For the last few weeks I have been on a flurry of upper building, doing several wildcats and swapping around uppers for various reasons. This has given me the chance to give the Midwest Industries Upper Receiver Rod (MI-URR) a pretty decent work out.
The first thing you notice when it arrives that it is heavy. It is solid steel and treated with what looks to be a highly polished Melonite, or similar finish. I believe MI calls it “Double Black Oxide treated” for years of use. I believe it.
You will also notice, that unlike other upper receiver rods, the back end of this one is not round but milled with four flat sides. If you have ever tried to hold a round bar in a flat vice, you know how often and easily it will slip no matter how hard you tighten it up. There are vices that have pipe jaws built into them, but they only allow you to hold the pipe in one position. With the four flat sides of the MI-URR, you can position your work in any position you want. Also, there is a cut-out in the side of the MI-URR that allows the ejection port to close and latch shut. And the really exciting thing, to me anyway, is that there is a bar attached to the top that very snugly fits in the charging handle raceway to keep the upper receiver from twisting. On the front end there are cuts to engage the barrel extension. Between the barrel extension attachment and the charging handle bar, there is almost no twisting of the upper possible when it is on the rod.
In the past I have used the DPMS nylon upper receiver block. It attaches to the upper via two pins through the take down and pivot pin holes and also has a bar of nylon that extends up into the charging handle raceway. It is an excellent upper receiver block but if you have to get down and nasty with it, removing a stubborn barrel nut or one that just does not want to time and you have to take it to the max, it flexes, and sometimes it flexes enough to worry me. It is very strong but I’d like it a whole lot better if it did not flex at all.
The other upper receiver block I have used is the Mag-Pul Bev-block. It too is excellent for general use. It attaches to the upper via a pin in the pivot pin hole as well as engaging the barrel extension. To make it considerably stronger, you insert your own charging handle and bolt carrier. Added expense if you have to buy that stuff for your build kit, or you have to strip down your BCG and use your own CH and BC. Not a big deal, no, but a PITA. I opted to use a spare BC and CH I had lying around. As good as it is, and there is no flex in the block itself, the attachment of the upper to the Bev-block is not very tight.. The CH and the BC are not snug in the upper and there is a bit of movement in the set up, but it works very well so long as you are not doing anything heavy. There is too much slop in the CH/BC in the way they help support the upper.
The MI-URR solves all these problems. No flex at all and not more than a just a whisker of rotational movement when the upper is mounted. There is no means of securing the upper to the rod so you do have to pay attention to gravity, because the upper can slide off if tilted downward. If you latch your ejection port door shut, it offers a little resistance to the upper sliding off the rod but not much. Of course how much depends on how tightly your EP latches shut.
What I have found especially useful is how easily you can change the position of what you are working on. With the DPMS and the Bev-Block, you can put the work in any position you want as long as it’s horizontal. Both the above mount in the vice, which is bolted to my work bench. Since the jaws are horizontal, the holders can only work in the horizontal position. That puts the gas block set screws on the bottom, the forend screws that secure the forend on the bottom. As well as anything else you want to work on that might be mounted to the bottom of your forend; very inconvenient. With the MI-URR it only take a second to loosen the vice, rotate the URR to any position you want then tighten up the vice again. It makes putting on the gas block much easier as well as mounting the forend. I honestly have to say, this URR is going to replace both my previous upper receiver holders.
A nice touch I have found useful on the MI-URR is the cut out for the ejection port cover. It is easy to position the URR in the vice so you can easily work on installing the ejection port. The MI-URR allows the port door to be installed and will also allow it to latch shut. I also found that installing the forward assist is easily done with the MI-URR but that is just as easily done on the DPMS and the Bev-Block, but installing the ejection port cover IMO is easier done on the MI-URR since it can be rotated so that you are working on the EPC in the horizontal or flat position instead of the vertical.
The one thing the MI-URR won’t do, IMO, is common to all upper receiver devices and specifically to the two I have been using, the DPMS unit and Bev-block. They are not ideal for working on muzzle devices. Yes, if the barrel extension is properly torqued at 150 ft-lbs, you are never going to unscrew or screw in your barrel from the barrel extension and mess up your headspacing when working on muzzle devices, but I think we all know stuff happens and I have myself encountered a BE that was not torqued properly. I had a stubborn flash suppressor unscrew the barrel from the barrel extension. True enough, I was being lazy and was using the DPMS tool for muzzle work. Big no-no. After learning that being lazy sometimes doesn’t pay off, I now only do muzzle work with the aid of a barrel vice, newspaper, and pine rosin. While MI says the MI-URR is OK for muzzle work, that only applies to situations where the barrel extension is installed to the correct torque. I no longer trust doing any muzzle work by any means that does not secure the barrel, taking all torque off the barrel extension and upper receiver.
Is the MI Upper Receiver Rod worth the near c-note? Only you can decide that. For building up only one or two uppers, you can certainly get by with something cheaper, but if you constantly tinker with things and plan on building up quite a few uppers, yes, the MI-URR is worth every penny.