There are a few basic principles to building one of these rifles that are basically the same, whomever you might be dealing with for your service rifle package.
Well, first of all, you would probably have to say the the barrel pretty much does the bulk of the actual work (next to the shooter of course). Match barrels are a very hot topic to the very top-top-top guys, i am not sure it is
All that great big a deal to the expert (or below) shooter. One of the local gunsmiths in my area is very well renowned in the local high power scene, and he said there is a lot of “hype” associated with barrels, and i have tendency to agree. Don’t get me wrong, if you got the money, have at…. Can’t hurt anything, that’s for sure! I am just not convinced that a whiz-bang-barrel-from-hell is going to make as much difference as, say, in benchrest shooting.
1/2 MOA is very common with the ar-15 at the 200 line. With the very heavy bullets, 1 MOA is very common. This is usually associated with colt 1-9″ and 1-7″ h-bar barrels. This was the benchmark point of accuracy in the m-14. Guys would spend $2500 to get an m-1a that would shoot as well as a pretty “basic” ar-15.
Now, what is considered “basic” just depends on who you’re talking too. Let’s assume that you have some sort of starting point to build your ar-15 paper killer. How about we just say you’ve got that colt a-2 h-bar just sitting around, and it does a hell of a number on tin cans with surplus 55 fmj ammo you buy at the gun show. This could be the rifle that gets you to the master’s class. A colt 20″ 1-7″ barrel is said to shoot 69-80 gr. Match bullets very well. My 1-9″ will digest 69 sierra’s at 1 moa. This is better than me (at this point). A 1-9″ will be fine until you hit the 600 yard mark. The heavier bullets should really help for the big leap (even though the 69 sierra was considered to be the heavy bullet-before the days of the 80 gr. Vld). My local club only goes to 300 yards, so, to tell the truth, my 1-9″ would be fine for that distance.
There are those among us who feel that there are advantages worth a few extra dollars (especially when it’s our pride on the line). I have to admit that I feel very guilty sometimes about spending a lot of money on “toys”. (This doesn’t mean that I occasionally deal with the guilt and do it anyway).
When I was in college, my wife and I didn’t have a pot to piss in. I was really into my model airplanes. I was competing every other weekend in the summer (and playing a lot of golf when I was supposed to be in class). There were a lot of guys that were more like I am now, “screw it I’ll just buy something better, rather than spend a lot of time”. In precision aerobatics it was some new engine or carbon fiber tuned pipe, a pile of really light balsa, or some super kit that I could not afford. I really felt that it was a little unfair that I couldn’t just pick up the phone and order a whole batch of new gear every year. Hell, I was happy to be able to buy fuel, much less some custom made engine or super pattern killer! Well, anyway, I digress….
A few years ago, before my mystery equilibrium illness that led to my early retirement from controlline precision aerobatics, I had a chance to compete at the national level. Not read about it or hear about second hand. I was there, and all the top dudes were there. These guys were good, i mean good, and, yes, the top guys had all the cool gear and all the latest shit. There were about 5 guys that were in a different class, i mean they were out there, and there equipment did make a little difference, but the main thing was that these guys had there fecal matter collated. There stuff was wound. Kind of like when people say that nick price could play a round with a ladies’ starter set and still shoot par or below. There is some serious truth to that! (this coming from a guy who got a big bertha titanium driver for Christmas last year and played 3 rounds of golf this year).
Anyway, there a kind of a coup in the “top five” the year I went to the Nats. There was this guy who used to be a “top guy”, but had been out of the top for a while due to an illness. To describe this guy, let’s just say he didn’t care if you thought he was cool or not. He had decided he was going to kick everyone’s ass. He was taking no prisoners. Anyway, he showed up with an outdated and currently unpopular rig. It was a plane and engine combo that was considered outdated and “not competitive” by the “in crowd”. Well, suffice to say he kicked everyone’s ass without mercy!
In your face! Yah! Take that! Yah! Yah!
It was great to watch, all these guys with their tuned pattern killers getting smoked by a non-conformist straight out chemotherapy. This guy was possessed. He was awesome to watch…
There was another class of guys, that were much more prevalent at the nationals, that were equally impressive. These were the regular guys. These guys ranged from just off the top five to the guys who could barely make it through the pattern without crashing. Most were somewhere in the middle. There were guys that had all the neato gear, and it didn’t make one bit of difference! They still sucked! Conversely, there were a bunch of guys that just had normal stuff and kicked ass. You could tell that there was a class of guy that never sweated the small stuff. He was more worried about burning up his engine from practicing so much. You could tell it from their pattern… Practice makes perfect.
When i sold golf equipment in college i saw it all the time. We had customers that couldn’t break wind with a golf club, but by golly they were fartin’ with a new set of pings. Hey, that’s cool. It was their money, and i was glad to sell them a new batch of clubs every time nick faldo or freddy couples won some big tournament with a new driver or radiated golf ball. I tried every set of clubs in the place. By the time i got fired for being a lazy, unmotivated asshole, i had settled on the perfect set of clubs for me. It was a set of spalding top-flite tour blades i found in a pawn shop for $50. I played blades for the next 4 years until i had to start working for a living. I couldn’t have given my clubs away in a garage sale. The chrome was gone from the faces on my 5, 7 and 8 irons. I hit so many balls the grooves were smooth.
Now let’s apply this to barrels, shall we?
Does the average guy need a $500 dollar barrel to be competitive (at his level) in service rifle? Probably not. It couldn’t hurt, though… I will give you that. If you are master class or high master, it could help to get that extra 1%. There are guys in my club that shoot at high master, and I realize these guys are just good. They are also very experienced. I mean decades of shooting! 100’s of thousands of rounds downrange! Experience is always good. This is the philosophy of our club president. He has reportedly shot some very good scores at Perry with his 1-7″ twist Colt jobbies. This was his recommendation to me. I feel it was a very good one. I just wish I had a 1-7″ H-bar a-2 to start with. Too bad I don’t. Mine is a 1-9″ A-4 receiver (not DCM legal).
i was faced with a total rebuild to even get to that point. I looked at selling my colt, but i like my colt! I looked at buying a new upper. This is good alternative. Dpms is selling their “DCM” upper through midway. This may be an excellent deal at $499 (no tax or shipping). Their barrels are made by wilson. I have heard some of the “top” gunsmiths poo-poo these barrels, but the guy who taught me to shoot high power has an ar-15 that he built (he is some kind of mack daddy m1a builder). This specimen has a ss 1-8″ wilson and he says it will shoot 1/2 moa. He just doesn’t like shooting it. He’s an m-14 guy.
after all was said and done, i just bought an armalite m15nm. Ouch… I talked to armalite and they said they could not divulge their barrel manufacturer. I thought that sucked, but one of the sales reps (monica sipp-she’s pretty cool) assured me that armalite is not in the business of pissing off their high power shooters. She said their barrel will shoot with the best of ‘em. I guess we’ll find out.
note: one of my more experienced shooter friends just bought an armalite ar-10, he says this thing shoots insane! He is reporting 1/4 moa! Right of the box! He is reportedly screwing around with the trigger a bit, but other than that it was just slap some 168 sierra’s in her and go… It was this news that convinced me to take the armalite plunge. That and the fact that i found a guy with (2) national match rifles at a gun show.
note #2: one piece of advice. Don’t be afraid to call in a serial # to the oem to make sure that you are getting what the guy says it is. This advice came from armalite! This was confirmed by my dealer who talked about some guy who was buying brand name lowers and building guns. The oem would be shocked to get a warranty job on a rifle, that was never a rifle! This guy was using all kinds of parts to build these guns. Be aware that a $600 match rifle is just too good a deal.
fulton armory is building, what appears to be, a cadillac upper. The kreiger barrel cannot be argued with much (unless you sell the douglass). Be aware of this fact, though, the fulton upper is mostly armalite match stuff. Their 2 stage trigger is also armalite. Their match sights are made in-house and their receivers are government contract mil-spec. I don’t think it sounds like a bad deal though, all things considered.
For the skinny on barrels from fulton go to:
Barrel article #1
Barrel article #2
i cannot comment much on bushmaster or olympic. Bushmaster appears to be first class outfit with some experience at perry. Their uppers are actually made by compass lake engineering, who also does their trigger. Compass lake can build an upper with a kreiger barrel if you want. The price will end up being about the same as the fulton armory. I was actually going to buy a bushmaster “dcm” rifle. Carl, at champion shooters supply (down the street from my house), had three of them that he picked up at perry for a good price. By the time i got the balls to take my money into the store to talk business, he had sold the last two that week! Just my luck, huh…
i talked to just about every ar-15 guy in the country one day, on my day off (i was bored-the weather sucked). There are a lot of guys building some very solid rigs out there. Derrick martin at accuracy speaks uses douglass barrels and these are reportedly excellent. Plan to spend about $800 for a total deluxe “dcm” conversion on your colt.
Some common threads to building a “dcm” gun:
mostly a good rifle in the ar-15 is a collection of the correct parts. Some are better than others (they say) but it is my contention that competition is the mother of invention. Good products will be available if there is a demand. I have heard conflicting opinions on all this add-on stuff (as far as which brand) as to which is good and which is not. Basically, everyone seems to like armalite stuff across the board. So, when in doubt, go armalite….