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Leg-Shot
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Posted: 1/29/2012 4:58:07 PM
I'm contemplating putting together my first ar & figured that the starting pint should probably be the upper & lower (evenatually, I'll have gatherd all the requisite parts & then commence assembly, but for now, I'll be in the "gather" mode). Looking around, I've found dozens of brands, some billet, some forged, some whose pricing is rather prohibitive & others that make you wonder if they're any good at all...

With all this in mind, can anyone suggest/recommend a decent, economical brand? What are the strong & weak points of both billet & forged?

ty
Unicorn
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Posted: 1/29/2012 6:33:54 PM
[Last Edit: 1/29/2012 6:35:15 PM by Unicorn]
Most brands are the same when it comes to quality and fit. Very few of the AR makers actually machine their own lowers and uppers.

Billet looks cooler to me, but if you speak to a metalurgist it's probably a little weaker. But not to a point that you'll ever notice without expensive equipment to measure it.
Forged starts out as a block of aluminum that is pressed into it's basic shape then the machine shop finishes removing all the metal that doesn't look like an AR.
Billet starts out as a block of aluminum then a machine shop removes all the metal that doesn't look like an AR.
Billet is more expensive (unless you are just running a few pieces) and has no actual advantages other than looks IMO.
Forged is cheaper, but has no other actual, practical advantages IMO.
I go forged just for the price. If it were as cheap I'd go billet since I tend to like the more angular look of most billet.

And like I said, most every lower is of similar quality. I won't pay $130 for a stripped lower when there are cheaper, equal quality lowers available. I won't go cast, and there are a couple companies I'd stay far away from though.
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Getnlwr
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Posted: 1/29/2012 7:59:39 PM
Welcome to the forum.

Unicorn is correct for the same dimensions of the metals you wont know a difference. I'd like to add that in the AR15 world billet is usually stronger BECAUSE they make the billet uppers and lowers thicker/heavier. And I'd give a big plus 1 to the warning of avoiding CAST lowers. the other down side to billet lowers is that the finish and milling lines dont match up with other companies. To make the rifle match you have to get matching sets. See MEGA MACHINE for what they have, if I were to build one out of billet I would look their way.
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Posted: 1/29/2012 10:42:14 PM

I can heartily recommend Mega, having just built out one of their Ma-Ten receiver sets. The fit and finish on their set is absolutely gorgeous. I haven't built out one of their .223 sets. I think they are billet and am confident the quality would be equal to the ma ten.


Another local outfit is Aero Precision, they make forged parts, their product is excellent at a reasonable price. One of their lowers would not drop GI mags freely, I swapped it into a varmint gun where it didn't matter. The only other maker I've built out was RRA, and I can give them the thumbs up as well.

Billet vs forged? It just doesn't matter. An AR lower is a very low stress part. Most are made of 7075, which is pretty strong stuff.

Have fun, it's very satisfying to put one of these guns together then take it out and shoot it.
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Ryo
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Posted: 1/30/2012 12:51:00 AM
Everyone already gave good reasons forge vs bullet. All mine are forged for cost purpses except one 80% billet which I had to mill myself to finish it up. Fun project..
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Boomer
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Posted: 1/30/2012 12:11:07 PM
Originally Posted By Getnlwr:
I'd like to add that in the AR15 world billet is usually stronger BECAUSE they make the billet uppers and lowers thicker/heavier.


Being as the billet aluminum is not as strong as the forged aluminum, wouldn't the extra material in the billet components likely only bring them up the same strength as the forged components?
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Posted: 1/30/2012 6:28:54 PM
Originally Posted By Boomer:
Originally Posted By Getnlwr:
I'd like to add that in the AR15 world billet is usually stronger BECAUSE they make the billet uppers and lowers thicker/heavier.


Being as the billet aluminum is not as strong as the forged aluminum, wouldn't the extra material in the billet components likely only bring them up the same strength as the forged components?


I think that's a reasonable thinking that the billet is thicker making up for it not being as strong..
Since the lower is a low stress item.. There really wouldn't be a issue with the billet or forge unless it's out of spec.
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SkilletsUSMC
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Posted: 1/31/2012 3:45:20 AM
Unless the billet recievers have something radically different from their forged counterparts (built in ambi controls/45deg selector/etc), I'd recommend going the aeroprecision route. I personally can't justify building off of one.

That is, unless you just like the way it looks. That's half the fun anyway.
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Posted: 1/31/2012 3:49:19 PM
Originally Posted By SkilletsUSMC:
That is, unless you just like the way it looks. That's half the fun anyway.


Really what it boils down to for the billet offerings, looks.

The only really nice feature I like about billet lowers is the integral trigger guard. You almost always spend another $20 on a Magpul one, and there is always the chance you break one of the tabs installing it.

jdhill
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Posted: 1/31/2012 5:48:12 PM

Originally Posted By AnthonyL:
Originally Posted By SkilletsUSMC:
That is, unless you just like the way it looks. That's half the fun anyway.


Really what it boils down to for the billet offerings, looks.

The only really nice feature I like about billet lowers is the integral trigger guard. You almost always spend another $20 on a Magpul one, and there is always the chance you break one of the tabs installing it.

All of my forged lowers have the MIAD full-kit trigger guard on it... I don't have the patients to install that damn pin... now that those are getting scarce, I guess I will have to go with billets ... although I think someone has come out with a forged lower with an integral guard.

I did just pick up a TKS billet lower from RA for $130, and an RA billet upper out of the bargain bin for $150

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Posted: 1/31/2012 8:03:20 PM
[Last Edit: 1/31/2012 8:07:59 PM by ARctangent]
Short version:

Think of it this way:

All metals have a grain structure to them...vaguely similar to wood.

With a billet lower, in the process of machining a lower receiver, there are many opportunities to "cut across the grain" as it were.
When that happens, there are inherent weak-points where the possibility of a stress riser can occur.

In an attempt to counteract such problems, they thicken the lower up where they can in order to increase the modulus of elasticity (essentially stiffness).

In a forged lower, the billet block is heated, and then further forged in several steps of forging and finishing dies to achieve the final shape, and then through a final heat-treating.
This process essentially takes the grain structure and forces it to conform to the basic surfaces of the lower receiver.

This minimizes the chance of any internal stress risers occurring, and further increases the material density beyond that of the billet's state.
That allows the manufacturer to use less of a (essentially stronger and more durable) material.

Basically less of a denser material, or more of a material that is less dense...six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other to me.

The only way to really see a noticeable difference between the two would be in the abuse that a firearm would see in daily combat over extended periods of time.
Likely why the .mil prefers forged uppers & lowers.

Myself, I own both, but prefer forged...though forged is not as pretty as billet.
Just my $.02.
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Posted: 3/4/2012 4:02:56 AM
Originally Posted By ARctangent:
Short version:

Think of it this way:

All metals have a grain structure to them...vaguely similar to wood.

With a billet lower, in the process of machining a lower receiver, there are many opportunities to "cut across the grain" as it were.
When that happens, there are inherent weak-points where the possibility of a stress riser can occur.

In an attempt to counteract such problems, they thicken the lower up where they can in order to increase the modulus of elasticity (essentially stiffness).

In a forged lower, the billet block is heated, and then further forged in several steps of forging and finishing dies to achieve the final shape, and then through a final heat-treating.
This process essentially takes the grain structure and forces it to conform to the basic surfaces of the lower receiver.

This minimizes the chance of any internal stress risers occurring, and further increases the material density beyond that of the billet's state.
That allows the manufacturer to use less of a (essentially stronger and more durable) material.

Basically less of a denser material, or more of a material that is less dense...six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other to me.

The only way to really see a noticeable difference between the two would be in the abuse that a firearm would see in daily combat over extended periods of time.
Likely why the .mil prefers forged uppers & lowers.

Myself, I own both, but prefer forged...though forged is not as pretty as billet.
Just my $.02.


Right. For the military it's not really a matter of preference but of price; forged lowers and uppers are super cheap in quantity as machine time is vastly reduced as opposed to billet. Consider too that the government doesn't concern itself with cosmetics and the appearance of forgings, like many consumers do. And from a machining standpoint, a billet is much, much easier to achieve a level of precision that's frustrating to get with a forging. The fixtures and setup for forged lowers are a pain in the ass and unless you are maching a shit ton of them, billet might be a better solution for a small custom outfit (from a manufacturing standpoint that is). And billet lowers can incorporate all kinds of additional features including integral trigger guards, large magwells, ambi controls, etc. Of course you can do the same thing with a custom forging die (like Noveske has done) but machining can still be quite the exercise (probably where some of the chainsaw lowers are coming from) and you have to sell a bunch to recoup the cost of the die.

As far as strength, a forging is almost always "stronger" than billet but there can be situations where that's not the case (when forged grain flow is subject to stress counter its principal design load). But in an AR, particularly the lower receiver, you'll never see any difference as far as durability between the two.
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Madcap72
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Posted: 3/4/2012 1:25:58 PM
What if it's machined from forged billets?
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Posted: 3/4/2012 3:16:14 PM
Originally Posted By Madcap72:
What if it's machined from forged billets?


That's a good point––even though "billets" can stem from a continuous casting, I should have specified that for receivers I'm referring to forged billet. It's still not as good as a part forged to shape as the grain flow is only in one direction (the buffer tube extension is a good example where this differs), and in fact can be detrimental if the manufacturer machines counter to optimal grain structure. And that brings up another issue with billet receivers; how do you know what you are getting? I don't think I've ever seen a billet lower offered by any manufacturer with an explanation as to what their "billet" really is prior to machining.
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Genin
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Posted: 3/4/2012 4:28:47 PM
I think this is largely a ford vs chevy sort of argument. I think that the biggest thing billet parts have going for them is style and looks. In over 45 years of using AR15 type rifles, I only know of one forged upper that wore out. It was a friend of mine who NEVER lubed it because he lived in the desert, and he shot it alot. He used the same upper for matches, professional hide hunting, teaching others how to shoot, and about everything you could think of. After wearing out 4 G.I. chrome lined barrels from shooting them out, the upper still worked, but it was just too ratty looking...it wasn't the interior that wore out, it was the exterior..

My point being that the forged uppers have incredible durability, so it is unlikely anyone will use one so much that it won't work any more. That being the case, I don't think there is a real "need" for anything more durable than a part that won't wear out. But some of the billet parts really do look cool.

Perhaps with a 308 heavy barrel rifle, a heavier upper would be worthwhile though.
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Posted: 3/4/2012 8:46:59 PM


Advantages of Forging

Forging Weaknesses


Structural Integrity – development of grain flow through beating of the metal leads to increased product strength and a high level of material predictability.

Tolerance Levels – products formed through forging may not meet requirements for high tolerances.

Costs – materials are generally less expensive than the materials required for casting. Limited scrap and rework. Reduced labor costs and lower tooling equipment expenses than casting.

Secondary Operations – many forged products require secondary processes to refine and finish to exact specifications.

Reliability – consistent ductility, known yields, and increased strength due to grain development.

Limitations & Defects - forged products may be limited in shape and may include defects from die failure.

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Posted: 3/4/2012 8:47:35 PM
Advantages of Die Casting, Investment Casting and Sand Casting


Casting Weaknesses


Higher Tolerances – the metal molding process offers an opportunity for a higher level of detail and meeting of exact specifications.

Structural Integrity – products formed by casting are more porous than forged products.

Few Secondary Operations – casting provides a primary product that will require very few secondary machining operations.

Costs – tooling costs are generally higher for die casting than for forging. Tooling costs for other casting methods may vary.

Production Rate – once a casting mold is created, the production process can allow for a high production rate.

Process Control – the casting process requires frequent monitoring and inspection to maintain quality and prevent defects.

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Posted: 3/5/2012 12:52:59 AM
They are both good and I have many of both but sometimes the lower you like or need only comes in billittttt



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Posted: 3/5/2012 8:07:00 PM
Originally Posted By Getnlwr:
Welcome to the forum.

Unicorn is correct for the same dimensions of the metals you wont know a difference. I'd like to add that in the AR15 world billet is usually stronger BECAUSE they make the billet uppers and lowers thicker/heavier. And I'd give a big plus 1 to the warning of avoiding CAST lowers. the other down side to billet lowers is that the finish and milling lines dont match up with other companies. To make the rifle match you have to get matching sets. See MEGA MACHINE for what they have, if I were to build one out of billet I would look their way.


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