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Page two: mostly me making a noise...


[now it starts getting long winded, so you might want to print it or skip it, but it's headed your direction should you commence to scrolling]


Get your AR15 to a gunsmith, and from a gunsmith.

People question, and rightly so, what the difference is in a catalog-item upper assembled by one gunsmith using "good" parts and one that's custom built by another gunsmith using "good" parts, and the only answer I have is that the custom one comes through with your name on it. If Gary Eliseo, Anna Kinney, or Mike Bykowski, for instances, wanted to stop doing custom work and start slapping together uppers for the bigger market, they could. And they'd probably be good uppers. But these folks doesn't do that, and the reason why is that they look out for each customer individually: what do you want me to do? They'll do up your upper (lower too if you want) and test fire it, set the front sight, and, in short, do what they need to do to make sure you don't send it back. Having dealt with enough supposed good housesmiths, also known as contractors, I can tell you it's not about ability but motivation. Again, when your name tag hangs on the upper all through the assembly process, bet that the gunsmith does a better, more careful job.

I'm writing this after a rash (over a year or so it's been significant) of letters, calls, and e-mails complaining about the functional quality of certain ready-to-go upper units. (There are also a few instances of absconded good ideas for great parts being reproduced by some who honestly don't know what they're doing.) Complaints range from poor accuracy to poor function, and frequently both together. Solutions presented to me by the maker as relayed by the dissatisfied customers were frequently laughable, at worst. To tell a shooter he just can't use VV N135 and have the rifle function is absurd, for instance. At best, the solutions were a royal pain in the buttplate just because they had to be done. Funny since it's usually in the interest of time that people go with something off the shelf. Time, and money, gets et up in a hurry with returns, and even more with re-dos at another address.

Many of the gunsmiths I know have been keeping fairly busy fixing some of the ready mades and I know they've seen in them some affronts to AR15 construction straight from the "How Not To Do It 101" rifle building class (things even I know and I sho hain't no gunnysmiff). Bent gas tubes, poorly cut chambers, wiggly barrel extensions, loose sights, poorly tightented handguards, and on and on. Money shouldn't be the issue either: it usually costs no more, and maybe even less, to go with a custom done unit from a good gunsmith.

Folks, there are no giants in our industry, but there are, on a relative scale, some who are too big to classed as "custom." Please support the individuals in our sport who provide us with the sort of custom work and quality service we need. Sooner or later you'll figure it out, so you may as well start now!

This "whole thing" is starting to remind me of the Springfield Armory® routine too many people went through when we all shot the M1A™: get the factory "match" rifle at a price premium assuming it was better (and also because it was readily available), tire quickly of poor parts and construction quality, poor reliability, and poor accuracy, and then spend what you should have in the first place getting it fixed by a real gunsmith (plus, of course, swallowing the extra price premium you paid up front to Springfield). Same old, same old: don't spend the same dollar twice. That M1A™ ended up costing a thousand more than it should have. Don't do it with AR15s.


The SHORT LIST of builders I know to be good at what they do, which is build AR15s or their major components (like uppers)

Gary Eliseo
George Smith
Anna Kinney
Scott Medesha
John Noveske
Derrick Martin

If someone isn't on this list it doesn't mean they shouldn't be. Point is that I know these folks are good.

I get many questions on where to go and what to get. Several specifics can always be involved (e-mail with questions), but I'd rather just go with one "big" answer that covers most of it --

I will recommend gunsmiths but will not warrant their work (in spirit I will, but certainly not in kind) for any single customer because any single customer may be clue-deficient. I will say to get a gunsmith who can tell you (right) what you need if you don't know. There are a few I know who can. These are people who need to be left alone in their decisions on what's best for you: don't argue with them if they say use x-brand upper when you're the proud owner of a new y-series. Other than that, they'll fix your gun up how you like it. One mo gig: Buddy Charlie used to say that the thing he loved about America is that you're free to do as you want, even if you look like a moron doing it. Heed.

It's an easy thing to copy something and sell it for less. Every industry has it. Let someone originate it, let them do the research and development, let them mortgage out the port to produce it first, and then let someone else buy one, copy it, and send it out wholesale. For my money, I try to stick with the folks who built it first. My belief, and it's substantiated, is that they are the ones who will still do it the best, and they will also make changes as needed to make it better. The fellow who copied it probably doesn't have that ability, because he didn't have the ability to do it himself in the first place.

When you make the "right" choice it's not just saying to make the choice that gives you the best product at the best value. No. The "right" choice is a little bigger impact than that and it's nothing to do with suiting your personal needs. It's to do with helping people who continue to originate things we come to depend on to help us shoot better -- helping keep them in business so they can continue to innovate and supply us with better things.

Think about it: What can a copy-cat do for a new idea if it's not someone else's! Support the people who help us the most, not just the ones who save us the most money.

So where do I fit in to all this? Just so I don't appear to be hypocritical, I'll tell you: one is as a purchaser of products and a shooter, and another is as a purveyor of information as a professional. Don't confuse the two, although that's nigh on impossible unless you actually know me or know what I use for myself. Ask me and I'll tell you (as long as you PROMISE not to post my e-mail responses anywhere: I'll say it straight and that may hurt some feelings). I get a little unintentionally (but fully aware) "caught" in the interim between detailing a new product and recommending it.


There's always something... See it here when I know about it, and if I don't know about it go on ahead and tell me. It will probably be for my own good...

Keep checking.