What makes a quality rifle?

Discussion in 'Black Rifle Forum' started by surf, Aug 8, 2011.

  1. A couple of locked threads really have a good basis for a point to be made, but of course threads like that tend to take a nose dive quickly and end up locked and for good reason. Having said that I will attempt to give a rational way of looking at this weapon platform in regards to quality. These same things might be applied to other weapon systems.

    First we should be aware of a few key terms and their definitions and why they might be important to this weapon. Such as Mil-Spec, TDP etc...First off we need to understand the need for these standards as standardization benefits commonality amongst parts, makers, reliability and costs. These standards are set forth by the US Dept of Defense. Keeping this in mind here are a few key terms....

    "Mil-Spec" Short for "Military Specification". This term is related to the actual quality or standards for materials purchased and used. This is not an overall build standard, just a materials standard.

    "Mil-STD" Short for Defense Standard. This would be what outlines specific differences in engineering and technical requirements for military unique items or alterations to commercial designs, processes, procedures, standards etc...This would include standards for design, manufacturing, practices/procedures and testing standards.

    "Mil-PRF" Short for Performance Specification. This is a Performance Specification that an item is expected to achieve under specific use and conditions. This spec does not provide for the manner of testing to be used, just the end goal to be achieved.

    "Mil-DTL" Short for Detail Specification. This encompasses all design requirements including materials used, processes, including fabrication or construction / assembly. This may also be inclusive of performance specifications.

    "TDP" Short for Technical Data Package. Or more correctly "MIL-HDBK" which is the military handbook that will encompass all of the above in regards to any item produced for the military.

    Now we all understand that "if its good enough for the government" isn't always a good thing. I will also note that the above mentioned standards or "TDP" is a baseline or minimal set of standards that need to be followed. There is nothing saying that this is the absolute best standard as you can get materials, testing and build standards that may exceed these military standards.

    Here is the uniqueness with the M16/M4/AR platform of weapon, but is not just exclusive to this weapon. It is known and accepted by not only the Government and military, but also civilian engineering experts in the firearms industry also agree that there are certain specific areas on this platform of weapon that should be addressed to ensure maximum reliability, even under the most extreme uses. This includes materials, testing process, build techniques, and quality assurance. This does not guarantee that every single item will not fail, or that a lemon won't get out the door, but it will very much cut down the likelihood of producing a sub-standard final product that ends up in the end users hands.

    Having said all of the above, either you make a rifle that would meet or exceed Military Specifications under the Technical Data Package for this weapon system, or you don't. Of course only those supplying weapons under contract and under the scrutiny of gov inspectors can actually ever be considered a rifle built to military specifications under the correct TDP. If an item has NOT been tested and produced under military contract it is NOT MIL-SPEC. This does not mean that a company cannot use the same materials and conduct their own testing in the same manner as the government, but it is not truly MIL-SPEC. It may meet similar standards, but to truly be MIL-SPEC, it needs to be under Gov contract and go under Gov inspections.

    You have some manufacturers who take the time, effort and invest the money on quality materials, quality build process, quality testing and quality quality control. They often spend the money on replicating building rifles along the guidelines of the TDP (commonly referred to as Mil-SPEC). They undeniably produce a high quality product that will withstand more harsh use and there will be less chance for failure. Again there are still going to be issues, but far far less and often much less severe of problems.

    Now there are other manufacturers who might use very good quality materials with decent build standards and have good quality control and they would make a very good rifle also. But they would clearly not have the likelihood of building as good of a rifle as the above manufacturers who build towards the Govs TDP standard. However these rifles will more than likely give a shooter a lifetime of great shooting pleasure.

    Next you have those, who would chose the least desirable materials and pay little attention to quality build standards. No one is saying that their rifles are going to fall apart when you take it out of the box, however the odds of getting a really bad rifle is exponentially higher than the above manufacturers. Not saying you can't upgrade these rifles to make them reliable because usually you can. It doesn't take much effort, but the companies chose to cut costs and keep profit margins high at the expense of the consumer. Or they just produce an crap rifle, that looks like window dressing trying to hawk their goods to the uniformed who couldn't tell a good rifle from a bad one. In either case this last category of rifle / weapon maker is slimy and should be avoided anyway.

    Finally, why should any company produce a product with parts that is lesser in quality, build to a lower standard, not pay to have their parts tested and allow for more products to get out the door that have issues, yet charge just as much or more than the other guys? Which is exactly what you are seeing right now in this industry. I don't care if I don't need a Corvette when a Neon will get me from A-Z. If the damn Vette is the same price as the Neon, I know which one I am buying every time.

    That is my opinion anyway. :)

    See and I didn't even mention the "Cha.." :wavey:

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    MSW likes this.
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  3. bullittmcqueen

    bullittmcqueen Gunfighter

    Surf, an excellent post as always. Hopefully some of the new guys will take the time to read it all and not fall into the brand vs brand debate. Nice job as always. I always enjoy your knowledgeable posts.

  4. nastytrigger

    nastytrigger Mediocre Member

    My LMT SBR upper has a NSN, but my Bushy lower is 'commercial'. So, I have a half-MIL-spec rifle?

    MIL-SPEC's a word a lot of firearm industry companies throw around too much with no real explanation. Yay marketing!

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  5. Good job SURF. I vote this to be a sticky since this question comes up alot. Plus with guys like SURF in the blackrifle section of GT, it should get GT some respect. Mahalo braddah!
    #4 mixflip, Aug 8, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2011
  6. I second the sticky request although many will ignore it because "Joe" down at the "GunMart" said such'n such.
  7. Thanks guys, unfortunately those who probably NEED to read this post, probably won't take the time to do so. Then they will probably ignore the information anyway. :)
    #6 surf, Aug 9, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2011
  8. Very good post!
    3x sticky
  9. Spiffums

    Spiffums I.C.P.

    All turned in by the lowest bidder too...........
  10. Great post to define things.. I tend to read more in this forum than post as there is great information to be learned.
  11. Henry's Dad

    Henry's Dad woof, woof

    I'm one who needed the info and read it, so many thanks for posting it.

    Now for Part II: without asking you to list manufacturers (but please do so if you're inclined), is there a clearinghouse of info on which manufacturers fall into which category?

    All the info is great, but the real utility would be in knowing which companies follow which practices.
  12. mvician

    Lifetime Member

    Keep in mind that this is for the commercial made M4 style carbine.
    But if this is how a company builds one style of AR15, I'm sure it carries over into the rest of their products.

    Read this first

    Then this

    #11 mvician, Aug 10, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2011
  13. You very welcome. If only 1 person benefits from the post then it was worth my time to type it.

    As for part II, I intentionally did not get into manufacturers and their own choices in material, build, test and quality control standards because when you start naming names, people who own various rifles will inevitably become offended and attempt to justify their purchase. In reality we really do not need to justify anything. We just need to understand the facts and understand what we are purchasing and what our needs are and then just be happy with what we have and enjoy what we are doing.

    I also avoided posting the links that were included by mvician because again people start comparing what they own to these statistics and often become offended and again need to attempt to validate their choices. Which again is not necessary and generally means that these types of threads become pissing matches even though the facts are what they are. Even though I didn't post the links, I am very much OK with mvician posting them and quite agree with those links as the most accurate reference materials. This also will pretty much answer your question in regards to a "checklist" in which we can compare manufacturers and their offerings in this platform. They are only a part of the puzzle when selecting a weapon but they are very key things to consider when purchasing this weapon, or getting a good evaluation of the product offered by each manufacturer.

    For myself and this is only my personal preference I tend to like product (parts or complete weapons) from Colt, Noveske, Daniel Defense, LMT and Bravo Company. There are others that have good stuff but in general these are my go to manufacturers. I will also say for the BC haters, that I do not own a complete BC rifle, only parts from them.
  14. Henry's Dad

    Henry's Dad woof, woof

    Thanks to both you and mvician. Between the two posts I have a wealth of info to use for my first assembly project. This is great stuff.
  15. About time somebody put milspec in a proper perspective.

    I will disagree with this part though:
    Not being bound by a milspec can be a blessing. Milspec materials, finishes and processes are hardly state of the art these days. A company can build a rifle superior to anything .gov issues precisely because it doesn’t have to follow “milpsec”. Noveske rifles are a good example of that. The only advantage “milpsec” gives is that once the rifle is accepted by the government you know exactly what you’re getting and what to expect.

    Definitions of what is the best for a military or civilian (even SD-oriented) shooter do differ. For example precision becomes more and weight becomes less of an issue for a civilian. A civilian will more willingly accept the increased cost and doesn’t care about sustained fire capability. So in fact a company aimed to build an ideal AR for civilian will have to deviate from milspec.
  16. Not always,

    Sometime they are just written so a govt program manager can get a contract in the right congressman district so his program will get funded.

    Reember colt has had a sole source contract for the m4. It was not competitively bid or proven to be better then anything.

    I'd love to type more but I'm on my phone on a bus to my job where my office window overlooks the pentagon.

    And I'm chuckling at the folks who use all the mil spec terms to try and justify there purchases.
    #15 vafish, Aug 17, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011
    MSW likes this.
  17. I like my bushmaster,but wish I would have looked into it better before buying.I got the xm15 shoety spec.the muzzle breal or whatever its called is permenently attached,and the carrying handle is also,which makes it almost impossible to add a red dot scope to.I like the rifle and way it handles,but wish I would have paid more attention to those 2 things before buying...
  18. I do note that there are companies who surpass milspec materials and perhaps build or testing standards which is a very good thing and I agree with your sentiments. However the part that you quote I am referencing companies who build to a lower quality of parts, build and testing standards. Sorry if that was not clear in my post.

    While I don't necessarily disagree with how contracts may be won or lost, a consumer using some type of standard in which to judge potential quality of their purchase is not a bad thing either.

    Also even though Colt holds the TDP, FN also produces certain weapons in this platform as a part of the gov contract. So there is another company and other vendors profiting from the gov contract.
  19. faawrenchbndr

    faawrenchbndr DirtyThirty fan

    Great post,........
  20. You can write all you want. Post spreadsheets. People can read them and discuss them but I think the most important thing a person can do when buying an AR-15 (or anything else to a certain extent, see 1911 forums for similar pissing contests) is to stop and think what they want this thing for.

    Ask yourself am I a hobbiest or an enthusiast?

    Ask yourself what is it going to be used for?

    What is your budget? What is in that price range?

    Then finally what matters to you most about the weapon?
  21. Cole125

    Silver Member

    :thumbsup: Great post, it will be very helpful for people new to the AR world no question.

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