My favorite 5.56 rifle that I own is the one I built using a matched billet upper and lower from Salient Arms International. My DIY SAI Tier 1 AR used a Troy Defense barrel and replica CNC aluminum handguard similar to the Tier 1 and LVOA handguard. One issue I had was the weight and how obsolete the handguard was.
While it looks good, the weight was just annoying. Or maybe I am just weak. Regardless, I wanted a lighter setup. First up was to get a better barrel. While the Troy Defense barrel was a decent enough barrel for range use, lighter and stronger are better. So I opted for the Faxon GUNNER barrel. My friend Brian Miller told me about them. He praised it for its accuracy and light weight.
I reached out to Nathan S. of Faxon and he sent one out. What I did not realize was that these barrels require a .625″ gas block. I had purchased a traditional .750″ gas block assuming it was the same as my other barrels. It pays to pay attention. Not a big issue. I just returned the gas block I purchased and ordered the light weight gas block from Faxon to complete the rifle build.
The GUNNER barrel is a hybrid between a pencil barrel and Gov’t profile barrel. The thin and light weight pencil profile is at the front starting with the gas block. Behind the gas block, it is all business. The thicker Gov’t style barrel profile helps maximize heat reduction and reduce barrel whip.
To help reduce the weight I also got a light weight 17.5 Extended Rail One Piece Free Float Handguard from Midwest Industries. Comparing my old setup with this new one, I shaved almost a pound of weight from my upper receiver.
The extended rail from MI is 17.5″ long so it is similar in concept to the LVOA handguard in that it has a full rail that extends over the muzzle brake. As you can see below, I am using a VG6 Epsilon muzzle brake to redirect most of the gasses to the side. Another added benefit is the modularity of MLOK slots all over this rail. The older LVOA style handguard required screws and rails that were not common. Here, I can add lights and rails and quickly remove them easily with a twist of an allen wrench.
Here were my groups at 50 yards. Now I believe the group size is due to my lack of skill at precision and accuracy. Also I am an impatient shooter. I care more about minute of person that MOA. Your priorities may differ. As long as I can ding steel at 300-400 yards I am happy. 10 shots in semi rapid succession, the group below is good enough for me.
I was testing out a new BT Industries Atlas Bipod, Nikon M223 fixed 3x scope and Meopta HD80 spotting scope.
The total rifle, without optic just weighs a hair over 6 lbs.
I could not believe how much better by rifle handles with this light barre and handguard setup. I highly recommend getting them if you want a barrel that benefits from two proven designs and help shed some necessary weight allowing you to enjoy shooting for longer periods of time.