Last year, I became one of them; I wound up with a AR-15.
Stop groaning; I'd heard the stories too, but a lot of digging was done beforehand(different story) that convinced me they'd fixed their problems. As to why that cartridge?
I did NOT want to add another cartridge to the mix I already have.
7.62x39 is legal for deer.
I just didn't want a .223.
So, I started learning the cleaning drill(following Anarchangels' advice), and manual of arms, and finding some sights. And stuff(Lord, all the STUFF you can stick on one...). So I thought I'd go over some of the things I've learned the past while. First, on the rifle itself.
I'd always heard the 'craps where it eats' stuff about how dirty they get from the direct impingement system, and how unreliable they are, etc. Also, when going through stuff at Arfcom, the opinions on how much to lube go to... extremes.* This is where Chris' post came in; simple and straightforward. Sent it to son in Army to see what he thought, who pronounced "That's a LOT better than most of the crap you hear(partial blame on him for my getting this, he convinced me this might be a good rifle to have)."
Using both factory ammo and handloads, I've found it to be not very dirty at all. As in "What's all the bitching about?" Chris' advice has worked nicely, it's been both fast and easy to clean.
The exception has been steel-case ammo(yes, I tried some Wolf); that leaves a LOT more fouling in the action, thus taking more time and effort to clean, but not a lot; mostly more CLP on more cloth to get it all out.
Why try it at all? I just wanted to know if it would fire reliably, and how dirty it would be in comparison.
I don't think there's much argument that a good AR can be quite accurate. In this cartridge, with good ammo, I've gotten 1" groups at 100 yards, and I'm looking forward to a chance to try it at longer distances. That 1" is with all factory ammo I've tried and the handloads I've tried(Hornady softpoints and FMJ, some ZMAX, and H4198 for powder); seems remarkably unpicky about ammo, long as it functions it shoots pretty tight).
The exception was the Wolf: it all went bang, and ejected and fed, but accuracy was nowhere near that of the other stuff. Something for emergency use only, your results may vary. This stuff has always been minute-of-clay-pigeon from a SKS, I'll note.
The only problem I've had was due to magazines, not the rifle; the platform itself has just kept working(I'll cover the magazine problem below) with one exception: my hammer pin broke. Unusual; as son put it "That hardly EVER happens!" So a pair was ordered, both the hammer and trigger pins replaced, and the remaining one kept as a spare. Yes, I'll be getting another when can; I like the idea of spares.
My only gripe there was the standard grip wasn't comfortable. A horrible problem solved by putting on a Hogue. No, I did not lose any springs or plungers in the process. Not quite as easy to manipulate the safety with the bigger grip, but I like it anyway.
Everything else is good. Yes the AR-10 receiver I saw with a bolt release on both sides was nice, but that's not an essential.
I paid a few dollars extra for the factory trigger job, and it's worth it: no creep and breaks clean. You could lighten it further, but for a general-use rifle this is fine.
Yes, that heavy barrel definitely adds weight, and just for the hell of
it I can see building an upper with a lightweight barrel, but since this
is primarily a target/hunting rifle, not really a problem.
The possibilities are mind-boggling: irons, dots, scopes, mounts. I wanted a red dot, and a set of irons for backup. Choices, choices... and yes, money was a factor.** This having a flat-top gas block, I'd need a front and rear for irons.
For the dot, I wound up using a Bushnell TRS-25. Son had one he'd been using for a couple of years with no problems, and it overall has good reviews. No, it's not a Aimpoint; but it can be had for less than a hundred bucks. I stuck it on a UTG riser to get it high enough, and it's worked very well. The sight's never shifted zero, and is still on the original battery. The riser, I couldn't ask more of. It's solid, fits well, and I've taken the unit off and put it back on numerous times and it's always stayed zeroed. It's a decent sight setup for a little under a hundred.
On iron sights
For the front I didn't want to risk melting a MagPul front sight, so looked around, and decided to try using a set of UTG irons(shut up, see 'money' and 'factor' above). No, not as precise as MagPul or something similar, but as backup sights they work. They've never shifted, and the front post doesn't wobble. I'm not as accurate with them as with the Bushnell, but that could well be my eyes.
Later on, I wanted to try out a scope. And yes, some people are going to scream when they read this: I'd picked up a spotting scope of the Hunter brand a couple of years back, and it's worked quite well. So when I found a 1-4x in that brand, I decided to give it a try. It's been on and off a few times, it's had a few hundred rounds fired under it, and no problems. Run it from 1x to 4x, no shift in POI, and it's held zero. No, the optics aren't as good as, say, a Trijicon Accupoint, but they're sharp and clear at a price I could afford. So far, so good.
And, to compound my sin, I used a set of off-brand extra-tall rings. They work. And, interestingly, I could take the scope off and put it back on without zero shifting. Inexpensive, but good.
As noted above, you can hang so much crap off an AR that it weighs more than a Thompson SMG with a hundred-round drum. Loaded.
I didn't want that, but I have done three things:
Primary Arms had the BAD levers on sale a while back, and I got one. I like it.
Brownells had a sale on a couple of months back on stocks. This rifle came with a A2 rifle-length stock, which I like. And then this sale showed up, and I thought about it, and got the SOPMOD set: carbine extension tube, spring, buffer and stock. I'd picked up a armorors wrench, and changing them out didn't take much.
Why? Partly because "I want it!", partly because, if I get a chance to be terminally rude to Bambi in the future, sometimes it gets damn cold in the woods in November, and being able to adjust the stock length for coat and such seems like a good thing.
The small thing: I drilled and tapped the forend at the front for a sling swivel stud.
Couple of companies make AR mags with followers and- with standard-capacity mags- body curve designed for the more-tapered 7.62x39 cartridge. I'd heard that you could load up to five rounds in a standard 5.56 mag and it'd work; it does(In a five-round 5.56 mag you can only fit three 7.62 cartridges unless you modify the spring, in case you're wondering).
Speaking of, just to try it I picked up a couple of GI mags and cut them down to make a five and a ten-round magazine. Getting it right to hold the floorplate in was a pain, but they worked.
Here's the big thing:
Yes, when I wrote about the loads developed with the X-Treme plated bullets I was writing about my rifle. With them I'd occasionally have one of those flat noses hang up on the front of the magazine and not feed. No big deal for practice ammo, but on occasion something else happened: a round would hang up with the case mouth caught on that same spot. And that happened with ball as well as the practice stuff. Not good. Little digging led to this video; apparently this is not an uncommon thing, probably because of the greater taper of the case causing the cartridges to move forward at a slightly different angle. So I tried their fix: disassembled a magazine, use a dremel to cut that front lip down ~3/16", shaped a bevel on the inside, then used a flapsander wheel to smooth and polish it all. It worked.
So I did the same mod to half the magazines I had, then loaded five rounds of the practice stuff in each and took them to the range next visit. Why five? I'd found if there was going to be a problem it would be in that first five, and if it'd work with the plated stuff, it'd work with ball or softpoints.
With breaks every couple of mags to keep the heat down I went through all of them without a single FTF. I think that's problem solved. Yes, it's a pain having to do it, at least it's not a almost-unfixable-type problem.
After having the thing for most of a year, I've become fond of it. It's accurate, reliable, easy to clean and easy to use, and if you've got the money and desire it's a friggin' Lego gun so far as modifying it.
As an aside, part of the reason for the AR-10 project idea was I had a chance to fire one in .308 one day. I was impressed with how the design tamed-down the recoil of that cartridge. Which brings me back to the upper I picked up with the idea of a build; putting together a lower is pretty standard, but for the cartridge... what to do, what to do...
*As in "Clean and lube, put it muzzle-down on newspaper overnight, if there are not oil stains on the paper in the morning you didn't use enough" on the wet side. No. I refuse to even consider this level of crap.
**Fact: any optic not of a name brand- preferably a higher-end- is a crapshoot.
Fact: lots of people, picking up a ACOG or Leupold or such isn't really an option. At least if they want to be able to buy ammo.
Fact: same for iron sights. A GOOD name-brand set is wonderful; if you're getting a set as backup in case your optic breaks, and you're a door-kicker in hostile places, you buy the best you can find, or if you're just willing to scrape to pay for the quality, you do; if you're not(or can't), and just want a way to aim if your optic craps out, you're going to look at lower-cost.
Yes, I'm aware that tomorrow the scope might start wandering like that Pentax red-dot I tried years ago. If it does, I'll have to deal with it.