13 March 2012

Tier One

My mind shuts down and I stop listening to you when you start in on the "Tiers" of AR quality.


Because all of the "Tier One" makers have put out garbage in their day.  Not all of them admitted to their error.

Because there's no warning when a Tier One company will drop to a lower level and there's no way to tell if the parts were made before or after the change.

Because there's no warning when a lower tier company will climb to a higher level and there's no way to tell if the parts were made before or after the change.

Because, based on the people who type most responses, the "tiers" seem to be, "ah fuck I paid double what he did, I need to correct the dissonance I am now feeling."

Because there really isn't much range in the quality here.  There ARE companies who make crap, and they always have.  There ARE companies that make good gear, and they always have.  Price is not a good indicator of quality here.

This was rammed home in the "What Breaks On A Carbine Course" thread on Arfcom.  Never had I seen the experts get so mealy mouthed about answering such a simple question.  What breaks?  WHICH SPECIFIC PARTS FAIL ON THE "LESSER" RIFLES THAT DO NOT FAIL ON THE TIER ONE?

Cue cricket.

You know what it came down to for reliability?  Extractors, bolts and gas key staking.

You know what that means?  All of the other parts have been rendered commodity.

Notice what didn't matter.  Diameter of the receiver extension, barrel steel, chrome lining, feed ramps or rifling pitch.

Where I will admit the top names shine is accuracy.  They put better barrels on than the competition.  What I haven't made up my mind about is if that matters enough for the extra cost.  Especially since the wadded panties are all about reliability in a combat course.  Not a place where the difference between 1 and 3 moa shows.

I have anecdotes.

Charlotte, the R604 clone I made is entirely vintage Colt parts except for the lower receiver and lower parts kit.  It's the most accurate 5.56 AR I own.  With an unchromed 1:12 twist barrel no less.

Sabrina is an XM177E2 clone that's been to two carbine courses so far.  The only parts from a Tier One company are furniture.  2,000 rounds not a hiccup.

Tabitha has been to one "not really a course but here's one anyway".  750 rounds of 6.8 later and no problems.  Tabitha is significant because she's the parts bin carbine.  Except for the handguards, lower and LPK every single part on her was a left-over from some other build.  A literal frankenAR.  Hardly a part on her that's from a Tier One place and she just keeps on trucking.

Another galling thing about the whole tier mess is how the placing was decided.  It's "how close does your complete M4gery come to an actual M4".  Including the barrel profile!

Should I avoid Krieghoff barrels because they don't make complete guns and thus are not tier rated?

Is there something wrong with a Stag bolt because they don't offer a 1:7 barrel or M4 feed ramps?

In short, it's all bullshit and you shouldn't buy into it.  Do your research and don't fall for the easy answer.


  1. Now I kinda want you to build me an AR from parts.

  2. Gimme a couple months and enough parts are sure to accumulate.

  3. Yeah, but.. how much would that cost?

  4. Depends on the narrative you like.

    If you don't care that the stock is commercial diameter and the buffer is normal weight I have three carbine stocks. I have a left over A2 rifle stock. I have a bunch of 7-hole carbine handguards and A2 pistol grips.

    What I don't have at present is the metal parts. I don't have a lower or upper receiver, barrel or parts kit.

    If I got into a build I always end up with parts I don't want. Tabitha's upper was bought to get the period correct ejection port cover and rear sight for Sabrina. Her lower and stock are from when Charlotte was going to be a late M16A1 clone instead of an early M16. The barrel is from Dottie and my worries that the chroming was done wrong.

    Carefully shopping and hitting the gun shows I'll bet you can still build an AR for $700.

    I will happily donate a commercial carbine stock set, pistol grip and a pair of handguards to your build. My time and tools are cheap. Six pack of good beer and a nice dinner are my standard rate.

    I've had excellent luck with Del Ton for complete parts kits less lower. Spike's is a good lower and located in Florida (go team Home!).

    Del Ton's basic kit is $470 plus about $100 for the lower. That's not bad at all!

    Del Ton Kits

  5. Bad or not, it's still far outside my price range. Oh well, maybe next year!

  6. The insidious beauty of the AR is that you can buy a piece here, a part there. The most expensive bit will be the barrel. The only part you need to leave the internet to buy is the lower.

    Keep an eye on the equipment exchange section of Arfcom and there are occasionally great deals.

    What flavor of AR were you thinking about? Making that decision steers the rest.

  7. A shooty kind? I really don't know what you're asking, so I can't answer intelligently.

  8. Are you thinking of an M4 clone, a retro clone, national match service rifle?

    Do you want a carry handle? Flat-top? Fixed stock? Bayonet lug? Black, tan, green, pink?

    Those sort of questions.

  9. What's the difference between an M4 and a retro, other than barrel length? Or is that it?

    Erm, I'd probably want a Weaver top, because I'm a geardo, and a 6-position stock. Classic black or foliage green is fine, but no pink and no coyote poop.

    No need for bayo lugs, and I'm indifferent as to carry handles. But I do like backup iron sights.

  10. A retro is a clone of a particular historical configuration from the pre-M16A2 era. Basically making something from here http://www.retroblackrifle.com/

    An M4 clone is a collapsible stock, carbine gas system, flat-top (picatinny not weaver) with an M4 profile barrel. The M4 barrel has a heavy profile out front with a grove in it for mounting an M203.

    Most of the time avoiding a bayonet lug takes effort now. I tend to insist on them because it gives the banners the vapors.

  11. Then... an M4gery, I guess. Of course, it's all academic right now, as my money is going towards pistol training and a carry permit. But at least now I know what I'd get. :D

  12. I got my ar from dpms for around $650 plus the flip up iron sights. A gunsmith i buy from had a deal going where he bought 10 at a time and they cut him a good deal. It wasnt their cheapest one but I've put over 4000 rounds in it without a single problem so far.


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