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AR15 Quality vs Crap: How do you tell the difference?

Discussion in 'Rifle Discussion' started by Joe Link, Nov 27, 2015.

  1. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    This thread runs in a similar vein as @Ironbar's thread here.

    Though I've owned quite a few AR's over the years, my knowledge level doesn't extend far past basic cleaning and operation. I'd like to become more knowledgeable regarding the technical ins and outs of what makes components higher quality than others.

    These Black Friday sales have me thinking about building out a couple stripped lowers I have (or at least purchasing an upper or two). I'm a 'buy it once' type of guy, though I have the patience to wait for a good value. I don't want to build (or buy) an AR for the range that I wouldn't trust in a SHTF scenario when I could wait, save a bit more, and have both. For example, what makes a $250 PSA upper inferior to a $600 Colt or Daniel Defense?

    My only complete AR right now is a Colt 6920, which I like in it's mostly stock configuration. It'd be nice to complement it with a lightweight build (mostly for the girlfriend), and also one for distance.

    So, while price is admittedly one of the best indicators of quality, what other methods can be used to identify quality at a good value?
     
  2. ZigZagZeke

    ZigZagZeke Eugene Silver Supporter Silver Supporter 2015 Volunteer

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    I'm curious too. I replaced a pitted barrel on my Bushmaster Varminter with a 24" stainless bull barrel from Fulton Armory, and I'm happy with the results on the range, but the weight is a bit much for lugging over the hills when coyote hunting. I'd like to find a quality upper for it with a lighter weight, possibly shorter barrel.
     
  3. Caveman Jim

    Caveman Jim West of Oly Springer Slayer 2016 Volunteer

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    If it says "MADE IN CHINA" put it down and slowly back away........:eek::eek::eek:o_O:rolleyes:

    Yeah, them talkin AR's ain't Murican products.

    On topic though if it shoots fine don't worry about it, quality to me means that it works and function every time it is fired.:cool:

    I don't need to spend $2k to look tacti-cool. ....
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
    nwwoodsman, 3MTA3, erudne and 4 others like this.
  4. rick benjamin

    rick benjamin USA, Or, Damascus Secure the drama Silver Supporter 2016 Volunteer

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    Ironbar purchased a factory blem DIT, he discovered a glitch, fixed it.
    His rifle runs well, 4 lb trigger pull (per my gauge).
    I have two DPMS lower kits, the critical surfaces look nice and smooth, no burrs.
    My factory AR trigger was rough. Careful polishing with a finishing stone made a world of difference. One of my uppers is a bit "off" had to crank the rear sight far right. The receiver was not square to the barrel (which will distort first, aluminum or steel)?
    I suspect this will fix it. I'm impressed with Wheeler tools.
     
    Sgt Nambu likes this.
  5. slimer13

    slimer13 Deer Park Well-Known Member

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    If your talking the PTAC or Freedom upper barrels vs DD the difference is the CHF (cold hammer forged) barrel which improves accuracy and barrel life because it is much more consistent. PSA CHF vs DD CHF price difference is due to Gov contracts and the name IMO.
     
  6. B5Ben

    B5Ben Boise Well-Known Member

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    Last I knew, PSA CHF barrels were FN made with the "machine gun steel alloy. Those are used in PSA's "premium" line of uppers/rifles. The Freedom series are not CHF.
     
  7. Boboclown

    Boboclown North Carolina Well-Known Member

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    What makes it inferior? A lack of chrome-lined barrel in the non-premium lines, but the freedom line has a melonited barrel, depending on which one you get. No idea about PTAC. Premium has a chrome-lined barrel and is CHF.

    Aside from that, name. The name Colt or Daniel Defense has mystical properties that increase reliability tenfold and makes the rifle so sexy your eyes would melt by looking at them (okay only the latter is true, maybe, possibly). Jokes aside, really sometimes you do pay extra for the name. Which isn't always bad, you're paying for that name for a reason. Sometimes anyways.

    Really, regardless of what you get some issues really can be solved in a garage with some beer and time. If you have the tools. PSA isn't really inferior, but I guess that's debatable.
     
    Brutus57 likes this.
  8. No_Regerts

    No_Regerts United States Well-Known Member

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    If you show a bad guy your Colt or Noveske roll mark, he will likely drop his pants and run. If its an Olympic roll mark, he is liable to make you drop yours.
     
  9. Camarobear

    Camarobear Vancouver Active Member

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    Does it shoot?.. Dont fix it....
     
    Brutus57 likes this.
  10. clearconscience

    clearconscience Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    Some I'm sure will disagree, but personally I don't think the upper or lowers are much different whether you spend $80 or $400.
    The more important thing I think is the BCG, trigger, and barrel.
     
  11. TapRackNGo

    TapRackNGo PNW Well-Known Member

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    I believe the Colt LE6920 is one of the best value guns around.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2016
  12. ron

    ron Vancouver, Washington Silver Supporter Silver Supporter

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    AR rifles built for High Power Rifle competition are NOT chrome lined. The chrome lining
    extendeds barrel life but does not increase accuracy. Compass Lake Engineering and
    White Oak are considered to be top of the line for competition. Rock River and
    Bushmaster also build specialty rifles for competition.
    https://www.compasslake.com/
    http://www.whiteoakarmament.com/xcart/home.php?cat=
    fuseaction=category.display&category_id=226&CFID=528984544&CFTOKEN=81126146
    I read a review on this rifle in Shotgun news. Under half minute groups. Joe
    this is the one you want. "Wok Wiver"
    http://www.pkfirearms.com/rock-river-arms-r3-competition-upper
    https://www.rockriverarms.com/index...tegory_id=567&CFID=528984544&CFTOKEN=81126146
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
  13. Boboclown

    Boboclown North Carolina Well-Known Member

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    Pretty much, as far as material is concerned. Then comes other stuff, such as the quality control.

    Pst... Keep in mind milspec is still quite the rage in the fashion circles. ;) That means people want chrome lining. Therefore, "inferior" product has no chrome lined barrel.

    Personally, I don't care whether its there or not.

    Not that it really matters, with AR-15s you can change the barrels relatively easy. For the most part.
     
    erudne likes this.
  14. ron

    ron Vancouver, Washington Silver Supporter Silver Supporter

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    The circles I run in it is about performance. Holding the 10 ring at 600 yards prone.
    22 rounds in 22 minutes. 2 sighters and 20 for record at 600 yards.
    http://www.ossa.org/highpower.html
     
  15. JRuby

    JRuby St. Helens Oregon Well-Known Member

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    I have been told ^ read that there is no such thing as true milspec AR 15 as a AR15 is mot a military rifle like a M4 or. M16. Is this true. The same applies to a M1A versus an M14
    Thoughts?
     
  16. Boboclown

    Boboclown North Carolina Well-Known Member

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    Yes, but that's not the fashion circle. ;)

    Personally I prefer a melonite barrel but to each their own.

    Pretty much. But really people refer to milspec for something else. Full auto carrier, chrome lined barrel, etc. I try to refrain from actually using the term "milspec" so someone else could chime in with better info on that.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
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  17. oli700

    oli700 Rogue Valley Well-Known Member

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    when I refer to Milspec I am addressing materials and dimensions ....CL barrels are the most over rated thing on the platform for a civi, less accurate and no way most people are going to burn out a non-CL if the barrel material is decent and there is some cleaning done every now and then

    to me milspec is important for compatibility and durability, its a minimum and milspec can be surpassed by a ways these days

    Don't roll mark......yes some roll marks say "bad QC" some say "acceptable" some say " sucker"

    a fine example is Colt....Colt of yester year, awesome milspec rifle, Colt of today.....crap shoot, imo their QC has degraded terribly , from experience.
     
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  18. JRuby

    JRuby St. Helens Oregon Well-Known Member

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    To me true mil spec is that the military has set a specific set of requirements and that component meets and exceeds that requirement and can be proven via testing documents. It is much more than compatability. To me the way the word milspec is used is very misleading. I dislike how that word is used today.
     
    erudne likes this.
  19. IronMonster

    IronMonster Washington Opinionated Member Diamond Supporter

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    Joe, The long and short of it is you have ask a question with no definitive answer.

    Some relatively inexpensive AR parts will have performance and longevity relative to much more expense parts. Some high end name brand parts are no better than off brand equivalents.

    There is no If X costs $$ then it equals Y results.

    However as a general rule if you buy Noveske, DD, LMT or something similar they are using premium materials and doing full faith quality inspection with higher expected tolerances in areas.

    Does that mean you are getting your dollars worth when you spend $2500 for a Noveske VS $1200 for a GOOD PSA rifle? No, not at all.

    Now you can go the other way too. When you buy a $400 PTAC rifle from PSA you are buying the cheapest thing that can be built. Only and idiot would expect the cheapest thing that can be built to match the materials and quality of something that costs 5 times as much, however there are plenty of idiots who will spout "Its just as good" Well, If all you do is talk about it and tell others how stupid they are for spending more, then yeah, it does that. If you actually plan to put 15,000 rounds through it and expect those to fall where you point the rifle it really doesn't bear out in the real world.

    Really the best answer is buy what you like commensurate with what is important. If what is important is having a great shooting super cheap rifle you will have to do some work and you will likely end up replacing many things as you learn whats good and what doesn't make the cut. If whats important is having a top notch gun to hell with the cost then its silly to dink around buying cheap stuff. There is a plethora of "whats important" considerations and products that fill them all.
     
    Vorpalis, 41Slinger and B5Ben like this.
  20. ktd

    ktd nw Member

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    My take is it's like car parts. You pay for materials, r&d, construction, and qc. Material specs are nice, but most are just going by what the manufacturer told you, few know how to verify a foundry cert and such. The big guys generally know how to actually engineer, while the small guys might be sharp, but just don't have the ability to properly test products for a gazillion cycles. The big guys can consistently mass produce parts or assemblies, and generally know how to qa/qc them. I recall one high end parts company started making guns, and the tech admitted he was just a gun monkey putting things together with little training or supervision. Prices go down through economy of scale, then go up due to qc controls and meeting spec requirements.

    Now you throw in a crazy market, everybody and their brother making parts/assemblies/rifles, Chinese made stuff, etc, and pricing and quality are all over the place, and even vary with time, it can be hard to decide.

    I tell my buddies the only real way to have confidence is to shoot a couple thousand rounds, and replace what breaks with something better. This is especially true for kit guns, and even first tier company stuff breaks.

    With so many specialized options you are kind of back to the old days where sometimes you just have to "buy and try" to see if it works for you. Even with the internet telling me stuff I still have a box full of parts I never use. My general advice is keep it or start it simple, buy reputable brand names, and shoot it into reliability. Nice thing about ARs is it's not hard to troubleshoot and get them running.
     
    oli700 likes this.