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HomeSurvival GearHardest AR-15 Higher: Apocalypse-proofing Your Bugout Carbine

Hardest AR-15 Higher: Apocalypse-proofing Your Bugout Carbine

What do nails, woodpecker lips, and wild west hombres have in widespread? They’re all powerful. Which is strictly the standard you need from the particular rifle you’ve designated to defend your loved ones, residence, and assets within the case of a extreme, violent disaster. This doesn’t should be the lawless wasteland portrayed by Hollywood. In the course of the widespread civil unrest of 2020, there have been loads of locations within the American heartland—locations that didn’t even lose cell service or electrical energy—that remained functionally lawless for weeks at a time. Police chiefs advised their officers not to reply to sure calls or enter sure neighborhoods. Mayors and metropolis council members gave speeches about giving individuals “room to riot”. Whereas the probability of needing to make use of a firearm in anger throughout a catastrophe could be very low, it’s not zero. In case you do end up face-to-face with that statistical anomaly, you’re going to desire a rifle, perhaps even a bugout carbine, that’s powerful.

Photo of Tom Marshall firing the toughest AR.

However what precisely does that imply? We’re not speaking about correct and dependable. We’re not speaking about “runs fantastic, even when it’s slightly soiled”. Webster’s On-line defines powerful, amongst different issues, as: able to enduring pressure, hardship, or extreme labor, characterised by severity or uncompromising willpower. A few of this language is definitely intangible and subjective. So how will we translate that into assessing a mechanical gadget? In case you spend sufficient time on social media, somebody will try to persuade you {that a} rifle is hard by burying it in a shallow grave, dragging it behind their truck for 100 yards, or dropping it off the roof of their home onto concrete. Whereas all these “exams” (we use the time period loosely) would possibly make for good leisure, they provide you no empirical details about the weapon’s means to endure hardship over time.

We tried our greatest to take a extra analytical method. As a substitute of resorting to gimmicky torture exams, we took a tough take a look at the person phases of the AR’s working cycle and recognized as many mechanical failure factors as attainable. From there, we scoured the aftermarket to search out merchandise that may mitigate, scale back, or get rid of the potential for failure at that time. We’re undecided if the ensuing higher receiver group is essentially the most correct, flattest taking pictures, or will run essentially the most variety of rounds earlier than failing. What we are able to say with some confidence is that each part of the working cycle has been mechanically or structurally bolstered to endure environmental and working situations properly above common.


This text can be particular to the AR-15, because it’s one of the vital ubiquitous rifles in America, each when it comes to gross sales quantity and cultural recognition. They’re correct, dependable, cheap, with a big selection of ammunition and plentiful provide of spare components. This dearth of substitute and aftermarket parts is, partly, what has made this story attainable. The quantity of analysis, over-engineering, and sweat fairness a few of these corporations have invested into making the strongest and most sturdy model of their particular person merchandise is commendable, and we’re completely happy to unite all of them on this franken-build train. We additionally need to tackle the opportunity of piston-driven AR’s. There’s completely nothing incorrect with them. In truth, we’re huge followers of a number of well-known piston rifles on the market.

Studio photo of an AR handguard.

Whereas they do introduce much less fouling into the receiver, we disagree with the notion that they “run cleaner”. As a substitute, we’d argue they merely deposit their fouling elsewhere within the working system. Moreover, as a result of there are not any dimensional requirements for AR pistons, adopting one will inevitably introduce proprietary components into your rifle which can be inherently more durable to come back by if substitute is ever wanted. Whereas that is in no way meant to sentence them from preparedness functions, it’s meals for thought. Because the direct impingement system is extra prolific, and extra financially accessible to a bigger variety of customers, we targeted on that. A number of the aftermarket upgrades seen right here usually are not cheap. Nevertheless, these upgrades could be made piecemeal to distribute the monetary burden, and even cherry picked from this checklist based mostly in your preferences and perceived wants. We additionally targeted totally on the higher receiver group as a result of that is the place the “work” takes place, that means its the place the entire carbon fouling and mechanical components put on takes place.


Our construct began with VLTOR’s new MLOK VIS Light-weight MLOK Polylithic Higher receiver. These uppers have been out in KeyMod for a while, and now the road is being expanded to incorporate MLOK variations in 10-, 12-, and 15-inch handguard lengths. Our pattern higher is a pre-production prototype, however VLTOR says they count on them to hit market between 3rd and 4th quarter of 2023. The VIS Polylithic system consists of an higher receiver and handguard that are manufactured individually earlier than being mounted into fixtures and welded collectively to create a single unit. To be able to make this work, the higher receiver is cast from 6013 aluminum as a substitute of VLTOR’s regular 7075. The handguard is extruded from 6061, each hardened to T6 specs. Ours additionally got here with VLTOR’s new titanium graphite ejection port door. The VIS Polylithic contains a distinctive port door within the backside of the handguard on the receiver finish. That is how the barrel nut is secured to the receiver with a particular one-time-use barrel nut meant to be consumed within the set up course of.

Studio photo of an AR upper receiver.


It’s been stated that the guts of a rifle is its barrel. For this construct, we selected a novel barrel providing from HM Protection. This barrel is extremely distinctive in that the gasoline block is integrally machined into the barrel itself. As a substitute of becoming a collared gasoline block over the port, HM’s Monobloc barrel cuts the block straight into the barrel clean, eliminating any risk for mis-alignment, slipping, leakage, or corrosion on the gasoline block. These 4150CMV barrels are button-rifled, triple-honed, chrome-lined, phosphate completed and listed as match grade by the producer. They’re chambered in 5.56mm NATO with a 1:8 twist price. There are a number of lengths out there, however our take a look at barrel is of the 12.5-inch selection and contains a mid-length gasoline system. Traditionally, 12.5 barrels with true mid-length gasoline programs is usually a little finicky when it comes to reliability, typically require explicit gasoline system tuning or limitations on suitable ammo for constant biking. HM Protection claims the built-in gasoline block will increase reliability by maximizing gasoline circulation straight into the gasoline tube, thus eliminating the reliability drawback typically discovered on this barrel configuration.

Studio photo of an AR gas tube.

Talking of gasoline tubes, we put in a V Seven Weapon Programs’ Excessive Environments Gasoline Tube into the monobloc. This tube is produced from warmth handled Inconel with a black DLC end. Inconel is identical materials typically used for suppressor baffles due to its extremely excessive resistance to high-temperature thermal biking. Its means to face up to repeated publicity to extremely excessive temperatures with out melting or turning into brittle makes it a great alternative for components that commonly come into direct contact with the super-heated increasing gasses attributable to firing a weapon.


In researching optimized, enhanced, or bolstered bolt provider teams, we got here throughout a surprisingly big range of choices, every one purporting to deal with a particular weak level within the bolt or provider. Whereas we weren’t in a position to pattern all of them, we did get our fingers on a few choices in your consideration.

HM Protection makes greater than Monobloc barrels. One in every of their different merchandise is the HMB Bolt. This bolt is particularly designed to counter one of many better-known points with the AR-15 bolt: cam pin gap shearing. Conventional AR bolt designs function a cam pin gap that goes throughout the bolt itself. Due to the dimensions of the cam pin, this leaves comparatively skinny partitions on both facet of the cam pin gap. Typically these partitions can snap, actually breaking your bolt in half and dead-lining your gun till you will discover a substitute. The HMB bolt makes use of a proprietary bolt and cam pin design that leaves one facet of the bolt utterly intact so as to add further structural power. The bolt is 9310 metal whereas the cam pin is hardened 4340 metal. Each components are black nitride completed.

Studio photo of an HMB bolt carrier.

Another choice is the Sharps Rifle Firm Relia-Bolt and Xtreme Efficiency BCG. The Relia-Bolt is manufactured from heat-treated S7 instrument metal, which Sharps describes as having larger tensile power and resistance to softening at temperatures as much as 1,000 levels. The Relia-Bolt additionally contains a distinctive tapered and rounded lug design meant to scale back the opportunity of a malfunction attributable to improper locking or unlocking of the bolt when the barrel extension turns into closely fouled or impeded by particles. The entrance edges of the locking lugs are re-shaped to extend efficiency beneath harsh situations, whereas the rear lug faces stay totally squared to attain full lock-up when the bolt goes into battery. The Relia-Bolt could be bought by itself, as a part of the Sharps Xtreme Efficiency BCG. These units embrace a “balanced bolt provider” that can also be manufactured from  heat-treated S7, with conservative lightening cuts on the again of the provider. There are a number of end choices together with black DLC, NiB-X, and FDE Zirconium Nitride. There’s additionally a low-mass provider out there, along with BCGs options the Sharps Adjustable Gasoline Recoil System which features a set screw behind the gasoline key to reasonable gasoline circulation into the provider, permitting you to regulate gasoline circulation based mostly for suppressed use.

Studio photo of an AR bolt carrier.

Lastly, we’ve a bolt provider from Walker Protection Analysis. This provider is produced from 8620 instrument metal and completed in FDE DLC coating. The Walker provider comes with Optimized Service Key Screws designed by Ned Christiansen. These screws have a beveled high edge that additionally has a shallow serration sample minimize into it in order that, when staking the gasoline key screws, the staked materials has an elevated floor space to chew into. Whereas sub-par manufacturing facility AR’s have been identified to have shallow staking, or skip it totally, the Christiansen OCKS keys primarily lock themselves in. Whereas we sourced our Pattern OCKS from Ahead Management Designs, and had the staff at Walker Protection Analysis set up them on our provider—together with a Sharps Relia-Bolt—Drew Walker, the proprietor of WDR, was so impressed with the OCKS design that by the point you learn this they are going to be commonplace on all Walker Protection BCGs. We like to see the proprietor of an organization embrace innovation and embrace different small companies in ways in which make their very own merchandise even higher.

Studio photo of an AR bolt carrier.


Lastly, it got here time to complete and decorate our higher. We paired our BCG with a Gesissele Automatics Airborne charging deal with. Geissele components are well-known for his or her widespread adoption throughout the DoD, particularly inside components of Particular Operations Command. If that isn’t a testomony to their means to endure extended exhausting use, we’re undecided what’s. These handles are machined from a stable block of 7075-T6 plane aluminum, Kind 3 exhausting coat anodized and have a raised lip on the rear to mitigate gasoline blowback throughout suppressed use. The Airborne options lower-profile levers to scale back the quantity of snagging on chest-mounted gear.

Studio photo of a charging handle.

We additionally went again to Walker Protection Analysis NILE grip panels. The Non-slip InLaid Ingredient panels snap straight into MLOK rail slots to boost grip and insulate your fingers from warmth build-up. They’re cheap, easy, light-weight, and sturdy. They provide a greatly-enhanced grip floor with no perceptible added weight.

We tipped the Monobloc barrel with a DeadAir KeyMicro flash hider. The KeyMicro mount is a smaller model of their ubiquitous KeyMo mounting system, and the KeyMo HUB mounts we’ve readily available are all suitable with KeyMicro muzzle gadgets. Their flash hider is compact and closely constructed, with a rugged and extensively out there mounting interface for suppressors.

Lastly, we added a pair of Vortex optics on an American Protection Manufacturing mount. Particularly, we used a Razor Gen II 1-6x paired with their SPARC Photo voltaic purple dot, in an ADM Delta-C mount. Just like the Geissele charging handles, Razor LPVOs have discovered an unlikely residence with US Military Particular Operations Command. The Delta-C mount locations the scope at a 1.5-inch height-over-bore and their newly launched line of direct-mount high rings, locations the piggy-backed purple dot at roughly 3 inches over bore.

Vertircal grips and hand stops are an intensely private alternative, however we strongly favor quick vertical grips on rifles for the added management we get, in addition to for ideally positioning our thumbs excessive of the bore to actuate gentle management buttons for lights and lasers – which could be discovered on almost all of our private setups. On this case, we experimented with two: first we tried a Stubby MLOK Vertical Grip from Onyx Arms. This grip seems to be impressed by the outdated Knights Armament “broom deal with” vertical grip – the primary well-known instance of such a grip in army use. They have been, in reality, commonplace problem as a part of the unique SOPMOD accent bundle handed out to Particular Operators to customise their new (on the time) modular quad-rail handguards. These grips are particularly helpful on shorter weapons the place a full conventional “palm grip” on alongside the underside of the handguard will not be permitted because of lack of house or could also be uncomfortable when utilizing railed fore ends. The Onyx Arm grip updates the older designs by eliminating the rail clamp in favor of a pair of MLOK T-nuts for at present’s sleeker handguards. The polymer they use is dense and stiff sufficient to forestall perceivable flexing even when driving the gun exhausting throughout a discipline of dispersed targets. Then we tried the Unity Tactical VFG – a extra trendy aesthetic with an rectangular form, flared on the backside and textured on the back and front edges. Each have been snug and functioned properly with the VLTOR polylithic receiver.

Studio photo of the toughest AR build.

Talking of lights, we added a Cloud Defensive REIN 3.0 weapon gentle to this construct. The REIN has staked its declare as maybe the hardest and brightest rifle gentle available on the market, with the threerd era placing out 100,000 candella and 1250 lumens with a 95-minute run time. The three.0 additionally introduces dual-fuel functionality, operating on both a single rechargeable 18650 battery, or a pair of CR123s. Whereas the previous will at all times present peak output and runtime, the latter permits quick swapping within the discipline when charging stations or energy retailers might not be out there. The REIN’s heavy-duty switching setup contains a stress pad with separate buttons for momentary and constant-on activation in addition to a clicky tailcap button which can function utterly independently of the distant change. Whereas the 2 are hard-wired collectively as a single unit, you may actually minimize the wire to the distant change with out shedding tail-cap activation. The bezel diameter is only one.3 inches, that means it can play will with lasers or IR illuminators and, at simply over 6-inches lengthy, it received’t take up a ton of actual property on the handguard. To that finish, the REIN is particularly designed and examined to run with the pinnacle operating alongside the muzzle gadget. Even when you’ve got a multi-chamber brake with excessive gasoline output, the REIN will operate simply fantastic for the whole lot of its service life. Simply don’t overlook to wash the lens as wanted. The REIN is IPX8 rated for waterproofing and has been operate examined to run even after 24 hours submerged in 100 ft of water. It additionally sports activities a entrance lens that’s 3mm thick and meant to face up to direct hits from force-on-force marking rounds, so there’s no have to cowl or child this gentle for those who prepare exhausting together with your carbine. If one thing does fail, Cloud’s lifetime guarantee will cowl nearly any failure case you may consider.


After all, all of this leads us again to the query most of you’ve got already requested yourselves whereas studying this: “Is all this actually obligatory?”

You’ll have to reply that query for your self. Our aim right here was to not offer you a precise blueprint that must be replicated to have a worthwhile SHTF rifle, however to current a buffet of what’s out there when it comes to mechanical upgrades. The price, in each cash and man-hours, required to construct this precise rifle is substantial and maybe prohibitive for a lot of. However perhaps there are a few particular person parts right here that pique your curiosity or that you just deem definitely worth the expense to enhance an AR you’ve already received in your secure. As at all times, the existence of the OFFGRID model is pushed by the mission to offer you the utmost quantity of data that will help you take advantage of educated selections attainable when budgeting for emergency gear.

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