The big news for 2009 is also the best and worst news all at the same time for the gun industry in general and the AR-15 industry in particular. I will start with the best news first. The boom that started with the sunset of the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban in 2004 has literally exploded with the news that Barack Obama, the most anti-gun presidential candidate in U.S. history had won the presidency. Sales of AR-15's and any other so called “black rifles” (and pistols for that matter) have gone through the stratosphere. Comparing notes with various manufacturers, I have found that between the retail and manufacturing end, sales are up 500 percent or more and AR’s can’t be kept in stock. My local firearms purveyor, Vance’s Shooters Supply in Columbus, Ohio, burned through their backroom stock (which was already in short supply before the election) and began selling display models off the shelf. The same thing is true of any of the manufacturers that I have spoken with. This sales boom has been great for everyone in the manufacturing and retail market. I mean, who wouldn’t welcome a 500 percent sales increase (although demand is VERY hard to keep up with)?
Now for the obvious bad news. How long will we enjoy our freedom to own the fine precision weapons we have purchased? With a Democrat Congress and President, the situation is dicey, unless we can work to get more pro-gun candidates into congress in two years. I have said this before and I will say it again with even more fervor. If you want to keep ANY of your firearms rights (because PRESIDENT Obama will go after EVERY aspect of gun ownership) you need to do three things. 1. Join the NRA. 2. Register to vote. 3. Support pro-gun congressional candidates in your area. Now on to the AR’s and related products.
relative newcomer on the market, American Spirit Arms features a distinctive variation of the AR-15 basic operating system, that variation being a left-side charging handle, rather than the central charging handle of the traditional AR. The left side charger was developed to help with easy weapon operation of flat-top receivers using low-profile scope sights, particularly in competition. The side charger does not reciprocate with the bolt. American Spirit offers a number of variations including M-4s, A2s, 9mm and .308 variants. All are available with the side charger feature. American Spirit is a complete CNC Aerospace machine shop, and as a true AR manufacturer, produces all their main components on site. Find them on the web at www.americanspiritarms.com
Blackwater U.S.A., known mainly as a provider of outstanding law enforcement and military training, as well as being one of the world's major security contractors in far flung places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, has joined the ever-expanding number of AR-15 suppliers. A semi-custom production M-4 variant named the BW-15. The semi-custom or custom moniker comes from the fact that the purchaser selects the caliber (5.56, 6.8 or 7.62x39 as of this writing) barrel length, sight and rail system. Barrels all measure 16-inches or longer in their final configurations, with flash hider permanently affixed on the 14.5-inch model, making its OAL 16 inches. A standard anodized matte finish is all that is available at this time, and rifles are all shipped with two Magpul 30-round magazines. The standard rifle is an M-4 flattop with a removable carry handle. Blackwater does not list all the rifle options on their website, but requests that you email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain further information. The basic rifle starts at a reasonable $1000. Find them online at www.blackwaterusa.com
Del-Ton is a true family operation, run by Tony Autro and his wife. Del-Ton was started as a small AR 15 parts business that because of the quality and service provided, rapidly expanded into a full-time, full-service venture, even before the 2008 election. I became acquainted with Del-Ton during a gun writer’s conference in April. Impressed with the product and the owners, for testing I asked for one of the most neglected AR-15 products today, an A2-type rifle. Del-Ton complied by sending their 20-inch barrel DTI Standard Rifle. Why a full-size rifle? Despite the overwhelming popularity of the handy M4 carbine, I felt that the A2 deserved another look as a ranch and patrol rifle. In its full-size configuration, the A2 is as close to the original concept of an ideal battle rifle; light weight, high magazine capacity, ergonomically sound, reliable and durable. The M4 variant, while ergonomic, of very light weight and of high magazine capacity, is not always as reliable as the full-size rifle due to the shorter length of the gas tube. It also is not as smooth shooting as the full-length gun. And when you look at an M4 variant with a quad rail that has every battle necessary implement on earth hung on it, we really stray off the track of what might be most useful in the real world-whether for ranch or patrol use-a rifle that you can throw in the back of a pickup truck or patrol car that you won’t worry about banging or scratching up. I mean how many M4 purchasers are ever using their guns in SWAT type dynamic entry missions? What most users really need is an accurate rifle that you can grab from that pickup truck or patrol car, charge up, and be ready to fire without having to switch anything on, open any caps, or make any stock adjustments. There are very important considerations when wanting to drive off marauding animals or people in a hurry (and no batteries to replace). Now mind you, I am not saying there is no place for the M4, and if you want one by all means get it. I am just saying that there still is place for the full-length A2, and that it can still fulfill many missions. The DTI Standard Rifle has a 20-inch heavy barrel with 1-in-9 twist (I would prefer a lightweight barrel to move the A2 back towards the original concept as a very light gun; one wasn’t available in time for this article), weighs in at 9 pounds, has the standard A2 buttstock (again, here I would prefer the A1 style as I have found that this length is ideal for any shooting position or body size. The A2's length of pull is too long), standard-length round handguards, A2 adjustable sights and carry handle, hard case, two 30-round magazines, and buttstock cleaning kit. A great addition for nighttime use that requires no manipulation is a tritium stripe front sight from XS sights (www.xssights.com).
The post type sight is precise enough for long-range use and fast enough for close-range work, as the tritium is outlined with a white bar for easy acquisition. If you need to mount a light, you can use a front sight rail mount adapter from Midwest Industries, but that is really the only external accessory I would add to make this rifle complete. Function firing was flawless. The DTI Standard Rifle Package retails at $750 (for now). DTI also stocks a wide range of parts and components, including uppers and lowers, mid-length gas block guns and rifle kits. Find the company at www.del-ton.com