My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Scorpion8 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:44 am

Synchronizor wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:18 am
... but as far as having load selections for specific applications, the .308 Winchester is pretty outstanding.
That is the key. If I were going to warehouse ammo cans of SHTF "support", it'd have to be .308 fodder or .223. Sure, there are application-specific cartridges and ones that I prefer, but as far as quantity-over-quality.....he he he, the Soviets had the saying right, but that's about all.
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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Synchronizor » Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:27 am

New package in the mail today, a Magpul MOE Rifle Stock and MIAD Gen 1.1 Type 1 Grip Kit, both in Magpul's Stealth Gray color. MidwayUSA had a minor sale going on them, so I put in an order, along with a generic "AR-Stoner" 7075 rifle-length receiver extension.

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The receiver extension I was a little concerned about, since Midway also had a higher-priced "Extreme Duty" rifle tube available that seemed to be a premium product, but aside from a slightly wordier product description, all the specs for material, finish, etc seemed to be the same. I swear they even use the same product image. I was thinking that perhaps the lower-cost one had rougher manufacturing or something, and I really want this rifle to run as smoothly as possible. But when I got it in my hand, it was a very nice piece. Lightweight, excellent finish, perfect fit with the receiver & stock, and the interior is mirror-smooth. So, all good.

Here it is all assembled:

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This stock and grip have been my main choice for awhile now. I like how the MIAD grip's shape could be personalized, and the little oil bottle that fits inside it is a nifty utility feature. For now, I've got the medium backstrap and A2-style front on it, and it feels pretty good in my hands. When I eventually get this thing out shooting, I may try some different combos again. The oil bottle will be seeing some testing to make sure it doesn't leak.

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For a long time, I had been planning on putting a fixed stock on this thing. Everybody seems to want the adjustable stocks, but knowing myself, I would have just found the position I liked and left it there, all while hating any microscopic amount of play, so what's the point? I decided on a rifle extension rather than a carbine extension to open up more buffer/buffer spring options, and just keep things simpler. A carbine tube needs an end plate, then a castle nut that has to be staked or otherwise tightened down, a more complicated and heavier buffer tube, and then even fixed carbine stocks need locking systems and other BS. A rifle tube is just screwed in, and then the stock screws on. One tube, one screw, super simple.

I thought seriously about using a military A2 buttstock for awhile, but the Magpul stock offered some extra features like areas to attach QD sling points, and various buttpads to adjust the LOP. Also, after looking into it, I liked how the Magpul's storage compartment opened better than the A2's. I wasn't too into the shape of the Magpul stock, the way it stays skinny then flares out near the butt, until I came across a review that pointed out that that shape provided a nice place for a rear support hold when shooting the gun from a rest. Made a lot of sense, and now that I have it to play with, it actually feels pretty good when held that way.

Having an internal storage compartment is a major reason I decided to go with a fixed rifle stock. I'd like to be able to keep some basics on-hand, things like a boresnake, a key for adjusting the gas block, some foam earplugs, and maybe batteries if I'm running a flashlight or red dot. The door on the Magpul stock takes a little more effort to open than I anticipated, but I expect it'll wear in a bit with use since the catch is plastic. In any case, I'd rather have it be a little tough to open than have it open on its own at random times.

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One thing I went back and forth on was the color. I always thought dark gray furniture would look cool on a black anodized AR, and I was pumped when Magpul came out with their Stealth Gray color awhile back. But when researching this purchase, I had a real tough time figuring out exactly what the color was. Online photos made it look anywhere from dark brown-gray to bright blue-gray, and I really didn't want blue-gray. I couldn't find any gray Magpul stuff in local stores either, it was all black & FDE. For awhile, I was thinking of just giving up and going with black, to be painted later. But I spoke with a really helpful Magpul employee who did his best to give me an idea of the color's tone & brightness, and decided to just go with the gray and stop sweating it.

Now that I have it in person, It's definitely darker than a lot of photos made it look, which is good, but it's also got a distinct blue note in it. Not enough to outright ruin it for me, but it's still there. For now, it's not too bad, and I'll leave it and see if it grows on me. The plan was always to have the handguard on this gun professionally painted to match the stock & grip, so I can always just have everything re-done in a warmer gray if I decide I just can't stand the blue-gray. Heck, maybe I'll change my mind completely and have everything painted in one of my runner-up color choices like OD green or white. It'll be awhile before I get to those finishing touches.

In other news, now that I have my intended final furniture installed, I'm positive that I don't like this 90-degree mil-spec safety selector. Too long of a lever, with too much of a throw to be quick & natural, and not enough clearance for my big thumb. I'm thinking of replacing it with the Talon ambi selector from Radian Weapons. I like how modular it is, with four different lever options (five, if you count the option to just leave a lever off) that can be used on each side, and the way the levers attach with detent pins rather than screws that can come loose. The fact that the center piece is milled to offer both 90- and 45-degree throws is clever, too. Anyone have experience with this selector?

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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Scorpion8 » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:07 am

Looks great! I had similar thoughts about the gray furniture color for my AR-10-type .308 build, but haven't settled yet. They come out with so many new pieces each day that I'm waiting for one to swoon me. I follow your internal debate re: the buttstock, but that version just looks too clunky to me. My heavy barrel varmint build has the A-2 buttstock, which is a classic look, and my carbines have the early Magpul buttstock. I agree about the "setting" buttstock length, I don't think mine ever changes. Part of the problem with these dang things is there are so many choices that you can get internally stifled in making a decision because there's always another choice popping up, or just subtle differences in certain available choices. It can actually be aggravating! :)
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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Synchronizor » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:07 pm

I agree the Magpul MOE rifle stock isn't all that great-looking. I went back and forth between it and the A2 quite a bit. But I drove around and found some rifles in gun stores that had it, and it really feels better than it looks. And the weird angular design does seem to be done with purpose, beyond just looking distinctive. The shape of the underside leaves more room for the arm & wrist, allows for a good support hold for shooting from a bipod or rest, and makes space for a low-profile integral sling loop rather than the A2 style sling loop, which just kinda dangles there in the breeze. Then there're the integral QD points, and the fact that you don't need a spacer piece. Plus, the Magpul improves a lot on the A2 storage door, which is tiny, and a huge pain in the butt to open by hand. I probably spent five minutes in a gun shop trying to pry that stupid door open with a fingernail. The Magpul has an easy-to-reach button on the side, and then the entire back swings away for unobstructed access.

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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Synchronizor » Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:22 am

New piece arrived yesterday, an Aero M5 Assembled Upper Receiver.

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Came across one on sale from Granite Ridge Outfitters for $119 plus free 2-day shipping. They had the stripped upper for only $96, but buying the forward assist & dust cover separately and installing them myself would have actually been more expensive.

Quality seems real nice, just like the lower, and the fit is prety good. Not perfect, but better than most of the ARs I've handled, and using the nylon-tipped tension screw in the lower took about 90% of the play out. What little is left is due to a tiny bit of side-to-side play between the lower and the pin lugs in the upper. That could could probably be shimmed out pretty easily, but I'm not worried about that right now.

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I've been looking into barrels, and with the lead times on custom AR-10 barrels, I think I should save up and get that going as soon as I can afford it, unless I stumble across other stuff on my wish list for really good prices. Once the barrel's all figured out and I'm waiting on that to arrive, I can narrow down components for the gas system and the rest of the action.

I've been going back and forth on barrel length quite a bit, not wanting to compromise ballistics & function too much, but also not wanting a nose-heavy pig of a gun. I was in downtown Spokane for a job on Friday, and swung by a gun shop I know of on the north side that has literal walls of ARs. They had a DPMS-pattern 6.5 Creedmoor with a 20" barrel and the same Magpul MOE rifle stock I'm using, and that thing was not bad at all. Not particturarly heavy, and balanced at the magwell - albeit near the front of the magwell. So, that put my mind at ease, and I think I'll go with a 20" barrel for this first general-purpouse upper. If I keep the profile reasonable and use the free-float carbon-fiber handguard I'm looking at, I think it'll handle well, give me good performance, and let me run a rifle-length gas system reliably.

Barrel-makers I've been looking at are X-Caliber and Columbia River Arms, but I'm open to other options if there's anyone else someone wants to recommend.

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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Scorpion8 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 4:26 am

Time for an update!
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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Synchronizor » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:21 am

Scorpion8 wrote:
Sun Mar 04, 2018 4:26 am
Time for an update!
Yeah it is.

As I said in the last post, I wanted to get the barrel going as soon as possible, given the long lead times on custom AR-10 barrels in uncommon chamberings. But before I could order the barrel, I wanted to have a bolt that they could headspace it to. And that also meant I needed the carrier to make sure the bolt would work in it. That all has been my primary focus over the last couple weeks.

So, what came in the mail about a week ago was an Aero Precision .308 / 7.62 Bolt Carrier Group finished in nickel-boron. MSRP for this unit is $265, but I found one for a hair under $200 with free shipping. I chose the Aero carrier so that I could be sure it would fit and function properly in my Aero upper; I had heard that the Aero M5's forward assist only really worked with the cuts on an Aero carrier. I also wanted a nickel-boron finish for ease of cleaning, corrosion protection, and less sensitivity to cleanliness and lubrication. Aero has their nickel-boron done by Fail Zero/UTC, which I believe means the plating is performed using the advanced fourth-generation method with a lead tungstate-stabilized bath for increased hardness and wear resistance of the final product. Also, Aero's nickel-boron carriers are blind-marked, and I'm not a fan of superfluous branding on my guns.

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I've got to say, pictures do not do this finish justice. It's mirror-like, with that great nickel warmth to it, and it just glides in the upper. Although I know they function fine, I've never liked how rough the action on a typical AR feels. With the money I'm spending on this rifle, I want it to feel like it's running on ball bearings, and this carrier seems like a very good first step toward that.

The Aero BCG included a bolt, which I'm sure is a decent, functional bolt, but I ran across some reports of the extractor needing tweaking in some cases. Plus, I wanted the custom barrel I'm ordering to be headspaced specifically for my bolt, and with the lack of a military standard for these large-frame ARs, barrel-makers typically only want to work with .308 bolts from a few, well-known manufacturers. One manufacturer that everyone seems to like is JP Enterprises, and JP sells a special high-pressure version of their EnhancedBolt for .308-derived cartridges that has a unique lightweight, small-diameter firing pin & closely-toleranced firing pin hole to reduce lock-time and prevent piercing of primers. It was very well spoken-of among target-shooters running high-end 6.5 Creedmoor ARs, and since I'll be handloading for this thing, I'd like it to be nice to brass and tolerate different pressure curves well. The JP bolts aren't cheap, but buy once, cry once, right? For any future uppers, I can keep sending this bolt in for headspacing, and then simply use the same BCG for all of them (and hopefully the Aero bolt will headspace well enough to be a back-up, so I don't have to stop shooting when I'm having a new barrel made).

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Once I had it in my hands, I was really impressed with the JP bolt. Besides the smaller firing pin & tighter firing pin hole, it also had a high-end chromium-nitride finish, JP's enhanced extractor & ejector parts, and their special one-piece spiral gas ring, which is supposed to offer a good gas seal with less friction and less propensity for wear than the traditional three-ring setup.

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Even just looking at the design & machining, the JP bolt is clearly a very high-quality part. Better edges & surfaces, fewer tool marks, and beefier lugs compared to the Aero bolt; and it moves in the carrier with way less friction thanks to the spiral gas ring. I'm hoping that'll mean it runs smoother with a precision headspace, and more reliably returns to battery even if things are dirty, or the charging handle wasn't pulled back all the way.

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Once I had the bolt & carrier, and ensured that they would fit together, I put in an order for the barrel for this rifle with X-Caliber just a few days ago. It'll be a 20", 1-in-9" twist 4140 barrel with a rifle-length gas port and a nitride finish. For awhile, I was planning on using their .700" light barrel profile for weight and balance reasons, but worried about how well it would hold zero with repeated shooting. I did a lot of work trying to predict the balance of this gun, spending my lunch breaks at work talking to X-Caliber & other parts manufacturers and even doing some 3D modeling and putting together a spreadsheet to calculate the net torques about different points of the gun. Eventually I decided that I could get away with using their SPR profile (1.15", .85", .75" GB, .730") with some aggressive fluting. That should make for a stiffer barrel that shifts zero less as it heats up. The fluting should help it cool better, too.

They'll also be throwing in one of their Pepper Pot muzzle brakes for free with this barrel. Not sure I'll keep that brake on this upper (it's apparently pretty heavy, and even fractions of ounces count for a lot when they're that far out there), but it'll be one to start with.

I'll be contacting them this week to arrange for sending in my bolt for headspacing; after which they'll guarantee sub-MoA with that combo. Lead time on this barrel is pretty long, probably 18 - 20 weeks with the nitriding. I guess that'll give me time to figure out and save up for everything else. Next major purchases will probably be the charging handle & buffer/recoil spring unit. I also have homework to do on the handguard, and should probably start thinking about optics as well.

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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Synchronizor » Tue Mar 20, 2018 5:13 am

New piece, a Geissele Super Charging Handle 7.62. I first heard about this part in this video, part of InRange TV's What Would Stoner Do? project. They had a lot of nice things to say about the 5.56 version of this handle, and that positive opinion was reflected everywhere else I looked on the internets. And yeah, $124 is pretty darn expensive for a charging handle. No sale on this one either, these handles tend not to stay in stock long - especially the black version. I did manage to find free shipping, at least.

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Having it in-hand though, and installed (using an old 870 mag spring & Choate mag follower as a stand-in buffer & buffer spring) so that I could play with it, I have to say I'm really impressed, and I'm glad I spent the money. Everything is really solid and the machining & manufacturing is impeccable aside from a few very minor and totally insignificant tool marks in the hollows in the handles.

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The whole unit moves very smoothly and easily, and the ambi handles are incredibly ergonomic wiithout being oversized, or looking like something that would only work on a dedicated competition rig. The "batarang" (as I've heard it described) shape combined with the excellent grip texture makes it almost effortless to grab and manipulate, no matter how you grab it or which hand you're using.

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The forward assist on the left side of the Aero upper is a minor hindrance when "blading" the handle from below (it's really not a problem if grabbed in other manners), but I was aware of that going in, and was willing to accept a bit of a trade-off there since this upper is intended to be used for target shooting and hunting, where a FA makes some sense. If I get around to building a dedicated fighting/competition upper for this rifle, I'll probably try to find a compatible slick-side upper receiver.

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But easy-to-grab ambidextrous-ness is the obvious stuff. What I think really sets this charging handle apart, and makes it worth the Gei$$ele price tag is all the little things that add up to a really impressive piece of engineering. The gas-blocker lip that fits against the Aero upper like the two were designed for each other, the small bits of ribbing on the back of the handles that are exactly where they need to be to give your thumb a bit of extra purchase, the clever mechanical linkage that separates the latch and the handle so that the handle displaces further than the latch to help prevent accidental unlocking; it's all really good stuff. You can tell that the folks at Geissele took this really seriously and worked their butts off the make the best charging handle possible.

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There's also Geissele's customer service. I've read stories and seen examples of Geissele going way above & beyond to take care of their customers; the kind of stuff that belongs in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book (is that a dated reference now?). This is my first time buying a Geissele product, but that positive track record really helped give me the confidence I needed to go ahead and drop $124 on a charging handle.

If I had any complaints to make, they would be that the finish isn't super durable (it is just anodizing on the black version, so I'm not really that surprised), and that all the white logos & lettering printed on the handle really take away from the class of the piece. If you're close enough to read all that, you're close enough for the handle's outstanding design & manufacturing to speak for itself. Pretty minor, really, and nothing that affects function, but I'm thinking about taking this handle apart and having the shaft & handles Cerakoted when I take other parts in to be painted.

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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Synchronizor » Tue Apr 03, 2018 5:07 am

Another recent addition is a JP Enterprises Silent Captured Spring. This is a nifty piece that combines the buffer & buffer spring into one captured unit that doesn't vibrate or scrape like a traditional spring. Also, the captured spring doesn't require a buffer retainer pin, which complicates disassembly of the buffer and can break off & fall into the trigger on heavily-used guns. These units are designed for AR-10s & Ar-15s with normal carbine-length buffer tubes, but also come with a spacer for use in rifle-length tubes like mine. JP does sell this spacer separately, if you like the simplicity of rifle tubes & stocks, but don't want to limit your buffer options.

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JP offers two different versions of this unit, a standard-weight and an H2. They also sell individual weights and springs for further tuning by end users. For this gun, I ordered the standard-weight setup plus one tungsten weight, for an H1 configuration with the standard spring. I figured I didn't need to go too heavy with a rifle-length gas system and an adjustable gas block, but wanted a little extra to make sure I was feeding reliably. I have the tungsten weight installed now (in the back, to help offset the barrel's weight) and this'll be my starting point for tuning the system once I get the gun together and shooting.

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Now that I have my nickel-boron bolt carrier, Geissele charging handle, and JP captured spring, I'm able to really see how the action runs. And it is beautiful. Quiet, smooth, and easy to work even with the fairly heavy spring meant for full-power rifle rounds. With such little friction in all the moving parts, I may be able to lighten up this spring and make it run even easier.

My one complaint is that because I'm not running a buffer retainer, the spring/buffer unit and spacer have a tendency to fall out if I tilt the lower forward while I have the receiver open. Once I get my trigger in (more details on that shortly), I'll see if the hammer is able to catch it and keep everything from falling out so easily. If not, I have some tweaks in mind for the spacer.

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Re: My 7mm AR-10 Build (In Progress)

Post by Synchronizor » Sun Apr 08, 2018 6:54 am

Added the push-button QD sockets to the rear of the stock on each side. Very nice fit & function to them. They sit flush and are very solid. I may have been a bit eager here, as I'll have to figure out a way to pry them back out when I get the stock painted...

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I haven't put any sockets in the front of the stock. They stick out more there, and I don't really think I'll want to run this gun with a single-point sling - at least not with this upper.

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