The same day I fired the inaugural shots out of the first AR-15 that I built I also was also able to shoot a friend’s mid-length gas system AR. I immediately knew that I had made a newbie mistake by going with the carbine-length system on my 14.5″ AR. The mid-length had a softer recoil impulse and allowed for very quick follow-up shots. After putting thousands of rounds downrange over nearly two years, and much of those rounds during competition, I finally decided to upgrade to a mid-length gas system upper receiver group.
PALMETTO STATE ARMORY’S LIGHTWEIGHT UPPER RECEIVER GROUP
Recently I caught one of the Daily Deals from Palmetto State Armory that had a great price on a stripped upper assembly. The upper is a 16” barrel with a mid-length gas system and has other desirable features such as being Cold Hammer Forged, chrome lined and M4 feed ramps. In addition, PSA’s barrels are supplied by FN so I know the quality will be there.
I have purchased items from Palmetto State Armory in the past, in fact my lower parts kit, receiver extension (buffer tube), spring and buffer came from them. I have always found them to have decent prices for a decent product and would recommend doing business with them.
COMPARISON: 14.5″ CARBINE VS. 16″ MID-LENGTH
There are some key differences in the DS Arms upper receiver assembly I was using before and the new upper receiver assembly from Palmetto State Armory that you can see in the photo. The DS Arms upper is a 1:9 twist, 14.5” barrel with a pinned and welded BattleComp 2.0 flash hider (for an overall length of 16.5″) and a carbine length gas system. The PSA upper is a 1:7 twist, 16″ barrel with an A2 flash hider and a mid-length gas system. From the photo you can see the noticeable difference between the 7” carbine and the 9” mid-length gas system.
SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE LIMITED OPTICS SETUP
Swapped over my Aimpoint Comp M2.
Added a Magpul MOE Handguard. I dig the feel of the MOE Handguard and of course the rifle furniture has to match.
I changed out the stock A2 flash hider for the Jerry Miculek Compensator. The Miculek Comp drastically reduces muzzle rise allowing for super quick follow-up shots but trades all that for some pretty serious muzzle blast out the sides. People next to you on a traditional firing line will hate you.
I have not built the perfect Multi-Gun rifle by any means. What I have built is a budget 3-Gun rifle that serves dual purpose as both a competition and defense rifle. This rifle setup as it sits now should be good for many thousands of rounds and will hold up well for competitions until my skill has outpaced my gear and I build a proper, dedicated 3-Gun rifle. Right now the largest improvement that I could make would be replacing the mil-spec trigger with a nice match trigger. That will likely have to wait for the next build.
I was a little concerned about the accuracy of the 1:7 twist barrel with the 55 grain mil-spec ammo that I shoot but was rewarded with decent 1 MOA groups on my first outing. Considering the tolerance stacking that occurs with a 4 MOA dot on the Aimpoint Comp M2, I was pleased with the groups and didn’t mess with it any further. The first real test of my upgraded AR-15’s capabilities was at the long-range Multi-Gun Training Day that I host at my local range. The rifle performed fine from prone and in any unconventional position that we shot out to 300 yards. I have about 200 rounds on it now and am looking forward to getting a few thousand more downrange before I upgrade again.
If you’re looking to build a budget three gun AR-15 rifle I highly recommend checking out Palmetto State Armory’s uppers and adding some simple upgrades including a Miculek Compensator and Magpul MOE Handguard.