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Blue Collar Builds: Lightweight Breakdown

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For my Blue Collar Build entry, I set out to make an affordable 16-inch carbine easier to transport. Although I won’t call this a dedicated “truck gun” or “bug-out gun,” it could certainly fit either of those needs. More importantly, it retains the versatility and ballistics of a full-size weapon.

My starting point was a Palmetto State Armory AR chambered in 5.56mm NATO. It features a mil-spec upper and lower with Magpul MOE furniture, a 16-inch 1:7 twist Chrome Moly Vanadium barrel with mid-length gas system, and PSA’s own 13.5-inch M-LOK free-float handguard. The fit and finish on this rifle looked good, and it felt light and maneuverable in hand. I noted that the rear takedown pin fit rather tightly, and could not be budged with fingers or a loose round, so I had to resort to using a multi-tool to push it through the receiver. Thankfully, this improved somewhat with use and lubrication. I also noted after zeroing the rifle that the castle nut had worked its way loose, but a quick turn of an armorer’s wrench and thorough staking of the endplate resolved this issue.Blue Collar Builds Patrick

The EPT designation in this PSA AR’s model name stands for Enhanced Polished Trigger. It felt smoother than a typical mil-spec setup, but I wanted something lighter and more precise, so I installed Timney’s budget-friendly Impact drop-in trigger. It offers a slender trigger shoe, smooth 3-pound break, and crisp reset. To prep the gun for the range, I added a few more accessories, starting with an EOTech XPS2 holographic sight to complement the included Magpul MBUS flip-up iron sights. A Blue Force Gear sling lets me carry the gun comfortably, and a Magpul vertical foregrip offers improved control while shooting.

EOTech HWS XPS2 Grey

Weight: 9.0 ounces
MSRP: $575


This versatile sight is the smallest and lightest model EOTech offers, making it a great choice for anything from an agile competition build to an every-day-carry duty gun. The classic “0” reticle features a 1-MOA dot inside a 68-MOA ring. Our test match involved targets ranging from 5 to 450 yards; the ring proved very helpful for gauging the point of impact on closer targets, and the dot was small enough to allow precision at longer range. One of EOTech’s magnifiers would have been a welcome addition in the latter case, but the XPS2 performed admirably on its own. The holographic design ensures the reticle remains clear and crisp even if you have an astigmatism, and battery life is a respectable 1,000 hours. We also appreciate that this sight is made in the USA.

LEO TakeDown provided the quick-detach barrel system for this build, which uses a sliding collar and indexed ball bearings to couple the barrel to the receiver. Whether you’re trying to save space in your range bag or configure a gun for quick deployment from a backpack, the LEO TakeDown system lets you quickly split your gun in half. Now, you may be thinking, why don’t I just separate the upper and lower receivers?  First, this leaves both your upper and lower open to dust, lint, and other foreign objects. Second, dealing with pins isn’t as fast as the LEO Takedown’s simple collar mechanism, and it requires more fine motor skills (especially with our test rifle’s tight rear pin). Lastly, separating the gun at the barrel keeps the two halves as short as possible, allowing it to fit into a smaller case or pack. Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Assembled length: 32.6 inches
  • Length of upper and lower assemblies: 25 inches + 15.2 inches
  • Length with LEO Takedown system: 19 inches + 16.5 inches

Blue Collar Builds Patrick

Another advantage of the LEO TakeDown system is its ability to accept multiple barrel and handguard combinations without an additional upper. The kit can be purchased with a spare barrel coupling for an additional $56. This makes it easy to swap between two or more setups — for example, one with a gas system tuned for a suppressor and one configured for unsuppressed use.

Installing the LEO TakeDown system was made more challenging by the fact that we were starting with a complete upper, and had to disassemble it. This led to the discovery that my rifle’s barrel nut was very heavily torqued — I was only able to remove it after freezing the upper overnight, placing it in a barrel lug vise block, and putting my full body weight onto a 3-foot breaker bar. For this reason, I’d suggest starting any LEO TakeDown build with a stripped upper. I also learned that any handguard with indexing tabs will interfere with the takedown collar, so these had to be filed down before reassembly. The finished system shifts the handguard forward by about an inch.


Blue Collar Build Breakdown

Palmetto State Armory 16″ Mid Length Nitride 13.5″ Lightweight M-LOK MOE EPT Rifle: ~$809
EOTech EXPS2: $575
LEO TakeDown System: $299
Timney Impact Trigger: $135 (If you Buy Here at Optics Planet, it helps us out)
Magpul M-MVG: $23

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  • Michael Hall says:

    Have well-equipped AR-10 ready to try first build want light agile accurate 5.56 need experienced guidance

  • Michael Hall says:

    Have well-equipped AR-10 ready to try my first build want lightweight agile accurate 16 in 5.56 need advice and guidance

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  • Have well-equipped AR-10 ready to try first build want light agile accurate 5.56 need experienced guidance

  • Have well-equipped AR-10 ready to try my first build want lightweight agile accurate 16 in 5.56 need advice and guidance

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