AR Building Insights

Commentary October 26, 2014

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!”photo 2 

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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.

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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.  xsr-15-side-charging-upper-receiversI 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!

photo 2 (2)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.

Thanks for using this site.

Nick Moyes
UGE Co-Founder

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Fundraising for Pro 2nd Amendment Candidates

In the News October 23, 2014

UGE Co-Founder, Nick Moyes was asked to be the Chief Range Safety Officer at a fundraiser for “Mia Love for Congress” at the SilencerCo10418965_788543497854231_862616431581055422_n 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?!”

10689871_10203105559544412_7589548065356457935_nMia 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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H&K VP9 Review: Initial Impressions

Product Review September 20, 2014


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)

Size comparison to the Glock 17

Size comparison to the Glock 17–image courtesy of kammeret.no


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)

Nick Moyes
UGE Co-Founder
NRA Basic Pistol Instructor & RSO
Utah CFP Instructor
MAG40 Graduate

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The Gun Box Review — A Utah Original

Product Review February 12, 2014

We got our hands on one of the first “The Gun Box” handgun safes–the “Biometric” model. Watch the video below and listen to our interview of the inventor, via our podcast Gun Dudes Radio Podcast Episode #285

It weighs less than 7 lbs and its dimensions are approximately 11″ x 10″ x 3″. We were able to fit an FN-S 9mm, a legit PPK, and a North American Arms .22 mag all soundly inside of it.

Its main goals are: 1) to HELP prevent gun accidents by keeping little hands (kids) away from your gun in that old shoe box in the top of your closet, 2) it looks like a giant router from “Flight of the Navigator” so visually it doesn’t scream, “I’m a gun safe!” as it sits on your nightstand, AND 3) it still allows for quick access to a firearm should the need arise in the middle of the day or night. Check out our first impressions of The Gun Box in the video below and leave some comments if you feel so inclined–Yes, The Gun Box can be broken open–so can any other safe, please refer back to goal #1.

For a Limited time–FREE SHIPPING for Utah Gun Exchange users!

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Pumpkin Puncher Installation Video

Product Review February 6, 2014

We install a custom Pumpkin Puncher onto a Mossberg 500 courtesy of  www.HFD2.com out of Orem, UT

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Stainless Tumbling Media Review

Product Review February 6, 2014

A short video review of the Stainless Tumbling Media Tumbler
SCROLL DOWN as well, to see how clean OUR brass actually got.

Once Fired .308 Brass vs. Clean .308 Brass Stainless Tumbling Media & Utah Gun Exchange

Once fired 9mm Brass & Nickel

Clean 9mm Brass & Nickel via Stainless Tumbling Media.

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Utah Gun Exchange to launch partner site–Washington Gun Exchange

Press Release January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014
Nick Moyes
[email protected]

Utah-based group aims to make it easier to buy and sell guns in Washington.

Olympia, Washington – A Utah group is making it easier for residents of Washington State to buy and sell guns. The group behind UtahGunExchange.com, an online classifieds site for private firearm sales, has launched an identical site for Washington residents. According to the site’s founders, Nick Moyes and Kenny Barlow, the goal of the classified site is to bring the Washington gun community together to help protect their 2nd Amendment rights.

“WashingtonGunExchange.com is about building community,” co-founder Nick Moyes said. “We saw what happened when outlets in Utah that were friendly to the gun community bowed to political pressure and we want to preempt this from happening in another gun friendly state.” Moyes is referring to anti-gun former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has set his sites firmly on Washington State gun control efforts. Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” contributed $30,000 to a recent Washington gun control initiative.

“We wanted to provide a cooperative marketplace for Washington residents to find and offer firearms for sale.” Kenny Barlow said. “The more communication, coordination, and interaction the gun community has with each other, the harder it will be for adversaries to take away these rights.” In 2012, UtahGunExchange.com was launched within hours of the announcement that the local NBC affiliate had suspended private firearms sales through its classifieds service. UtahGunExchange.com received over 35 million page views in 2013.

Washington’s laws governing the private sales of firearms are identical to Utah. Washington residents can buy or sell firearms privately, as long as both the buyer and the seller are already legally allowed to own a firearm and both are residents of the State of Washington. However, the private sale of firearms across state lines requires that the firearm be transferred through a licensed dealer in the buyer’s state of residence.

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A Walk-through of SHOT SHOW 2014

Product Review January 19, 2014

Last week, we had the opportunity to attend SHOT Show 2014 and “Buyer’s Day” out at the Boulder City Range.

Check out this video of a walk-through down a SINGLE aisle (and around a corner) to get an idea of the scope of this show.

To hear more about the show download Episode 281 from Gun Dudes Radio Podcast via the web, or iTunes. (It will be available after Jan. 19th, 2014)

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Streamlight Stylus Pro C4 Pen Light Review

Product Review January 3, 2014

Streamlight Stylus Pro C4 Pen Light Review

I love flashlights, second only to firearms, and lately I’ve been looking for a new EDC (Every Day Carry) light. In the past I’ve carried the Surefire™ E2D Defender, and even bought the LED version (it is a tad longer than the original). Both are very bright and are great if you wear cargo pants with extra pockets due to their size or if you want your flashlight to double as a backup weapon with their strike face bezels. However, I wanted something smaller, that didn’t heat up, that runs on everyday accessible batteries, and is still relatively bright.

I already own two Streamlight™ weapon lights that are attached to my bedside pistols. (The 630 lumen monster–the Streamlight TLR-1 HL) I have been VERY pleased with them thus far, so when I saw an Amazon “Lightning Deal” for the Streamlight™ Stylus Pro Penlight with 4 ½ out of 5 stars reviews— I rolled the dice and bought two.  If you plan to purchase one for yourself after reading this review, please support this site by doing so here:  Black Silver Blue Red Green Orange   IMG_1650 Initial Impressions: They arrived promptly and I was glad to see that they came with two, AAA Energizer batteries, a belt loop nylon holster, and a spare button cap for the on/off switch. So far so good, as far as the price was concerned. Not sure what the spare button cap is for, because is identical to the installed cap, and I can’t say that I’ve ever worn through the tail cap of any of my other lights, so it’ll get thrown into that “random parts” drawer (black hole abyss), never to be found again in the event that I DO need it someday. I also like that there is no dirt or water access to the C4 “bulb” itself. You can’t open the housing around the bulb, which is a non-issue because the “bulb” will outlive me—in fact Streamlight™ guarantees it.

Streamlight™ stands behind these lights with a Limited Lifetime Warranty, promising that it will “be free from defects, including LED, for a lifetime of use.”  What they won’t guarantee is the abuse I was about to put my silver version through though, heh heh.  So minus abuse and batteries, the switches and electronics are warrantied for 2 years as long as I keep the proof of purchase—my online Amazon receipt should suffice. Now for the abuse…inspired by their list of Features: IMG_1660 What does “IPX4 water-resistant” really mean? It means, that my silver Stylus Pro needed to go swimming. I’ll refer you to the video below so you can see its capabilities in the water for yourself, but the light held up fine.  There were no water bubbles escaping from it when submerged, however when I opened up the tail cap, small beads of water did make it in there, likely due to my attempts to shake water OFF of the flashlight once I pulled it out of the water bucket. The instructions recommend keeping the o-rings and threads “lubricated with silicone grease”. I should probably reapply some now since it went swimming… Conclusion, it is “water resistant”, but clearly not “water proof” and Streamlight™ is wise to make this distinction clear in their list of features.

The next feature to test was the “unbreakable polycarbonate lens”. I didn’t feel like taking a tack hammer to the lens, but I did turn it on, throw it up in the air 9 feet or so, and let it drop onto my carpeted Man Cave floor MULTIPLE times and there was not hiccup at all. The light never shorted out and there is no dis-figuration to the housing or the lens. (The silver housing is ‘too purdy’ to purposely drop it onto pavement where it would obviously end up with scars.)

Lastly, I tested the “6.25 hour run time”.  One of my biggest gripes with my Surefire lights, besides their bulk, was their limited run time on expensive CR123 batteries. Granted, they are putting out significantly more lumens (500), whereas this light only puts out “48 lumens” at its peak and it is certainly not a secondary weapon. Different purposes, different lights, I digress… IMG_1675IMG_1676