During the Clinton Administration a military contract clause exercising claim to intellectual property rights on items produced for the government and placing the design into the public domain. The idea was to foster competition among makers and lower costs to the government. This opened the doors for companies other than Colt to pursue contracts on the M16/M4 when the lawsuits settled with Colt losing their exclusivity to the patent transferred from a previous and then-dormant Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation subsidiary called ArmaLite.
Some companies that benefited found they could not compete against companies like Bushmaster and never got into business. Had they done so, we might have had Stoner-pattern rifles being built in Arkansas by an outfit called POM. Other companies, such as Eagle Arms, prospered from this. Managed by Lt. Col. (ret.) Mark Westrom, USAR, it paved the way to acquiring and rebuilding ArmaLite.
This is one reason why it seems everyone with bench vise and armorer’s block is making AR-15s. Few of these companies are “chip makers” in that they assemble components made elsewhere. Another trend is the so-called “80% receiver” where makers produce components that the BATF has ruled as unfinished machine parts but can be made into a lower receiver.
Noreen Firearms is a Montana-based company known for in-house manufacture of precision self loaders and offer a range of parts. Their line of 80% Lower Receivers can be had for AR-15 and AR-10 rifles as forged or CNC-machined from billet components with various levels of finish and processing, to include none. To further aid with building a rifle project, Noreen offers component parts kits and completed upper receivers. These parts can also be had unprocessed and finished by the building gunsmith.
The company also offers a Jig Set with a left and right fixture along with three plates to ease the drilling and completion of a receiver. Other tools gunsmiths need include a Drill Press, X-Y Axis Vice, Stop Collar, 6″ Dial Caliper, and #23, 5/16″, and 3/8″ drill bits and end mill. Also needed are metal files, cutting fluid, and something to tidy up the cut chips. This provides the means of precision manufacture without needing a milling machine.
While it won’t turn you into a “chip maker”, building a rifle from a 80% Receiver provides the gunsmith a degree of customization above using someone else’s completed receiver. Additional details are at OnlyLongRange.com or 406/388-2200.
Read more in the February 2020 issue.