Sharp eyed aficionados will notice that my “M16A1″ is wearing not only an A2 flash hider, but an A2 grip. This is half due to laziness, but my hands are just too damn big for the A1 grip to be comfortable. I also ditched the A1 sight aperture and installed an A2 with the ghost ring and 300 yard pinhole. The cotton GI sling is pretty much only useful as a carry strap. The 20 round magazine is a genuine metal follower Colt that I traded a PMAG for from this sucker. I generally use 30 round aluminum USGI or PMAGs, but a straight 20 is very handy for shooting off the bench or prone. If you can’t locate old Colts, I’m happy to report that you can get quality new NHMTG 20s from these guys for $13 a pop!
I’ve shot a few matches with the MuttAR wearing this getup, and I believe I’m going to not change a thing. It’s a light, handy rifle that delivers full 20″ ballistics while looking cool as hell. Every single match I’ve been to with this thing, I get pulled aside by at least one vet who asks me to have a look at it. I’ve never really fully grokked the attraction to the “and everybody at the range was looking at me!” quality of some guns, but I get this. The gun is a genuine pleasure to shoot.
The biggest drawbacks to this configuration are the poor choices for mounting optics on fixed carry handles (but I unreasonably want one of these), and the inability to mount a light or quick-adjusting 2 point sling. Considering this rifle’s shoddy genetics, it will shortly be sidelined as a cool range toy in favor of a 16″ flat top, but that’s a post for another day.
I think building a retro AR of your own would be a rewarding project, but I do not recommend doing what I did! I bought used and low dollar parts off of AR15.com and gunbroker and somehow ended up with a rifle that’s worked reliably without failures over the years, including an 1100 round weekend class shot with steel cased ammo, but it took me along time, lots of aggravation and I probably spent more money than I needed to. The one thing I did right was to source a high quality barrel. I bought a complete big-hole Colt SP-1 receiver and chucked the stupid big-hole receiver as soon as I could, but kept the Colt barrel. It’s good for 2-3″ groups at 100 yards off the bench with good ammo, and that’s more than reasonable. I’m not sure where to get a 20″ light profile chrome lined barrel these days, but I think BCM would be a good place to start.
If I was building this rifle from scratch today, I’d get my A1 upper and retro styled semi lower from NoDakSpud. Their products are highly regarded and have every variation you could possibly want. No matter what, avoid big-hole Colt uppers like the plague. Sell them to dumb Cult obsessed collectors and stick to standard pin hole sizes!
The wonderful thing about the AR platform is the infinite variations on configuration that are available. The terrible thing about the AR platform is the infinite variations on configuration that are available, that can keep the first time buyer chasing his tail and wasting money on looks-cool parts without a good idea of what would work best for them. A great way to avoid this issue is to faithfully build a retro AR (or get a plain M4 off the shelf!) and shoot the crap out of it (take a class!) to get a better idea of what features would suit your requirements. That is a strategy I can enthusiastically recommend!