School”. But one benefit of the ‘OG’ title means that NoDak employs real craftsman who have a deep understanding of traditional machining, which is a dying breed according to Wetteland. “Anyone can push a button and walk away from a CNC machine. But there’s a lot more to it than that.”

Wetteland began working on the NDS-18S after a persistent member urged him to make a direct replacement for the AR-180B polymer receiver. After six months of part-time work of the project, NoDak had made a commercially viable lower that could accept upper receivers from the Costa Mesa, Howa and Sterling rifles as well as the original AR-180B. Still, the market for the NDS-18S is very limited, due in large part to the lack of newly manufactured AR-180 upper receivers.

Wetteland briefly considered making complete uppers for the 180, but instead decided to focus his efforts on a super-secret project set to debut sometime this fall. When pressed on whether the project was pistol, rifle or shotgun-based, Wetteland just laughed; “I really can’t say.”

NoDak Spud NDS-18S AR-180 Lower Receiver

From NoDak Spud’s product page:

This receiver is made in house on our CNC’s, machined from 7075 T6 511 billet aluminum, and finished in a black Type 3 Hard Coat anodizing.Built for a lifetime of service, the NDS-18S is a rugged, versatile lower that gives you the modern modularity you want. The rear of the receiver is set up to use the high quality stock adapters from Stormwerkz.

NoDak Spud NDS-18S AR-180 Lower Receiver


NoDak Spud Retro AR magazine.


NoDak Spud Retro AR Receiver


NoDak Spud Retro AR Receiver


NoDak Spud Retro AR Receiver


NoDak Spud Retro AR Receiver


NoDak Spud Retro AR Upper Receiver

One of the many projects on my wish list in a XM177(ish) clone that incorporates an Allen Engineering AE22 suppressor. While it’s no where near technically accurate as clone builds go, my love for everything suppressed takes precedence over historical accuracy. When the time comes, I’ll be using NoDak receivers.

We will check back in with Nodak Spud in a few months for additional details on their ‘secret project’ currently in development. I have no doubt it will be a hit.

Sorry, I almost forgot. The name? Ekre used to be a potato farmer in North Dakota. Hence, NoDak Spud.

NoDak Spud –

7683 Washington Ave. South, Edina MN. 55439

Phone: 952-942-1909

Fax: 952-942-1912

Order form here.

Ordering instructions here.


LE – Science – OSINT.
On a mission to make all of my guns as quiet as possible.
Twitter: @gunboxready
Instagram: @tfb_pete


  • gunsandrockets


  • Jeff Smith

    I think I’m in love.

  • ostiariusalpha

    Very cool. NoDak never gets enough attention, considering how great of a product they make. Love those classic receivers.

  • Robert Harper

    The shop I used to work at decided to make a bunch of M92s for everyone that worked there and we went with NoDak Spud receivers. They were the perfect fit and easy to build on. Now if we could just get him to make a forged FAL upper!

  • Edeco

    Awesome, good to know: If I own another AR I totally want it to be bare bones, light and retro.

    • Pete M

      Same here.

      • jamezb

        Meee too.

        • jamezb

          The classics never die… and somehow we are lucky enough that they are being born anew!

  • Jack Morris

    NoDak Spud makes an excellent product and they have amazing customer service. Here’s a retro m16-a1 I built using an old parts kit and one of their lowers. It was a commemorative project for my late father whom served in Vietnam as a Sergeant Major.

    • TheNotoriousIUD

      Sweet, is that a Colt 3 x scope?
      Ive got one on mine too.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Any excuse to show off, eh? ?

        • TheNotoriousIUD

          Oh well it’s my baby.
          You just don’t see those Colt scopes very often. Mine is hardly state of the art.

          • Jack Morris

            Hell yeah I’ll take any excuse. That Colt 3x Scope was hard to find and very pricey. It works great, though!

      • Jack Morris

        You know it!

      • claymore

        I have a NIB 4 power Colt scope in that family of scopes but alas they were made in japan.

  • Jeff Smith

    Rats! I had the chance to get a used AR-180b for $450 a few years back. I turned it down because of the receiver.

  • Steve

    Just checked out their website,
    The 180 receiver can except ar15 mags?

  • RealitiCzech

    Just saw their AR prototype clone. Charging handle under carry handle, flush bolt release, no forward assist or brass deflector. A fantastic setup for carry, no protruding elements to catch on gear.

  • Evan

    Personally, I think the slick side uppers are useless. As a lefty, I want a brass deflector. As someone who understands how an AR works, I want a forward assist.

    • Laserbait

      Funny, the designers of the rifle (a group of people that know considerably more about how the AR15/M16 works) didn’t want a forward assist, and argued against it.

      • Evan

        Part of the reason that the rifle had a reputation as heavily flawed which it took decades to shake. As someone who has used an M16 in combat, I assure you that it needs a forward assist. Due to the nature of the charging handle, the forward assist is absolutely necessary for keeping minor problems that are fixable with a quick tap from becoming major problems requiring disassembly.

        • Gunner4guy

          Concur. I put up with the forward assist catching on my LBE once in a while in exchange for being able to make sure I was in battery. The designers never had to shoot a rifle that just took a swim in a rice paddy.

        • That’s what the depression on the right side of the bolt carrier is for. So you can shove it with your thumb, in the rare case you need a to apply force to close the bolt.

          Eugene Stoner wasn’t an idiot. And he was an ordnance guy in the Marine Corps in the Pacific in WWII, so he wasn’t unfamiliar with the idea of making guns work in combat.

          • Evan

            There’s a difference between “Stoner was an idiot” and “Stoner designed an imperfect rifle”.

  • Anthony Kirby Jr.

    The AE22 is a nice addition to give that old school suppressed look to a retro rifle. I have a NDS 601 lower with a slick side upper that I’m pairing with an AEM5 suppressor for the same look.

    • Pete M

      Thanks. I’d like to see that rifle when you are done.

  • janklow

    now if they could make some AR-180 magazines…