Have you ever scrounged around to see if you have enough spare parts laying around to assemble a rifle?
I have a friend who does not have a small caliber rifle. Predators are killing his landlord’s calves, and his landlord wants them protected. I’ve been digging around gathering parts to build and AR-15 rifle to lend him. It will be challenge, since I am not purchasing anything – I want to use stuff I already have, starting with an old Cav Arms lower and a barrel of dubious origin.
The wolf rifle project is underway. The lower and barrel were easy. The lower is a Cav Arms polymer lower that has been laying around for years. A bit beat up and the buttpad screws are plenty rusty, but it will work well. I’ve always liked these lowers and have a number of them. They are now made by GWACS Armory.
The barel is a 16″ bull barrel with M4 feed ramps and a slightly rusty parkerized finish that someone gave me. There are no markings or clues to it’s origin, other than “556” stamped in front of the gas block. The bore looks good. The gas block came with the barrel.
The upper is in the white and was not even deburred or cleaned up for finishing. It is one of several I bought once for pennies due to improper machining. They ranged from unusable to very close to right. This one is pretty good. I have a generic free-float tube and a slightly damaged barrel nut that came from who-knows-where that I can use. I will have to install a short rail section on it for the bipod.
I have various small parts laying around and a trigger and hammer from a CMMG two-stage lower parts kit. You are not supposed to use certain two-stage triggers in these lowers, so we will see how it works out.
Magazines are no problem, I have some well-used M2 E-Lander mags that were returned by customers claiming they did not function. I tested them and found them to function perfectly. Pretty much all of the mags I run now are “non-functioning” M1 and M2 mags that were returned to us by customers. They work flawlessly in every rifle I can find.
The scope is on another rifle, and I have no high rings laying around for a 1″ tube (other than junk rings that are laying around because I would never put them on any rifle), so the challenge will be mounting the scope. I don’t want to buy rings.
In taking stock of what I scrounged up for the wolf defense rifle, I realized that I had to come up with a solution to mount the scope. I have no 1″ scope rings tall enough to mount a scope on a flat-top AR. Fortunately, I found a solution in a somewhat beat-up VFR rail system that was sent out as a T&E unit. It was returned with dings and was gooped up with Locktite, and sat on a shelf ever since. This means I will also use a standard delta ring/weld spring assembly. So the ugly free-float tube goes back into the parts bin, and the free-float VFR rail system will be used instead.
I really like the VFR because the rails are removable, which makes it light and streamlined. The top rail will give me the height I need for the shorter rings, and allow me to mount the front ring further forward.
The first thin I did was to remove one of the rails and cut it into two pieces, one shorter than the other. This will allow me to mount a bipod without using full-length rails. Cutting and shaping the rails is simple with a hacksaw, file, and sandpaper.
Next, I had the problem of a small gap between the gas block and the front of the VFR. The VFR drops onto a stock M4 without any alteration to the carbine, so there is space left for a handguard cap. I dug up a butchered handguard cap on which someone had tried to open the center hole up. It was ugly, but with a bit of work, I made it fit the bull barrel OK. I also sanded the back side of the cap making it narrower to ensure plenty of space for the free-floating VFR.
I grabbed a T-POD G2 foregrip bipod that we have been using for demos and a PLS light mount, both dark earth color.
So now I have a slightly dinged up VFR, a noticeably rusted and scratched barrel, dirty, scratched magazines, rusty screws, mis-matched parts, and a bright upper with sharp edges and machine marks. This is shaping up to to be quite a mismatched franken-carbine.
So . . . into the blast cabinet with it all! The upper I blasted really thoroughly, but it did not break all the sharp edges, so I deburred it a bit by hand and then it gave it a final blasting.
The parkerized barrel had surface rust. Often in this case, blasting lightly with 100 grit aluminum oxide removes rust from the parkerized surface without removing the parkerizing, and so it was with this barrel. The VFR was blasted, but the anodizing was not removed. This has to be done carefully with most anodized parts, but the anodizing on the VFR and other FAB Defense rail systems is really tough. I blasted it heavily enough to remove most other anodizing, and was able to still keep the anodizing on the VFR. The magazines have E-Lander’s KTL coating, which is extremely durable. I can easily blast the magazines without removing the finish; in fact, it takes some real work to blast through the finish on these magazines.
So now everything is blasted and ready for the next step
Coating the Wolf Rifle
So the next step with the the wolf protection rifle is to make it look more unified – it would look really bad if assemble as is.
So, a little Desert Tan Duracoat won’t hurt, followed by some Desert Mirage Brown. Now it is templated for the third color, which will be Cav Arms Dark Earth.
Notice that after the first coat, I put certain parts together so that the pattern is consistent across them (such as the upper and lower).
The rails for the VFR rail system were coated in solid Cav Arms Dark Earth and the small parts and screws were coated black. This gives some contrast and makes it clear that the rifle was disassembled and coated correctly, not just sprayed while assembled. It gives it a more professional look. The Bipod and PEC are not coated.
Here is a trick for installing set-screw gas blocks:
When a set screw gas block is used, especially an aluminum one, there is always a chance that the gas block could move forward when firing. Heat causes any piece of metal to expand and a ring-shaped part, like a nut or a gas block, will become larger both in the external and internal diameters. A previously tight gas block can become loose on the barrel and slide forward. The solution is to dimple the barrel so that each set screw engages a dimple.
First, install the gas block and align it correctly. You can do this by eye, or use a level if the gas block is railed, or even better, put a witness mark on the top of the barrel just behind the gas block in line with the gas port. Tighten the set screws, being careful not to move the gas block. This will mark the barrel.
Remove the gas block and grab your Dremel tool. Using a round cutting burr, cut a dimple on each of the marks left by the set screws. Start in the center and cut to the edges of each circular mark, then deepen the center and slightly enlarge the diameter. The burr give really great control and you won’t cut off to one side or another as you might do if trying to drill it with a drill bit, especially if you try to use a hand drill.
Of course, you would usually do this prior to coating, but the barrel was shiny and marked in several locations by set screws, so I wanted it to be cleaner and clearer in the photos.
Installing the VFR Rail System
The VFR is a great rail system because it is compact, light, and flexible. Plus, it looks really good. The rails install in any of 8 positions, but I like to keep the rails to a minimum, which is why I cut one rail in two. It will be used to install a T-POD foregrip bipod and a SpeedLight. The top rail will give us the height we need to install an optic with the shorter rings.
The VFR installs on a standard barrel nut. The weld spring and delta ring assembly is not necessary, but the rifle might look odd without it, so I installed it. The handguard cap, opened up for the bull barrel, will protect the gas tube and give it a finished look. The handguard cap does not touch the VFR, so the barrel free-floats.
I first install the two halves just as you would install normal handguards, but without worrying about the handguard cap – it does not engage the handguard cap. I bolt the two halves together, using just a bit of blue Locktite on the bolts. Be careful of getting Locktite on DuraCoat – it will remove it when the DuraCoat is new. I install all bolts finger tight and then tighten them all, being careful not to over tighten and strip the threads.
Next I install the top rail to the upper receiver and bolt it to the top of the VFR. Again I use just a bit of blue Locktite. Certain vibrations can loosen the tightest screws, and travel by airplane, four-wheeler, or snow machine can subject the rifle to such vibrations. Notice that I coated all of the screws black. The buttpad will remain black as will the optic, so coating other small parts black continue a bit of black though the weapon and make it look unified and sharp.
With the scope, light, and bipod mounted, the wolf defense rifle is ready to go. Here are the final specs:
Cavalry Arms polymer lower
Slightly out of spec factory reject upper receiver
Barrel of unknown origin
FAB Defense VFR Free-Float Rail System
Assorted lower parts
CMMG 2-stage trigger, slightly modified to fit the lower
Defense Package ambi safety, installed left-handed (My friend who is borrowing the rifle is left-handed.)
FAB Defense T-POD G2 QR
FAB Defense PLS-1 light mount
FAB Defense SpeedLight 6V
Hawke 6-14×44 scope with 1″ tube and SR12 reticle
Weaver Tactical rings
FAB Defense RBS folding polymer rear sight
FAB Defense PEC adjustable ejection port cover
The rifle was set up as left-handed as I could possibly make it with what I had on hand. The upper worked well; the holes for the hinge pin were drilled at a slight angle, but the ejection port cover could still be used. The VFR rail system gave the needed height to work with the low rings. The adjustable objective ring was bulky, but this scope has ample eye relief and could be mounted so that the ring was just forward of the top rail.
The combination of the CMMG two-stage trigger and the Defense Package ambi safety works well, and the safety has one short leg so that it does not hit the trigger finger. It can be installed for a right or left-handed shooter. The T-POD works well for a 16″ precision carbine, working as both a foregrip for firing off-hand and a precision bipod.
Time to take out a wolf and keep some calves alive!