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Is the piston AR a "fad"?

Discussion in 'Black Rifle Forum' started by txpitdog, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. txpitdog


    Aug 18, 2006
    It appears that piston AR's are the new thing or next step. I've read enough about them to understand the potential advantages of the piston system, but with everyone getting in on the 5.56 wagon, I am wondering if it is more of a marketing tool. There's the AK crowd that claims the AR is the jammiest thing since Smuckers; there's the "military buff" crowd that tout all the problems with the M4 and that the army is too cheap to do something about it; and then there's Joe Schmo that wants whatever is new and whatever is on the shelf. Not that these piston uppers aren't quality, but will they REALLY allow us to cram mud in them and then rapid fire a 30rd clip as the AK crowd claims is possible with their beloved spray and pray AK?
  2. Jon_R


    May 3, 2009
    Central Florida
    If the mud is in the chamber or bolt face piston or no piston it is not going to work.

    Overall I think the piston is a solution in search of a problem. Other then keeping the handguards cooler I don't see the advantages. If you need high sustained rates of fire you need a machine gun not a carbine/rifle.

  3. faawrenchbndr

    faawrenchbndr DirtyThirty fan CLM

    Nov 24, 2005
    Forst off,...I'm not a fan of the piston. I've been shooting the
    M16 & AR15 platform for 25 years.

    The piston's main advantage is it keeps the carbon and the heat out
    of the chamber. However, does the Average Joe need a piston AR?
    I doubt it, I've never had an AR malfunction due to heat/dirty chamber.
    I have had magazine related malfunctions.
  4. madecov

    madecov book em' Danno

    Another big problem currently is the lack of interchangeable parts. Every manufacturer is doing something different.

    With a standard DI system I can get parts anywhere
  5. Chuck TX

    Chuck TX CLM

    Jul 11, 2003
    Republic of Texas
    Yes. Until they do it right it's a fad IMO. Trades one problem for another. DI makes the BCG hot, pistons make the handguards heat up. Get rid of both issues and you might have something.
  6. c5367

    c5367 Esq.

    Aug 1, 2003
    It seems like the piston arrangement has some advantages in extreme usage situations, but my experience with the good ol' M16A2 suggests that those advantages are in the abstract for the most part.
    Admittedly, it might be different with carbine length gas DI systems. That said my Rock River DI carbine was 100%, (but never tortured like my service rifles back in the day) so my personal experience says the piston system is just the latest gimmick to get people to buy new guns. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

    My own personal experience with burst equipped and civvie semi-auto DI rifles has me convinced that the DI system works just fine. YMMV, of course.

    I suppose if they cost the exact same, I'd opt for a well done piston (LWRC, LMT, etc) because I can see the advantages in the abstract or extreme use situation that my now-nasty-civilian self will never see. But, given the current price differential, those abstract advantages and delusions of tacticool grandeur aren't worth $500-900 to me.

    For all those reason Once someone buys my bike (shameless, I know) I'm planning on getting another DI carbine and putting the 5-900 I save toward ammo and range time, which I KNOW will benefit me more than having a piston will.
  7. PlasticGuy


    Jul 10, 2000
    My feeling is that it is a short transition period on the way to a more standardized and permanent solution. Maybe it will be the SCAR, or maybe it will be something else. The key is that there is a lot of people dissatisfied with the AR15, and no clear replacement yet.
  8. RWBlue


    Jan 24, 2004
    It depends on what you want.

    I think it might be right for the military to do a piston system. It may allow them to run it a little longer between cleanings.

    For me, I will continue to use the DI. It works. I run my gun wet. Theoretically I should be more accurate with a DI. From what I have seen it is easier to adjust subsonic & suppressed fire.
  9. TheChosenOne


    Dec 5, 2009
    Doesn't something have to be popular for at least a small portion of time to be considered a fad? I don't think the pistons have even reached that benchmark.
  10. HogGlocker

    HogGlocker Owner Since 88'

    Like some counterparts above, I've been shooting this platform for about 20 years or so.

    Fad, I say. I've owned civilian Colt, Bushamster, Rock River and S&W.

    My issued service rifles have been Colt and FN. FN being my last in A2 form. For a DI burst system in Iraq it most certainly worked and did its job. It allowed me to come home so I've no issues with that system.

    I kept it clean and it did its job.

    Personally see no reason to get lathered up about a piston rig.
  11. faawrenchbndr

    faawrenchbndr DirtyThirty fan CLM

    Nov 24, 2005
    Very well spoken HogGlocker,.........thanks for saving me a bit of typing! :thumbsup:
  12. USMC03


    May 3, 2001
    Southern Colorado
    As a frame of reference I have been hosting 2 to 5 tactical training classes a year, every year since 2001. A side from the classes I host I also take other training classes. I've been a full time Police Officer for 14 years, I've been a SWAT cop for 11 years, and I'm a Firearms Instructor for my agency, our Police Academy, SWAT Team, and SWAT Academy. Prior to that I was in the Marine Corps (Infantry / Security Forces).

    In the early 60's when the M16 first came on line there were several important people that wanted to see the M16 fail. So troops were told that they didn't have to clean their guns, they used the wrong powder in the ammo (ie. they were suppose to use stick powder and they used ball powder), etc. By doing this the M16 got a reputation as being an unreliable platform.

    In my opinion the reason that the direct impingement gas system (DI) has gotten such a bad reputation in recent years is because people go out an buy low end AR's or they try to build a AR from parts from various manufacturers. They end up with a gun that is unreliable and this feeds into the myth that the DI gas system is unreliable.

    When I was in the USMC the main malfunctions were caused from shooting blanks and magazine related. I had seen a hand full of other problems, but they were far and few between.

    In the training classes that I host and take on my own and from the AR15's that I see in training and qualification courses at work. Colt, LMT, BCM, Noveske, etc. run well. While CMMG, DPMS, Olympic Arms, Bushmaster, Stag Arms, RRA and others have a high number of reliablity problems.

    Piston guns. I have seen a lot of piston guns that have had problems. I have never seen a POF make it through an entire class without problems. About half the Sigs that I have seen have had problems. About 1/3 of the LWRC guns I have seen have had problems.

    From my experience piston guns

    -have a sharper recoil impulse
    -they are heavier
    -piston system guns are more expensive
    -the different piston systems are new and haven't had the time to be as thouroughly tested as the DI gas system
    -many of the piston system operate on a slightly different system

    Piston systems on the AR15 is a fairly new concept (most within the last decade). The DI gas system in use on the AR15 has been in service for close to 60 years, this has given engineers time to work the bugs out of the DI system. Not the same can be said for the piston systems used on the AR platform.

    In my opinion the piston system is not needed on the AR15 and it exists because guys buy lower end AR15's, many of these lower end AR15's are not reliable, and when a shoorter buys or builds an unreliable AR15 it feeds into the myth that the DI gas system is unreliable. DI gas system AR15's are not created equal. There are different levels of quality.

    Pat Rogers has a DI gas system BCM upper that had 26,000 rounds through it before it was ever cleaned. Currently it has just shy of 29,000 rounds on it. Read this article for more info:

    03designgroup | BCM Complete AR15 Upper and Lower Receivers [​IMG]

    In short I see no need to buy a piston upper. Buy a QUALITY DI gas system AR15 and use quality ammo, quality magazine, lube it, and it will run without any issues.

    Just my .02 cents based on my experience.
  13. faawrenchbndr

    faawrenchbndr DirtyThirty fan CLM

    Nov 24, 2005
    USMC03,.....thanks for the time and input. :thumbsup:

    Have you seen any XCRs show up in any classes?
  14. USMC03


    May 3, 2001
    Southern Colorado

    I have only seen one. The guy was having either feeding or extraction problems and ended up switching to an AR less than half way through the course.

    I wasn't able find out what types of problems he was having.

    Considering it was only one sample I did't feel it was worth mentioning.

    Not bashing piston systems on the AR, when the piston system first came on the scene I was pretty excited about them. After some exposure to piston systems and learning more about them I have come to realize that on the AR15 the Direct Impingement gas system is the way to go on the AR15.

    Just my experiences base on my first hand, real world experiences.
  15. A progression. Armalite wanted to sell the Government in the first place, the U.S. Air Force pushed the adoption of the M16 through. Look up the story very sick. :puking:
  16. faawrenchbndr

    faawrenchbndr DirtyThirty fan CLM

    Nov 24, 2005
    I understand what you're saying Jeff, and I appreciate it.

    I had a XCR a few years back, sold it when I could not
    get any spare parts from Robinson. It had not shot it but
    about 1500 rounds. It was flawless, but about 500 rounds
    was the most at a time I ever shot it.

    Thanks again,............:supergrin:
  17. Remington700VS


    May 8, 2008
    Gotta love the sweat, blood and experience from these guys at BCM...

    Thank you USMC03 for working for BCM and spreading the word about their great products.
  18. USMC03


    May 3, 2001
    Southern Colorado

    I don't work for BCM, I'm not employeed by BCM ..... I'm just a consumer of AR products just like you.

    The info I post is information based on my first hand experiences from training classes, work, and competition.
  19. Remington700VS


    May 8, 2008
    Gotta love BCM consistency...

    ; )
  20. jbremount


    Apr 17, 2005
    I will have to say, IMHO, this is not a fad, this is a "tangible improvement" to the AR platform. Shoot a 30 round clip through the piston gun, take bolt and carrier apart and you can see the difference. The more rounds you shoot, the more you see the difference in the bolt and carrier. The 77gr majic bullet or some majic twist rate may be a fad. The rubber o-ring you can buy a home depot may be a fad, but the piston system brings real improvements to the AR gun. Guys, do you really think the big players in the game such as LMT,HK, Ruger,PWS, LWRC and a host of others are spending this much money and time to promote a fad? Private companies have to make the right decisions as to what products are temporary fads vs possible premanent and tangible improvements. Wrong decision and they lose market share and ultimately have to lay off employees/etc. Would you tell your production managers that the pistons units are just a fad. Would you say, we don't need to make a piston gun, DI will be here forever, and the piston will go away like a bad dream.

    Decisions like this is why managers/CEO's make the big bucks.