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AR15 make over

AR15 make over

It must have been about two years ago that I bought my latest Southern Gun Co Speedmaster, straight-pull AR15, making it five in total as I recall. I have always favoured this brand, as I reckon owner Bob Clark builds a damn good AR! I’ve had the original heavy fluted, 1” diameter 20”barrelled version, along with CAR15-types, a dedicated High Power Rifle model and a more modern build. My last harked back to my original (pre-1988) Practical Rifle (PR) roots, it being a military-style A2 – 20” H-Bar barrel with flash hider, round plastic forend, iron sights, fixed butt and A2-stype pistol grip. This is by far my favourite look, though I opted for a flat-top receiver and a removable D-Handle rear sight, which allowed me the option of optics if I wanted.

HAPPY BUT!

The A2 was everything I wanted, but as it turned out I wanted more! No complaints on the rifle, which like all Speedmasters is a serious shooter. Lovely for iron sight shooting; a skill I like to keep up and good for PR-type use, but for the sheer pleasure of shooting tight groups at longer ranges or foxes and varmints; capable yes, but lacking a little! The changes I opted for might seem at first to be mainly cosmetic, but all were carefully considered as to their practicality. Some did not live totally up to expectations, but still gave more than they took! However, the basic premise of the SGC Speedmaster remains – a well thought out design that takes into account the issues with manually-operated AR15s and solves them! Being mainly built to customer requirements prices will vary as to what you want and a ball park figure starts at £1596. SGC has a ‘gun builder’ programme on their website so you can build the rifle how you want to a budget, or just go dog crazy and let your plastic take the strain!

The rifle uses the Mk III, flat-top (Picatinny) upper receiver, which offers a heavier build. This has been done to allow an ambidextrous side-cocking ability with no loss of strength or rigidity. I say this as yes, you can slot the standard AR upper to make it a side-cocker, but removing material from what is a slim build anyway is perhaps not the best idea for a number of reasons.

FIXED AND FOLDING

The right side shows an adjustable angle, dog leg handle, that positions the hand far enough back to stop the ejecting case bouncing back in the action if it hits your hand; a lesson soon learned from the early Speedmaster! On the left is an SLR-like, folding handle in a slide, which is great for left handers and also bipod use as you shoot with the right hand and cock with the left! The lower is pretty much standard AR, which is good enough.

Striking a reasonable balance between accuracy and handling is the H-BAR barrel, built with a heavy/fluted rear end, the stainless tube emerges from the forend a medium-weight profile threaded ½ x 28 UNEF. At 20” long with 1-8” rifling twist it’s surprisingly ammo – friendly, handling weights from 55 to 75-grains. Unless specified, rifles come with a standard trigger, which you can live with; but there is better!

DRESS UP

From starting its life as a rather narrow minded, military A2 build with a bias towards iron sights, the Speedmaster has now become a rather hi-tec jack of all trades. My original intention was to just get a basic, round float tube to do the job, something like the Hogue, over-moulded I had on my first Speedmaster.

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However last year North West Custom Parts (NWCP) sent me a selection of new forends and the one that caught my eye was the 13”,Trinity Force P1812. Triangular in section it’s slim yet free floats effectively and offers a hand-filling shape without being too big, plus it uses the K-Mod system, so no great lengths of Picatinny rail where you don’t need them. It has an integral Picatinny at 12 o’clock, which is fine, and comes with two shorter sections, which I use for a torch front/ left and a forward handgrip underneath! Being flat based, it rests easily on most surfaces.

Fitting is simple enough as all you need is an AR spanner and Suffolk Rifle kindly did the job for me as they have the tools. The forend slides on to an extended barrel nut and clamps by twin cross screws, so making it nice and rigid at this all-important juncture. I had to grind off the two anti-rotation lugs, as the front of the SGC upper is flanged, but that was the work of minutes. To this I added a Harris bipod adaptor and compact hand stop from Odin Works, the latter is great for off-hand shooting.

GATHERING MOMENTUM

The trigger - I had previously dropped a slightly better hammer in along with some lighter weight springs and it had improved things a bit. It was at this time Suffolk Rifle started selling the Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF) Revolt straight-pull ARs complete with drop in trigger unit. It’s offered with a straight blade at 4.5 lb pull (standard) and the 4 lb, Enhanced Finger Placement (EFP) unit. I opted for the standard, which gives a crisp and easy break and works well!

Up until this time I had not planned on changing the butt, thinking the original, fixed A2 unit would be fine. However, NWCP sent me a LUTH-AR to try and I really liked it. With its adjustable length of pull and comb height it allows me to tailor my position for my chosen sights and shooting use!

LOWER RECEIVER

The lower receiver came with a Magpul MIAD pistol grip. This is a fuller design to the A2, with a rear, fill-in section that positions the hand/trigger finger further back to give a better 1st pad position. It offers various depths and shapes of front and back straps to suit your hand. SGC also supplied an ambidextrous safety paddle for the right side, as the rifles’ standard safety is cut to accept this addition. In use this modification makes it a tad faster to set SAFE using the right hand thumb. A final indulgence was the Odin Works extended mag button, not essential but it extends the catch rearwards, making operation easier. Inside, as with all my ARs was an AccuWedge, which takes up the unavoidable slack between upper and lower receiver halves.

SIGHTING SYSTEMS

The multi-roll ethos of my Speedmaster meant three sighting systems. One – Magpul MBUS emergency sights. I did not foresee any last ditch stands, but as I said I like the discipline and challenge of irons, which adds another dimension to my shooting. The majority of my work would be either longer range target, steels or foxes, small deer and vermin, and I decided to try Hawke’s Endurance 4-16x50 with 223/308 BDC reticule. It’s set out to 700 yards in 50 and 100 yard increments and calibrated for 55-grain (223) and 155-grain (308) Hornady TAP loads. Once you learn your drops in relation to the reticule and ballistics it’s an effective performer – full test next month. The final item was a Vortex Viper PST 1-4x24; this compact little scope with its TMCQ reticule is a great choice for any AR15 owner with practical-type shooting in mind. Turrets are tactical-types with a simple, zero stop system on elevation, with an illuminated reticule.

A moderator would be required and I opted for one of my favourites, the Wildcat EVO 10 reflex. The beauty of this build is that you can swap baffle stacks (diffusers) and the muzzle thread adaptors (bridges) to mix and match on calibres. Feed comes from Magpul 10, 20 and 30-round P-Mags and the old reliable Colt-style alloy 20-rounders. Ammo is reloads and I have been working up various loads given my needs; for range work, Sierra 69-grain BTHP and Tipped Match Kings using 24-grains of Ram Shot TAC powder is a proven and reliable recipe. Though GGG’s 62-grain FMJ factory is a good off-the-shelf option too! For fox, small deer and varmints a Hornady 55-grain V-MAX, though I am playing with 60 and 65-grain soft point too. These loads are all still in development stage at the moment.

Overall I’m very pleased with my re-think on my Speedmaster, as it has turned it into a much more versatile rifle. My choices are just that and there are a lot of other options on furniture, accessories and optics that will offer near the same solutions, which is all down to personal tastes and your budget! Most AR builders will offer near the same accessories and I have credited the individuals I used with what they supplied.

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