For those of you who have been following my newest AR-15 build on my YouTube channel, you will know that it has caused me some headaches. When taking on the hobby of building AR-15’s, sometimes things just do not go as planned. I try and create a learning experience for my viewers by showing my AR-15 builds when they work and also when they don’t.
To quote author Patrick Sweeney from his book, The AR-15: Volume 1, “The AR-15 is deceptive: It is both the easiest rifle to home-gunsmith, and can be the most maddening to get properly assembled and reliably functioning.” This proved especially true for me when I finished building my 10.5” AR-15 pistol. As I expected, the assembly went just fine and without a hitch. When it came to test firing it – well, that was a different story.
After three weeks (it could have been four) of Googling, forum surfing, troubleshooting and just plain scratching my head, I contacted my friend Ben from AR15news.com to see if he could offer any advice. We both agreed that I had tried just about everything I could and he told me, “call Dustin at CIV Tactical. Dustin is the man (my first visualization was “The Dude” when he said that) and will get it working for you, guaranteed.” So, I contacted Dustin, asked for his help and filled him in on what I was experiencing: failures to feed, failures to extract and failures to eject. Dustin said, “send it to me, this will be fun.” My AR-15 upper was on its way to him the very next day.
CIV Tactical received my upper and Dustin got to work preforming his complete blueprinting and accurizing service. This service included the following:
– Barrels are lapped to the upper receiver (blueprinted)
– Chamber polished
– Gas port diameter checked
– Feedramps checked
– Barrel dimpled for proper gas block alignment
– Match gauge headspaced
– BCG fully inspected and tested
Because I wanted this to be a learning experience for both me and the individuals that follow me on social media, I had requested that Dustin do me a personal favor of taking some pictures of the process and sharing with me what he discovered was the ultimate issue. For my build, CIV Tactical started out by lapping my upper receiver face to perfectly match that of my barrel’s extension. Think of it as taking fraternal twins and turning them into almost identical ones; and instead of twins it’s two pieces of metal.
Next, Dustin polished the chamber to an almost mirror finish. He did this by placing my barrel in his lathe running at 755 rpm while using a mandrel and 400 micron jeweler’s cloth. Apparently my chamber had rough tooling rings left over in it from the manufacturing process. It is not that uncommon, but per Dustin, “dude, that chamber was rough.”
With my chamber now gleaming, Dustin placed my barrel back into his lathe to address the burr on the muzzle. “There’s a big burr right at the lands and grooves from the factory cut…it’s just not good enough, ya know?” While removing the burr, he also added a bevel to the crown and said, “This is what you want, a nice bevel right at the lands and grooves.” He followed up with another mirror-like polishing on the crown. Even with a 10.5” barrel, I could potentially gain some extra accuracy from this process.
Dustin closely inspected and tested my gas block and barrel’s gas port. He concluded that my gas block was indeed leaking but my gas port size was correct. “Your gas block just doesn’t fit right“, he said. My barrel came from the factory with one gas block dimple already on it, which is normal. Because gas blocks come in different lengths, manufacturers will typically only place one dimple directly opposite of the gas port since almost all gas blocks with set screws will match up with it. Dustin replaced my gas block and placed a second dimple on the barrel to match up with it; “proper dimpling and alignment” achievement unlocked.
I have found that a number of individuals disagree with me by being a proponent for always checking headspace no matter where the barrel, barrel extension and bolt come from or who makes them. Believe it or not, this was the first build where I didn’t check headspace – lesson learned. Dustin discovered that my headspace was too tight. Fortunately he was able to achieve proper headspace by swapping bolts and I am certainly glad he did. I almost danced when he said, “you’re right at 1.464” which is the go-gauge. You are correct now.”
One of the last symptoms that my upper was experiencing from its apparent case of not-working-correctly-itus was its feed ramps. Both M4 feed ramps lined up correctly but the ramps in the barrel extension slightly protruded which created a slight lip. To alleviate any potential for stuck rounds and feeding issues, Dr. Dustin prescribed some fitting and polishing. Simple enough, but would ultimately lead to better function and reliability in the end.
Dustin showed a lot of dedication to this project when I asked him why he was working on a Sunday and he said, “Yeah! Sunday gun-day! Only thing left is to test fire it.” I anxiously waited for him to let me know how everything functioned during the test and was surprised when he actually sent me a video of him rapid firing it without a single issue.
Even though I had to admit defeat by not being able to finish the troubleshooting battle, I remain aware that there is still a lot to be learned and experienced when it comes to building an AR-15. My experience with Dustin and CIV Tactical was definitely a learning experience and I am appreciative of the fact that Dustin took the extra time to take pictures and communicate with me about what problems he was discovering.
Maybe you or someone you know has an AR-15 that has come down with a dreaded case of not-working-correctly-itus like mine did. Or, maybe you want it to operate better or potentially achieve greater accuracy. If that is the case and you want more information on how to do so, you can visit the website for CIV Tactical or give them a call at 510-637-8650.
About the author: Nate Schultz, or nsz85 as some may know him, works in the field of law enforcement, is a content producer for his YouTube channel and a writer for The Arms Guide. He is an avid shooter and hobbiest gunsmith. Most of Nate’s videos and articles are focused on helping new people who are just getting into firearms or want to learn more about how to work on them at home. If you are interested in following or contacting Nate, you can get in touch with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.