Derp Tier AR-15s

I recently finished another build, my first 16″ carbine in a long while, and all told the bill for the build was under 400 dollars. Literally 320 for everything but the lower receiver from a Palmetto State Armory sale and a 60 dollar (with taxes) “poverty pony” lower. A 380 dollar budget build (no optics, could toss on a carry handle right now if I wanted to (have a spare), but kept thinking about buying something “derptastic optic” to complete the build). Eventually I dropped in a Vortex Crossfire II with a “CCOP” knock off of a Burris P.E.P.R mount (which actually seems like a decent mount, probably made in the same factory in China as the P.E.P.R for all I know).

But…the first time I racked back the charging handle was rather illuminating as to why the Parkland HS murderers M&P-15 locked up on him. If his rifle was anything like the one I assembled, not only was it delivered dryer than popcorn fart, all of the wearing surfaces were “new and tight” meaning that fouling will effect the rifle even quicker.

So, what do you do? Well, I used some militec “metal conditioning oil” that I had on hand to lube up the bolt carrier and bolt, then worked the action a bit to get the oil distributed, and then put it away for the night. When I take it to the range, I’ll make sure that the bolt and upper receiver are lubed generously, and then I’ll shoot several magazines through it to zero whatever optic I’ve put on the thing. I’ll want to put at least 50 shots down range.

And then I’ll get home, and clean out everything. There should be plenty of crud to clean out, some of the anodizing, some of the parkerizing, and lots of carbon. But once that crud is cleaned out, I’ll lube it up again, but not with oil, but with a grease. It doesn’t really matter what type of grease you use as long as it meets the temperature range you plan on shooting in, which means for me that pretty much any random synthetic grease is going to work just fine to keep my AR lubed up nice.

I did stone the trigger, so now it feels like a trigger rather than a rusty gate hinge desperately in need of oil. Stoning a trigger is easy, and cheap if you already have some stones that will work. If not, you just ruin a part. Lucky for me I had a pile of basic triggers to practice on, and didn’t ruin any of them in the process. Although I may revisit this in a thousand rounds or so to see how the stoned triggers are holding up compared to a premium trigger like the G2S I really like.

But…back on to lube, true story, I built an AR for high power, but got a three year vacation in a place where I couldn’t bring guns, so I went ahead and lubed it up and put it in storage. Three years later, I pulled it out of storage and it had about 350 rounds down the tube before there was so much carbon build up that I decided to add oil because the crud was so thick that it was slowing down the cycling of the action. So Mobile 1 synthetic grease stayed in place quite nicely, but honestly any brand will do (This is where all the doubters about “grease is grease” say “Cool story bro” and go back to some name brand gun grease). Anyone who says they have magical grease that lasts and lasts through thousands of rounds must also have magical ammo that doesn’t blow soot out into the action which acts like a sponge to soak the carrier oil out of the grease.

So that’s what I’ll do with my “Derp Tier” rifle, to avoid the problems that I experienced with newly issued Colt and FN M4 and M4A1s I’ll give it a deliberate break in session, then grease it up like I do my service rifles. Will it run like a swiss watch? No, because it’s not a swiss watch, it’ll run like an AR-15, and the holes in the paper won’t know what brand is roll stamped on the lower.

It isn’t hard to make a reliable AR-15 if all your parts line up the way they should. If they don’t line up the way they should…. well then that’s where things get trickier. So far I have no issues with Anderson or PSA products. A few years back Anderson let a lower get out the door with a buffer retaining pin recess drilled off center, which wouldn’t be a problem with a “New Colt” BCG (totally open on the back), it was so far off center that it was an issue with the “milspec” BCG the guy was using. Anderson offered to replace the lower, but the guy just decided to run is AR without the buffer retaining pin. If you lose a buffer retaining pin, it’s not the end of a match, just make sure that any broken bits are removed from the trigger well, and use your rifle as normal. To take apart the rifle, just make sure your trigger is fired, then disassemble, the hammer will catch the buffer assembly before it sproings all over the place (or you can just be careful and catch it with your thumb).

At some point I will seriously consider an upgrade to the buttstock, as PSA included a commercial stock for the milspec tube, and it rattles around pretty bad. Or I could use a strip of electrical tape and tighten it up that way.

Still, for a 380 dollar AR-15, (600 with optic and mount), I’m not complaining at all. Freedom rifles ain’t going to win any popularity contests with the AR snob crowd, you know the kind that thinks Noveske lowers are way better than Anderson lowers because Anderson does better work for contracts than it’s own products (including Noveske), or that Aero Precision is better than PSA because Aero Precision doesn’t waste a single cent beyond what a contract dictates. I don’t buy the explanation that companies simultaneously put their absolute best and minimal effort into a lower depending on whose roll stamp they plan on putting on it, only that on a contracted lower the contracted receiver might apply their own additional QA/QC inspection before selling it to a customer.

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7 Responses to Derp Tier AR-15s

  1. DW says:

    I would be interested in seeing a full mfgr BOM on your derp AR build, if you are inclined to disclose it? That is a pretty amazing price on a AR build. Not sure how motivated I am to go in that direction. Perhaps if so inclined you might also provide a “recommended AR build”? Something that you would have no concerns giving to your progeny for his personal defense rifle.

    Like you, I am not enamored of the KAC or FN, etc. high-end AR’s, prices are crazy at the high-end. I do however like a quality barrel, BCG and trigger, and I have been using Mega Arms forged Gator upper/lowers for a while. Not the cheapest, but zero defects and quality mfg. Everything else I would agree, parts is parts for the most part, but I still don’t see myself going too far down the price rabbit-hole.

    I get that the point of your exercise in putting together an AR at a low price point, but metal & heat have a tumultuous relationship. Especially with AR’s, so good quality manufacturing does matter. The goal for me at least, is to strike a “balance” between quality & price.


    • rthtgnbs says:

      I purchased a 320 dollar “Freedom Rifle Kit” with a Nitrided barrel, 1:7 twist with a midlength gas system. I’m not a fan of carbine length gas systems on 16″ barrels (prefer midlength), or midlength systems on 18″ barrels (prefer rifle length). Carbine length gas systems are for 14.5″ barrels with the pinned and welded flash hiders to make them 16″ length. You can see all the PSA Freedom Rifle kits here, but realize that eventually one you like will be on sale:

      I used a plain jane Anderson lower, purchased at a gun show for 50 bucks, which came to 60 dollars after taxes and background check. Honestly Mega, Aero Precision, or PSA would work just as well, as would more “premium” names like Noveske, Spikes, or Rock River.

      This is the scope mount:

      And this is the scope:×24-Riflescope/dp/B00HYRGODO/ref=sr_1_2?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1526511466&sr=1-2&keywords=vortex+1-4×24&dpID=41ZrYan3rrL&preST=_SX300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

      I thought about getting the Primary Arms 1-4×24, but I’ve had good luck with Vortex (even though the Crossfire is made in China, they seem to do a good job to keeping their OEM QA/QC at an acceptable level).

      So all told, 320 for the kit, 200 for the scope, and 30 for the scope mount is 550 bucks (free shipping is a helluva good deal, although I think I had to pay shipping costs for the Freedom Rifle kit, although it was less than 20 bucks. Still, under 600 for a functional AR. The only think that could have been better was a straight profile rifle, but for everything I have any business shooting with a 16″ barrel, the A2 profile isn’t going to matter much.


      • DW says:

        Many thanks for the info and links! I will keep an eye on psa with the holidays coming up. I have been a Burris Mtac guy, but recently got a deal on the vortex Low-end 1×8 scope. It’s definitely a good scope & value. Also kudos on the CCOP mount, I had never heard of them, but that’s definitely a score! I think you called it, that mount looks exactly like the Burris pepr mount, just rebranded.

        Always good to save a few bucks here and there, appreciate the info. Hope things are good in your AO.



      • DW says:

        Also, since you sent me the links to the PSA website, I poked around on it a bit, I came across their .224 Valkyrie uppers. So I meant to get your thoughts on the latest AR ammo fad – the .224 Valkyrie round?

        I usually try to stay mainstream on ammo choices for the family unit, 5.56mm primary and 7.62mm secondary for longer range shooting, 9mm for pistol. But I have been reading a lot about the .224 Val performance/stats. It’s obviously early in the game and prices are still high – so the .224 val is sort of the newest hula-hoop in ammo, but I have to admit that the early returns do seem pretty promising. Reaching out accurately to 1000 yards – if true, has some real possibilities.

        What I also like ( as with the .300BO ) is that I can stick with the AR platform – the standard AR15 lower works fine ( from what I have read ). So all you need is the AR15 .224 Val upper and some 6.8mm magazines. I haven’t found any specs on the buffer situation ( we run H2 buffers ), so that’s an open item detail I want to track down, but otherwise seems good to go.

        Any thoughts/comments on it?


  2. rthtgnbs says:

    DW, I put down my initial thoughts on the 224 Val here: In short, if you are looking for a dedicated long range round on an AR, the 224 Val is perfectly fine for that. For 600 yards and under, it’s really hard to justify the 224 Val over the plain 223 Rem. If you want to shoot 1k yards with an AR-15, nothing wrong with the 224 Val as an option.

    As far as what I would give to someone for home defense, the brand of the components doesn’t matter so much as the assembly. If this was for someone’s “only” rifle, just go with properly staked gas key (I’ve done nitrided BCGs, milspec BCGs, worked with the coated variants, they all work just fine, just make sure that if you don’t have a nitrided BCG that it has a the milspec chrome or some other coating for the bolt to slide against) and a 9310 bolt, with a nitrided 1:7 twist barrel, M4 extension on an M4 upper. Make sure the gas block is aligned with the gas port, and this is where the “gas block dimple” comes in handy for a barrel, it lets you set your gas block on correctly the first time.

    Trigger needs to be consistent, and properly broken in (so no “dead trigger on reset” issues that triggers can have when freshly assembled). If you don’t stone your own triggers, get an ACT, EPT, or some other “non-match upgrade” trigger over the basic set. No need to pay the 100 bucks for a match grade 2 stage trigger.

    Rate of twist doesn’t matter (as long as you are using a load appropriate to the twist), since “home defense” ranges are short. Barrel composition doesn’t matter as they are all going to be fine in a “home defense” role, although my personal preference is for nitrided, chrome lined, stainless, then naked steel in that order.

    If you have a choice for the same price of bolt steels, Carpenter 9310 is preferred over Carpenter 158, but either will serve you for multiple thousands of rounds (only about a 7% strength difference between the two). If a bolt is advertised as “milspec” it’s supposed to be one of those two alloys.


    • DW says:

      Thanks! Sorry I forgot about your post last year, I will re-read it. But I think we are on the same page regarding the 224 val. My only thought was using it to replace the 762 (easier recoil mgmt and carry more ammo), but since I already have the investment and ammo, at this point the 224 val doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I will keep an eye on how things progress with the 224.

      As far as the AR components, that all sounds good to me and pretty much lines up with what we have been doing. The only thing I will need to check out is maybe a nitrided BCG, mine are all stock BCG’s, staked and chrome bolt. I have been using Prolix Lubricant for many years and never had any fouling issues/rust/etc. on any of our firearms. Not the cheapest, but the stuff is magical and the folks at Prolix are stand-up good folks and have always treated me very well. So I will probably pass on the nitrided BCG for now. Otherwise I think we are in business.

      Thanks again for the follow-up comments.


      • rthtgnbs says:

        No problem. If you already have a 308 Win solution, it really is a better option. A lot of terminal ballistics depend on bullet mass to maintain momentum and wounding potential, which even with a 90gr bullet just doesn’t give the same impact as a 175gr pill on impact.

        And nothing wrong with traditional chromed BCGs, you’ll wear out multiple bolts before you ever have an issue with a chromed carrier. I only bought the nitrided carrier because it was literally the only thing in stock at a price I didn’t think was highway robbery at the time. But it works, I have no complaints, and maybe in a few years when that barrel is shot out I’ll check the BCG for wear and have a different opinion. Since that build I bought a phosphated milspec BCG with Carptenter 158 bolt to put in my “save a range trip” kit bag, because they came back on sale and I didn’t have a spare on hand (I do have some extra stripped bolts on hand, but no one wants to transfer parts between a broken bolt and a new one while a match is going….)

        As far as Prolix lube goes, if it works and you like it and are willing to pay the price for it, that’s awesome. I know folks that swear by Frog Lube and it’s way more expensive than PrOlix for an 8 oz container, so I think you are money ahead over the Frog Lube crowd 🙂


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