Roscoe The Reject AR

Maybe he just needs to be adopted and loved?

It’s only the first of May, and AR-15 variants—the most sought-after firearms in America—are in short supply and flying off gunshop racks like flushed birds. Two major AR makers estimate that operating at full throttle, “black rifle” orders placed today can’t be filled before March or April 2013—by which time their manufacture may be prohibited. Industry insiders say the anticipated “election surge” hasn’t even begun yet! Meantime, ARs needing just a touch of TLC languish in the shadows, begging for adoption.

The causes of the boom in demand are many, varied, highly politicized, speculative, and fodder for another forum. Maybe you’re looking for a second AR; one for your spouse or a kid? Anxious consumers are making offers way over retail yet going away empty-handed. You can’t buy what’s not available. Here and now, let’s just examine an overlooked source of black rifles: the ranks of the rejects.

ARs and other guns labeled “shot out” or “defective” have been a long-running source of both mirth and great deals for me and for the rest of the GunBums clan for many years. Rarely are those rejects really defective, most just needing the TLC they didn’t get from original owners or minor parts replaced, and truly “shot-out” barrels in 5.56mm are probably about 1 percent of those besmirched with that label. You’ll run across bolt rifles in hotter calibers with truly shot out barrels, but not in ARs.


These black rifle orphans are usually found in local supermarket “Penny Saver” and “Thrifty Nickel” type tabloids or ignored on the back racks of gunshops, where they’ve been taken in trades more or less as a sop to buyers of new guns. Prices are often ridiculously low, and they’re bluntly described as losers. So why don’t gunshops clean ’em up, make small repairs and sell them?

They may do more of that soon, but for now, profit margins are low, while time and labor is costly; ARs showing wear, even if it’s only cosmetic, lack visual appeal and they’re very poor sellers. This makes for good hunting!

I asked two of the GunBums to check for new and orphaned ARs for sale in their town of 24,000 souls. They found only four new ARs in stock, all marked “sold,” and eight “rejects.” Six rejects needed only deep cleaning and maintenance. Two needed new extractor springs and rubber doughnuts, and one of those required a new extractor and rear sight. All were worn, unattractive and potentially good, reliable shooters. Prices asked for these “junk ARs” ranged from $350 to $450.
Note: I’m not a gunsmith, armorer or “expert”; just a roadworn IWO—Itinerant Weapons Operator—and my comments are offered for my fellow IWOs.

Shot Out—Or Just Fouled?

It’s been my experience, and that of a retired gunsmith friend, that about 99 percent of “shot out” AR barrels are simply heavily copper-fouled. This is due to poor cleaning, cleaning with oil or a CLP only, and completely reversible. If you have a bore light and magnifying glass, you can often see this clearly. A copper solvent-soaked patch can provide proof.

Certainly, look for real rust, scoring and corrosion, but you’re unlikely to find it. Remember too, there’s a huge difference between a worn barrel and a shot out barrel. In the end, if the tightest an adopted orphan AR can shoot is 4 MOA, just measure the diameter of your noggin and think about it….

If the complaint is like, “Can’t shoot groups inside a trash can lid at 100 yards” and the groups are inconsistent, check the muzzle for burrs and damage! Recently I’ve seen two “defective” ARs with easily-fixed muzzle damage which would have been obvious if the users had looked.

I love seeing “defective trigger” and “glitchy trigger!” tags. Peek inside and you’ll likely find the whole trigger group looks like it’s mired in a wad of greasy, tacky lint and burnt carbon particles. That’s what spray action flushers are made for! Just be sure to either use an action blaster which dries leaving a light lube/preservative, or lubricate it properly afterward. Also check the hammer and trigger pins for looseness—slightly oversized pins are cheap cures.


If the trigger’s still incurably nasty or too heavy, consider a quality drop-in replacement trigger group. I got three for a feature project—an American Trigger Corp “Gold,” a Wilson Combat TTU, and a Chip McCormick unit—all from Brownells, and they’re all great improvements over the factory triggers they replaced. Frequently just going to a better, crisper trigger can cut your groups in half, and these do.

Double-feeds and failures to extract or eject are often due to worn out extractor springs and doughnuts, less often to chipped or broken extractors. If you can wiggle the extractor like a loose tooth, there’s the problem—and it’s an easy fix. This is one of those beautiful opportunities to save $250 to $300 with a $15 extractor upgrade kit! Bear in mind, too, feeding problems blamed on the carbine are sometimes caused by bad magazines, a point unnoticed by many users.

With direct gas impingement systems, sluggish, erratic performance can result from carbon fouling in the gas tube, sometimes in the gas port. It’s a sad fact, most AR owners never clean the gas tube, and with the increasing use of dirty-burning imported ammo, badly restricted gas tubes are showing up. If cleaning doesn’t cut it, Brownells offers Melonite-coated gas tubes by Spike’s Tactical—another easy fix. If the AR short-strokes, check the integrity of the gas rings, and check the gas key to assure the staking hasn’t busted loose.

Go Ahead—Rescue A Reject!

Even if you have a bright, shiny, high-quality AR and you’re not particularly driven to find a second, the old saying that “the best spare part is a spare gun” is undeniably wise. Get the Armorer’s Series AR-15 DVD from American Gunsmithing Institute—$39.95—and broaden your black rifle horizon.

Just one day of snooping can net you a serviceable, reliable if ugly AR at a bargain price. Team up with a black rifle freak—a knowledgeable amateur—and make the rounds. Compensate your buddy with a burger and a beer, and by all means, have fun! So, you wind up with an AR that runs right but looks like it’s been around the block. Well, that describes you and me too, right? Connor OUT
By John Connor

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Guns September 2012

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