Friday, January 27, 2012

Mega Arms 2012 Project

Mega Forged Aluminum Lower Receiver
A year ago, I took interest in the idea of building another AR15 to add to my collection.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to have my Rock River Arms LAR-15 carbine custom made, and have had some fun customizing it further, but as the old saying goes, "two is one and one is none."  Besides, I want to tackle another project and use some of the knowledge I've gained to make this next gun an even better fit for me.

This is where Mega Arms comes in.  They make really good receivers and some other parts that would make a great foundation for my next AR.  I haven't really read anything bad about them, and many people tell me that their guns are second to none.  They have reasonable prices to boot.  Now, you can buy a forged lower receiver for an AR15 for next to nothing these days; my local gun shop sells their own brand for about $75.  This Mega forged 7075-T6 aluminum receiver costs about $125 and some change.  Mega isn't some fly by night operation.  They have tight quality control and use some of the best materials you can get.  Their prices are pretty reasonable.  For me, I want to build a rifle that can take a beating in the field, but not deliver a beating to my bank account in the process.

Mega Forged Aluminum Upper Receiver
While I'm not entirely sure on all particulars, I know some preliminary things that will help move this gun in the direction I plan on going.  First off, I'm going with the A4 profile on the upper receiver.  This is the same as my RRA gun, so no change there except the fact that it will also be a Mega upper receiver.  Both the forged upper and lower are 7075-T6 aluminum and anodized to a hardness of 60 Rockwell.  All of this information has been provided by Mega Arms' website.

So why not billet?  That's a good question, and aside from the obvious answer that billet is more expensive than forged components, I had to do some research to understand the benefits and detractors for both forged and billet components.  In my experience, forged components are stronger than billet components.  With my background in the auto industry and engines, I know that forged pistons are stronger than cast or billet pistons.  The holy grail of pistons are forged pistons with forged connecting rods, for they are strong.  Additionally, with proper forging, you can get strength and light weight because of how the material is compressed.  I also know that hammer forged barrels are some of the strongest in the world.  We don't see many billet barrels, and if we did, they wouldn't be on combat weapons.  Forged components are also lighter than billet, typically.  The general consensus, from what I've read is that billet is good for sport, but the gun you take to battle with you would be forged.

Mega Billet Lower Receiver
On the other hand, billet does offer some other benefits.  To start, the guns are nicer looking.  Indeed, the process of machining a gun out of a block of aluminum does lend itself to more artistic lines and adds some unique flavor to the gun.  With forged components, what you get is what you get.  You can also have the magazine wells hogged out or include things like ambidextrous safeties, enlarged trigger guards, etc.  The sky really is the limit.  Critical areas can be strengthened by adding more material.  It is said that billet guns are somewhat more accurate because they don't flex as much as forged guns.  However, when it comes to combat accuracy, MOA precision must be tempered a balance of speed, function, reliability and weight.  As forged components are inherently stronger, weigh less, and have been proven to function for years, it only makes sense to go that route.

What I want to stress is that I'm not building a race gun or a show gun.  I'm not building something that will see time only on a bench, under a cover, at the range.  This isn't going to be some safe queen that'll never get a scratch on her.  I'm building a gun that could save my life, or the lives of my family one day.  God forbid it ever has to be leveled at another human being, but should that day come, it must work.  What it looks like hardly matters at that point.

Mega Billet Upper Receiver
However, there is a sort of coolness that comes from a good looking AR15.  I will admit that the AR is a great looking black gun.  Among other things that made me switch from the FN FAL to the AR is its good looks.  Plus, lugging around 10 lbs of empty .308 rifle got annoying.

One thing I want to do is try and keep the weight down.  This is tough to do sometimes because reliability demands that the weapon be tough.  It's not always easy to accomplish being tough while being both lightweight and relatively inexpensive.  You can have two of the three things: strength, light weight, and value-pricing.  You can't have all three.  In all things, as with shooting, you have to strike the balance.

 The barrel is something I still need to figure out.  I know two things: I do not want an integrated gas block and front sight.  I have one on my RRA, and it is great, but it severely limits my ability to customize the gun, unless I take it off and get a low profile block.  This is exactly what I intend to do on the next gun; go with a low profile gas block and cover it with a rail.  Depending on how long a barrel I choose, I will either go mid length gas or go rifle length.  I have more research to do in that department.  Many say that the barrel is the heart of the gun, so I want to be careful in what barrel I choose to mount on this weapon.  It would be a shame to stick a low quality barrel on a high quality receiver set.

All in all, this is my 2012 project.  There will be periodic updates as I go.  Remember, these are only my opinions based on my experience and research.  As with anything on the internet, take what you read or see with a grain of salt.

-James

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