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COLT MSRP: $1250*





Altogether, Colt puts out the rifle to beat. There is one minor issue you might want to know about before you buy your Colt.

Non-milspec FCG pins

Colt uses non-standard size Fire Control Group pins. This makes it impossible to switch trigger groups from a Colt to an LMT/RRA/CMMG/or anyone else. Colt is the ONLY manufacturer doing this. Most aftermarket triggers make both standard pins, and non-standard pins, so this isn’t much of an issue, but it would stink to go out and buy an aftermarket trigger only to find out it won’t fit.

Other than the political differences I have with Colt, I would gladly choose a Colt LE6920 to go into harm's way. The issue listed above should be ranked somewhere between minor and frivolous compared to the excellent product you would be getting by buying a Colt.
Here's some more pics:

M4 Feedramps:



Properly Staked Gas Key:



Barrel Markings:



"F" Marked FSB:



In summary: it's a BUY.

*****THANKS BEAVO451 FOR THE PICS OF YOUR COLT LE6920!!*****

*Price taken from my personal knowledge. One other problem with Colts, is that they bow at the altar of the Military, and only release LE guns every now and then when they have overruns. This makes the price fluctuate wildly. At times, LE6920s can be found for $1150, but don't count on it! Other times they can only be found for $1400 and UP!
 

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LMT MSRP: $1123*


Believe it or not, THIS is the best picture I can find of an LMT online.

Shockingly, LMT does not use taper pins on the FSB, they do not parkerize under the FSB, nor do they come with double heat shielded guards nor the "H" buffer.

As far as the buffer goes, who cares if it runs. I've never heard of people complaining that their LMT rifles don't run well without a buffer swap, so this doesn't bother me in the slightest.

The heat shielded handguards is (again) really just for full-auto, but LMT is of such high quality (and price) that I figured they would include them. Oh well...

However, it is the lack of taper pins that actually surprises me the most. I am shocked that LMT does not use the most proven method of fixing the FSB to the barrel. Instead, LMT uses STRAIGHT pins to attach the FSB. While this method has not caused any FSBs to come loose on LMT rifles (that I know of), it still leaves a blank on the chart. I don't think this should cause any great concern.

The parkerizing (as mentioned above) is really just a trivial matter that most will never realize. It's just one of those "attention to detail" matters.

In summary: it's a BUY.

*Price taken from their website by adding the cost of a complete lower and upper in M4 configuration with enhanced bolt. $1050 for standard rifle without enhanced bolt.

IF YOU HAVE CLOSEUP PICTURES OF AN LMT CARBINE, PLEASE PM ME WITH THE LINKS!
 

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Noveske N4 MSRP: $1395*



14.5" Cold Hammer Forged Barrel, 1 in 7" twist, 5.56mm
--Made of Mil Spec M249 Machine Gun barrel steel, with heavy M249 Chrome Lining,
(appx. 2 times as thick as an M4 or M16)
--Smith Vortex Flash Suppressor
--Vltor Carbine buttstock
--Tango Down pistol grip
--Flip Up Rear Sight
--One 30 rd mag included



The Noveske N4 hits on all cylinders! The one blank on the chart is the black insert. While this looks surprising, the black insert is not the only way to get a carbine to extract. O-rings, Defender Rings, and double springs also work. Noveske's bolt uses a Viton-2 O-Ring over the extractor spring. This should be considered a "check" for that blank, but the chart is limited.

The price is the highest of the group, but it comes standard with the most accessories. The Tango Down Battlegrip is $30 compared to a $5 A2 grip, the Vortex FH is $50 compared to a $5 A2 birdcage, the rear sight (no brand named) is easily worth $50, and the VLTOR modstock goes for about $50 more than a standard M4 stock. That's $180 worth of accessories you are getting included (whether you wanted them or not!?)

In summary: it's a BUY.

*Price taken from their website

IF YOU HAVE CLOSEUP PICTURES OF A NOVESKE N4, PLEASE PM ME WITH THE LINKS!
 

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CMMG MSRP: $815*


But it will not come with a carry handle if you buy it in two parts.



On the chart, CMMG is to the right of both S&W and Sabre Defense, but I don't know why. I personally consider the manufacturer that provides the bells and whistles as an upgrade option to be "higher" than those which do not.

CMMG's base rifle comes complete with a standard bolt, which is fine for 99% of users. In fact, this is the bolt that is in my rifle. However, if you want the "bells and whistles", and you don't mind parting with another $30, then you can upgrade to the EGRESS bolt, which has the following:

-Extractor and ejector springs are chrome silicon
-Single coil gas ring
-E-Ring and Mil-Spec Black Extractor Insert

This checks off most of the blanks on the chart except for the "properly staked gas key." Well, it's true, CMMG FORMERLY did not use the "proper" technique set out in Colt's TDP, but let's take a look. Here is MY bolt carrier which was bought circa 2005:



Notice the screws (circled in red) have been "set" by the slash cuts. That is not the "correct" way to do it, but it had worked for me. I would like for it to be "properly" staked, but like LMT's use of straight pins, CMMG does not suffer from any negative reputation for gas keys coming loose.

CMMG currently ships all carriers with properly staked gas keys. Warpig8654 has provided this picture of a recently purchased CMMG carrier which is properly staked:



In addition, I checked with Jeff at CMMG to be sure this was now standard. He informed me that not only is this standard, but he also advised that all of their bolts are shot peened and MP tested. Their barrels are certified rifle grade mil spec 4150 steel and are MP tested. They are also going to implement staking the castle nut, but haven't started yet. In addition, they now use a 5 position mil spec receiver extensions on all builds, just like Colt does.

As for the buffer, just like Noveske, if it works it works. CMMG offers the "Standard" buffer at no charge, and only adds $10 if you want the "H" buffer, or "H2" buffer. (If you want the Tungsten buffer it's a bit more.)

One really neat thing about the CMMG, is that the M16 bolt carrier is a free option. Just click it in the drop-down menu and it's yours. I like this carrier, because it's slightly heavier, delaying the unlocking just a tad bit. It's the correct carrier, which Colt now includes in the LE6920. It does NOT make your rifle somehow "illegal" for having an M16 part in the rifle. That is a myth.

Here's the CMMG M16 carrier:



Check out the M4 feedramps on the CMMG. Beautiful!



And of course the firing pin is fully shrouded:



In Summary: it's a BUY!

*Price taken from their website by adding the price of a complete lower and upper in M4 configuration
 

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S&W M&P15 MSRP: $989*



This rifle is a fine rifle in most aspects, and will serve its user well. Let me speak to just a few issues:

The barrel is not offered in 1/7 twist, and it does not come with M4 feedramps. While the manufacturer claims it comes with a F-marked FSB, reports indicate this is not true. No parkerizing under the FSB, no double heat-shielded handguards, but most importantly, no lifetime warranty.

While nearly all of the above issues are forgivable, the lack of a warranty makes this option extremely distasteful. I'd like to think S&W will stand behind the products they market (not sure they actually MAKE this rifle), but they do not have a written warranty and I have no knowledge of personal experience with returns.

In Summary: it's a buy, but a guarded buy.

*Price taken from Talon Arms, MSRP was actually $1300

IF YOU HAVE CLOSEUP PICTURES OF A S&W M&P15 CARBINE, PLEASE PM ME WITH THE LINKS!
 

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Sabre Defense MSRP: $1089*



While Sabre does not have some of the "Voodoo" specified by the TDP, it is nonetheless a fine rifle. It lacks only the double heat shields and the "H" buffer.

However, Sabre, like S&W, does not have a written lifetime warranty. This causes me concern. Although it appears to be a fine rifle built with the correct parts, it doesn't have that security blanket of a company that stands behind it's product.

In summary: it's a buy.

*price taken from Gunbroker, MSRP was actually $1300.

IF YOU HAVE CLOSEUP PICTURES OF A SABRE DEFENSE CARBINE, PLEASE PM ME WITH THE LINKS!
 

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STAG MSRP: $925*



Obviously Stag doesn't buy in to the Voodoo, or at least they don't think YOU do! ;)

Their bolts are Magnetic Particle Inspected (which is the most important part to test), and they chrome line their bores/chambers. The rest of the QC in the TDP is AWOL (enough acronyms for ya?)

They obviously save some money by scrimping on the details, as seen by the following:

No M4 feedramps
No 1/7 barrels
No "H" buffers
No double heat-shield handguards

However, as I said before, no M4 feedramps is better than poor feedramps. In addition, 1/9 gets the job done, buffers are easily swapped if you have any issues, same as handguards.

I received closeup pictures from Beavo451, and they clearly show the FSB to be "F-marked." The chart shows this a advertised, but unconfirmed. This is now confirmed as far as I'm concerned.

F-marked FSB


Obviously the gas key is not properly staked, but you can decide if it's good enough for your peace of mind or not.

Gas key staking


Barrel markings showing 1/9 twist


Rifle feedramps


In all, I think it's a good compromise. You could save a lot of money getting this rifle, then throwing in an LMT bolt if you just HAD to have the QC checks and upgrades in your bolt.

In summary: it's a compromise buy.

***By the way, do you see how closely the Stag and S&W are in comparison? The difference is the bolt carrier group!***

*Price taken from their website for a M4 rifle with ARMS #40L
 

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BUSHMASTER MSRP: $879*





Ah, Bushy. I have three of these. I have stated elsewhere, and I will say it again, if I lost these three rifles in a fire/theft, I would replace them with CMMG rifles. So don't take the fact that I have three of them as being any kind of an endorsement. On the other hand, I don't have any plans to sell any of them, and one rides out on patrol with me every night. :)

Bushmaster seems to have missed the party when it was decided how to make a "good" AR-15. They just kinda went their own way, and since they are the No.1 producer (and have been for a WHILE), they get to.

Let's see, NONE of the voodoo, none of the bolt upgrades, gas key staking is a JOKE!



See how the sides are barely dimpled? They should be dimpled all the way to the screwheads, locking them in place. Sheesh... I guess they "tried?" In addition, the carrier does not shroud the firing pin, leaving it exposed. I don't know if this is detrimental to the firing pin, but I have thousands of rounds out of mine with no ill effects. Here's what I mean:



I have been advised that Bushmaster now ships bolt carriers with fully shrouded firing pins and properly staked gas keys. I haven't seen the pictures yet, but will post them if I get them. Standby!

The bolt carriers are standard AR-15 (semi-auto) carriers, as you will be able to see in the below pic by the bottom of the carrier. (Compare it to the above CMMG M16 bolt carrier.)



There's a question as to whether the barrels are actually made of 4150 steel or the softer 4140. Understand, 4140 steel is good steel. No problems, really as long as it's chrome-lined (which it is), but if you advertise one thing, don't use something else.

Their standard barrel for the M4A3 Patrolman's Carbine is 1/9 twist, 5.56NATO chambered, chrome-lined 4150 steel. This is a good barrel. If you want, you can order one with a 1/7 twist and get M4 feedramps to boot. However, I question the quality of these ramps, having not ever seen them. They might just be dremeled in there as far as I know. This is what the standard (non-M4) feedramps look like on the M4A3 Patrolman's Carbine:



No "H" buffer, no staking on the castle nut, commercial buffer tube, no F-marked FSB, and no parkerizing under the FSB. But, they use taper pins to keep the FSB in place and ships with double heat-shielded handguards (CAR handguards, not the thicker M4 handguards.)

My opinion of Bushmaster rifles is the following: If yours works, GREAT! If it doesn't, you know what it needs. Either upgrade the bolt using a CMMG EGRESS bolt upgrade kit, or just buy an LMT enhanced bolt. You can always get the gas key staked afterwards.

As for Bushmaster not having a written lifetime warranty, I know I had an issue with my first Bushmaster rifle. It's barrel was overtorqued, and shot to the right. I called Bushmaster and they had me send it in to get repaired...free. So even though I am wary of the lack of written warranty, my experience is that they stand behind their products.

In summary: it's a compromise buy.

*Price taken from Gunbroker for a NIB M4A3. Actual MSRP from Bushmaster is $1230
 

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Rock River Arms MSRP: $835*


Just ignore the specs, and the carry handle. This is the only pic I could find.



This company has made a HUGE name for itself, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because they LOOK most like the Colt than any of the rest? They come standard with the M4 double heat-shielded handguards and the side sling swivel, which is nice if you run a Spec Ops Mamba sling (or any other that needs that piece.) The barrel out front of the F-marked FSB has the M203 notch cut, which makes it LOOK like the Gov't Profile M4 barrel (but really isn't anywhere close!) The complete rifles come standard with RRA Nat'l Match 2-stage triggers, which is SWEET! They have a nice logo (no stupid deer head, or snake), and their prices are reasonable. But what REALLY pushed the fans over the edge is when they won the DEA contract.

The DEA chose to go with a chrome-lined barrel, whereas that is an option for their standard rifles. The Pro Government Series rifle is a 16" version of the DEA package rifle, and it comes with all the accessories included, and it would make a fine rifle (albeit expensive.)

So the only voodoo that RRA has is the black insert in the extractor. That's not bad, but it leaves a lot to be desired. It's basically the same rifle as the Bushmaster, except it does come with an F-marked FSB, but it doesn't use taper pins to hold that FSB on.

No M4 Feedramps:



Gas Key not properly staked:



The firing pin is fully shrouded in the bolt carrier:



The RRA rifle is a nice rifle, if you could get one with a different barrel. In fact, you can. RRA makes stainless steel barrels a factory option, which is the route I took when I bought mine! It's a very nice Wilson 1/8 twist with a Wylde chamber. Very nice barrel on a nice upper receiver. Oh, and speaking of the receiver, it is T-marked in the picatinny rails and has a nice laser engraved logo on the top of the flattop receiver.

The best thing about RRA is the ability to get JUST what you want. They can be had in carbine length, midlength, and rifle length. You can get uppers, lowers, internal parts, etc... They will accomodate different calibers, different barrels, and different types of carry handles (tactical carry handles, Dominator mount, etc...)

So my opinion of RRA is high, it is just guarded. Know before you buy. Select the options that give you the best rifle, and don't buy off the shelf. If you buy RRA, order one.

In summary: order one with the correct specs and you'll be fine!

*Price taken from their website by adding the lower and upper in M4 configuration with the standard trigger (not the 2-stage NM.) This actually includes the upgrade to chrome-lined 1/7 twist gov't profile barrel!
 

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I'm not going to speak to Olympic and DPMS, except to say that at least Olympic's chambers are in-spec!

I can't see how anyone could actually recommend one of these rifles with a straight face.

These are well on down the slippery slope that separates the "fighting rifles" from the "recreational shooters." Please observe the difference, and do not recommend a plinker as a serious combat arm.

I just got these pictures of an Olympic Arms rifle from ThursCo.

No M4 feedramps:



They didn't even attempt to stake the Gas Key screws:



The firing pin, however, is fully shrouded:

 

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AND FINALLY, WHAT WE'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR... MY PICK

I will now go into my own personal pick, why I like it, and why I think you'll like it, too!

As you might have guessed, I will pick CMMG every time. Here are a few pics of my CMMG rifle:







Why did I pick the CMMG over the Noveske or LMT? Price.

Let's look at the price breakdown in descending order:

Noveske N4: $1395
Colt LE6920: $1250
LMT: $1123
Sabre Defense: $1089
S&W: $989
Stag: $925 (includes BUIS, but is not offered w/out one)
Bushmaster: $879
Rock River Arms: $835
CMMG: $815

With the CMMG, even if you add $100 for the LMT enhanced bolt upgrade, you're still only paying $915, which is STILL lower than everything but Bushy and RRA (both of which would also benefit from the LMT bolt!)

So for the rifle that is the cheapest of the group when bought the right way ($1025 if you buy the complete rifle), it ranks as one of the highest. In addition, I don't see some of the "features" as true "benefits" (staked castle nut, etc.)

Lastly, I have been more than impressed with the customer service from CMMG. They have again stepped up, and offered to replace my bolt carrier for free, in order to provide a bolt carrier which is properly staked. I don’t think I’m going to take him up on it, but the offer was much appreciated!

So THAT is why I say, "CMMG" when asked "what brand AR should I buy?"

Now that I have decided which brand, let's look at which specific model I'd get.

As I said up at the top, each person has his own tactical parameters he must adhere to. One of mine is that I can't carry NFA toys (SBRs, Sound Suppressors, etc..) on duty. This means my barrel length has to be 16" long, and since I don't like welded on FHs, the actual BARREL must be 16".

If I'm stuck with a 16" barrel, I will choose a Midlength gas system in order to get the most out of my rifle. If this were to be a SWAT gun, and I could carry a SBR (Short Barreled Rifle), I would get the carbine length gas system in a 10.5" barrel. I can't think of a reason I would want a 20" rifle, but to each his own.

With the midlength gas system chosen, I will also want a gov't profile (or equivalent) barrel weight. The barrel will be 1/7 twist chrome-lined and will have M4 feedramps, F-marked FSB, etc... CMMG offers this exact rifle, and you'd better believe I'd be ordering it. I'd go ahead and get the bolt upgrade to the EGRESS, or if I have the extra cash, get the LMT enhanced bolt.

As for rails, I've already stated I can't have them on my rifle, so I'd just get the standard tapered handguards. Since I'm assuming this would be for patrol use, I would mount an EOTech on the flattop, and put a LaRue fixed BUIS behind it. This is my current setup, so no surprise there.

I'd keep the current light mount I'm running (TDI bayonet lug mount), but I'd put one of the newer M3X lights with a rifle plate on the back. This would give me more "throw", but keep the lockout capabilties I have now. Another option would be the SSL-1 or the Blackhawk weaponlight that just came out. Either way, it would be a small unit with around 100 lumens and rated as weapongrade.

I'd add a side sling swivel and run a Spec-Ops Mamba, as I have on almost all my rifles.

My favorite stock setup is a Hogue pistol grip w/ Gapper, and a Magpul CTR stock. The rifle would feed from Magpul P-Mags ($14ea) and would be loaded with Hornday TAP 75g OTM.

This rifle would ride safely in an Assault Systems case, which has the added benefit of a zipper flap to keep the zipper from scratching up your new bang-stick.

SAVING MONEY BY BUYING SMART!

But HOW I order it is very important. Pay attention!

I will not order one of the complete rifles listed on CMMG's website for $1025. I will order the complete upper setup just the way I want it and have it shipped to my house. I will then (on a different day) order the complete lower and have it shipped to my local gunshop (FFL dealer.)

This will save me a LOT of money, as all complete firearms include the Federal Excise Tax, which is 10%. It also saves you from spending money on the carry handle which will promptly be removed and stored in your parts bin, never to see the sunlight again ($100.) It's true, manufacturers usually don't send a user's manual, magazine, or cheap plastic case when you just buy an upper, but the manual can be had for free (call them and ask for one), the magazines are only $10, and I've got a bunch of extra cases if you really want one! Mine stay in the safe at home, and I have soft-sided cases for my rifles as they ride better in the trunk that way.

If you're not sure about shipping to an FFL, go to your local gunshop, tell them you are an officer and need help getting an AR lower shipped to them. They'll help you out. They usually charge <$50 for transferring a firearm, but they might give you an even better deal if you are indeed a LEO.

If this is just TOO much for you to handle, you probably have a gunshow coming up in an area nearby. Most likely there will be at least one vendor who has AR-15 lower receivers for sale (at least that's true around D/FW, TX.) The lower receiver is not a big deal, and does not need to match the upper. They usually cost around $250 for a complete lower, depending on which manufacturer you go with (+/- $50.)

I don't add in the cost of shipping, because it's usually not more than sales tax would otherwise be. It's a wash either way, and everything ends up costing a little more than the advertised price.

AND THAT'S IT FOLKS. I'M DONE. IF YOU HAVE FURTHER QUESTIONS OR NEED CLARIFICATION ON ANY POINT I MADE, FEEL FREE TO PM ME OR POST YOUR QUESTION IN THIS THREAD. THANKS FOR READING, AND THANKS TO THE MANY PEOPLE WHO HAVE PUBLICLY AND PRIVATELY THANKED ME FOR THIS EFFORT.
 

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Beers are on me if you make it out to Denver.. this should help this community immensely!
 

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Discussion Starter #37
Thank you very much for taking the time to come here and join our group and take the time to re-post this thread for us.
This is the best thought out, useful guide to a newcomer to the AR15. :cool:



Mike
 

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This is the perfect AR15 101 I was looking for! Jwise this answered so many questions and I really appreciate it! I'm starting my build next month and am not going in blind now! Thanks!

TOTP
 

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Funny, a few of us have mentioned most of this before, and were scawfed at. He even posted " The Chart". I guess its more en-vogue from a different horses mouth.

Anyway...its a cool write up. Love the M4 feed ramp pics. I'm also curious why LMT doesn't use tapered pins.
 
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