Preview – Billet To Kill It
Photography by Jorge Nuñez
When Building Your AR, Do Your Part for Mother Earth. Aluminum Is Recyclable.
“A lower is a lower. An upper is an upper.” Most of us have heard this before. The AR-15 weapon system was designed around lower and upper receivers manufactured from forged aluminum. As long as they are made to spec, forged uppers and lowers are durable and proven — and they are generally quite affordable, as well. In fact, there are only a few sources of raw forgings, which manufacturers finish off in their own machine shops…with limited ability to customize to taste.
Well, this is the golden age of the AR. While Burger King may want to call itself BK now, “having it your way” is still the American Way. And carving AR uppers and lowers out of chunks of billet aluminum lets us do just that. While pound for pound, forgings are indeed stronger than machined billet, both are plenty strong enough for the job at hand. Therefore, a few extra ounces and increased cost, both of raw materials and machining, are the primary downsides of billet ARs.
So let’s be clear — you don’t need to go billet, and your wallet will thank you. But you might just want to. The ability for manufacturers to precisely machine billet parts to their heart’s content provides some distinct benefits:
New features and improved ergonomics: Ambidextrous controls, flared magwells to help with quick mag changes, integral trigger guards, and ergonomic contours are all easily achieved in billet lowers. Tensioning screws to provide a tight fit between the upper and lower are also common — though if you don’t feel the need (like us), you don’t have to utilize them.
Ease of assembly and maintenance: Who loves roll pins? We thought so. Many of the billet offerings feature no fuss set screws and pins to secure the bolt catch and/or forward assist. A number also accept a set screw to capture the rear takedown pin detent and spring, so that you won’t lose them when working on your gun.
Billet Rifle Systems
Weight (lower): 9.4 ounces
Weight (upper): 10 ounces
MSRP: $360 ($399 for Tiffany Blue)
Clean, angular design, available in a multitude of colors. Features pins and set screws to secure the bolt catch and forward assist, as well as a set screw to capture the rear takedown pin detent and spring. The lower has a flared magwell and enlarged trigger guard. Note the upper does not have M4 feed ramps. Available in Tiffany blue, black anodized, gold anodized, coyote tan Cerakote, and tungsten Cerakote.
Black Rain Ordnance
BRO-MLR (lower), BRO-MUR-2 (upper), BRO-CCS-223 (skulls set)
Weight (lower): 9.4 ounces
Weight (upper): 7.1 ounces
MSRP: $299 (lower), $279 (upper), $729 (skulls set)
Black Rain Ordnance’s billet set is rather understated — that is, if you get it in black. We also had samples with a slick Norguard electroless nickel coating and a rockin’ hydrodipped skulls pattern…and they are decidedly the opposite of understated. The lower has an integral winter trigger guard, flared magwell, scallops on the front corners of the magwell, and an upper tensioning screw.
Ambi Billet Upper Lower Set
Weight (lower): 9.1 ounces
Weight (upper): 9.1 ounces
MSRP: $431 (standard), $462 (ambidextrous), $508 (nickel boron coating)
Mega Arms (see the article on page 50 in this issue for more about the company) makes several variations of its billet lower — with and without an ambidextrous bolt release, and to be matched either with its billet upper or a standard forged upper. The lower has a flared magwell with scallops on the front and a set screw for the bolt catch. The upper reflects Mega Arms’ octagonal theme.
UltraMatch Billet Upper and Lower Combo Set
Weight (lower): 9.2 ounces
Weight (upper): 7.7 ounces
Rainier has long offered a billet upper receiver, but just recently began selling a combo set with its new billet lower. The lower boasts an ambidextrous extended bolt release, flared magwell, and integral enlarged skeletonized trigger guard. It also has an upper tensioning screw, set screw for the bolt catch, and trigger over-travel adjustment screw.
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