This thread in Imgur (and there’s a matching discussion on Reddit) shows the whole process of Bubba attempting to alter a modern AR receiver to more closely resemble a Vietnam War early Colt Model 603, often erroneously referred to as an XM16E11. He didn’t go all the way with it, opting not to reprofile the buffer tower and pivot pin areas, both of which were extensively reinforced in later AR lowers.  He did wind up with a decent-looking 50-footer:

Bubba AR

As you might expect, a Dremel2 was involved.

Bubba AR Dremel 02

What could possibly go wrong? Hey, it’ll buff out.  And it’s nothing a couple of rattle-cans of Rustoleum grey primer won’t cover.

Well, almost cover:

Bubba AR spraypaint

Lesson learned, by this Bubba:

Bubba AR Filing

Use a file next time!

His further lessons learned:

Sub /r/RetroAR.

Build retro rifles.


Be happy.

One of his reasons for doing this was that an NDS lower (which comes with all the profiling correct) was too much money. But on the positive side, he’s done non-irreversible damage to a cheap, generic AR lower, and he’s learned a lot. And if he’s like most Retro AR enthusiasts, every time he looks at that rifle it’s going to bug him until he gets around to improving it some more.

So maybe it’s possible for Bubba to educate himself clean out of Bubbahood. He’s learned, at least, that it’s easier to feel what you’re doing with a file than a Dremel, and that an ordinary Joe can take a piece of aluminum and bend it to his will.


  1. The label XM16E1 was used prior to the M16A1 type classification being approved, and was not related in any way to the change from a partial fence to a full fence lower receiver, which actually happened almost two years earlier, so you do see the XM16E1 roll mark on full-fence lowers.
  2. DREMEL: Device Removes Excessive Metal Electrically, Lummox.

This entry was posted in Don’t be THAT guy, Rifles and Carbines, The Past is Another Country on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

13 thoughts on “Bubba Retros a Rifle

Tim, ’80s Mech Guy

Been wanting to do an A1 build for a while. To do it right I’d want s NDS A1 marked as a H&R with the SN from the one I used in basic. Would be quite a bit more than Dremeling on a $39 Ander-um “Generic” lower. The real non money hassel is finding a fast twist A1 profile barrel, I’ve gone to using 55gn bullets almost exclusively but would like to maintain the option with a 1in7. They are out there but seem to be scarce. A well made A1 clone for what a M-4 clone goes for (+/- $800) seems to be too much to ask.

Hognose Post author

Here’s an updated 1:12 retro barrel (M4 extension/ramps). It would only shoot well with light bullets (1:12). I’ve bought from this seller before with no drama.

You would be on your own for a front sight base and installation. It’s a big job which requires a good drill press, a taper pin reamer and (ideally) a solid jig, so I’d recommend sending it out to John Thomas.

Here’s a completed one with similar specs. I have not dealt with this vendor.

Here’s a complete parts kit including barrel, with an HR or possibly GM upper receiver (otherwise a mixmaster, like all depot rebuilds). These were common before the ATF import ban. This one needs a refinish to be 16A1-frontline-era accurate, but this black finish is what late-80s and up depot rebuilds looked like.

All these things turn up from time to time, including original GI barrels. Patience and a saved search sending you an email every AM are the ticket. You can do very well by buying someone else’s complete clone.

Tim, ’80s Mech Guy

Thanks for the links. The FSB job I’d probably send out to Adco unless money and time were of no concern then I’d buy the jigs and do it myself. 1in 9 A1 barrels show up used every once in a while just not when I have that time and money at the same time. Someone, I want to say High Standard was making a A1 a few years ago and I played with one. For the money, $650ish, it was not too bad but it had way too much built in rattle, and I prefer loose guns, and the FSB was held on with roll pins. I’ve got off on a .300blk tangent for a bit so it may be a while anyway.

Pericles is $50 and shipping to mount a FSB on a barrel and everything he has done for me has been a 3 or 6 round zero.

Hognose Post author

That’s John. He’s done great work for me, too.


In Bubba’s defense, you learn best by doing, and even mistakes will give you experience.

Dan F

Sorry, if your work area for metal parts is the living room floor, the kitchen and a railing on your deck you will always be a bubba.

Tim, ’80s Mech Guy

We all started as Bubbas at something and the trick is learning from each experience whether it the way you planned it or not. Swenson (sp?) did not have utube the first time he decided to add some texture to a frontstrap. I’d be willing to bet that there is a blog somewhere where sombody is raggin on guys building airplanes in the garage too. 😉

Trone Abeetin

I’m sorry, I just don’t get the fascination with making a gun look like something it ain’t.

Trone Abeetin

Especially an M16

John Distai

The using the file vs. using the Dremel is sort of a universal issue. As with wood working or home improvement, the power tool can ruin something in a big hurry, where the hand tool allows you ruin it slowly. At least you hope you ruin whatever it is slow enough to where you may not be ruining it at all. Unfortunately, it takes ruining some stuff first to learn that.

Hognose Post author

It’s kind of like leverage in the world of finance. Acts like an amplifier in the system, regardless of whether it’s amplifying experienced brilliance or novice stupidity — whatever the consequences would have been, they will be, just bigger.

Roger V. Tranfglia


what your saying is there’s no more original or replica M16’s (Vietnam era) out there?

Shirley you jest (and don’t call me surley)….