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Old 04-07-2012, 01:18 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by Snakedriver View Post
The prevailing opinion among most people is that the billet AR's are a superior product, but it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that there are also opposing opinions saying they are not. Obviously, the cost of the billet AR's are much higher than the forged ones.
A Forged part, be it steel or Aluminum, will always be stronger than a billet machined part. The reason is grain structure and how it is distributed. In a forging the grain structure is "moved" or altered by the forging process. This creates strength where it is required most. Billet parts on the other hand, are produced with the grain structure running in a single direction because that is how a billet is formed. Much like cold rolled steel, the Aluminum piece is run through rollers and literally pressed into shape. Or else it is extruded.

When billet or Aluminum bar stock is machined the grain structure itself remains unchanged. It continues to run parallel along it's length. In the auto motive world forged Aluminum pistons and connecting rods are the most desirable because they provide the most strength in relationship to the lightest weight. Crankshafts are always made from forgings, again because the altered grain structure produced by the forging process produces the highest degree of strength where it is required the most.

While a billet lower receiver will take a bit longer to machine, it is still in most cases cheaper to produce than a forged lower because the forging process adds to the overall cost of the product. Billet Aluminum is cheaper to buy, and it is avaliable from far more companies than forged Aluminum lowers, which are only produced by a few manufacturers.

You must also remember that if modern high speed machining centers are employed, along with high grade tooling, Aluminum can be machined at extremely high surface speeds. A forged lower will require the same amount of set ups and tooling to produce, so in reality when everything is considered, the billet receiver can be produced somewhat cheaper, even though it will require more metal removal than the forged product. However this often depends on the cost of the forging the company is buying. Larger manufacturers like Bushmaster, Colt, etc. purchase a large number of forgings in a single purchase. When bought in volume the cost per unit drops considerably.

Billet has a certain amount of appeal that is a carry over from the hot rod and motorcycle world. Billet products are considered to be "solid". And to some degree they are. That is why many believe they are stronger. However they are not as strong as a forged part of the same material.
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Old 04-07-2012, 01:34 PM   #42
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A Forged part, be it steel or Aluminum, will always be stronger than a billet machined part. The reason is grain structure and how it is distributed. In a forging the grain structure is "moved" or altered by the forging process. This creates strength where it is required most. Billet parts on the other hand, are produced with the grain structure running in a single direction because that is how a billet is formed. Much like cold rolled steel, the Aluminum piece is run through rollers and literally pressed into shape. Or else it is extruded.

When billet or Aluminum bar stock is machined the grain structure itself remains unchanged. It continues to run parallel along it's length. In the auto motive world forged Aluminum pistons and connecting rods are the most desirable because they provide the most strength in relationship to the lightest weight. Crankshafts are always made from forgings, again because the altered grain structure produced by the forging process produces the highest degree of strength where it is required the most.

While a billet lower receiver will take a bit longer to machine, it is still in most cases cheaper to produce than a forged lower because the forging process adds to the overall cost of the product. Billet Aluminum is cheaper to buy, and it is avaliable from far more companies than forged Aluminum lowers, which are only produced by a few manufacturers.

You must also remember that if modern high speed machining centers are employed, along with high grade tooling, Aluminum can be machined at extremely high surface speeds. A forged lower will require the same amount of set ups and tooling to produce, so in reality when everything is considered, the billet receiver can be produced somewhat cheaper, even though it will require more metal removal than the forged product. However this often depends on the cost of the forging the company is buying. Larger manufacturers like Bushmaster, Colt, etc. purchase a large number of forgings in a single purchase. When bought in volume the cost per unit drops considerably.

Billet has a certain amount of appeal that is a carry over from the hot rod and motorcycle world. Billet products are considered to be "solid". And to some degree they are. That is why many believe they are stronger. However they are not as strong as a forged part of the same material.
That's all very interesting from the technical standpoint and I can't say I disgree with anything you have said.

I'm a pricepoint kind of guy who looks at the prices of the billet AR stuff and just has to move along and be happy with my forged AR products. I'm sure that the guys who have the billet built AR's would give you a vigorous debate on which is better though.
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Old 04-07-2012, 01:46 PM   #43
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Billt,

Very good presentation regarding the explanation of the processes!
Well Done!
I think this thread is one of the finest informative threads concerning a new novice to the AR system selection specifications. And as stated previously as mentioned by Quentin and Luby the gentleman did a great job of the past research and it is very very informative and educational. That is also why I enjoyed Billet's post regarding education.
Keep up the great information!

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Old 04-07-2012, 01:55 PM   #44
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Another thing you have to remember is that the receiver of an AR-15 rifle doesn't have to be that strong. In a great number of weapons there has been a massive shift from steel to Aluminum in receiver construction. The Browning BAR, and Auto V are prime examples. The older models were constructed of steel, the newer ones from Aluminum. The FNAR is nothing more than an Aluminum receivered Browning BAR altered to receive box magazines.

The reason is cost. Aluminum, be it forged or billet, machines like butter in comparison to steel. Tool life is several times longer, surface speeds much higher. Also fixturing does not have to be as strong and massive to produce the same product from Aluminum. So it is easy to see why firearms manufacturers love Aluminum, and why the few remaining guns that are made from steel forgings are becoming all but too costly to produce. A forged steel Marlin Golden 39-A, or a steel receivered Remington 572 Fieldmaster Pump .22 runs currently around the $600.00 mark. While an Aluminum receivered Marlin Model 60 or Remington 597 can be had for around $150.00 to $200.00.
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Old 04-07-2012, 02:08 PM   #45
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Forgive me if this has been pointed out, as I haven't yet completely read the ENTIRE thread.

I think the chart would better serve the new AR buyer by including the prices of the rifles compared.

As someone (I think S'03) mentioned, if a rifle is AVAILABLE with an option that isn't included in the comparison, it is a bit misleading to represent that the company's product is inferior. What I mean is, it's kinda like comparing the Ford Mustang GT 500 to a chevy Camaro 6cyl. Chevy makes a comparable car, so why not compare apples to apples? Again, even in doing so, price should be listed so as to have a true comparison. As is usually Quentin and MJK's argument, if you get more for the SAME or even SLIGHTLY more money, that should be the road taken.

All things considered tho, the chart is factual and a good reference to use as a starting point when looking for an AR.

I'd like to add that this is the most civil I've ever seen this subject discussed here.
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Old 04-07-2012, 02:18 PM   #46
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Forgive me if this has been pointed out, as I haven't yet completely read the ENTIRE thread.

I think the chart would better serve the new AR buyer by including the prices of the rifles compared.

As someone (I think S'03) mentioned, if a rifle is AVAILABLE with an option that isn't included in the comparison, it is a bit misleading to represent that the company's product is inferior. What I mean is, it's kinda like comparing the Ford Mustang GT 500 to a chevy Camaro 6cyl. Chevy makes a comparable car, so why not compare apples to apples? Again, even in doing so, price should be listed so as to have a true comparison. As is usually Quentin and MJK's argument, if you get more for the SAME or even SLIGHTLY more money, that should be the road taken.

All things considered tho, the chart is factual and a good reference to use as a starting point when looking for an AR.

I'd like to add that this is the most civil I've ever seen this subject discussed here.
Well, considering one of the primary tools used to further these discussions into full on flame wars (oh yeah??? You got a chart for that? HUH??HUH??) has already been curb stomped, it forces a level of civility to the debate.
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Old 04-07-2012, 05:52 PM   #47
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... As someone (I think S'03) mentioned, if a rifle is AVAILABLE with an option that isn't included in the comparison, it is a bit misleading to represent that the company's product is inferior. What I mean is, it's kinda like comparing the Ford Mustang GT 500 to a chevy Camaro 6cyl. Chevy makes a comparable car, so why not compare apples to apples? Again, even in doing so, price should be listed so as to have a true comparison. As is usually Quentin and MJK's argument, if you get more for the SAME or even SLIGHTLY more money, that should be the road taken.

All things considered tho, the chart is factual and a good reference to use as a starting point when looking for an AR...
When the M4 chart was created years ago certain popular brands were selected for inclusion, more specifically their model that was most like a basic M4 issued to our troops. No options, just each brand's basic M4gery and that model number is listed right below the brand name toward the top of the spreadsheet. Also that model's price was listed at the bottom of each column but for some reason that row didn't turn up in the link I provided. As you would expect back then the prices were higher for the models that scored well but the interesting thing today is the difference has shrunk and you can get a lot for just a little more money. Another thing you see today are more stripped models that don't have iron sights and even aluminum receivers, forward assists and ejection port covers which of course lowers the price. That's one way you now see brand new $600 ARs where three years ago that was harder to find.

Today there are more models as you point out, back then there were fewer. A good example is Stag which now has a $100 milspec upgrade that should rank higher than a standard Stag. And you can order different barrels, upgrades, etc. under the same model as you pointed about cars Chandler.

Anyway, still a good reference today and very helpful if someone wants a great M4 copy.
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Old 04-07-2012, 10:26 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Quentin

When the M4 chart was created years ago certain popular brands were selected for inclusion, more specifically their model that was most like a basic M4 issued to our troops. No options, just each brand's basic M4gery and that model number is listed right below the brand name toward the top of the spreadsheet. Also that model's price was listed at the bottom of each column but for some reason that row didn't turn up in the link I provided. As you would expect back then the prices were higher for the models that scored well but the interesting thing today is the difference has shrunk and you can get a lot for just a little more money. Another thing you see today are more stripped models that don't have iron sights and even aluminum receivers, forward assists and ejection port covers which of course lowers the price. That's one way you now see brand new $600 ARs where three years ago that was harder to find.

Today there are more models as you point out, back then there were fewer. A good example is Stag which now has a $100 milspec upgrade that should rank higher than a standard Stag. And you can order different barrels, upgrades, etc. under the same model as you pointed about cars Chandler.

Anyway, still a good reference today and very helpful if someone wants a great M4 copy.
Yeah, I wasn't questioning the veracity of the chart, just that it could be misleading to a new buyer. It's all good info for sure. The lack of comparative price points was my only issue, and if the original has them then it's 100% relative.

One thing people often don't understand is that higher "tiers" come with options many will want to add later. A friend at work was arguing that there was NO WAY my LWRCI was worth $1000 more than his, just because of a piston. I explained to him that it came STANDARD with FF quad, Troy BUIS, VLTOR EMod buttstock, MagPul MIAD grip, MagPul winter trigger guard, two Pmags, and rail covers. That's almost the exact setup I added to my ArmaLite, and it came to around $700. Which pushed my AR10 over the $2000 mark.

It just seems that stuff like that is often overlooked, or undervalued when comparing less expensive rifles to the more expensive ones.

I DO however agree that, for the same or even a little more money, you should buy the brand with the most "chart" options.
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Old 04-08-2012, 01:11 AM   #49
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I also agree lots of things are overlooked when comparing different ARs. You hear of $600 models but after a few months of upgrades you can easily double that price and get it into the range of a better quality rifle that came with all the goodies. Very often it's pay me now or pay me later, which is why many of us just do a custom build and try not to get into the "replace-cheap-parts-down-the-road" game. Instead you can buy quality parts as you can afford them, spreading the cost over a few months or more.
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Old 04-08-2012, 01:40 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by Quentin
I also agree lots of things are overlooked when comparing different ARs. You hear of $600 models but after a few months of upgrades you can easily double that price and get it into the range of a better quality rifle that came with all the goodies. Very often it's pay me now or pay me later, which is why many of us just do a custom build and try not to get into the "replace-cheap-parts-down-the-road" game. Instead you can buy quality parts as you can afford them, spreading the cost over a few months or more.
Yep, many ways to approach it. That's for sure.
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