Two Letters Re: No-Name AR-15s

Dear JWR:
I first became involved with the AR-15 platform in around 1990. My first two ARs were what I refer to as “garage builds”– someone’s amassed parts or parts kits and threw them together
These guns had both used and new parts, including at that time used M16 parts, and neither gun worked correctly or were very accurate.
It was due to these two poorly performing guns that I learned to work on the AR design.
Since then I’ve built and repaired around 150 guns.

In the past 20 years I’ve seen Colts, Bushmasters along with about every brand crash and burn, and I’ve seen the lesser known one do the same. But as pointed out in the article most of the makers of AR-15 type rifles do not make their own parts.

Like a chain, an AR is no stronger than its weakest part, I had a factory Bushmaster fail out of the box, when the buffer retainer plunger sheered within the first 5 rounds, and I have had Kit guns that have run over 5,000 rounds without a hiccup. Also proper assembly is paramount, and that is why sometimes the lower cost guns do not perform.
I have also seen no name kit guns hold sub MOA, and top end factory guns that wouldn’t go under an inch off a rest.

Preppers need to learn how their gun works, and do some research on what are possible problems, that they may need to address.
For the AR platform I’d recommend the following spare parts: 2 complete sets of springs, Spare extractor and pin, add a couple of additional extractor springs (make sure they have the rubber insert), 2-Spare buffer retainers and springs, 3 to 5 sets of gas rings, 1-Bolt carrier key and bolt set, 1 spare gas tube, 2 spare disconnectors (sear).
It pays to have both a set of drift punches and a set of roll pin punches, and while not cheap a set of roll pin starter punches especially for the really tiny pins, and a military armorer’s manual for the M16.s

When an AR fails to function the first thing I check is if the carrier key is loose on the bolt carrier, even the smallest amount of looseness can cause problems, if the bolts are not damaged I just re-tighten them, some say to replace them, but as I said if they are not damaged I re-tighten and re-stake, some prefer Lock-Tite to staking and both work, but do not use permanent [clear] type Lock-Tite, as you may one day need to replace that key. But that has fixed close to 90% of the ailing ARs that I have attended to.  Next would be the gas rings, then the gas tube. If your AR wants to sometimes double or triple fire you likely have a worn disconnector. Make sure to also replace disconnect spring when you do the repair.

While you have the hammer and trigger out inspect the back of the hammer where it engages the trigger nose, and inspect the nose of the trigger for wear, there was a rash of poorly hardened Chinese parts on the market for awhile. Also, do not attempt a “trigger job”, as only the surface area of the trigger is hardened. (NO Files or Dremel tools allowed) if you must, then use a fine india square stone.

Keep your AR clean and keep it lubed, I use bore cleaner and a bore snake on the barrel, everything else I hose down with carburetor cleaner, wipe off and dry, then lube with DuPont Silicone with Teflon. One important point with lubrication: What works in Florida, may not work in northern Alaska. – J.D.F.


While I agree with the majority of Pat’s Product Review, there are a few things to consider when purchasing a new rifle. I have tried out a number of different ARs over the years, and consider myself pretty well versed on the subject. When it comes down to it, sometimes you get what you pay for. On the flip side of that coin, sometimes you pay extra for a name. Personally, I love my Colt. There are a ton of other great ones out there for a lot less money. I like the Colt because it is what I carried in the military and still carry as a full time LEO.

Whether you build a rifle from the receiver up or purchase a complete rifle, buy it right the first time or it will cost you more money in the long run. Also, if you decide to build the rifle yourself, be aware of differing sizes in parts kits for the [hammer and trigger] pin sizes. There are a lot of very affordable kits on the market right now that are a size .173″. Beware, these don’t fit most receivers. Get the right parts, as they are often not returnable. Most will take a .154″ sized pin kit. I have had really good luck with Colt parts, as well as Rock River. I have heard of problems with a few less expensive parts kits, so do your research before you buy. If you simply can’t pass up a great deal on a less expensive parts kit, then you’d better buy two to keep Murphy at bay.

Bells and whistles and accessories for AR rifle platforms can be debated forever. As a last item to consider for first time AR Rifle buyer: Don’t be misled by the term” chrome moly”. The chrome-moly versus chrome lined barrels are about $100 difference. When you buy one for the long haul, go for the chrome lined barrel. When it comes right down to it, the chrome is harder, will last longer, and will take the abuse of being heated up by extended rapid fire far better than the chrome-moly. Buy right the first time, save yourself problems and hassle.

Thanks for all you do. – Chip S.