March 23, 2022
During the Last decade, I’ve assembled a number of AR pistols, carbines and rifles. From heavy-barreled varmint rifles to ultralight pistols, I’ve built a lot of configurations. The main lesson I’ve learned is to avoid discount parts. Buying quality components upfront prevents headaches down the road.
Quality parts come from quality companies. One such company I’ve had great luck with is Aero Precision out of Tacoma, Washington. Aero Precision has become a large player in the AR world by offering innovative, high-quality products at reasonable prices.
Unlike many AR parts makers, Aero Precision has a history of machining critical components. The company’s name stems from its roots in the aerospace industry, a sector where tolerances are razor thin and component failure isn’t an option. Aero has applied the same focus to its AR parts business, engineering and manufacturing of their own parts, as well as OEM parts for other manufacturers.
From barrels and scope mounts to receivers and bolt carriers, Aero has all the parts needed to assemble a custom AR. In addition to standard components, Aero offers special-edition “Builder Sets” that add personality to the foundation of any build. Builder Sets include three Cerakote-finished components: The upper receiver, lower receiver and handguard, all in a matching pattern. All that’s left is to choose the remaining components to put together a one-of-a-kind AR.
My most recent build began as an Aero Precision M4E1 Enhanced Builder Set in Desert Arid camo. It is a rock-solid, do-everything carbine that I’ve used for tactical training and deer hunting. Why do I like it so much? Let’s start with the M4E1 Enhanced receiver set, which may be the best option currently on the market.
Forged from 7075-T6 aluminum, the M4E1 receivers are enhanced versions of the mil-spec pattern. The most ingenious component is the upper. It’s uniquely designed to incorporate the handguard mounting system onto the upper receiver. There is no more separate parts to consider or complicated installation.
For assembling the upper, first insert the AR barrel in the upper-receiver tenon and torque the internal barrel nut. The handguard then slides on and is secured with eight screws, which results in a simple and strong bond between these two critical parts.
The handguard is Aero’s Enhanced Gen 2 15-inch M-Lok version. It’s well machined and comes feature packed with quick-detach (QD) sling sockets, a continuous top rail, M-Lok slots and built-in anti-rotation tabs. Due to its internal size, most suppressors will tuck inside the handguard. But these aren’t the only clever components from Aero. The M4E1 lower is tricked out as well.
High on Lowers
The most frustrating component on an AR build is the lower. Why? Springs and detents tend to launch through the air, roll pins are tricky to install without marring the finish, and the ears of the lower can break off while installing the triggerguard. None of these are fun. Fortunately, Aero’s M4E1 lower solves all these problems —and more.
The M4E1 features a threaded bolt-catch roll pin and takedown pin detent recess that eliminate lost pins and damage to the finish. The lower also has an integrated triggerguard, so there is no risk in damaging the lower as you hammer in the roll pin. Additionally, the lower has a nylon tension screw that provides a tight fit with any upper receiver. When you consider that it has a flared magwell, too, it’s hard to find a better lower on the market for the price.
For this build, I selected a 16-inch barrel with a .223 Wylde chamber and a midlength gas system from Ballistic Advantage, Aero’s sister company. This stainless-steel tube features the Hanson profile and is engineered to be lightweight while advertising less barrel whip. It comes with a low-profile gas block that’s predrilled to be pinned to the barrel for the utmost in reliability. In use, the barrel proved accurate and reliable. Due to the VG6 Precision Gamma 556 muzzlebrake, recoil was almost nonexistent.
Next to the barrel, the most critical component for extracting accuracy is a good trigger. For this build, I installed a cassette-type single-stage trigger from Rise Armament: The RA-535. Not only does this trigger look good, it works beautifully. I’ve used a ton of AR triggers, and this is up there with the best in performance and feel.
Testing the Build
The catalyst for this build was an Urban Precision class I attended at Thunder Ranch, which explains my choice for optics and backup sights. I went with EOTech’s Vudu 1-6x24mm scope and Magpul MBUS Pro sights. Despite plenty of hard use, both worked well in the dry environment of southern Oregon. To keep the carbine handy and at the ready, Vickers’ Blue Force Gear two-point sling was also added to the gear list. It is simple and effective, exactly as a sling should be.
Many shooters are intimidated by the prospect of attending a training course, and I understand why. It’s stressful to go shoulder-to-shoulder with other shooters under the watchful eyes of professional instructors. But training under stress is the best way to engrain the skills needed to survive a deadly force encounter.
This was my first class at Thunder Ranch, and the course was exceptional. Owners Clint and Heidi Smith and their instructors are as good as they come. Not only was the Thunder Ranch class great for honing defensive skills and learning to run the AR, it was an even better way to evaluate the completed Aero Precision carbine in a real-world shooting environment.
During the course, I fired 600 or so rounds through the Aero carbine from distances as close as 3 yards to as far as 500. Its performance was impressive. Not once did I experience a stoppage, even when laying sideways on the ground with the ejection port just inches above the gravel. The gun got dusty, but it never sputtered. Accuracy was exceptional, even from hasty field positions, too. Overall, the course was a great reminder of how versatile a quality AR can be.
In fact, a few months after returning from the event, I moved across the country. Along the way, I stopped in Arkansas for my family’s annual whitetail hunt. With all my worldly possessions inside a U-Haul trailer, every rifle I own was at my disposal. For the hunt, I grabbed the gun I was most confident in: My Aero Precision in .223 Wylde.
Before heading afield, I tossed a fresh coat of paint on a ShootSteel.com torso target situated at 120 yards. After loading 20 rounds of Hornady Black (75-grain InterLock), I put in my Tetra ear protection (because the brake is loud), cranked the Vudu scope to 6X, and went prone. I squeezed the Rise Armament trigger five times, and each bullet impacted atop the one before it.
This is why the AR-15 is my favorite gun design. It’s accurate, simple and capable of performing many tasks. As this Aero Precision project proved, almost anyone can build a high-quality, ultra-accurate rifle without spending a fortune or waiting on a gunsmith. Buying quality parts upfront all but guarantees high-level performance.
I have no clue what my next AR build will be. Pistol, rifle, carbine — who knows? One thing is certain: Due to the quality, performance and affordability, a number of its parts will come from Aero Precision. If I’m lucky, the next build will perform as well as this one.
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