Thursday, May 10, 2018

NRAAM 2018 – Saturday Review Day

            Not that I had a plan for ANY of NRA AM, but I decided Saturday that I’d revisit some of the products that I’ve reviewed over the years. So, after getting my voting out of the way and figuring out some sort of plan at the press room, I tied my shoes (yeah, it’s about to get real) and hit the floor.  I planned to focus on some of my “go to’s” for my AR builds.  Namely, and in no particular order, Magpul, Adams Arms, AeroPrecision USA, KNS Precision, and Diamondhead. And as a bonus and since they were there, I thought a visit to Barrett was in order. Outside of those I would see how much time I had left that day.

            As some of you may know I’m a pretty staunch Magpul fanboi.  Aside from a couple of notable exceptions (cough, BAD lever, cough) they are spot on for putting out a product that is rugged, dependable, works out of the box, and is the best bang for the buck.  Talking to one of their reps that day, they’re being pretty cagey about what’s new on the horizon.  Although he did say they might be working on a magazine for the M14 platform. But that’s been a running gag for a while now.  Nothing on a Gen 4 for their mags, no word on any new AR or other rifle furniture. I can understand their reticence on talking out of turn, though.  They got a little burned when their Rem700 stock wasn’t perfect on it’s first release and the delays that resulted.  I’ve used the UBR on a couple of carbine builds, their PRS for a 22” precision based around BCM’s Mod 12 18” precision upper as well as their AR MOE rifle stock on an LR-308 build. Aside from the UBR and PRS being heavy and both those rifles ending up on the high end for finished weights they are my first choice for AR builds unless I’m focusing on weight.  And it will come as no surprise to anyone that Magpul pmags are my only choice for my AR and LR platforms.  And because Magpul really failed to market it well enough, any of the furniture that Magpul put out in the sand color were designed to take Rit Dyes.  There’s an excellent article about that over on GunMag Warehouse’s website at  And finally, we talked about the demise of the dust cover.  Traditionally, the feed lips on the top of the mag were a very common wear point.  Those lips spreading would make a magazine useless and it was very hard to tell they’d spread enough to cause them to fail. Trust me, I’ve bought my share of Korean M14 mags and I’m very familiar.  The material used in the pmags removed that fail point in their mags.  So, keeping pmags fully loaded in storage won’t affect their useful life.  I would still recommend using dust covers on mags you keep loaded in long term storage because, well honestly, dust. Needing to keep the rounds from pressing on the feed lips and bending them just won’t happen on pmags. But keeping dust and sand out of them will keep that out of your rifle and gumming up that system.

            One of my first builds, and one that turned into my truck rifle, made use of Adams Arm’s piston conversion kit.  When I built this rifle Adams Arms’ kit had only been out for a couple of years. Then, the only option had a gas block that was the same height as the receiver and had an adjustable gas piston system. And that will tell you how long this rifle has been knocking around in the back of my truck.  I’ve yet to have the piston system fail. Since then, they’ve introduced a low-profile gas block version that comes in either an adjustable version or a fixed version.  I am tempted to get their fixed low-profile gas block version and see how it stands up to life knocking around in a truck.  When I first put this on my rifle I had a hard time getting the information that I needed to make sure that the piston arm had free clearance to travel back and forth, and then finding a hand guard that fit that. Since then, the sheer number of handguards that are available on the market has increased so much that finding a free float or standard hand guard that will accommodate the piston arm has ceased to be a problem. The only complaint that I have with the Adams Arms is the bolt spring that they have.  This keeps the bolt from sitting locked in the receiver. Since I keep the rifle stored broken down, I have to be conscious of using my thumb to keep the BCG pressed in when mating the upper and lower. Otherwise, I’m banging the BCG into the lower. Talking with their rep at NRA AM, she did say that you can run the system without that bolt spring, and many people have, but it might drag a bit when operating.

            Speaking of my truck rifle. That was the first build that I used AeroPrecision’s upper and lower on.  At the time, all the research I did showed that there were only a handful of actual AR receiver manufacturers. Everyone else contracted to have their name stamped on the side. AeroPrecision of one of those handful and they had an option to have the PDQ ambi-bolt release lever preinstalled on their lower.  More on that later.  That upper and lower, bought at separate times, had an amazingly tight mating. I was impressed with their machining and finishing and honestly, they’ve been practically the only choice on my builds since then.  They’ve introduced an integral free float handguard mounting platform on their uppers that makes installing a free float handguard a breeze. No more trying to get the gas tube timed right. Everything bolts right up, no muss, no fuss. One of my next builds will definitely use one of these enhanced uppers.  The rep told me they’re doing something like an open source spec for these and there’s already a couple of manufacturers who are going free floats for this system.

            KNS Precision Inc. has for a long time now been my go to for all pins and small parts for my AR builds.  There’s definitely a school of thought out there that believes that those pins are those pins and pins are pins are pins.  I’ll preface this with saying this is totally anecdotal, but I’ve replaced enough broken trigger pins on ranges of OTHER peoples’ AR’s that having never had any KNS pins fail on me is cheap peace of mind.  I talked with the owner of KNS for a good amount of time on Saturday.  We covered their new AK stuff which include the pins as well as adapters for folding stocks and an improved piston for the gas system.  They also have a quick disconnect take down pin that I will be picking up and running a torture test on. 

            On my most recent .308 build I used Diamondhead USA VRS T-308 handguard.  Aesthetically, I liked the look of the handguard with matching flash hider. Since I bought this they’ve improved the ergonomics on the VR series of handguards and introduced a wider range on those handguards.  I liked the amount of mounting options their handguards give you. There are plenty of either KeyMod or MLok mounting points to put anything you want in the most comfortable position for you on the rifle.  They also do backup sights, compensators, and gas blocks, but I honestly don’t have any experience with either of those and as such really don’t have an opinion on them.

            I had enough time to swing by Barretts booth and talked to them. There are no real new systems coming from them that they’d admit to but there are upgrades and improvements to the buffer system on their M82 rifles that will have me sending mine in for a PMS check and overhaul.

            The rest of the day and Sunday, I just spent wandering around looking for anything that would just out at me as “The New Thing” ™.  Unfortunately, nothing really jumped out at me in that arena. Maybe next year.  But that’s the thing with the AR platform. There’s been sixty some odd years of improvement on this platform. It’s going to be a hard hurdle to clear to supersede it.  Until that phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range comes out I’ll happily keep playing with the AR.

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