Rob Pincus from I.C.E. Training and Personal Defense Network hosted the first annual SupAR Bowl Build Party this weekend and while I didn’t attend the official party I did take this past Sunday to do some upgrades to my own AR. part of it was to reduce the weight of my custom Recon Upper the other was to set my primary AR up as something more like the Contractor kits I have seen where you have one receiver and two (or more) uppers to handle any job you may take it out on.
The component I planned to replace is an older Yankee Hill Free Float Handguard. This was an older model that had the weakness of sometimes rotating during use. Yankee Hill has since fixed this problem, but I also really didn’t need all that rail space.
The part I would replace it with is a Midwest Industries Gen 2 SS-Series free-float rail. This rail is of the newer slim-line type with only a single top rail and a few add-on sections. Not having four full-length sections is guaranteed to reduce weight and make the rifle easier to handle.
The process was actually quite simple. I removed the scope and mount and clamped the receiver into the bench block. Then I removed the front sight/gas block (after marking its position on the barrel) then the hand guard followed by the proprietary barrel nut. After cleaning the receiver threads and applying a small dab of moly grease I installed the new barrel nut, torqued it to spec, applied some locking compound (looks like blue loc-tite), slid the handguard into place and torqued the two locking bolts into place. Then I just re-installed the front sight/gas block and torqued it down along with the scope and mount and I was all done.
Just a word about how I go about assembling AR uppers. While some say it’s not necessary I pay attention to specifications when it comes to torqueing the various parts. Manufacturers have taken some time figuring out the proper amount of tension for mounting their parts. So my opinion is that by paying attention to these values one will have a higher quality build when they are done. To this end I keep a 1/2″ torque wrench that measures in foot pounds, a second 3/8″ torque wrench that measures in inch pounds and a Wheeler Firearm Accurizing Torque (FAT) wrench that is actually more like a torque driver in my tool kit. As a famous but fictitious engineer once said “always use the proper tool for the job.”