Issue 11 Billet To Kill It Steven Kuo 0 COMMENT 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. Mitigate weak points: While Eugene Stoner’s AR design was indeed ingenious, anyone who has broken the “ears” off their lower when working on their trigger guard has certainly uttered some choice words. Billet lowers typically have integral trigger guards, contoured to provide more room for gloved hands and without the gap and sharp edges between the trigger guard and pistol grip that can irritate shooters. Aesthetics: Let’s be honest, there are some really cool billet designs. And variety is the spice of life. Plus the fit and finish of billet exceeds what is possible with forged receivers. Surely, there’s one that fits your taste. What’s wrong with wanting to personalize your AR, both in look and function? Some might consider it your patriotic duty! We’ve assembled a collection of billet upper and lower sets to strike your fancy — with various combinations of features, aesthetics, and even cool finishes. Browse these pages and see just how bad ass they can be. As far as we’re concerned, BK can stand for Billet King. Have it your way. Note: While some uppers came with ejection port covers and/or forward assist assemblies, the weight shown is for the stripped upper. Some lowers came with an ambidextrous bolt catch assembly installed; for these, the measured weight includes those parts. As point of comparison, a Stag stripped forged lower receiver weighed 8.8 ounces and an Aero Precision stripped forged upper receiver weighed 7 ounces. All upper receivers feature M4 feed ramps unless otherwise noted. Almost all of the billet sets are manufactured from 7075 T6 aluminum. 556 Tactical ECR upper/lower Weight (lower): 10 ounces Weight (upper): 9.6 ounces MSRP: $565 URL: www.556tactical.com Notes: 556 Tactical machines these one set at a time. They have a clean chiseled look with a unique shell deflector. The slickside upper does not have a forward assist nor M4 feed ramps. An older “Rev M” PMAG was a little tight in the magwell, which is flared. The lower also has an integral enlarged trigger guard. Billet Rifle Systems BRS Weight (lower): 9.4 ounces Weight (upper): 10 ounces MSRP: $360 ($399 for Tiffany Blue) URL: www.billet80.com Notes: 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) URL: www.blackrainordnance.com Notes: 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. Cross Machine Tool CMT Billet Combo Receiver Set Weight (lower): 9.8 ounces Weight (upper): 9 ounces MSRP: $415 URL: www.cmttac.com Notes: Cross Machine Tool’s lower gets down to business with an integral enlarged trigger guard and flared magwell with finger grooves on the front of the magwell. It also has an upper tensioning screw and a set screw for the bolt catch pin. Mega Arms Ambi Billet Upper Lower Set Weight (lower): 9.1 ounces Weight (upper): 9.1 ounces MSRP: $431 (standard), $462 (ambidextrous), $508 (nickel boron coating) URL: www.megaarms.com Notes: 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. NEMO Arms AR15 “Tango” Matched Receiver Set Weight (lower): 9.5 ounces Weight (upper): 8.1 ounces MSRP: $800 URL: www.nemoarms.com Notes: NEMO Arms’ “Tango” anodized finish is truly distinctive, as it is done by hand so every set is unique. Each matched set is machined from a solid piece of 7075 billet. It has a grip feature on the front of the flared magwell and a contour along the side for your trigger finger. The enlarged integral trigger guard has lightening cuts, as does the magwell. There are set screws for the bolt catch, rear takedown pin, and forward assist assemblies. Quentin Defense QD-15 Billet Lower Receiver, Gen 2 Billet Flat Top Upper Receiver Weight (lower): 9.1 ounces Weight (upper): 10.5 ounces MSRP: $175 (lower), $200 (upper) URL: www.quentin-laser.com Notes: This billet set looks pretty low-key, save for its spacious integral trigger guard. The upper came with the forward assist and dust cover installed. The lower features a flared magwell, set screw for the bolt catch, and an upper tensioning set screw. An older “Rev M” PMAG was a bit tight in the magwell. It utilizes 6061 T6 aluminum, which is not as strong as 7075 but certainly gets the job done. Available with various rollmarks, including all branches of the military. Rainier Arms UltraMatch Billet Upper and Lower Combo Set Weight (lower): 9.2 ounces Weight (upper): 7.7 ounces MSRP: $416 URL: www.rainierarms.com Notes: 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. Salient Arms International Salient Arms International AR15 Weight (lower): 9.6 ounces Weight (upper): 7.1 ounces MSRP: $450 URL: www.salientarmsinternational.com Notes: Known initially for their custom Glocks and Benelli shotguns, Salient has since branched out to 1911s, M&Ps, and other platforms — including the AR. Machined as a complete set, the billet upper and lower set looks downright conservative compared to what we’re used to seeing from Salient. The lower has a flared magwell and scallops on the front corners of the magwell. It also has an upper tensioning screw. Seekins Precision SP223 Weight (lower): 10.9 ounces Weight (upper): 9.6 ounces MSRP: $259 (lower), $239 (upper) URL: www.seekinsprecision.com Notes: Seekins Precision is well known in competition circles and delivers the wildest-looking set. The curvy magwell is beveled and grooved on the front surface, while the integral trigger guard continues the non-linear trend. The lower is chock full of features, including an ambidextrous bolt release, upper tensioning set screw, dowel pins and set screws to replace roll pins, and a set screw to adjust your trigger reset. The rear takedown pin detent and spring have also been relocated under the grip with a set screw to capture them. Comes with forward assist and ejection port cover assemblies. SI Defense 223 Billet Matched Set Weight (lower): 8.9 ounces Weight (upper): 7.9 ounces MSRP: $399 URL: www.si-defense.com Notes: SI Defense adds a splash of color to their billet set with red and white fill on their markings. The flared magwell has rounded finger grooves on the front, though an older “Rev M” PMAG was a little tight. The lower also has an integral enlarged trigger guard, a set screw for the bolt catch, an upper tensioning screw, and a set screw to fine tune your trigger. The upper has a set screw for the forward assist assembly. Wilson Combat BILLet Upper/Lower Receiver Weight (lower): 9.4 ounces Weight (upper): 9.3 ounces MSRP: $600 URL: www.wilsoncombat.com Notes: Previously only available in complete rifle builds, Wilson Combat now sells its billet upper/lower set separately. The lower has an oversize magwell that is rounded on the front, a rubber bumper to tightly secure the upper, and an integral trigger guard. There’s a set screw for the bolt catch, and the rear takedown pin detent is captured under the grip. The upper is slick with no forward assist.