Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Guns: Let's Build an AR! - Part 4

Well, my Heller memorial AR is all together, so it's time to shoot - here's my impressions on the rifle as well as my initial range report:

The first thing I thought when i finally mated my new Stag upper to the lower I had cobbled together was "Dang, this thing is a lot heavier than my last AR." The barrel is a 16" M4gery type, but it's the heavy variety, ostensibly designed for the rigors of fully automatic fire. Given that a happy switch isn't in my future barring a change in federal law, I don't really see the point of saddling what is supposed to be a quick-handling carbine with a bricklike barrel. Oh well.

The overall fit and finish of the upper was good, if unspectacular. The carrier key screws were staked improperly, as I've come to expect from all but a handful of AR manufacturers, but a couple restakings did the trick, and at least the screws came tight from the factory. There was a crack in the finish of the A3 detachable carry handle, but other than that, the rifle was cosmetically fine.

Safety Note: Before actually shooting any homebrew AR, it's important to do a function check - in particular, make sure the safety, disconnector, and trigger are all in working order. If you bought a complete upper you won't need to check headspace, but if assembled your upper from scratch you should grab a set of headspace gauges (should be available from any website that sells gunsmithing tools) and make sure everything's okay.

So I finally got down to shooting, and the first 120 rounds were dismaying, to say the least. The carbine kept "short-stroking" or "short-cycling," a term used when the bolt carrier doesn't move far enough rearward to feed in the next round. I had the exact same malfunction - successful ejection, but with the bolt jammed into the middle of the top round of the mag - about once every five shots or so.

Yipes. So what happens when your new gun doesn't work out of the box? Tune in next week, when we'll diagnose and attempt to treat that all-too-common bugaboo of new ARs - the short stroke.


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