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Old February 2, 2013, 01:43 AM   #1
dornjmd
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Upper/Lower receivers - Different Manufacturers

Guys,

I've been looking at putting together a custom AR and I'm a bit stumped about the difference in receiver manufacturers for both uppers and lowers.

Why do people choose one receiver (upper and lower) manufacturer over another. I get the reason to be picky over trigger systems (CNC is the way I'm going), but given an equally good manufacturing process for receivers, why go with one over the other. Why Black Rain Ordinance over Daniel Defense or DPMS?

What are the pros and cons of different manufacturers? I know Black Rain uses solid aluminum billet machine milled rather than forged for the lowers which, in theory, makes them stronger and lighter.

What else should I watch out for? What would you guys recommend if you were putting together your dream long range AR and why?

Thanks!

JD
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Old February 2, 2013, 02:44 AM   #2
sDot
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Probably most of the time people buy mismatched uppers and lowers due to prices or availability. Usually there is no problem doing so.
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Old February 2, 2013, 04:49 AM   #3
Revoliver
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To add to what sDot posted, some people are also looking for specific features when building their rifles and mixing and matching parts is the only way to achieve their desired outcome.
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Old February 2, 2013, 07:55 AM   #4
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From a macro level, there is not a whole lot of difference from one vendor to another. Sure, your have a couple of bottom feeders selling out-of-spec parts and you have a couple of vendors that are way high on the dimishing returns scale. But since the AR specs are widely published and not hard to achieve, there are a whole lot of AR shooters that are shopping in the middle. There are a number of vendors of known quality in the middle range, so it comes down to who has what on sale when the consumer is ready to buy.

There are some websites devoted to the AR that seem to be run by a herd of label conscious teenage girls where only 2 or 3 brands are "the best". They offer the same old tired anecdotes to support the claim, but never any scientific evidence. I have shot with several dozen AR shooters over the last 30 years and trained several of those. The rifles involved have come from almost every major manufacturer I can think of, and more than a few minor ones. When there have been problems, it almost always was ammo or magazines, never gun parts.

My own philosophy is to assemble the best rifle I can for the price. Therefore most of mine are mixmasters. They are all accurate, durable, and reliable to a fault, and none of them cost over $900. Even before this current madness, I would see guys shelling out $2500 for just the rifle sans optics, and I just had to scratch my head and wonder. The expensive rifles do not shoot any better than mine, and they probably won't last any longer or be any more reliable.

One thing I do not scrimp on is bet-your-life magazines. My "go" kit contains nothing but Lancer AWMs. I will use just about anything for range mags, but the only mag I will trust my life to is the Lancer.
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Old February 2, 2013, 01:21 PM   #5
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I also mix'n'match upper and lower receivers with no issue. As long as they are properly manufactured there should be no huge functional issues but there can be cosmetic differences (whether that matters is up to you).

Personally, the rollmark on the lower receiver does matter to me and I will pay more for what I want. There are some rollmarks I wouldn't have (even if properly made) because I won't have "that" name on my custom build. In saner times only $25-50 more would buy a premier name to go along with the rest of the quality parts. And often that extra money does buy a better finish and more importantly a flared magwell. No matter what the quality of the components in the rifle, the rollmark does scream to anyone who sees it the perceived quality of the build.

Also you asked about billet vs. forged receivers and again there is no huge difference. For the same strength, forged is slightly lighter but not more than a few ounces. For the extra money billet can look fantastic, with a great finish and flared magwell, and often has niceties like an integrated trigger guard and bolt hold-open screw that eliminate tapping in roll pins. And most have a tensioning screw to remove any slop between the upper and lower. Without using the tensioning screw, my Quentin Defense US Army Edition (guess why I chose that rollmark! ) billet lower fits and functions fine with four different forged uppers but of course many folks like to match billet to billet.

Last edited by Quentin2; February 2, 2013 at 01:35 PM.
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Old February 2, 2013, 02:14 PM   #6
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For the most part, people choose one manufacturer over another because they aren't aware that many times they came from the same place and just have a different roll mark on them. For the most part one brand is as good as the next. For instance you can buy Aero Precision receivers at a pretty good price from surplus ammo and arms, or you can spend more and get the exact same Aero Precision Part from Spikes Tactical with their roll mark on it and think you spent the extra money for somethng better when in reality you are getting the exact same part.
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Old February 2, 2013, 02:19 PM   #7
madcratebuilder
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Quote:
What are the pros and cons of different manufacturers? I know Black Rain uses solid aluminum billet machine milled rather than forged for the lowers which, in theory, makes them stronger and lighter.
Weight and strength advantage go to the forged part. To achieve the same strength in a billet part it needs to be thicker. Billet can be stronger but requires additional material.

Billet has the advantage of having custom features. Ambi controls, 45* selectors, flared mag wells, just a few of the different things found with a billet part.
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Old February 3, 2013, 09:37 AM   #8
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{a herd of label conscious teenage girls where only 2 or 3 brands are "the best".}
The term "logo ego" covers this group. Unless a maker puts some real handwork into specific areas or uses parts held to closer tolerances than most other makers, the final product is not going to be significantly better than any other except by chance combination of random parts.
Regarding uppers, there's no perfect way to determine who assembled the upper unless each and every part is branded and the maker has built a reputation for not selling parts piecemeal. Marks on the barrel mean or prove little since 30 minutes and $50 worth of tools can put almost any barrel on almost any upper.
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Old February 3, 2013, 03:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
{a herd of label conscious teenage girls where only 2 or 3 brands are "the best".}
The term "logo ego" covers this group. Unless a maker puts some real handwork into specific areas or uses parts held to closer tolerances than most other makers, the final product is not going to be significantly better than any other except by chance combination of random parts...
Still, if using quality components in a build how many of us would want a stripped lower rollmarked with a brand we specifically avoided when buying the other parts? (Even knowing the stripped lower otherwise would be adequate.)

I've purchased five stripped lowers and each time could have bought cheaper lowers I didn't care for. Instead I paid more for what I wanted. As time goes on I'm glad I got the rollmark I wanted. YMMV...
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Old February 5, 2013, 11:45 AM   #10
dornjmd
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Damn guys, this is some useful information. I'm not typically a brand conscious person, and after all this gun is something i'm supposed to have fun with. I'm not too interested in winning shows.

I'm hearing I should start looking for receivers at a decent price, then do research on who actually makes them for fit and function.

Thanks much!

JD
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Old February 5, 2013, 05:52 PM   #11
Skans
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I'm doing an AR Build right now. You will be much happier if you buy a good quality matched receiver set. While you can put just about any upper on any lower, it will never look as tight as a quality matched set. And, if you are taking the time and money to put together your custom AR, aesthetics do matter. Especially if you ever intend to try to get your money out of it.

The way a billet of 7075 is produced is essentially the same thing as forging. The billet is not made from a casting. There is a good reason to look into high quality billet 7075 upper receivers - this is if you are going to free-float your barrel. Free-floating a barrel put additional stress directly on the upper receiver, especially if it gets knocked around. The billet uppers usually add material near where the barrel mounts to strengthen it. After researching this, I decided to go with a matched billet set made from 7075 - as I do intend to free-float the barrel.

Last edited by Skans; February 5, 2013 at 06:01 PM.
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Old February 5, 2013, 06:34 PM   #12
dornjmd
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I've actually gone a slightly different route... i'm talking to Wayne at WRW Custom Gun Design. He's putting together a 6.8 SPC for me, then cerakoting it to boot. I'm not sure of the price yet, but it's going to be a pretty penny.. unfortunately...
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Old February 5, 2013, 07:18 PM   #13
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There are only about 4 forges that make receivers. AERO Precision,CMT(Stag) Cerro forge. I cannot remember the other. Could be a few more. Most makers use one or more of these.
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Old February 6, 2013, 01:00 AM   #14
Quentin2
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There more than four forges that make AR receivers. However Cardinal, Cerro Forge, Anchor Harvey and Brass Aluminum Works are the most common that I've seen.
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Old February 6, 2013, 02:09 AM   #15
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Cerro Forge is quality. I got a free-floated carbine upper with an LMT barrel and bcg for 499. Dunno how cerro fits on the price scale but its nothing short of spectacular.

Look for the keyhole.
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Old February 7, 2013, 12:01 AM   #16
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It's always been a price, availability, and feature mindset for me. I normally buy complete rifles, but if I like certain features like the LMT MRP and I can score a good deal on just an upper...so be it. I also have an affinity of getting a factory built rifle. More of a personal preference.
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Old February 7, 2013, 09:28 PM   #17
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+1 to personal preference.

I really like the Vltor MUR uppers so I try to use those most of the time if they're available. Lowers though, they are all the same to me- with the exception of Seekins Precision and Noveske billet ones.
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Old February 8, 2013, 08:56 AM   #18
CTS
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Here is a list of forges that make upper and lower receivers. You also have to remember that the company you buy from didn't forge the part and may not have even finished it. Many buy from a machining company who buys from the forging company then finishes it and puts a roll mark on it for who ever is buying it. I have seen companies that will put your roll mark on a receiver if you send them your design. Also a partial list of what gun company uses parts from which forge. Aero Precision is not a forge, it is a machining compay.
Maybe this will help:
Upper receiver forge markings:

Offset Square is: Brass Aluminum Forging
LMT is: No Forge Marks, but marked LMT or L is: LMT
AF is: Alcoa Forge
C AF is: Colt Alco Forge
A (splintered) = Anchor Harvey Aluminum
C MB is: Colt / Mueller Brass
Cardinal’s head (stylized bird head) is: Cardinal Forge
CH is: Colt Harvey Aluminum
Crosshairs w/"AR" is: ArmaLite
CK is: Colt / Kaiser Aluminum
CM is: Colt / Martin Marietta
D (stylized) is: Diemaco
DK is: Diemaco / Kaiser Aluminum
E is: Emco
EK is: EMCO/Kaiser
E MB is: EMCO/Mueller Brass
FA is: FNMI / Anchor Harvey
FK is: FNMI / Kaiser Aluminum
FM is: FN/Martin Marietta
FMB is: FNMI / Mueller Brass
LK is: LAR / Kaiser Aluminum
LM is: LAR / Martin Marietta
M "diamond" is: Mueller Industries
PA is: Capco / Anchor Harvey
PM is: Capco / Martin Marietta
Square (symbol) is: Brass Aluminum

M-16 markings:

CAF Colt / Alcoa Forge
CH Colt / Harvey Aluminum (1st Colt Forgings)
CM Colt / Martin Marietta
DK Diemaco / Kaiser
FK, FS, BK, DK, EK, FK, AF, CW, AA, FS Bushmaster
LK FN / Kaiser
LM LAR / Martin Marietta (Army Spares Contract)
“Splintered A” F: FNMI Anchor Harvey“Splintered A” F: FNMI Anchor Harvey
“Splintered A” C: Colt Anchor Harvey
Splintered A Olympic Arms? (Anchor Harvey)


My list of verified upper receiver forge markings used by AR-15 upper manufactuers/sellers


DSA - Cardinal forge
Rock River - Cardinal forge
Delton - Cerro forge, square
DPMS - Cerro
Spikes Tactical - Cerro
Stag - Cardinal, Cerro
LWRC- splintered A
Para USA - ZM
Knight’s Armament - Cerro (keyhole)
Wilson Combat - splintered A
Double Star - Cerro
Smith &Wesson - Cerro
Daniel Defense - Cerro
Sabre Defense - Cerro?
Remington - Cerro
BCM - Cerro, square
Bushmaster - Cerro
Stag - splintered A, Cardinal
J&T Distributing (Doublestar) - Cerro, C
CMMG - Cerro
Colt M4 - Cerro (C keyhole), square, Cardinal (“C“ bird‘s head), C AF

Last edited by CTS; February 8, 2013 at 09:03 AM.
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Old February 8, 2013, 10:50 AM   #19
Quentin2
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Nice list, Slappy! Where'd you find it. I've seen older versions but not that.

To add, my Daniel Defense, BCM and PSA uppers all have the square mark indicating Brass Aluminum forge. I have seen other examples of the three that are Cerro - keyhole.
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Old February 9, 2013, 09:20 AM   #20
CTS
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You know getting old ain't all it's cracked up to be. I really don't remember where I found that. AR15.com maybe?
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Old February 28, 2013, 04:23 PM   #21
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Standard milspec forged recievers (with the exception of those made by Mega) are all pretty much the same. Differences include fit and finish, and what shade the anodizing is done. Examples of poor quality lowers include poorly broached magpwells (too tight or loose, leading to feeding problems) out of spec trigger pin holes. Honestly for the most part, its all about the looks.

Check this out.
http://www.firearmstalk.com/forums/f...ceivers-38440/


If you want a little some more, check our forged Mega (Rainier Arms, Riflegear etc) lowers. They usually have bigger flared magwells, tensioner screws to remove upper/lower play, and some come with a cool retaining screw to hold in the takedown pin spring.

These are little things, nothing major.

Now billet that's another story. There are some pretty major differences there. Structurally, billets are inherently weaker than forged, but they can be made to compensate and even be stronger (tho heavier) than a standard forged. Besides being able to really change the way the reciever looks, they can do things like, intergrate the trigger guard, add amdextrious mag and bolt release controls, reshape the magwell, strengther the reciever exention area. and I'm sure a bit more. Check out AXTS, Mega, Seekins Precision, etc etc.
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Old February 28, 2013, 05:30 PM   #22
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The Reason I think people get the idea that billet is stronger, is from steel parts...

Steel that forges well is not the strongest, so a billet part that uses a stronger steel, will be stronger.

With AR receivers, they are all made of aluminum, they should be made of 70 series T6. Since the material is the same, the forging process actually makes the part stronger than billet.

Basically, billet is stronger/better if the manufacturer chooses a stronger material than those that work well with the forging method. But if the material is the same, the forging process actually work hardens the metal and makes it stronger.
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Old February 28, 2013, 05:49 PM   #23
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A billet 7075 receiver is practically speaking about as strong as a forged 7075. They use extra material to make up the strength difference. I like the looks and lines of a matched billet receiver set over forged - just personal preference, so that's what I have used.

Either way, billet or forged, I would stick with matched receiver sets. If you want to do a build on the cheap, then mix and match receivers, but don't expect anyone else to be impressed with your build when/if you ever go to sell it. Using mismatched receivers you are more likely to have a gap between your receivers and certain lines, indents don't match up perfectly. If you don't care about resale value, then it really doesn't matter. Heck, there could be a gap between the two receivers and your AR would probably run just fine. None of this really affects function.
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Old February 28, 2013, 10:41 PM   #24
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Yeah, I meant to also say... same materials and same dimensions. All things being equal as it were.
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