I am normally not one for naming things. My girls on the other hand, name everything. But I tend to call guns by the model number, or what I use them for. Thus, I have “The Model 12,” and “The 870” and “My Competition Gun.” But when I bolted this one together for function and fire testing, I knew I had something special. Something that deserved more than just “AR.” And so, I now own a named gun; Justine.

My Mid-Range Dream

The idea for the gun started out in the summer of 2016 when I joined a shooting club that offers ranges from 50-1,200 yards. I’ve watched the guys down at the 1,200 yard bays, and while I’d like to be there one day, I’m not quite ready for it. I had recently built my first AR pattern carbine. I found building to be a great deal of fun, and started making plans for further builds. Starting that fall, I began collecting parts for what I call my mid-range gun. I call it that because when I mentioned to the owner of the range that I wanted to build a “long-range” gun, you know 500-600 yards, he said, “That’s not long range! Long-range starts at 1,200 yards!” There you go. 500 yards is mid-range.

When I started, I had a few goals in mind, but few parts picked out. I knew I wanted a 20” barrel, and a long hand guard so I could attach a bipod. I wanted an adjustable stock, and I wanted to get the recoil impulse as low as possible. And I needed a good trigger. With that in mind, I started shopping.

I watched sales from various suppliers; namely Primary Arms and AR15Part.com. While I’m frugal, I’m not cheap. I looked for the best deals on the best valued components. I tend not to buy the most expensive, high-end stuff, but I aim for high quality at a fair price. The only item in this build much over $200 is the scope and mount; and I got that on sale from Primary Arms with a free mount. I won’t do a full parts list, because most of it is boring, but I’ll list key components below.

The other side.

Initial Assembly and Function Test

I decided to fully assemble the gun and do a full function test before embarking on the paint job. This is a lesson I learned the hard way on a previous build—a gun that now has about 5 different colored parts on it because I haven’t been back to finish painting all the parts I had to replace. I took it down to the range and started breaking in the barrel. That’s a slow process, come to find out. But the groups started tightening up and I decided to shoot for distance. Without too much effort, I hit the 12×12 steel at 500 yards. I moved on to the 8”, 6” and 4” swingers and hit them all. That felt pretty good.

But problems arose when I went to break the gun down for paint. After removing the barrel, I tried to unscrew the Odin Works adjustable gas block. One setscrew came right out. The other one wouldn’t budge. I completely twisted 3 allen keys before the whole inside of the set screw spun. I broke 3 drill bits trying to drill it out.

I figured I would deal with it later and went on to paint the hand guard, upper, scope base and all the parts for the lower. When I went to re-assemble the gun, I learned I had problems. The gas tube was blocking the slot for the barrel nut, and the gas block wasn’t coming off. Worse, even if I bought a new gas block and barrel, the barrel nut and mounting ring for the hand guard were stuck on the old barrel.

I tried for several hours to get the gas block off and eventually may have done more harm than good, and the gas block is still stuck. I gave up and ordered a new barrel from Faxon Firearms and a new Superlative Arms adjustable gas block. I called Leapers to see if I could buy just the barrel nut and mounting ring and was told they didn’t sell those separately. The guy on the phone said they did support their products through warranty, however, and suggested I fill out the form on their website. I did and to my surprise, they mailed me a new barrel nut and mounting ring! That’s customer service!

Lessons Learned

While I like the adjustable gas block, I don’t know that I’ll used a set screw type again. I prefer the clamp-on variety as they seem more likely to come off (and I could always cut the screws if they seize). I also now use a Wheeler Fat Wrench for properly torquing them screws. While I’m not looking forward to another barrel break-in, I think the Faxon barrel will be better than what I had. Plus, this one is fluted and nitride coated, which just looks cooler than the stainless of the old barrel.

I’m also really glad I sprung for an airbrush for painting. I used DuraCoat’s aerosol can finish for the last gun, and while the paint is holding up fine, I found it difficult to control the pattern and keep the film thickness under control. There are several parts on that gun that I had to file down so the gun would go back together. No problems with this one. And the finish quality is much nicer. Speaking of DuraCoat, the colors are Cooler Green and HK Black. This will not be my last gun painting project.

A decent airbrush and careful surface prep are the way to go.

The new gas block should be interesting. Most adjustable gas blocks simply restrict the gas flow, while the SA block actually bleeds it off. I did find that the combination of the Odin Works Atlas muzzle break and adjustable gas block brought the recoil impulse down to about nothing. I could easily see the bullet splash on the steel at 500 yards. I’m curious to see how this one feels.

I also realized this morning that I could have removed the gas tube from the gas block, bolted the old barrel to the upper, then re-pinned the gas tube to the gas block. The rifle-length gas tube would have been able to go into the receiver far enough to get it into the block. A barrel for another day, perhaps…

Going Forward

My plan for the future is to continue to build uppers for this lower. In my mind, I see a 22 Nosler, a 25-45 Sharps and possibly a 6.5 Grendel. Each one will have its own color scheme, and at some point, I’ll upgrade the trigger to the super-light and adjustable model that Trigger Tech makes. Once the other uppers are built, pulling two pins will give me a complete caliber change. Man, the AR platform is cool!

So that’s it! I’ve worked up some hand loads for it and I’ll report back in after a range session to see how she does. That range session can’t come soon enough!

Gear List

  • Stock: Luth-AR MBA
  • Lower: Anderson Arms Closed Ear
  • Barrel: Faxon Firearms 20” Heavy Fluted 5.56 NATO
  • Compensator: Odin Works Atlas 5.56
  • Gas Block: Superlative Arms Adjustable w/ Bleed Off
  • Hand Guard: UTG UltraSlim 17” KeyMod
  • Upper: AR15 Part Forged 7075
  • BCG: AR15 Part Premium Nitride Coated
  • Trigger: Trigger Tech Competitive Curved 3.5#
  • Optic: Primary Arms 4-14 x 44 MilDot
  • Mount: Burris PEPR
  • Paint: DuraCoat Cooler Green & HK Black

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