So… you wanna build an SBR?
Okay, I’ll play ball, but first the all-important question: “why?” Why do you want an SBR? This is something only you can answer, but there’s a few different arguments for building one. My personal argument is that “task drives design” in many ways. Yes you can do CQC work with a 16” rifle, much like you can drive a nail with a crescent wrench or turn a screw with a knife blade, but is it the BEST POSSIBLE TOOL FOR THE TASK? No. Similarly, there are plenty of other options on the market for a truck/backpack gun in pistol calibers like the KRISS Vector, Sig MPX, or a dozen others, but the SBR allows you to have the capabilities of a rifle in a much more maneuverable package, as well as being able to utilize the vast ocean of parts and accessories on the market, and having the interchangeable magazines and familiar controls of a rifle you likely already own. Finally, there simply is not enough of a difference between a 16” AR and a 7.5” AR in performance to convince me I need the extra 8.5” of barrel. My 7.5” is not THAT much louder, not THAT much “snappier” with recoil or rise, and still reliably rings steel at 400 yards and beyond. In the environment in which I live (heavily wooded with deciduous/coniferous trees, rolling hills, biggest natural threats are bobcats, coyotes, and idiots with hunting permits) this is more than sufficient for my tasks. I also focus largely on CQC training, vehicle training, and engagements that take place under 100 yds when running these ARs.
One of the primary arguments against the SBR is the $200 tax stamp, $40 engraving, and $97 trust making it “more expensive.” Let me clear this one up right now: look at the difference in cost between a quality 7.5” or 10.5” barrel and the same quality 16” as well as the difference in going up in length on a quality rail, and there’s your $350, so that’s a moot point. Another one is that you don’t want to register your S/N with the government in case they decide to come take them all away. Well, all I can say for that one is that if they want them, they are going to come get them, registered or not, but if this is a big concern then maybe SBR ownership just isn’t for you.
Personally, I wanted to do an SBR build because recently there’ve been some pretty serious changes to the legal structure of the SBR legislation and it’s got everyone rushing to build before the deadline pops and all of our legal trusts turn to expensive scratch pads. I decided to go one step further with my build, however, and challenged myself to build a sub 5 pound AR, with a piston system. I did a little research, asked a few questions, and contacted a few companies.
I finally decided to go all out, and started my build with the new Battle Arms Development Monolithic Lower kit. Now it may seem like a pricey place to start out, but keep in mind that it comes with EVERYTHING you need but the trigger. After contacting the company and telling them about my build plans they hooked me up with several pieces that saved a couple of ounces (and remember, ounces equal pounds). So I had my lower, complete with a nifty little pistol grip that converts to a variety of angles depending on what the end user feels comfortable. The lower comes with “ambi” controls already installed with nice, large, textured pads that are both familiar and easy to find in the middle of rapid operation. The lines of the lower are very industrial and offer solid traction while reducing weight. The PDW stock has a single operating button underneath and slides smoothly along the two rails to either collapse down to nothing or extend out to a comfortable length that allows steady control of the rifle. The buffer system on the Monolithic Lower is interesting, as it offers a 2-stage spring system that helps reduce recoil but works with any standard BCG. I fed my personal affliction and dropped in a LanTac edition 3.5 pound, single-stage CMC trigger with the included anti-roll pins and finished out my lower.
When it came to the upper I was presented with a variety of options, even though the receiver itself had already been selected by my matchy-matchy OCD as a lightweight Battle Arms Development receiver. The BAD upper matches the textured, industrial lines of the lower and keeps the design looking sharp. I went ahead and went with the BAD 7.5” Ultramatch Lightrigid 416R SS fluted barrel in .223 Wylde. This was an easy choice because the quality of these barrels has already been proven, but I couldn’t find anything else on the market that could compare in weight, and again, that was the goal.
Now, as I said earlier, I was shooting for a sub 5 pound AR, with a piston. So when it came to the impingement system I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go but Adams Arms. I picked up a Nickle Boron coated, Low Mass bolt with my kit and rounded it out with a Voodoo Arms completion kit. The most difficult and worrisome part of the installation was putting the bushing into the upper receiver. Now don’t worry, it’s not hard. You put a little lithium grease on the bushing, use the included drive rod and a hammer and tap it in, but when you have this much money already in the build it’s a little bit never racking to beat on your new parts with a hammer! Once that was in, a few simple turns of a wrench and I was up and running! (Side note: I was NOT up and running, because I hadn’t disassembled the bolt and found the tiny o-ring that is wrapped around the extractor spring and stops the bolt from ejecting the round. Don’t be like me, pull your o-ring BEFORE you get all of your buddies around and look like an idiot.)
After finally getting all of that together, I covered the business end in a Fortis REV II 7” rail and a slapped a spare LanTac muzzle device on it. While the LanTac is a solid piece, I’m not 100% sold on it for this build. I topped it off with a Vortex Venom 3 MOA red dot scope and a Vortex spare battery holder and it was off to the range! After fixing the minor issue that I discussed earlier, I was rocking out rounds like I was on the clock. I picked-and-plucked the foam out of my Pelican 1450 case and now it holds the rifle (broken down into upper/lower, although it fits completely assembled in my 1500 case), 4 mags, and a sling.
All and all, I have to say that I am absolutely blown away by the performance out of this little pew-stick. I put it on the scale and with the optic and spare battery holder it’s at a slim 5 pounds, 2 ounces and a stubby little 20.25 inches tip to tip. This nasty little stick will most definitely find its way into the ranks as my go-to truck gun or as a backpack gun.