Letter Re: 80% Firearms

Hugh,

I recently completed a Complete AR-15 Rifle Kit with PTAC Upper from 80% Arms with their Easy Jig system, and I would like to share a few things from my experience.

80% Arms shipped the kit within just a few days. There were no missing parts or tools. That was my only experience with their customer service, but based on the rapid shipment I would rate them “excellent”.

The instructions were quite complete and understandable, but you do need to read them carefully (preferably twice or more) before cutting and then follow them exactly step by step while cutting.

Two points I want to emphasize from the instructions:

The Easy Jig system uses a router with a mill bit for much of the cutting. The instructions clearly state to ensure the bit is very tight in the router. They do mean very tight, as mine began to drift at one point in the cut causing a problem I will discuss shortly. Even though I had tightened the bit tight enough that I was worried about breaking my router, I found that I needed to tighten the bit after every cut, until it eventually “seated” in a sense and the problem went away. But I would tighten after every cut period as the vibration from making those cuts does seem to loosen it.

The second related topic was that the instructions state very clearly to shut off the router and let it coast to a stop before removing it from the cut and resetting depth for the next cut. When the bit began to drift out, I tried to pull the router out before the bit cut too deep. That was a bad idea. The gyroscopic effect of the spinning router makes it very difficult to pull out without contacting the inside of lower and the jig. When you make one contact, you then bounce and make several. The result was marking up the inside of the lower and the jig pretty badly and breaking one of three points off the bit and damaging the second, leaving only one good point on the bit.

I stared at this mess and was about ready to go order another lower, a replacement bit, and a replacement for the portion of the jig I messed up. However, I did not want to spend the money and wait for delivery, and figuring at that point I had nothing to lose I continued on with the damaged goods. The bit made it through to the end. The marks in the jig did cause the inside of the lower to have some imperfections as I continued, but none of them made any functional difference. I ended up with a completed lower with some pretty ugly tool marks inside, but it was completely functional and none of my mistakes were visible from the outside.

I had never shot an AR let alone torn one down or assembled one. I have, however, shot and torn down a lot of other guns and I am reasonably mechanically inclined, so I simply looked for assembly instructions online, found a good set, and had the whole assembly together in short order. I came to understand why ARs have so many fans, as they are very simple. I did run into one slight problem when I lost one of the tiny teardown springs, but I was extremely lucky and found it.

I did not time the entire process, but I would guess I had four to six hours in the whole process from unpacking to final assembly.

The kit I bought had a Palmetto State Armory upper with a 16″ chrome-lined barrel. It comes with front sight but no rear sight or magazines. I put an inexpensive carry handle sight on mine, replaced the standard front sight with a tritium sight, and purchased two Magpul magazines. At 100 yards, the rifle shoots as well as I can see at 55 years of age with inexpensive commercial reloads. I think if I put a scope on it, it might be a 1 MOA gun or close with that same ammo. At some point I will probably work or replace the trigger as well and get it down to the 3.25lbs that I like. It is not bad. I would put it at maybe five or six pounds, if I were to guess. It is just a normal factory trigger IMO, and I don’t particularly like normal factory triggers.

The only other thing I would add is to put up a good barrier around where you are cutting, as the router throws a lot of aluminum shavings all over. I did not bother to and consequently spent a bit of time cleaning up afterward.

I recommend this build to anyone. I enjoyed the process, and I love the rifle despite my mistakes.

In closing, tighten your router bit after every cut, turn off the router before trying to pull it out, buy an extra bit to have on hand in case you mess up, and unless you like having a meaningful relationship with a broom and shop vac put up some kind of containment while you are cutting. Go slow and have fun! – JBH

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