The first thing we’re going to say is: it’s pretty. It’s meant to be a stylish upgrade to the Vietnam-era rifle, but it diverges from that not just cosmetically (with the beautiful walnut furniture and decent Cerakote job), but mechanically (with a heavy barrel, late-style generic lower, and .223 Wylde chamber). It’s styled after the XM16E1/M16A1 style gun that was used by the ground combat services in 1965-67.
It’s a gun that’s meant to be fun to shoot and to give an impression of an early AR — or as the seller puts it, a “resto-mod.” If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it comes from the 1990s California classic car scene, where outfits like Mustangs Plus (whose Ron Bramlett, we believe, coined the term “restomod”) would do a cosmetic restoration on a classic car, while upgrading its systems to late 20th-Century standards of safety, convenience and performance with things like disc brakes, air conditioning, five- and six-speed transmissions, and fuel injection.
This is a “resto-mod” build using an authentic Vietnam era m-16 upper receiver, front sight assembly, and bayonet. The lower is a new Delaware Machine AR-15 mil-spec receiver.”
“Delaware Machinery” and “mil-spec” are only passingly acquainted. The DM lowers can be in tolerance, out of tols high, or out of tols low, and sometimes things that should be square are a few degrees off. Most of them do go together alright, and if they don’t, it’s usually just a matter of custom fitting. Still, that’s the other end of the pool from a prestige lower.
One good thing is that there are no large logos on the magwell with this firm’s lowers.
Everything on the Rifle has been Cerakoted except for springs, detents, and the buffer. The wood stock furniture is real American Black Walnut. The receivers, sight base, compensator, and bayonet grips are a blend of Cerakote Graphite Black and Burnt Bronze. The rest of the parts are Graphite Black. Having all parts Cerakoted dramatically reduces friction which means less oil, less fouling, and less cleaning. The rifle has been pre-broken-in and burnished with Sentry Solutions Smooth-Kote. The rifle comes with the bayonet, bayonet sheath, 3 magazines, and a padded soft rifle case.
It is a nice looking rifle. If you only want one sort-of-retro AR, and you don’t think $1,800 buy it now is too much (we don’t know where the reserve is on this auction), maybe it’s for you.
There are numerous departures from retro “restored,” notably the heavy barrel with it’s .750 diameter through the front sight base (instead of the period-correct .675)
One good thing about this build is that the seller (and presumed builder) is providing comprehensive information about the firearm.
Everything is new EXCEPT the UPPER RECIEVER, FRONT SIGHT BASE, SIGHTS, CHARGING HANDLE, BAYONET, and SCABBARD. These parts are deemed to be authentic Vietnam era parts due to their design and forging marks “C H” on the upper receiver. “C H” stands for Colt Harvey forging (Harvey being the forging company used by Colt for the early m16 rifle). It should be noted that all of the components came to me as a complete upper half, which was in pretty poor condition, at the time, requiring the need for an overhaul. As can be seen from the pictures, you can tell the upper has been through a lot; there are dings all over. All parts were thoroughly degreased, sharp raised edges filed down, blasted smooth, and then coated with Cerakote H series finish. Below are the details on individual parts which were used on this build.
RRA Parts Kit
RRA Carrier with Chromed bolt (Also Cerakoted)
RRA National Match 2-stage semi-auto trigger
Stainless Steel Firing pin and Cam Pin
JP Enterprises® 3.5 lb trigger spring kit
KNS Perma Pin
HBAR Match Grade Chromoly Barrel 20″ 1 in 8″ twist .223 Wylde chamber
Bushmaster® rifle length Buffer and spring
M1918 leather sling
Walnut stock set from Black Guns Wood
Again, only you know if this is right for you.
And Now for a Bit of Philosophy
The gun is well done; it’s not a Bubba job. But one wonders if some day we will regret these sort of restomods as much as we regret the amateurish and ugly hack jobs that generations of Bubbas have inflicted on Mausers and, now, Mosins. We’ve been meaning to write about this but Tam posted a link to McThag’s impassioned jeremiad (hmmm… was there ever a jeremiad that was not “impassioned”? Methinks we adjective too much) about hack jobs on, specifically, Mosins.
I am sick of seeing Bubba rape kiv/27’s. I am sick of seeing Remington and NEW [New England Westinghouse — rare WWI contract guns. -Ed.) receivers drilled and tapped. I am sick of seeing US marked M1915 stocks shortened and cut for Timney triggers.
Far too often, Bubba makes changes he can’t reverse. Regret comes 20 years later when the supply of old guns dries up and the crufflers start fighting over what’s left. The Mosin that’s $240 on Gunbroker now was $150 last year. It was $70 five years before that.
Already modded guns are listed on Gunbroker for less than $500, and there’s no bidders. In Econ 101, we call that a market indicator.
That made us look at this site, where a Bubba enabler suggests committing all kinds of crude butchery on unsuspecting Russian service rifles.
At one point, he suggests you put your Mosin in a cheap plastic imitation of a sniper chassis stock, because “the look is incredible” (of course) and to save weight. Except the stock he recommends weighs more than the typical birch stick Ivan used, back in the day.
Q: What’s the value of a $150 Mosin in a $140 stock with a $80 muzzle brake and a $30 saw-off-bolt-on 90º bolt handle?
A: About $50.
And that’s why we’re of two minds about the whole Retro Black Rifle Restomod thing. We do believe that well-done smithing has its value, but when collectors enter a market everything takes third place to originality and condition. Now, no gun built from a “parts kit” extracted from a rare Class III weapon is going to be truly original, and an original retro AR is, thanks to the market distortions introduced by a Jersey grifter named Hughes, priced out of the range of most who would like one. So the market is a chaotic mess from the jump.
And with that, we think we’ve argued ourselves around to a position. To wit: it’s everyone’s right to customize their own property any way that suits ’em. We would hope that these customizations were done professionally (like this one), and added real value (like the creator of this one thinks he has done, from the asking price); and that Bubba entertains himself hot-rodding lawn tractors or building a Hemi Gremlin or something. But we can’t stop you from doing whatever you want to do, and we wouldn’t want to live in a world where we could.
And with that, we reserve the right to continue to condemn the actions, abilities and ancestry of Bubba the Gunsmite and all his legions. Fair?