What is the real difference in quality between say a Radical Firearms AR, Ruger AR, and a Daniel Defense AR? I’m thinking about a potential purchase, especially if suppressors get deregulated, but not sure what brand I want to buy. The gun would just be a defensive weapon, possibly even hunting.
What country do you live in?
In general there are about 5 producers of finished lower receivers and 3 of uppers which supply 99% of the market and the only differences are the names on the sides. Yes I know some have big mag wells and one piece trigger guards but the numbers hold true. For instance (unless things have changed) Knight’s Armament gets its lowers from the same company that makes DelTon. There are companies that produce their own lowers but even most of them subcontract to big CNC houses with tens to hundreds of mills. A good friend of mine and accomplished rifle smith that has his own CNC told me over drinks that if he were to produce a lower made solely in his shop it would cost $1k to the consumer. He can have 100 made to his exact specs (he wrote the CAD for them) for $100 a copy and sell them for $200 each from a company that doesn’t even normally make guns.
The reality is AR’s are just parts guns, you are just as well off building one from parts as you are buying a whole rifle. Name brand and Gee Wizz factor aside its an AR, it still poops where it eats.
One of the bills being proposed appears to take it off the the NFA.
Thanks for the insight. I was curious. I was a little disheartened when I shot my Ruger recently and I had two malfunctions. After I thought about it I realized I only had 90 rounds through it at the time. It’s not so much the quality of the AR but the fact it’s barely even shot anything.
The difference in quality results in either more reliability or more features or both. What are the materials used, how much QA/attention to detail is put into assembly, are they inspected appropriately, are they built to standard spec. All of those things affect the price to consumer.
If you shoot a box or two at the range once a year, there is likely no meaningful difference to you between paying $600 or $2000 for an AR.
If you shoot a lot, either via training or competition, or just because it’s fun that’s when you start to see the difference in paying for what you get. Cheaper firearms break more often, or their out-of-spec parts don’t jive well with new parts that are in spec.
There are “cheap” ARs… These are usually priced notably lower than everyone else. If that’s all you can afford, it’s probably fine for low-usage. I don’t shop here, can’t give much advice. Sub $600 today, sub $500 pre-COVID
There are “inexpensive” ARs… Palmetto State Armory (PSA), Ruger AR, Springfield Saint AR, Smith & Wesson M&P Sport, (Colt used to be here), I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others. This is what I recommend to folks who just want an AR, don’t want to spend a ton of money, but don’t want junk. PSA is my fav in this group, but the others are solid too. $600-1000 today, $500-800 pre-COVID
There are “solid, milspec” brands like Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM), Colt, and Daniel Defense (DD) at the high end. These guys all have military or LEO contracts and literally build the tools “used in the sandbox”. They are literally battle-tested, I recommend these for folks who have the budget and want a super reliable AR that they will likely hand down to their grandkids (assuming they aren’t banned by then). $1000+ today, $800-1500 pre-COVID
There are “high end” brands like Knights Armament (KAC), LWRC, a couple more I forget, I don’t shop here either In this price point you get high-end materials and coatings, features like ambidextrousness (sp?) sometimes proprietary parts that perform better than spec. Sometimes better accuracy or less recoil because the whole system is tuned.
There are also a bunch of smaller or boutique retailers/builders that have excellent reputations. Sons of Liberty Gunworks, Centurion, Geissele (priced like high-end, but new to building ARs), Aero Precision, Midwest Industries, Radian, several others I can’t remember.
You have to narrow down the cause. Magazine issue? Ammunition issue? Was it properly lubed/cleaned?
Not sure your experience with ARs, but they will run when dry/clean, wet/clean, wet/dirty. dry/dirty you get lots of jams.
If there is a problem with the AR, Ruger will make it right for you.
As @Harvey notes correctly there are AR’s and there are AR’s but in reality they are all just AR’s. Some of the higher end producers take infinitely more time and do what I consider to be essential assembly steps to achieve maximum accuracy and others just assemble parts. So in that instance he is correct but you don’t get to that level until you are in the mid to high end.
The BEST thing about AR’s is that they are Lego’s for Big Kid’s in that you can ease your way into a top shelf stick by starting at the bottom with good bones. I personally like the Areo Precision M4E1 as a base and have yet to see a bad one, PSA is similar as is Spike’s, from there a $4-500 KIT will net you an AR that will run, as you use and abuse it you may find things you like and want to change. Similarly your Ruger may have been assembled in the Ruger plant but I can assure you all the parts that made it showed up in a big Brown or White van.
Malfunctions on ANY platform are a serious matter and need to be investigated and resolved. 90 rounds is no excuse for a malfunction unless it is poorly lubricated. A new gun just like a new motor needs special care and attention to the moving parts as they break in but you should expect it to run.
What were your malfunctions?
Thanks Harvey and Craig.
Basically if I hear a thump in the night the AR better go bang and not click. Beyond that I don’t care about looking cool at the range. “Looking cool” at the range to me means I’m getting consistently good groupings, don’t care about all of the crap on it. I have my irons, optic, light, and a grip. Good to go I think, though a sling would be good.
Both malfunctions were failure to feed from two different Gen3 Pmags. I was shooting 55 grain Barnaul steel cased ammo. I bought it new and disassembled, cleaned, and lubed it before I even shot it. I had zeroed the rifle a couple weeks before that last session and I disassembled, cleaned, and lubed it. I didn’t lube it prior to going to the range this time because I had lubed it after I cleaned it a couple weeks ago. The ejection port has a dust cover that I keep closed in my safe so I don’t think it should’ve been dirty.
I will tell you as a general rule I am irreverent when it comes to cleaning guns, in general I don’t. That said there is one aspect of the AR that I am fastidious on to the point of obsession. The BOLT GROUP and by proxy the inside of the Bolt Carrier Group (BCG). As I mentioned (in at least one other thread) I am not a fan of the AR platform as it poops where it eats but I have wayyyyyy too many years of experience with it and I drive it better than most to discount its engineering limitations.
“Cleaning” an AR to most folks is wiping down all the outside parts with some form of oily rag and dragging oil up and down the bore which screws up the zero you just put on it.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of AR function is the bolt group which is inside the BCG. Pull the BCG and pop the Cotter Pin out, take out the Firing Pin, pull the Cam Pin after you rotate it out of the way of the Key. Pull the Bolt Group.
Scrub the crap out of the Bolt Group. Consider those 3 little gas rings to be like piston rings in a car and offset them by thirds or halves. If they wanted them to line up they would have drilled a hole through them, don’t line them up. The inside diameter of the BCG allows a 45 Cal bore brush to be used to SCRUB IT OUT. Do so. Clean the face of the bolt to get all the brass bits and other junk out of it. Take the extractor apart once every 10 times and scrub it. Make sure that you clean out the firing pin channel and firing pin hole in the bolt. Put it all back together again and you can go to sleep knowing that it will go bang in the morning.
If you don’t screw with the bore it will actually hit where you were sighted in yesterday, if you do, begin again.
Now, FTF twice with steel case ammo in a gun fired less than 100 times in plastic magazines that have probably had less than 60 rounds through them EVER. Too many variables for an internet diagnosis.
Things to look at:
First round, last round, randomly in the middle?
First round loaded, full mag jammed in under it and the 2nd round didn’t feed?
Random failure to feed is almost always the magazine or operator error. No telling given the information available.
Hope this helps.
Ruger has very good videos on full disassembly down to the firing pin and extractor which I’ve done and cleaned the items you mentioned. Although the video and instruction manual they provide are for a model with a different handguard and I haven’t figured out how to get the M-LOK handguard off yet to clean the barrel. All I’ve done with the bore is running cleaning patches with a solvent through. I don’t mind taking time to clean my guns, there’s something relaxing about it.
I was supposed to have a carbine fundamentals class tomorrow but it got cancelled, so I’m still going to go shoot a couple hundred rounds at the range and note any malfunctions and see how it goes.
Excellent stuff as usual from @Craig6
When you go shooting next time, as @Craig6 notes, keep track of when/where/how the FTF happened as that can help diagnose the issue. Pics are helpful.
When you zero’ed the rifle was it using the same ammo? My personal $0.02… a good AR should be able to run steel cased ammo. It is a bit dirtier, is banned from some ranges, and some brands are rather poor quality which is why I don’t generally run it, but there is some good steel stuff available for decent prices nowadays. Having said all that, mixing steel & brass in the same range session can often lead to issues. IIRC the steel case doesn’t expand so more fouling ends up in the chamber, while brass does expand and seal to the chamber during firing and tends to get caught up on the fouling slowing it down from ejecting or even making it stuck.
are you planning on running subsonic ammo? .300 Blackout?
If not, why a suppressor?
IF, that law does pass then yes I would plan on using subsonic ammo.
Harvey, thanks for your feedback I appreciate the knowledge your dropping here. I did zero it with the that ammo. I was thinking back to my last range session and I was shooting primarily steel but I had some 55-grain PCM FMJ’s left and I was shooting those too. Are you saying that switching between the two types of cartridges can affect feeding? So basically stick with one when shooting?
I can’t say that 100% of the time that’s a problem… but the internet says it happens often
I think if you need to mix brass/steel in the same session, run brass first (at least that makes logical sense to me).
Adding a little more since the topic of 300BO came up. You can run supersonic 300BO ammo with a suppressor. It may not be movie quiet, but it reduces noise alot similar to running suppressed 556. It should bring the noise down to hearing safe levels.
Subsonic 300BO performs similarly to .45ACP (220gr < 100fps should sound familiar) but its “pointyness” lets it defeat soft armor. There aren’t a ton of good subsonic HD/Hunting choices though. You can then swap mags to supersonic if you need/want to.
I have noticed that supers/subs in the same mag (no suppressor) sometimes cause feeding issues. I’ve experimented with alternating super/sub and I’ll get 2 or 3 feed malfunctions per mag. I can’t say for sure if adding a suppressor would solve it. Sample size of one
I’m late to the game and didn’t own an AR until June 2017. Ruger AR-556 was on sale and I bit the bullet. Never had any issues with it. My other choice at the time was the S&W M&P but Ruger was on sale first. Can’t go wrong with two reliable manufacturers. Having said that, I would have just as easily bought another brand if the price was right. It’s still an AR.
Harvey and Craig,
I got to the range today and fired 240 rounds of the steel cased FMJ ammo with zero malfunctions. I was sho happy and was able to work through my punch-out drills quickly. The only thing that slowed me down is the heat from the barrel getting a little too hot. Good fun, so glad to get some solid practice in. Thanks for all your feedback.