Saturday, August 23, 2014

"Fit and Finish"

Flawless Fit and Finish
 Elsewhere on the intertubes, some AR-lovin' California tactical dressup guy was going on and on about the "Fit and Finish" of a new brand of top shelf AR, using the analogy of a custom Wilson 1911 versus a generic Springfield Armory 1911 when other people dared ask how it differed from, say, a BCM or DD or whatever.

Just to copypasta my FB rantings because I hate wasting the keystrokes:
That thread is making me sad. All the gawping about "fit and finish" and comparing custom ARs to custom 1911s from that ██████ dude. Look... a custom 1911* takes a bunch of time with hand tools and power tools because it starts with oversize steel components that are fitted to each other, not to mention any external cosmetic work, such as blending the back of the slide or doing funky treatments on the front of the slide or frontstrap texture work. Not counting the metal finishing, a really good 1911 'smith is lucky if he can do a gun a day, and that's starting with a bunch of relatively pre-fit stuff.

By comparison, talking about the "fit and finish" on an AR... ANY AR like talking about the "fit and finish" on some kid's Lego Millennium Falcon model. The value of an AR is determined SOLELY by the value of the prefabricated parts, which can be assembled by a chimp (seriously, staking is not that hard) and how much someone is willing to pay for the roll mark on the magwell. There is practically NO labor cost in an AR.

And that post from █████ is the most hilarious bit of douchery I've ever seen. Don't hand-wave at me about what goes into building an AR, █████. It's not like it's some kind of secret formula.

I love how it's all "MILSPEC" and "TDP" until it comes time to defend some fawning idiocy from that ██████ dude. 
I've never timed it, but it wouldn't shock me if it took more time to do a decent stippling job on a Glock frame than to assemble a quality, reliable, sub-MOA AR from a pile of parts. Almost certainly if you're doing a grip reduction on the Glock.

With most "custom" ARs from small builders (if they're open enough to provide a parts list) you can sit down with your Brownells or BCM catalog and decide if you're willing to spend the difference to let them put it together for you**. In the case of some of the bigger assemblers, it might be a good deal, since they get a price break on barrels and BCGs for buying them by the case lot, as it were.

*Of course, there are a lot of 1911s out there that people think are "custom" that are assembled from bins of drop-in parts, but that's a matter for another post.
**I almost always am with uppers, because I can't be arsed to put the thing together myself, so it's either buy it preassembled or carry a box of parts down to Tennessee on one of my quarterly pilgrimages.


Anonymous said...

I have timed it, and done both, the stipple job takes a little more time. Way more time if you want some fancy pattern and not just grip.


billf said...

Tam,I'll admit before I start that you may have assembled more guns from parts than I have,and you may know more people in the gun industry than I do,but (there's always a 'but' isn't there),don't you have room in your imagination to allow for some high tech machine shop,with in-house CNC and casting technology to make their own proprietary parts for an AR that have to be machined and fitted just like the custom 1911's do?
And couldn't those hand fitted AR's look as nice and function as well as a XXXX 1911?
And,to me anyway,the nicest Glock ever made is still plastic junk.

Tam said...


Yeah, I'd expect somebody who was machining their own billet steel uppers and lowers that were oversize and needed hand-fitting to mate up to charge an arm and a leg.

Except that's not what I'm talking about here.

Bob said...

Somewhere in the US, some school-aged kid will either make a LEGO gun or take a picture of one to school, where he will be suspended. Outrage will ensue.

Ian Argent said...

I'm pretty sure with a minimal replacement of technical terms, thus rant is equally applicable to "hand built" computers vs, say, alienware or falcon northwest. In fact, the last desktop computer I bought, I did take the bill of materials over to newegg, and determined that I was fact willing to pay the small premium to avoid spending a weekend cussing with a screwdriver and donating blood from my knuckles. Plus I got a single source warranty out of the deal.

Rational Gun said...

This post makes me so happy :)

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

It's a perfect setup. Bobbi could be your wisecracking engineer/sidekick.

Ed said...

"...I'd expect somebody who was machining their own billet steel uppers and lowers that were oversize and needed hand-fitting to mate up to charge an arm and a leg."

Question is, why would you be machining steel instead of 7075-T6 aluminum alloy billet or similar?

BTW, the Lego Camo pattern reminded me of this:

Tam said...

Just as an aside:

There are a lot of people on this planet who call themselves "gunsmiths" or "pistolsmiths" who don't even know how to work a lathe or a mill.

The first commenter to this post is not one of them. Y'all might want to listen to Spear if he talks about making guns work.

Parts-swappers are "armorers". A "gunsmith" is someone you can hand a chunk of steel, lock into a machine shop, and have them come out with a finished firearm.

Sean D Sorrentino said...

Do I get credit for the hand turned and headspaced barrel?

BillCa said...

I looked at the photo without reading the article and thought ... That would be a bitch to Cerakote that pattern. All that asking and re-spraying would take weeks!

Then I thought it would be a pretty cool project.

og said...

"Parts-swappers are "armorers". A "gunsmith" is someone you can hand a chunk of steel, lock into a machine shop, and have them come out with a finished firearm."

You got that right. I know a guy who hangs out a shingle that says "Watchmaker". He mostly does repairs, but on his wrist is a gold watch of unspeakable beauty, thin as a quarter, which winds with a key that is part of the latch of the band. It has zero adornment on it, and it is his actual masterpiece, as in the piece he made to obtain his master's certificate. Despite the dumbing of the race, there are still craftsmen.

Roger said...

Oh, you are so correct.
There is no comparison between building a good 1911 and any AR.

Windy Wilson said...

My nephew likes lego, and I have to tell you, it would be almost impossible to buy the particular legos to make the pictured Lego AR. Legos now come with illustrated, step-by-step instructions, and specialized pieces that would give Tamiya or Revell pause, for cryin' out loud! There is almost no way to make it other than the way the kit and instructions call for, and wrong. The end of the Republic is upon us!

JFM said...

Doug Turnbull makes .308 & .223 ARs. The fit and finish is............nice.

Tam said...

I'm sincerely curious as to whether you thought I was unaware of Turnbull's ARs?

JFM said...

I guess that at the time I did. I don't now. Sorry.

Toastrider said...

Windy: You've been shopping in the wrong places. You can buy boxes of what I call 'base blocks' for Lego.

TimD said...

There was also DESIGN byME but they seem to have discontinued that for now.

Anonymous said...

I've only taken part in the building of a couple of ARs from a pile of parts, but Tam's right... they're like Legos. Anyone with good instructions (or even Youtube) can slap the parts together and have it work rather well. That's a plus of Stoner's design.

If you want a different and more labor intensive experience, try building an AKM from a parts kit. That's more like blacksmithing that gunsmithing.

Jerry Shaw said...

Agree at about the 85 to 95% level. As a competitive highpower shooter I know of a small handful of builders who put out something different from the crowd. John Hollinger of White Oak Arms builds very high performance ARs. He doesn't charge a premium. His whole rifles are more than the sum their parts. Ask most any competitive across-the-course shooters at the Master or High Master classification.
On the whole, however, there's just not a lot of difference in what builders do.

Mike Gallo said...

I am not sure I would lump BCM in with the "any monkey" crowd. Constant QC checks and a system that rejects some 40% of the raw materials is not indicative of poo-flinging on the assembly line. Paul is moving more production in-house as fast as possible due to parts suppliers' inability to get him in-spec parts. I do get your point, but I think it was an imperfect delivery.

Tam said...

No, Mike, I believe you misunderstood my point.

Hognose said...

Re: ARs. If you're building a "work of art," you misunderstand the platform. As I have said elsewhere, it's a service rifle, not a Fabergé egg.

Re: "Of course, there are a lot of 1911s out there that people think are "custom" that are assembled from bins of drop-in parts"

Cough, the creep who uses the name and crest of my regiment as one of his model names, but never actually showed up there, cough.