AR endurance findings, at a rental range

    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

    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]


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