The best way I see it, Anybody can spend some huge cash and buy essentially the most superific, whizbangious , extra special operatortorious, and ermagerd expensive AR-15 in the marketplace, after which proclaim it the best functioning rifle one should buy. Identical to an individual can buy a hammer, or buy an Eastwing framing hammer… both will do the job for 95% of the people who need a hammer. The professional carpenter though, might appreciate the extra quality of the Eastwing.
Yeah…. I own an Eastwing, a hand me down from my Dad who DID use it professionally. What I do not own is a hyper-expensive whiz bang AR-15. Instead, I’ve just a few I put together myself and enjoy shooting quite a bit. Are they fancy? Nope. Do They Function? Yes… to this point at 100% with not a single issue.
With that in mind, I was curious concerning the cheaper incarnations of such beasties. Will they function reliably? Sure, they might not be pretty, but will they hammer the nail every time or not?
Figuring to begin with an affordable complete upper, as I had just assembled a lower and it was wanting a top half… I procured a PTAC complete slick side upper from Palmetto State Armory. It came complete with a bolt group and charging handle, A-2 style front sight, and inbuilt rail on the receiver. All this, for less than $269. Pinned to the completed Rock River lower, your entire rifle came in just over $500. Nicknamed ‘El Cheapo’, it certainly looked the part. No forward assist, no dust cover, and a wide open field of possibilities for sighting, since it had none on the back.
What I really wanted to know was… wouldn’t it function reliably? Lets face it, what can a man expect from an upper receiver group that cost under $300 shipped to the door?
I determined to provide it a tough run, and see what it could do. Short of burying it in sand, I figured the harshest thing I could inflict on an AR upper is to run it bone dry for an extended round count. On this case, I pulled the number 500 out of…. um….. the air. 500 rounds on a dry and dusty AR-15, a platform that once had a reputation for being fussy about cleanliness and lubrication.
The fine folks at Wideners Reloading and Shooting supply got
wind of this, and sent along a giant box of Federal 55 grain ammo. The American Eagle number in the Federal lineup, it could also be certainly one of the most well-liked AR fodders available. Good quality, reliable, and never too pricey. A solid choice for this test. Take note…. Supplying the ammo for this was Wideners idea. They are a bunch of shooters just like us, and seem dedicated to their sport and their customers. It is likely to be a thought to incorporate them on the list of oldsters we do business with, seeing as how they’ve been serving shooters for a protracted, very long time now.
The rifle had an Eotech holographic sight mounted on it, for ease of shooting. Also… it is just plain fun to shoot with. A comment: It seemed funny to have a sight installed that cost more than the whole rifle put together.
Range time with El Cheapo and the PTAC upper; This really falls into two categories. Functionality, and accuracy.
Accuracy was reasonable from the PTAC with 50 yard groups under 2″ and 100 groups hovering slightly below 4″ Now, if this was an expensive upper those numbers would upset me, but not so for a $269 unit. The thing is, maybe this rifle is more accurate than that. Recently I have been questioning my aging eyesight when it comes to more precise shooting, and the Eotech
gives no magnification to assist my elderly peepers. To that end, once i get a spare scope and the gumption, I will mount some glass on this rifle and really go after it’s best accuracy.
That leaves function. Here, I don’t have anything to report. Nothing…. and i mean nothing. Failures to feed? Nope… nothing. It chambered every single round perfectly. Failures to fire? Nope…. nothing there either. Bangity Bangity like boring clockwork. Failures to extract? Again, nothing to report.
What else is there to say? 500 rounds on a bone dry AR upper, of the cheapest kind I could locate, and not one malfunction of any kind.
Now, I know that may change if the round count on the rifle was 5000 rounds instead of 500, or even 10,000 rounds. I might never expect a direct impingement design AR to go uncleaned and un-lubricated that long. It would be a hateful thing to subject any rifle too, not to mention a dirt cheap M4-gery.
The final word…. would I recommend this PTAC upper to someone who wanted to build an inexpensive but functional AR-15? I can only say Yes, I’d. I will be keeping this one, and glad to have it. My next AR-build will probably be something a bit nicer, but I don’t have any qualms at hauling El Cheapo out of the safe and putting rounds down range with it.