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Hawaii 5.56 Custom AR-15 Build

Getting Artistic With Our Aloha Aero Build

Building a rifle should be fun. Yes, a rifle is a tool, but it can also reflect your personality and be a form of artistic expression. Furthermore, it’s not as hard to assemble a rifle as you might think.

In fact, Aero Precision has a monthly offering that does exactly that — builder sets that combine straightforward assembly with artistic designs. These sets include a lower, upper, and handguard that have been Cerakoted in different themes by various artisans. In months past, for instance, Weapon Works, Blown Deadline, Republic Rifle, Nevada Cerakote, MAD Custom Coating, and others have created all sorts of designs, from various cool colors to all types of camouflage patterns to aviation livery to Veterans Day themes.

The components themselves have convenient features designed to make assembly easier, including threaded pins that eliminate the frustration of installing the bolt catch and springs launched into the nether regions of your garage, as well as handguards that align easily and clamp down evenly. The Aero M4E1 builder set forming the foundation of the build in this issue is a custom design that we were fortunate to snag from them, painted by MAD Custom Coating in a unique Hawaiian theme. The receivers are forged, yet have numerous nice additional touches like the integrated trigger guard and flared magwell that you might expect in heavier, more expensive billet sets. The handguard is Aero’s Atlas R-ONE 15-inch M-LOK, providing plenty of real estate for the support hand and accessories.

We chose Ballistic Advantage’s bead-blasted 16-inch .223 Wylde barrel, which was spun from 416R stainless steel with a BA Hanson profile and came fitted with a pinned low-profile gas block. We capped it off with a VG6 Gamma 556 muzzle brake. The shooter’s interface with the gun is always important, so we outfitted the rifle with a Rise Armament RA-535 trigger and comfy Magpul furniture. The trigger broke at a feathery and crisp 2.75 pounds, with a short reset.

Even though the paint scheme is light-hearted, this rifle can still do serious work. And for that, a light and slings are must-haves. SureFire’s scout lights are among our favorites for rifles, their brand-new Scout Light Pro Dual Fuel variant sporting a built-in, adjustable M-LOK mount. There are several great light mounts for scout lights on the market, but the new Pro is about as low profile and minimalistic as you can get. It places the light closer to the handguard than a creeper on the New York subway. The sling is Blue Force Gear’s popular Vickers two-point quick-detach sling.

EOTech’s Vudu 1-6x SR1 scope topped off the rifle, providing crisp glass and a first focal plane reticle with a circle-dot at 1x and a precise Mil scale at 6x. It worked well at either end of the magnification range, though illumination is just barely daylight bright — more like a slight reddish hue in bright sunlight. A handy lever screws into the zoom ring, making it easy to dial in your desired magnification, but it’s too long for our liking, so we’ll probably shave it down.

We thoroughly shook out the rifle at an urban precision rifle course at Thunder Ranch, under the tutelage of none other than the legendary Clint Smith. We engaged paper and steel targets at 5 to 500 yards from various shooting positions and in challenging courses of fire, all while meeting stringent marksmanship requirements. We practiced movement, use of cover, malfunction clearance, one-handed manipulations, and surgical shots. Clint continually hammered us on mindset, and the critical importance of always thinking logically. We fired around 700 rounds of Doubletap ammo through our rifle without incident, and during some Oregon downpours. The rifle handled wonderfully, with great ergonomics and minimal recoil impulse.

After our Thunder Ranch outing, we received SureFire’s new optimized bolt carrier group. Since we plan to run this rifle with a can in the future, as all rifles should be, we swapped out Aero’s nitrided BCG to test the SureFire unit. Thus far, it’s run smoothly and perfectly while unsuppressed.

On the bench, we discovered the 1:8 twist BA barrel really loved heavy bullets and swiped left on the light ones. 75-grain Black Hills match traveling at 2,531 fps printed 1 MOA five-shot groups, while plebeian 55-grain loads spread out to 3 MOA. Gorilla 69-grain SMKs slotted in the middle at 1.4 MOA. So, whether hosing or placing precision shots, our build gets it done — and in style.

Hopefully, we’ve inspired you to get artistic and have some fun with your next build. Whether you paint it yourself (see our DIY in Issue 13) or use an out-of-the-box builder set like those offered by Aero Precision, make yourself a piece of art! Aloha!


Caliber: .223 Wylde
Barrel Length: 16 inches
Overall Length: 33 to 36.4 inches
Weight Unloaded: 9.4 pounds
Price as Featured: $3,977

Buildsheets: Past and Present

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