PTAC upper from PSA.... Final words on 'El Cheapo'.
The way I see it, Anybody can spend a lot of money and buy the most superific, whizbangious , extra special operatortorious, and ermagerd expensive AR-15 on the market, and then proclaim it the best functioning rifle one can buy. Just like a person can buy a hammer, or buy an Eastwing framing hammer... both will do the job for 95% of the people who need a hammer. The professional carpenter though, might appreciate the extra quality of the Eastwing. Yeah.... I own an Eastwing, a hand me down from my Dad who DID use it professionally. What I don't own is a hyper-expensive whiz bang AR-15. Instead, I have a few I put together myself and enjoy shooting quite a bit. Are they fancy? Nope. Do They Function? Yes... so far at 100% with not a single issue. With that in mind, I was curious about the cheaper incarnations of such beasties. Will they function reliably? Sure, they may not be pretty, but will they hammer the nail every time or not? Figuring to start with an inexpensive complete upper, as I had just assembled a lower and it was wanting a top half... I procured a PTAC complete slick side upper from Palmetto State Armory. It came complete with a bolt group and charging handle, A-2 style front sight, and built in rail on the receiver. All this, for only $269. Pinned to the completed Rock River lower, the entire rifle came in just over $500. Nicknamed 'El Cheapo', it certainly looked the part. No forward assist, no dust cover, and a wide open field of possibilities for sighting, since it had none on the back. What I really wanted to know was... would it function reliably? Lets face it, what can a man expect from an upper receiver group that cost under $300 shipped to the door? I determined to give it a hard run, and see what it would do. Short of burying it in sand, I figured the harshest thing I could inflict on an AR upper is to run it bone dry for an extended round count. In this case, I pulled the number 500 out of.... um..... the air. 500 rounds on a dry and dusty AR-15, a platform that once had a reputation for being fussy about cleanliness and lubrication. The fine folks at Wideners Reloading and Shooting supply got
wind of this, and sent along a big box of Federal 55 grain ammo. The American Eagle number in the Federal lineup, it may be one of the most popular AR fodders available. Good quality, reliable, and not too pricey. A solid choice for this test. Take note.... Supplying the ammo for this was Wideners idea. They are a bunch of shooters just like us, and seem dedicated to their sport and their customers. It might be a thought to include them on the list of folks we do business with, seeing as how they've been serving shooters for a long, long time now. The rifle had an Eotech holographic sight mounted on it, for ease of shooting. Also... it's just plain fun to shoot with. A comment: It seemed funny to have a sight installed that cost more than the whole rifle put together. Range time with El Cheapo and the PTAC upper; This really falls into two categories. Functionality, and accuracy.
Accuracy was reasonable from the PTAC with 50 yard groups under 2" and 100 groups hovering just under 4" Now, if this was an expensive upper those numbers would upset me, but not so for a $269 unit. The thing is, maybe this rifle is more accurate than that. Recently I have been questioning my aging eyesight when it comes to more precise shooting, and the Eotech
gives no magnification to assist my elderly peepers. To that end, when I get a spare scope and the gumption, I will mount some glass on this rifle and really go after it's best accuracy.
That leaves function. Here, I have nothing to report. Nothing.... and I mean nothing. Failures to feed? Nope... nothing. It chambered every single round perfectly. Failures to fire? Nope.... nothing there either. Bangity Bangity like boring clockwork. Failures to extract? Again, nothing to report.
What else is there to say? 500 rounds on a bone dry AR upper, of the cheapest kind I could locate, and not one malfunction of any kind.
Now, I know that might change if the round count on the rifle was 5000 rounds instead of 500, or even 10,000 rounds. I'd never expect a direct impingement design AR to go uncleaned and un-lubricated that long. It would be a hateful thing to subject any rifle too, let alone a dirt cheap M4-gery. The final word.... would I recommend this PTAC upper to someone who wanted to build a cheap but functional AR-15? I can only say Yes, I would. I'll be keeping this one, and glad to have it. My next AR-build will probably be something a bit nicer, but I have no qualms at hauling El Cheapo out of the safe and putting rounds down range with it.