Pat’s Product Review: DPMS AR-15 Lower Receiver Group

As I’ve mentioned before in my SurvivalBlog articles, I’m am swamped with requests to do firearms articles on particular firearms. While I would love to accommodate all the requests I get, it is impossible. I know a lot of folks believe that gun writers get guns for free to write about, that simply isn’t the case. We have to request a firearm from gun companies, I either have to return it, or buy it when I’m done testing them. As much as I’d love to purchase all the firearms I write about, I can’t do it – my finances don’t allow it – not even close. So, I return many of the firearms I write about. And, many times, I have to pay for the return shipping, which means, it actually cost me money to do an article – I’m a volunteer editor at SurvivalBlog, receive no pay. So, as much as I’d love to write about all the firearms that you request me to review, I simply can’t do it. What I will do is, from time-to-time is, request some of the newest firearms that I think would be great for survival purposes – street, wilderness or end of the world survival.
I’ve also mentioned before that I’m a habitual gun trader – and there is one very good reason for this – I don’t have the funds to purchase all the firearms I’d like to purchase, so I do a lot of gun trading. I honestly don’t own as many firearms as most folks believe. So, with this said, let’s take a look at one of my latest gun trades. I recently ran into a great deal on a brand-new DPMS AR-15 lower receiver, with a fixed butt stock and fully assembled. My local gun shop also had a used M4 Carbine upper receiver, with the complete bolt carrier group. So, I did some horse trading, and walked out with the DPMS and unknown make of upper M4 Carbine receiver group for some testing.
The DPMS lower receiver had the fixed butt stock as mentioned. And, just when I needed a telescoping 4 or 6 position butt stock – my local gun shop didn’t have one in-stock. However, they did have a banned no position “telescoping” stock – which means its basically a fixed position stock, but it was going to look better on my project M4 than the fixed butt stock that came with the DPMS lower receiver. Also, the upper receiver I got in the trade – someone had did a camo job on it – spray paint – and it was painted in blue and gray – I’m assuming this was meant to be some sort of urban camo job – and whoever did it, didn’t do a very good job.
The first thing I did was swap out the fixed butt stock for the “telescoping” butt stock on the lower receiver, not a problem. I examined the lower receiver and everything was working as it should. I attached the upper receiver to the lower and it actually fit together snuggly – GREAT! I took the gun apart and checked the bolt and bolt carrier group, to make sure everything was there and working – it was. I examined the barrel for obstructions – none to be found. However, the barrel and chamber weren’t chrome plated. In my wet climate, I prefer a chromed chamber and barrel to help prevent rust. Also, this upper had the 11-inch barrel with the permanently attached 5 1/2-inch flash suppressor, and I’ve always just like the look of this set-up. Only thing is, with the shorter barrel, you don’t have the accuracy and longer range shooting abilities, as you’d have with a 16-inch barrel. Still, you’re good to go for a couple hundred yards. This set-up is really meant for close-up use and not longer range shooting. The upper receiver is of the A1 configuration, which means the A1 rear sight, which is a bit harder to adjust for windage than the A2 sights are, and there is no brass deflector – which isn’t a problem for me, as I’m a right-handed shooter. I cleaned and lubed the upper and put the gun back together and took it out for a simple function test – everything worked great.
Next up was a camo spray paint job of my own, and I used an OD green spray paint with a desert camo spray paint. All things considered, the gun looked pretty good – at least it looked better than it did with the upper receiver with the blue and gray camo paint job did. I also used a drill bit to open-up the 200-yard rear sight peep hole – I just found it to be a little bit too small for close-up and person CQB work – it took all of 30-seconds to open-up that peep hole aperture – the longer range peep sight aperture was fine. After the spray paint camo job was dry, I took the gun out to the range for some serious testing. I had a good variety of ammo on-hand from Black Hills Ammunition, Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Winchester. The first thing I did was run three 30-round magazines of the Winchester 5.56mm 55-grain FMJ ammo through the M4 as fast as I could pull the trigger and change out magazines – this really got the gun hot and it is a good function test. There were zero malfunctions at all!
During hunting season, there are a lot of deer hunters out in my area, so I restricted my accuracy testing to only 50 yards, with a mountain for a backstop – I didn’t want any rounds going downrange where they shouldn’t be going, and having a hunter return fire on me. I don’t do a lot of long range shooting during hunting season. But a 50-yard target would give me some idea as to how accurate this little parts gun would be. I tried some of the Buffalo Bore .223 Remington 69-gr Sniper ammo – and I was getting nice cloverleaf clusters for my efforts – shooting over a rest over the hood of my rig. Second up was the Black Hills 68-grain Heavy Match ammo – again, nice little groups of around an inch. I was starting to get impressed with this little M4 parts gun. I’ll take an inch group with this little gun, at 50-yards all day long – that computes to two inches at 100 yards. Last up was the Winchester 55-gr 5.56mm white box ammo – and I not only got one inch groups out of this ammo, I also had some 3-shot one hole groups – which was well under half an inch. At first, I thought I had missed the target with a shot or two. I repeated my accuracy testing, only to find out, I was actually getting some very small, one-hole groups with 3-shots – and we’re talking one small hole – not a clover-leaf hole, where all shots are touching – but one hole, and not a “ragged” hole – one neat little hole.
I repeated the accuracy testing with the Buffalo Bore and Black Hills loads, knowing that both of these loads have always been extremely accurate in any ARs I’ve tested them in. I continued to get the clover-leaf patterns with both of these loads. I went back to the Winchester white box 5.56mm 55-grain load, and continued to get the smallest groups with this load. So, I’m assuming that this barrel liked the 55-gain better than the heavier loads from Black Hills and Buffalo Bore. So, you should always test various brands of ammo, as well as bullet weights, to see which loads shoot more accurate in your guns. I was really surprised that the less-expensive Winchester 55-grain 5.56mm rounds shot this fantastic in this little parts M4. I like to use Winchester white box for a lot of my function testing.
Okay, so how would the little parts M4 shoot with another brand of .223 ammo? I dug out some Black Hills 55-grain remanufactured .223 ammo and ran that through the gun – it too shot one hole groups at 50-yards. So, this confirmed my belief that this barrel really liked 55-grain bullet weights the best. I also ran three 30-rd magazines full of the Black Hills remanufactured ammo through the gun as fast as I could pull the trigger – the gun got hot, but no malfunctions – this little gun was a gem. And, to those of you who don’t believe in remanufactured ammo – I’ve never had a single problem with any Black Hills remanufactured ammo – not one round. That can’t be said for all remanufactured ammo. I once had an Ultramax .40S&W round let loose in a Glock 23 – it blew the case head off the brass – and I had to dig the case out of the chamber. I wrote Ultramax about this twice – never got a reply – so they weren’t too concerned about some bad ammo – I’ll never use Ultramax remanufactured in any of my firearms again. I know that Black Hills hand checks each and every round of ammo they make – even remanufactured ammo!
I only wished this little project gun had a chromed bore and chamber – I mean, I can live without it, but in my wet climate, it just means I have to keep an eye on the barrel and keep a light coat of Barricade in the barrel and chamber to help prevent rust. I know many folks prefer a non-chromed barrel, as they get a little better accuracy from their ARs than from chromed ones. But unless you’re shooting in high-powered rifle competitions, you should go with the chromed barrel and bore in my humble opinion. My total investment in this parts gun, not counting the spray paint that I had on-hand, was only $520 – and that is a real bargain for an M4. I wouldn’t hesitate to take this gun into a gun fight, or use it for long-term survival. The upper was obviously well-used, which meant, at least to my way of thinking, that whoever owned it before shot it a lot – so I figured it would work for me. As for the brand-new lower receiver from DPMS – I knew it would work, too. Whenever I look at a completed “parts AR” I take a really close look at everything – some folks just don’t know what they’re doing when they assemble guns – and just because the parts all fit together, doesn’t mean the parts were “fitted” to specifications and it can be dangerous to shoot those guns. So, be advised, if you happen upon any parts ARs – take it to a gunsmith and let them check it out before you shoot it. I felt confident in my abilities as a trained military armorer on the AR, that I knew this little M4 would work properly. However, if you have any doubts, take your AR to a qualified gunsmith and have them check it out before you shoot it.
One of these days, I’m going to replace the non-telescoping butt stock, with a 4-position telescoping butt stock. I could go with the 6-position telescoping butt stock, but with the carbine handguard on the upper, and the barrel/flash suppressor set-up, I think the 4-position butt stock will work out better, and the gun is fast handling, too – it only weighs slightly more than 6-pounds. It would make a great bedside gun for home protection, or for use in a survival situation. And, for a $520 investment, it’s hard to find much fault in this little outstanding shooter. A person could do a lot worse, and best thing is, it really loved the less expensive 55-grain bullet loads, for best accuracy. A parts AR that always goes “bang” when the trigger is pulled, and outstanding accuracy…what more can you ask for? – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio