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This will be a bit of a late-night ramble and free-form musing. It is certainly not meant to be a high-and-mighty holier-than-thou thing...just a sentiment based upon my limited and subjective experience with a highpower competition AR. Cue the intellectual and almost entirely anecdotal debate!
  • First, there are a myriad of parts out there "looking for a problem" in reliability.
  • Secondly - and it took a long time to realize this - a reasonably standard AR will run without the little tweaks manufactures like to make in an amalgamation of non-standardized parts.
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I was perusing Springfield's website when I came across something that gave me pause: LevAR™ Ratcheting Charging Handle (springfield-armory.com). It got me thinking about some of the funky bolts and other - dare I say, newfangled? - parts that I constantly see on the shelves of stores in search of some perceived flaw. In my obsessive hindbrain: the more parts that are substituted, the further away from the design and drawing intent.

It also got me thinking, when was the last time I actually had a problem opening the action of my AR?

I referenced the databook for my AR: I have mortared the rifle for one jammed round that was improperly resized and stuck in the chamber over 13,321 rounds fired through 6 barrels. That's it. One. 10,847 rounds with the iron sights and 2,474 rounds fired with the new scoped upper. I happened to swap the bolt carrier group over to another rifle - and it is still ticking - at 8820 rounds because it was a carrier I knew worked well. Again, subjective experience here... mortared the rifle (thanks again SSgt for the wisdom passed down through the eons) and was back in the rapid fire string. I've certainly had a bad magazine with loose feed lips that would try to double-feed, but no other failures to fire or jams other than the one round. Not a problem worth a $99 fix.

I remember scouring the internet and a handful of armorer's manuals I could get my hands on for the M16/A1/A2 when I first went to build an AR for competition. I saw countless videos on the newest parts that are advertised as more reliable. I won't even touch on cleaning products or methods. There had to be some secret sauce to getting an AR to work properly, right? Being a little bit of a collector and general stickler for "correct" parts that are in the TDP I stuck to the basics except on the civilian lower receiver, trigger, barrel, float tube, and 1/4' sights.

I am certainly not enamored with all things Stoner or USGI, but in some cases, they work! It is always beneficial to know how to clear a jam on the basic platform without bells and whistles. But I really don't know why there is a perceived need now adays on devices such as the one linked. Or rather a reason other than an injury or disability in grip strength.

Perhaps my tired brain is subconsciously trying to stir the pot, but I really think this component and a number of others flooding the retail shelves are solutions looking for a problem.
 

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Similar experience for me. 15,478 rounds total on 2 guns. I've had 1 instance of a primer popping out and jamming the trigger. I have made a few small changes....I have had 1 slamfire (bullet went into the berm thankfully) reason unknow so I use a lightweight firing pin. I added the little rubber bumper to keep the upper and lower from rattling (personal distraction, not a functional issue). Also added a bolt release lever, that caused me no end of issues at first because the bolt wouldn't reliable lock back with that attached to the lever.

I've never seen the need to play with different buffers, non-standard BC groups, or fancy charging handles and I've never had to fire an alibi due to a rifle failure to cycle.

By comparison, in much fewer rounds I've broken an M1 Garand Op-rod, and an M14 firing pin.
 

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The only AR platform rifle I've ever had an issue with was one I put together in .458 SOCOM. It didn't seem to play well with any "new-fangled" parts. In the end, It really boiled down to using a standard (rifle) buffer and standard (rifle) spring with a fixed rifle-length stock. I'm sure it would've worked with standard carbine stuff as well, but any heavy springs and buffers in that gun would cause it to malfunction in all sorts of odd ways. Misfeed, short-stroke, FTE, etc. "Standard" isn't really the word I would use for that caliber- LoL!

The only other rifle I've ever had an issue with was a 90s Winchester Model 70. It was the old "Classic" style with the large claw extractor, and the factory one managed to fail out of the blue one day. One replacement from Williams and it was good to go. I did add a one piece bottom metal for it from Williams as well, and later modified the action to work with a PTG detachable mag bottom metal. Still wish I hadn't done that- it made the rifle less reliable.
 

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This will be a bit of a late-night ramble and free-form musing. It is certainly not meant to be a high-and-mighty holier-than-thou thing...just a sentiment based upon my limited and subjective experience with a highpower competition AR. Cue the intellectual and almost entirely anecdotal debate!
  • First, there are a myriad of parts out there "looking for a problem" in reliability.
  • Secondly - and it took a long time to realize this - a reasonably standard AR will run without the little tweaks manufactures like to make in an amalgamation of non-standardized parts.
---

I was perusing Springfield's website when I came across something that gave me pause: LevAR™ Ratcheting Charging Handle (springfield-armory.com). It got me thinking about some of the funky bolts and other - dare I say, newfangled? - parts that I constantly see on the shelves of stores in search of some perceived flaw. In my obsessive hindbrain: the more parts that are substituted, the further away from the design and drawing intent.

It also got me thinking, when was the last time I actually had a problem opening the action of my AR?

I referenced the databook for my AR: I have mortared the rifle for one jammed round that was improperly resized and stuck in the chamber over 13,321 rounds fired through 6 barrels. That's it. One. 10,847 rounds with the iron sights and 2,474 rounds fired with the new scoped upper. I happened to swap the bolt carrier group over to another rifle - and it is still ticking - at 8820 rounds because it was a carrier I knew worked well. Again, subjective experience here... mortared the rifle (thanks again SSgt for the wisdom passed down through the eons) and was back in the rapid fire string. I've certainly had a bad magazine with loose feed lips that would try to double-feed, but no other failures to fire or jams other than the one round. Not a problem worth a $99 fix.

I remember scouring the internet and a handful of armorer's manuals I could get my hands on for the M16/A1/A2 when I first went to build an AR for competition. I saw countless videos on the newest parts that are advertised as more reliable. I won't even touch on cleaning products or methods. There had to be some secret sauce to getting an AR to work properly, right? Being a little bit of a collector and general stickler for "correct" parts that are in the TDP I stuck to the basics except on the civilian lower receiver, trigger, barrel, float tube, and 1/4' sights.

I am certainly not enamored with all things Stoner or USGI, but in some cases, they work! It is always beneficial to know how to clear a jam on the basic platform without bells and whistles. But I really don't know why there is a perceived need now adays on devices such as the one linked. Or rather a reason other than an injury or disability in grip strength.

Perhaps my tired brain is subconsciously trying to stir the pot, but I really think this component and a number of others flooding the retail shelves are solutions looking for a problem.
I believe in the keep it simple policy. Use what works and gets the job done. My first Colt AR15 I bought in 1971 at Hyatt’s Gun shop in Charlotte NC. A customer had bought it fired one clip and brought it back to the store. I bought it for $189.99 plus tax. My buddy who had just completed Special Forces training at Ft Benning helped sight it in for me. He could bust 1 liter coke bottles at 300 yards with ease. The 16 ounce bottles were the 200 yard targets. The .223 was a great range rifle but not really ideal for deer or hog hunting. Shooting in heavy cover produced a wide shot dispersal with a 30 -40 % of hits being key holes. A Marine Corps buddy said I needed a rifle like the M14 he carried in Vietnam. So In 1972 I sold my AR and bought a Texas built Springfield M1A 7.62 x 51 that was accurate at the range and could drop deer and hogs in their tracks. There is a lot out there to choose from now which may be stressful for some. So I keep it simple and go with what has worked every time for me for 50 years now.
 

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I've always found that the M16/AR15 platform was imminently reliable as long as it was manufactured and maintained properly. I spent 24+ years in the regular Army and carried an M16A1/A2/M4 as my primary assigned firearm the entire time. After retiring in '04, I worked another 6 years as a PMC, and I now work as an instructor and range safety at a commercial range (where one of my assigned jobs is to teach our "Intro to AR" class.) My experience is that "old school still rules."

AR's manufactured by reputable gun makers run and run without any problems. Shotgun 'em, wipe off the bolt and bolt carrier, clean the gunk from the chamber (if you shoot lacquer covered, steel cased plinking ammo), and don't use cheap, crappy plastic magazines.

However, not all AR15's are built equal, and some manufacturers are definitely better than others. "Cheap" AR's are, as a class, generally prone to unreliable operation, but most of those problems can be traced back to the kinds of shooters who buy them - cheap and often lazy. They buy cheap rifles made with subpar parts and materials, they run lacquer covered steel-cased ammo out of cheap plastic magazines, and they've never heard of oil (much less CLP). (Cleaning kit? What's that?) I see them almost every day on the range struggling to shoot. Failures of every step in the operations cycle are common. "Sir... Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction and your finger off the trigger while you're clearing that stoppage."

The other class of super unreliable AR's are the ones "built" by shade-tree armorers, usually from the cheapest parts they can source online, often as not equipped with every accessory that can be found in their favorite video game. Binary and forced reset triggers with every improbable combination of recoil spring and buffer weights thrown together by guys who need someone to show them how to lock their bolts open are a recipe for amusing the range safety for a half-hour of so. ("Oh darn... My red dot battery is dead. Do you guys sell batteries in the range shop?" "Say, you don't happen to have a set of Allen wrenches do you? My sight's come'a'loose again...")

The latest trend is AR pistols with stock-shaped arm "braces" being fired like they're little sub-machineguns. Highly entertaining... ("Sir... Please watch your non-firing hand so that you don't get your fingers in front of your muzzle or burn yourself.")

We do get the few AR shooters who know what they're doing and can even build a reliable and accurate rifle, but their success is still based on using the right parts, which generally means they're made to mil-standard specs or by reliable - i.e. "not the cheapest" - manufacturers.

Good grief. The AR is indeed 'Murica's rifle, but damn...
 

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I have had one unique problem. I replaced the flash hider with a compensator that the USMC was looking at. I was getting two rounds per trigger pull. After much tweaking a gunsmith that made the compensator replaced the buffer spring and no more problems.
 

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There are a lot of bells and whistles for the AR15 - You will see them often on rifles that look like a drag-queen during Mardi Gras. The 'rifleman' usually will wear some fancy tactical stuff w/ the kitchen sink not far behind. They will always be tweaking the rifle more than shooting it. Their targets will usually tell you how far along they are in proficiency. I just eyeball them once in a while and if they are clearing a weapon - I stop shooting and get behind the ballistic shield. 😁

The AR15 can be put together so many ways - choose your poison. Reliability comes down to what parts went into the rifles. It is not like the M14 builds that you have to headspace and things. There is only one large nut in the AR15 for petesakes. It is a little more involved if you free-float the barrel for competition..but not too bad.

I don't see a lot of things that can fail w/ the AR15 if people pay attention a little. Some will clean too much and some not at all until something breaks or fail.
 
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The most common problem with home built ARs is gassing. Most people don't research the symptoms of too much or too little gas and so they can't properly troubleshoot their rifle when it fails to function correctly. A lot of shooters aren't used to the physics involved in regards to how the muzzle devices will change gas volume and the resulting gas force on the bolt carrier.
 

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For me... one of the biggest issues I notice is... " Why doesn't my cheap, rough as crap chambered, poor attention to detail, poorly made cheap soft parts AR ( with no QC ) reliably run on Tula steel cased ammo. "

I read threads like that every other day.

I understand most all AR's can be DIY'd to function properly, with a little educated effort... but, man, at a certain point, I would like to think people understand .. sometimes you get what you paid for.

Maybe better yet, I'd like to meet one of those people that bought such a piece of crap, and have them explain why they couldn't pony up another 100 bucks for a better AR.

@RAMMAC, FWIW, a friend brought in a cheap NEW AR... the gas port size was bigger then .105, in a carbine length gas system.... it wouldn't fire anymore, because it had broke the hammer pin in half.
I told him I couldn't allow him to use the barrel anymore, and replaced it with a spare barrel I had kicking around.
I do wish I had the "means" to test what a huge gas port would do to accelerated wear... but the broken hammer pin summed it up pretty darned good.
 

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Never had any noteworthy issues with the 5.56 types that I’ve built. Now this new AR-10 I built is giving me a run for my money. Dialing it in with a suppressor has been quite the learning experience. AR-10’s are uniquely frustrating, but I’m not giving up. I’ve got too much money sunk into it now.
 

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I tend to stay with Colt for AR-15s, although I have one HK MR556. Nice, but expensive and a free float Colt (6940) will shoot as good and will coast a least $1500 less.

My only mods are to make them lefty friendly.
 

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Good grief. The AR is indeed 'Murica's rifle, but damn...
I don't know if it's a good representation, but the 'how to' videos one finds on youtube seems especially frightening when it comes to people 'working on' the AR platform. Maybe it's a side effect of the benefits of modularity. Anybody can put one together, even if not everyone should.

"Don't bother with a vise, just sit on it."

I think if you're not willing to invest in some pretty basic tools, maybe you shouldn't dig into it.

"A viewer pointed out that 5/8-24 threads on a brake doesn't necessarily mean it will work .350 Legend."

Dude, if you don't understand bullet diameter, maybe you shouldn't be giving 'upgrade' advice.

I know it's not an indication of the platform itself, but it's popularity seems to attract a certain kind of expert.

Otherwise, it seems that if you stay within the range of the proven original design, or variations that have been thoroughly tested as a system, it's as fine as anything else in terms of reliability.

But, as with many semi-automatic designs, the whole system is dynamic and dependent on interaction between components, and you start dinking with one variance, you might start affecting something else, pushing it towards the edge of an envelope, in effect 'breaking' something that wasn't broke in your attempts to improve it.
 

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I've always found that the M16/AR15 platform was imminently reliable as long as it was manufactured and maintained properly. I spent 24+ years in the regular Army and carried an M16A1/A2/M4 as my primary assigned firearm the entire time. After retiring in '04, I worked another 6 years as a PMC, and I now work as an instructor and range safety at a commercial range (where one of my assigned jobs is to teach our "Intro to AR" class.) My experience is that "old school still rules."

AR's manufactured by reputable gun makers run and run without any problems. Shotgun 'em, wipe off the bolt and bolt carrier, clean the gunk from the chamber (if you shoot lacquer covered, steel cased plinking ammo), and don't use cheap, crappy plastic magazines.

However, not all AR15's are built equal, and some manufacturers are definitely better than others. "Cheap" AR's are, as a class, generally prone to unreliable operation, but most of those problems can be traced back to the kinds of shooters who buy them - cheap and often lazy. They buy cheap rifles made with subpar parts and materials, they run lacquer covered steel-cased ammo out of cheap plastic magazines, and they've never heard of oil (much less CLP). (Cleaning kit? What's that?) I see them almost every day on the range struggling to shoot. Failures of every step in the operations cycle are common. "Sir... Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction and your finger off the trigger while you're clearing that stoppage."

The other class of super unreliable AR's are the ones "built" by shade-tree armorers, usually from the cheapest parts they can source online, often as not equipped with every accessory that can be found in their favorite video game. Binary and forced reset triggers with every improbable combination of recoil spring and buffer weights thrown together by guys who need someone to show them how to lock their bolts open are a recipe for amusing the range safety for a half-hour of so. ("Oh darn... My red dot battery is dead. Do you guys sell batteries in the range shop?" "Say, you don't happen to have a set of Allen wrenches do you? My sight's come'a'loose again...")

The latest trend is AR pistols with stock-shaped arm "braces" being fired like they're little sub-machineguns. Highly entertaining... ("Sir... Please watch your non-firing hand so that you don't get your fingers in front of your muzzle or burn yourself.")

We do get the few AR shooters who know what they're doing and can even build a reliable and accurate rifle, but their success is still based on using the right parts, which generally means they're made to mil-standard specs or by reliable - i.e. "not the cheapest" - manufacturers.

Good grief. The AR is indeed 'Murica's rifle, but damn...
I like most enjoy 'Murica's Rifle. All my slicksides I hardly shoot anymore as the Colts are worth more than most of the new wonder R's. Even the SP2's I will get out a few times a year to proof magazines before they get used in other Rifles. So the Colts are all Colt. Except for the trigger group. That is one area that gets attention from me as the factory trigger is, pick your adjective. And I like the Colt mags also.

And when I assemble AR type I most times will stay with a specific maker, except for barrels and the trigger group. As for plastic mags, well they are plastic and not for me.

There is no sense having a weapon that you can not trust with your life. I would say that most of the holes in the awning at the range are caused by AR's. It amazes me how the many ways that people will clear their malfunctioning weapons. I always thought that when I heard of the flying cleaning rod it was bull until I seen it happen.
 
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