Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

Retro AR’s

I’ve always been a fan of older model AR carbines. The problem with these rifles is that the originals are expensive, and then since it’s a collector’s item you kind of hate to take it to the range. The alternative to owning and original is to build a “retro” carbine that looks like the original, but doesn’t cost so much you’re afraid to actually use it.

In the past the only way to build a retro rifle was to find old factory parts for sale. When you could find these parts they were expensive. Now several companies offer quality reproductions of these pieces. Need an A1 upper without the external forward assist? Looking for the original style retractable stock, which were made from aluminum and coated with a plastic finish? No problem.

If you’re not sure what type rifle you want to build an excellent resource on older carbines is the website www.retroblackrifle.com. I thought I knew a good bit about the older models until I discovered this site. It has details of all earlier models, along with parts lists and identifying features, including factory prototype models. Another good source of information is the “The Black Rifle” series of books written by Stevens and Ezell. These books go into incredible detail on development of the AR type rifles.

For parts like uppers, lowers, and assorted other pieces the place to go is NoDak Spud, (www.nodakspud.com). The Spud guys have been in business since 2005, and produce their own forgings of old style uppers, lowers, and assorted other parts to perfection.

For a repro Vietnam era aluminum two-position retractable stock Essential Arms, (www.essentialarms.com) is the source. Although I haven’t ordered one of these repro stocks yet my sources tell me they are exact replicas of the originals, which sell for $450 or more when you can actually locate one. If you’re more into the A1 fixed stock go to Fulton Armory, (www.fulton-armory.com). They produce a well-made copy of the A1 stock, complete with trapdoor, buffer tube, buffer, and spring, and the correct length stock screw.

For handguards I personally like the old-school triangular type, especially on a 16-inch barrel rifle. This used to be a difficult task, but Model 1 Sales, (www.model1sales.com ) solved this problem with a set of handguards that use the standard delta ring on the rear, and a triangular front cap. All you have to do is remove the front sight, replace the front cap with the triangular cap, and install the handguards.

Creating a retro rifle, or your own personalized version of an old-school carbine, is a fun project, and guaranteed to be admired by your range buddies. Plus they are simple, lightweight, and easy to operate, which makes them good weapons for personal defense.

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September 19, 2010 - Posted by | AR-15

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