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This week was an exciting one that started with assembling my first modern sporting rifle, from start to finish, by myself, and ended with a club handgun match hosted by the Utah Defensive Pistol League. (There was also a trip to the SilencerCo factory for a political fundraiser that can be read about in an earlier post) This week was packed, but I want to share some insights on assembling an AR…
Despite having seen multiple gunsmiths build AR’s in front of me in the past, I was still forced to watch several YouTube videos on the subject and they were played, rewound, fast forwarded, and paused over the course of about 3 hours, but I got it done. I’ve heard some folks say that the bottom has dropped out of the AR-15 market in comparison to the crazy demand for them this time two years ago, and it’s evident as parts are very affordable right now, so I stocked up. I bought barrels and uppers from Palmetto State Armory, as well as the lower parts kits, Magpul MOE stocks & grips, and three nickel boron bolt carrier groups. I purchased the handguards and vertical grips from Primary Arms, and finally bought the carbon fiber composite lower from Utah’s own, Tegra Arms. It weighs less than 4 oz and is tough as nails — “It’s not plastic!”
While not difficult to assemble once I knew what went where, I quickly learned that there are quite a few tools that I still needed to purchase, like roll pin starters and punches, as well as a vice grip upper and lower “holders” to keep your upper and lowers from getting mangled in the vice grip when tightening up the barrel and buffer tube. A torque wrench, an AR-15 armorer’s tool, a small rubber mallet, standard wrenches and standard punches also come in handy. I only owned half of the required tools, so after purchasing the rest via Amazon, my build costs went up significantly, despite the great prices on some of the build components.
Needless to say, it was a lot of fun and once I finished the first build, I could hardly wait to start on the second, which took me half as long as the first and didn’t require me to reference YouTube any longer.
I then built a 3rd one, but got a little more creative, thinking I’d like to have a “bump in the night”, lightweight AR that could also second as a very fast 3-Gun competition rifle. This time I enlisted the help of the guys at Darkside Tactical in Draper where I bought a lightweight profile, polygonal, Blackhole Weaponry 16″ barrel and attached a Primary Weapons System FCS556 muzzle break. Then we added a mid-length gas tube attached to an Allstar Tactical .75 low profile gas block that tucked neatly inside the Magpul MOE midlength handguard. While again using a carbon fiber lower from Tegra Arms in Orem, UT, the upper came from a company out of Sandy, UT called Crosshill Technologies — their XSR-15 Receiver is made from billet 7075 T6 grade aluminum, and features ambidextrous side charging handles attached to a proprietary Nickel Boron bolt carrier group. I met these guys a few weeks ago at a “customer appreciation event” held at the Gun Vault range in South Jordan and was really impressed, so when Darkside Tactical had one in stock, I thought it would be a perfect fit for this build. Then I added a Magpul MOE stock, a CMMG lower parts kit which I have since polished with a dremel and Brasso–it feels great now. (I might add a Geissele trigger later–I have a “3-Gun Enhanced” trigger on another build that I love, but Geissele’s are pricey) added the MOE pistol grip and then put it on the scale: It only weighed 5.95 lbs!
For some additional irony a friend suggested that I try to get it to even lighter and weigh in at 5.56 lbs. . CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
SO, to drop the weight further, I’ve ordered a Magpul MOE SL handguard, a Mission First Tactical BMS stock, a Primary Weapons System lightweight enhanced buffer tube, a JP Tuned and Polished buffer spring, and a Spike’s ST-T2 Tungsten buffer, and the Magpul MOE Plus pistol grip–because it’s my favorite. In keeping with the spirit of this build, I’d like to put a VERY lightweight optic for CQB, but I’m not opposed to a 1x magnification red dot or even a 1-4x…Let me know in the comments below what optic you think I should put on this.
Once the new parts arrive, I’ll be sure to post up finished pics along with a full shooting report.
I’m now finishing up a fourth build this afternoon, also with a Tegra Arms lower and a hodgepodge of new, but cannibalized parts from other rifles that I’ve owned. It’s fully assembled, minus a buffer tube and a pistol grip, which will be available once the aforementioned parts for my lightweight build arrive and I swap those current parts onto this one. I did change it up a bit though, as this one has a Troy battle flash hider, and Magpul FDE colored furniture instead, and I did order a new MOE + grip for it.
Is there a point here? Well, I bought my first AR on Election Day 2008 after casting a vote for Senator John McCain. Pre-election polling indicated Obama had already won, so why not “celebrate” by purchasing my first AR?! I’m not kidding when I say that I went straight from the polling station to Gunnies in Orem, and picked up a DPMS Panther Carbine. Their marque read “15% off everything if you show your “I VOTED” sticker”. Ironically enough, on election day 2012, when I realized we were going to be stuck with another round of this administration, I bought my first AR pistol (a Sig) to “celebrate” then as well. I’ve owned at least dozen “modern sporting rifles” since the first, and in the last week built four new ones–what’s so cool is that only the two pictured above are the same. AR building is a lot of fun, and mildly addicting as new products and new innovations come to market. I’ve heard on more than one occasion that building ARs is like Build-A-Bear for men, or Legos, or Barbies, the analogies are endless as are possible AR configurations, it’s great! The best part is that you don’t have to build your dream gun overnight–you can slowly add on or take parts off as your vision for “the perfect build” evolves.
Final thought: As the coming mid-term elections near, vet the candidates as best you can, ESPECIALLY on the state legislature level as they have the largest impact on our daily gun rights here in Utah. Please, only vote for pro 2nd Amendment candidates, because building personal ARs is a blast and I hope we always have the freedom to do so.
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UGE Co-Founder, Nick Moyes was asked to be the Chief Range Safety Officer at a fundraiser for “Mia Love for Congress” at the SilencerCo factory last night in West Valley, UT. The folks at Silencerco were gracious hosts, letting all in attendance shoot their new Salvo shotgun suppressor, the Osprey 9mm, the Saker 556, the Warlock, and the Spectre. We had a great time.
Mia shared a story with everyone about how she was out shopping one day and saw a fellow Utahn open carrying. She was looking at it so intently that the gentleman stopped her and asked, “Does my gun scare you?” To which she replied, “Is that a Glock?” He said, “Yes.” She then asked, “A Glock 26?” A little annoyed he responded, “yes” again. Then she said, “I love mine, it’s such a great carry gun isn’t it?!”
Mia has her Utah CFP and shoots regularly with her kids and husband. Last night she repeatedly made mention that firearms are for defending ourselves and families from not only criminals, but also to protect us from overreaching governments and that guns in the hands of law abiding citizens help maintain all of the other inalienable rights we have.
She wasn’t pandering either. Nick has known Mia for quite sometime–she will definitely get an A+ rating from the NRA-ILA if she’s elected.
Remember to vote for pro-2nd Amendment candidates this election.
Also thanks to Phil Nelson from Legal Heat for making the drive to assist us on the range.
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Initial impressions of H&K’s new striker fired pistol, the VP9: (Purchased and tested at The Gun Vault in South Jordan, UT. Stop by, say hi.) Or purchase one on sale for a killer price at (direct link>>Tooele Shooting Supply Chad will ship to a closer FFL if you can’t make the drive)
First things first, THE TRIGGER! It is pleasantly wide, has a short uptake, but then the break is moderately heavy, straight to the rear and crisp! In contrast to the comparable Walther PPQ trigger which has a longer uptake, but lighter break. The reset is short, and has a little “pop” to it–this gun practically begs you to send a second round down range immediately after the first. It shoots very fast–it feels like it wants to race.
Sights are hi-vis, glow in the dark three dot–they are big and clunky. There is very little empty space on either side of the front sight, so they need to be replaced ASAP for competition shooting, but for just plinking, they are bright and work great when time is not a factor.
The European style mag release buttons (previously found on the Walther PPS, but not on the new PPQ unless you get the M1 version) on both sides of the trigger guard take some getting used to, but now I love it. I could use my trigger finger on the right side of the trigger guard or my strong hand thumb on the left side to drop the mag, and I found that pushing downward on the release, as opposed to pushing a button into the grip, felt much more natural and very intuitive.
I didn’t have a single malfunction, it ran beautifully, and is very accurate–I only ran personal reloads (200+ rounds of 124gr. round nose Xtreme Bullets, 5.2gn of Unique with OAL of 1.135) through it, but I can only imagine what factory, performance ammo would be able to do! Several times I was able to put hole in hole, standing at 10 yards with a two handed grip.
The barrel length is more akin to the Glock 19 than the 17, and when shooting the 19 and the VP9 side-by-side, the recoil of the 19 felt initially less but lasted longer?, the VP9 was snappy and quick but felt smoother overall. (Sorry, best I can do to describe it)
VP9 spare mags and replacement sights are sold out everywhere online so I borrowed an H&K P30 (the VP9’s double/single action predecessor) there at the shop, put those mags in the gun to see if they fit, and they are identical. The sights also looked identical, but don’t quote me on that just yet. So if you buy this gun, and can’t find spare mags, just Google search “P30 mags”, they are the same. (Note: the manager of the Gun Vault later told me that he too had learned this and therefore had ordered a bunch of P30 mags for new VP9 owners–they had a healthy supply of them there on Saturday, 09/20)
Swapping the grip panels is a dream compared to the Glock! There is no requirement of tension on the backstrap to slide the pin in and out. Not only that, but it comes with three different sizes of side panels as well. One pin at the bottom of the grip removes the back strap, then the side panels can then be slid to the rear and swapped. It’s really nice to be able to mix & match and test the sizes BEFORE being forced to put the pin in to make it permanent, only to find out you don’t want that size and have to pound it back out.
While at the range, I left the grip in the stock config. with the medium sized backstrap and side panels on, but once I got home I found that the most comfortable arrangement was to use the large backstrap, the smallest side panel on the left, and the large side panel on the right. Using the large backstrap forces my hand higher on the grip and my natural point of aim feels really good with the imbalanced side straps. (Maybe this will help prevent my shots from always leaning to the left!) The factory “stippling” while visually only looks moderately aggressive, does a great job of letting your skin sink into the polymer, allowing you to maintain a “crush grip” even as your hands gets sweaty.
Only complaint is how ergonomically friendly it is, at the expense of not being able to get a higher grip on the bore axis, but again, using the large backstrap does help my hands remedy that a little bit. Will I be shooting this in the State IDPA match this weekend? I’ll probably stick with my Glock 17 that I’ve shot all season, but this could end up replacing it next year. It’s a great gun so far and I’m a fan.
(While I bought the last one in stock at The Gun Vault, (more on the way) one of our other site sponsors currently has THREE of these in stock for a great price. Check ’em out at Tooele Shooting Supply)
NRA Basic Pistol Instructor & RSO
Utah CFP Instructor
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