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Night And Day: An AR Built For Brutality [BUILD SHEET]



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InRangeTV Woodland and Midnight Brutality were two back-to-back matches held in West Virginia. Woodland was 7 stages during the day while Midnight was 4 stages held at night. This was an incredible event that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys hard shooting competitions that push you and your gear. 

I got a lot more to say about the match that you can read about here.

Because of the demands of the match, I needed a rifle that could go the distance during the day and night. And since I love building ARs, this was a good excuse for a new build.

Huge thanks to TrueShot for sponsoring ammo for this event.

SPECS

  • Aero Precision Slick Side Upper Receiver
  • Lead & Steel Handguard & 12.5 Monobloc Barrel
  • AAC Ranger 5 suppressor w/ CaveMan MiniFlare heat ring (mood ring for cans that changes color when hot)
  • UTG Pro Ambi Lower
  • KE Arms SLT Gen 2 Trigger
  • Radian Weapons BCG, Ambi Safety, and Raptor-LT Charging Handle
  • B5 Systems Grip
  • SB Tactical SBA3 Brace
  • Cloud Defensive REIN 3.0
  • One Hundred Concepts LightCap
  • Strike Industries Forward Stackable Grip And Cable Management Cover 
  • Steiner DBAL-A2
  • SIG Sauer Romeo-4T Pro w/ Strike Industries Variable Optic Mount + SIG Juliet 4 Magnifier 
  • RailScales
  • Mission First Tactical Translucent EXD 30 Polymer Magazines

Total cost: ~$4,200

THE GOAL

Almost all of the ARs I run are ones I’ve assembled myself, but until this none of them had been set up for performance with night vision in mind. With this gun, it needed to perform as well at night as it did during the day and it needed to do so under both white light and NVGs. 

During the day I wanted a performance envelope of at least 400 yards and at night of at least 200 yards.

It needed to be short enough that flying with it wouldn’t be a huge pain in the ass and light enough that it didn’t kill me to ruck or use it across a dozen-plus courses of fire and possibly miles of movement between stages.

And of course, it had to be durable. Dependable. Rock solid reliable. Sure, “it’s just a competition”, but I wanted this to be something I could trust my life to also — not just a safe queen that comes out for match day.

It took me 4 months to finish building this gun, but I got exactly what I hoped for.

PERFORMANCE IN ACTION

My build started with a few parts that I simply knew I wanted to run and a lot of parts that I kind of had to find along the way.

BARREL, HANDGUARD, & BCG

Most important to me when I build an AR is the barrel and BCG. I got to review Lead & Steel’s ARC AR-15 last year and loved the MonoBloc barrel. The MonoBloc’s big innovation is the fact that the gas block is machined into the barrel itself. 

It’s just one big unit. Zero chance of your gas block failing when your gas block is your barrel. Plus, the ARC was super accurate and made use of a great middle-ground barrel profile that balanced weight and heat performance well.

Lead & Steel’s handguard seemed like a perfect match as well. My main concern was having a handguard that allowed my laser to hold zero. Thankfully, L&S came through again because this handguard has been rock solid.

Since I knew a suppressor was going to be added to this gun, I went with the 12.5-inch MonoBloc to save weight, size, and because AR pistols are the best kind of pistols.

Radian Weapons is a big name in the AR world and for good reason. While I’ve loved a lot of their parts for years, I’ve never gotten to run their BCG. This seemed like a good time to give it a shot and they were nice enough to provide it. 

Radian’s BCG cuts the body a little different and Radian reports this reduces friction inside the upper while minimizing carrier tilt. From my end, it's a BCG that just doesn't quit. Dirty, not much lube, a lot of shooting, it kept trucking on.

The BCGs I trust is a fairly short list, but this one is on it now.

RECEIVERS

The upper receiver was out of my parts box, but I use the same upper on most of my builds. Aero Precision's slick side fits my needs and I like it.

The lower was a bit of a leap of faith. At SHOT 2024 I stopped by the UTG booth and was shown their new fully ambi lower. Toying with it at the show, I liked their design and figured it was worth giving a shot. I used it for this build since I wanted to give it an in-depth review and put it through some abuse.

First off, what a lot of people don't know is that all UTG Pro is made in the USA. Not everything from UTG carries the UTG Pro name, but the stuff that does is made here and, in my experience, to a much higher standard.

It has performed amazingly well. 10/10 for durability and function. The ambi controls are easy to use, feel good, and are well made. This gun got the snot kicked out of it and the lower didn’t fail me. The flared magwell makes reloads easy even in the dark, and assembly was made simple because UTG uses screws for the buffer pin retention and the takedown pin retention. 

Something I don’t love is the price. MSRP is $330, but street is $200. While that’s an okay price for a full ambi lower, I would have expected UTG to be a leader in making things more cost-friendly. If this was closer to the $150 mark, it would be perfect.

That being said, I like this lower. The design just works and the quality has been great.

TRIGGER

KE Arms makes a lot of great triggers. I’ve had an old SLT gen 1 for years now and it’s always performed great for me. Only downside with it was a bit light in the hammer energy department making it not work perfectly with hard primers. Recently, KE Arms updated this trigger with a Gen 2 that uses a beefier hammer spring but has practically zero impact on the pull weight of the trigger.

This updated trigger is what I used, the SLT-Gen 2. 4.5-pound pull, very crisp, great reset, and ran through NATO spec primers without issue. Making precision shots was easy but blasting at rapid-fire targets was quick and painless. 

WHITE LIGHT & IR LASERS

I bought a REIN 1.0 WML when they were new, but that older model didn’t throw enough light at 200 yards. The internet told me the REIN 3.0 would do the job, so I upgraded the head to the 3.0 version.

While I don’t love Cloud Devensive’s overall design choices forcing me to use their ecosystem of switches, I do love the REIN 3.0 head. This light pumps out a ton of light and has the Candella to reach out. Making 200+ yard hits in the dark was practically easy with this light.

Strike Industries got a government contract to provide their NGSW Cable Management System for the Army. I think that’s something that took a lot of people by surprise, so I wanted to give it a shot myself. The MLOK clips work well and have a lot of room for routing wires. This kept things out of the way and locked down tight. Plus, it’s not an expensive system either. I dig it.

Something a lot of people don’t think about is the possibility of NDing your lights or lasers. The laser was easy for me to deal with since I could just flip a switch and keep it turned off, but for the REIN I wanted something that would make sure I didn’t blast white light at the wrong time. One Hundred Concepts LightCap was the tool for the job. Cheap, easy, and it just works.

The IR I used was a Steiner DBAL-A2. An older model, a heavier model, and not the best option in the world these days. But I got a great deal on it and it got the job done. Really, if you don’t mind the weight, these are still perfectly serviceable and work wonderfully. 200 yards hits from standing unsupported with IR only through the Sionyx OPSIN was shockingly easy. I don’t mind bragging a bit by saying this setup helped me pull 6th out of 84 shooters on the long-range stage at InRangeTV Midnight Brutality.

OPTICS

Red dots and magnifiers are just what speak to me. LPVOs have their place, but trying to use them at night is a special skill that I didn’t have the time or desire to develop for this build. Red dot and a magnifier are somethings I can use in the dark, in the day, underwater, or on the moon.

But since I knew this would need to reach at least 400 yards during the day, I wanted to give something with BDC dots a chance. The SIG Romeo-4T was perfect for this. The middle dot is your zero, but there are additional dots at 5 MOA from the center, 9 MOA, and 15 MOA. 

Combine this with a chronograph and some math and I was dead on at 0-250, 350, and 450 yards.

SIG Juliet 4 is a magnifier I’ve used for years and had complete faith in.

The combo worked perfectly. Fast, accurate, and bouncing between targets at 100, 400, 200, and 300 yards was simple with the extra dots.

Another cool find for me at SHOT 2024 was Strike’s Variable Optic Mount. Turns out, this has been on the market for a couple of years and I just had never seen it before. Simple to use and rock solid, it allows you to adjust exactly how high you want your optic with a lot of room for choice. For me, I went nearly max height to make it easier to use with night vision on my face. 

Downside, and this is something I’ve run into before with Strike Industry products, I broke a mounting screw the first day I zeroed the mount. The three remaining screws seem to be enough to keep the optic rock solid and survive Brutality, but it's still not ideal.

SUPPRESSOR

One piece of information that isn’t talked about enough is smoke while shooting. During the day, smokeless powder is practically invisible and doesn’t make a huge difference. But at night, it can block your vision. Temp and humidity will impact it a lot also, as will trying to shine white light through it. Something that can help mitigate it a lot is a suppressor.

Plus, suppressors just make life better.

This was my first can and so far, I love the AAC Ranger 5. Quiet, has great tone, and is very easy to mount with the AAC 90TV mount. The 90TV connects to an AAC 90T flash hider or muzzle brake and makes for a great system. Even after more than 700 rounds of suppressed fire, there was absolutely zero carbon on the threads of the mount and the Ranger 5 was removable with just hand strength.

This was an outstanding can that exceeded my expectations in every way.

The CaveMan MiniFlare was added at the last minute after a range bag got a little melted from a hot can. The CaveMan ring changes color when hot so you have a nice little visual reminder to not burn your stuff.

MAGAZINES

The Mission First Tactical Translucent EXD 30 Polymer Magazines was the only part that I didn’t proof before going to the match. MFT gave these to me to try out at CANCON Arizona 2024, just a few weeks before I was set to fly out for West Virginia.

Thankfully, they didn’t let me down. The mags ran great and the added benefit of them being translucent made making sure my mags were topped off were easy.

They fed perfect, easy to load, easy to get in the rifle, and dropped free. Overall, 9/10.

One small bump I had with them is that while they are 30-round mags, getting a 31st-round in them is actually easy. But with that 31st round, they don’t sit well under a closed bolt or feed well for the first round. Personally, I would never intentionally load them to 31. But due to how easy it is to get that 31st round in, I ended up overloading the mags and then needing to get that last round out before putting them in my pouches. 

SMALL PARTS

To finish the lower build I used the Radian Weapons Ambi Safety and Raptor-LT Charging Handle. Both are parts I use almost every time I build an AR because they work, they’re awesome, and I hate being without them.

B5 Systems Grip was a newer pick for me but turned out well. The extra texture of the B5 came in handy once the rain started.

SB Tactical SBA3 Brace is the best value brace in the world and nothing will change my mind.

While this AR is over 26 inches, I wanted an angled grip just in case. The Strike Industries Forward Stackable Grip is pretty awesome. While it doesn’t look like it would be durable, it’s taken a lot of abuse and always held up. For me and the way I hold a gun, this is great.

RailScales around the gas block area just to keep some heat away from my hand.

LOOSE ROUNDS

Building a rifle that can perform at night like it can during the day was easier than I thought it would be. Really, it was just the addition of the DBAL and higher mounts that made the most difference. While the DBAL added a decent chunk of weight, it performs outstandingly well under NV.

This build has never malfed on me in almost 1,500 rounds with about 700 of those suppressed. 400-yard targets are simple to hit thanks to the great trigger and insanely accurate barrel. 

Overall, this is my favorite build so far and one I would trust my life to.

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