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Tag Archives | GWACS Armory

CAV-15 MKII Update

I have some good news and some bad news. I’ll start with the bad. The CAV-15 MKII, the most successful polymer AR-15 lower ever made, is going away. The good news is that there will be a CAV-15 MKIII!

From GWACS Armory, makers of the CAV-15 lower:

We are thankful for InRange TV’s WWSD project expanding the interest in the GWACS CAV 15 product. With this expanded interest we have virtually sold out of our MK II product line.

This year the CAV-15MKII turns 15 years old and unfortunately during our last production run our injection mold reached its end of life.

We are currently finalizing the design of the CAV-15 MK III that will maintain the same strength and durability as the MK II while including the most requested new features. We have incorporated some features recommended by Russell Phagan aka SinistralRifleman.com who has been involved with the CAV-15 since 2001. These improvements assure the future CAV-15 models are in line with the needs of the modern firearms market.

We will be announcing the availability of the CAV-15 MK III and MK IV later this year!

If you want to receive more information as we near the preorder event please create an account on our web page so that you can receive updates. If you already have an account you will be notified by email.

We want to thank everyone for the enormous support of the GWACS Armory CAV-15 MK II.

You can read more about the history of the CAV-15 here: https://sinistralrifleman.com/2013/01/27/history-of-the-cav-15-polymer-receiver/

GWACSArmory.com

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Echo Nine Three GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII Sling Mount Modification

You’ve likely seen Echo Nine Three’s modification work on the GWACS Armory CAV-15 lowers featured here on JTT before. One of these lowers is central to my Sub 6 with a Twist build. The various photos of this lower that have appeared on JTT are widely shared on the web and I receive fairly regular emails asking about the lower – especially the sling mount.

cav-15 e93 sling mod

At the time that E93 completed the work on my lower, they installed a prototype loop mount that was never available made available. Now they are offering a new sling mounting option that is an improvement over my prototype mount and a vast improvement over the stock sling mounts included on the CAV-15 MKII lowers which are very rudimentary.

The new mount should look familiar. It is a Magpul M-LOK Sling Mount that has been repurposed for use on the CAV-15. You can request pricing on this additional service when you order your CAV-15 MKII modification.

Check out Echo Nine Three’s CAV-15 MKII Modifications.

E93 CAV-15 Receiver Modifications

Echo Nine Three has added a Services section to their website. There you will find a growing number of the gunsmithing services that they offer including their CAV-15 Lower Receiver modifications. If you have been reading JTT for a long time, you have seen these services mentioned before several years ago and seen them in use on the Sub 6 with a Twist Build. Now, for the first time ever, these services are officially listed on the Echo Nine Three website which is great because I have received several inquiries about the modifications over the years.

SUB_6_With_a_Twist

The CAV-15 Receiver Modification package includes cutting the stock to the customer’s specified length of pull, fitting a new butt pad, undercutting the trigger guard, and stippling the grip. If you think about what it would cost to the change the stock and grip on a standard lower receiver, this package is quite reasonably priced and I can testify to the fact the work is very well executed. It completely changes the way the GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII Receivers handle and goes a long way toward reducing the weight of an already lightweight lower.

The CAV-15 MKII tends to get lumped into the same category as all the other poorly executed polymer lowers and that is truly a shame. These lowers are bull strong, lightweight, and handle very well – especially with the E93 Modification Package. You give up some parts standardization and some ability to easily swap/adjust parts but the price is right and it would take you a few life times to wear one out or break it.

Check out the E93 CAV-15 Modification Package.

When Training and Manufacturing Meet

When training and manufacturing meet, problems are solved.

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You may remember a post earlier this year about a lightweight AR-15 carbine that weighed 5.5 pounds and had a target price of around $1000. That carbine was the result of 3 companies coming together to provide a unique training solution for a shooter that lost an arm in accident. KE Arms, GWACS Armory, and Suarez International all had a hand in this very cool project. Each used their products and experience to not just create a new piece of hardware but also provide the training necessary to use it. I strongly encourage you to check out Russell Phagan’s short write-up on the experience, the gear, and the VERY cool sling charging setup that they created to allow for easier one hand charging.

The best news is that we may all be able to benefit from the lessons learned in this project as the carbine in question will enter production as the Suarez Light Fighter Rifle. The Light Fighter Rifle will have a price tag of above the $1000 mentioned in the early design phase of the carbine due to the inclusion of their single stage cassette style trigger, muzzle device, and a low mass bolt carrier. GWACS Armory will eventually be offering a version that will come in around $1000.

I can see the sling setup being a big help in getting injured people back on the range.

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Challenge Accepted! Lightweight on a Budget Build

After I completed my Sub 6 with a Twist build, I received an email from a someone who stated that anyone could make a lightweight rifle if they had “unlimited funds like you”. This gentleman obviously doesn’t have access to my bank statement but I took that email as a personal challenge to prove him wrong.

SUB_6_With_a_Twist

The mildly infamous Sub 6 with a Twist Build

My goal was to build a good quality, reliable carbine that weighed around 6 pounds and cost around $1200. I acknowledge that $1200 is a lot of money but it is still less than some stripped-down, off-the-shelf carbines. The plan for this one was going to be far more ambitious than just iron sights and plastic hand guards. In order to prove this guy wrong, this project would have to have a 12″+ hand guard, a weapon light, and a quality optic. To really prove him wrong, every part would have to be scrutinized for cost in dollars, cost in weight, and quality so that not only was this build affordable, it was also functional.

I am proud to say, I nailed the weight and came in just over $1200 on the price. However, the prices are all listed at retail. A savvy shopper could easily bring the price below $1200.

The Build

I’ll start with the lower as it is an easy one that can be knocked out at one vendor and then move on to the upper parts which requires more thought. Finally, I’ll wrap up with the accessories that make this into an exceedingly useable carbine.

Lower Build

The obvious choice for the lower was a GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII. Their one piece polymer lowers are extremely durable, very lightweight, and economical considering that they include the pistol grip and buttstock. I have used them extensively and have come to trust them. The lower itself costs $129 and the lower parts kit adds $64.95. If you can find a few extra dollars in your budget, GWACS Armory’s new lightweight pivot pins will save you even more weight.

Upper Build

The upper receiver is where much of what makes an AR-15 reliable happens. This is perhaps the most delicate balancing act between cost in dollars, cost in weight, and quality. Fortunately, we live in a bit of a golden age for the AR-15 and there are no shortage of choices.

The barrel was an easy choice. Faxon Firearms makes great AR-15 barrels that are VERY affordable. I have one of their 16″ midlength, lightweight 4150 barrels that has been a real performer for me. For this build, I used a 16″ midlength, lightweight profile 416R stainless barrel with QPQ finish which has been an impressive performer and will be the subject of a full review later. It is accurate, lightweight, very reliable, and at just $189 – a perfect choice for this build. If you want to save even more, use the 4150 version of this barrel at just $175 (less if you shop around).

This Faxon Firearms barrel was critical to this build. Much of the weight (barrel profile) and reliability (gas port, chamber, etc.) of your build will come down to barrel choice. It would be more difficult to hit the weight and budget numbers, while still building a reliable carbine, without their barrels.

While I was perusing Faxon Firearms, I also picked up their gas block and gas tube. Buying these with the barrel saves $5 ($29.99 for the gas block and $15.99 for the gas tube). Faxon Firearms’ gas block also happens to be skeletonized which saves weight.

I picked up a blemished stripped upper from Aero Precision. I use Aero Precision’s upper receivers in many of my builds and have come to trust them. Their blem uppers also happen to be a great deal. Watch for sales and shop around for an even better price than the $49.99 reflected in the final price for this article. If you are anything like me, you have a forward assist and dust cover laying around.

1200 Lightweight

Here it is. You can cram a lot of carbine into $1200 and 6 pounds.

It isn’t hard to find bolt carrier groups for around $140. Pick up the one you are most comfortable with and run with it. In that price range, I really like the Sionics Weapons Systems NP3 coated BCG. Add the charging handle of your choice. You should be able to find a plain one for around $15 if you shop around.

When you think of lightweight and affordable rails, you think of the ALG Defense EMR. It isn’t just a decent cheap rail. It is one of my favorite rails regardless of price. I chose the 12″ EMR V0 since it comes with all the rail sections I would need later in the build, costs only $135, and weighs in at a scant 7.84 ounces including the barrel nut!

The ALG Defense EMRs also have integral sling swivel sockets which saves weight and cost. This is often overlooked but should be considered when planning a lightweight/budget build. The EMR V0 comes with a barrel nut, rail sections, and integral sling mounts. It is a good deal on its face but it is mind blowing deal when you consider the cost of those items.

Accessories

The accessories are what round out this build and make it really impressive for the cost. You can spend more than $1200 for a basic AR-15. If you follow this recipe, that same $1200 builds you an AR-15 with 12″+ hand guard, a weapon light, and a quality optic.

I chose an INFORCE WML for the weapon light. It weighs 3 ounces and has in integral mount which makes its $125 price tag seem even more reasonable. You could go cheaper on the light but it will difficult to find a set up this light in weight.

Magpul’s MBUS back up iron sights are an easy choice for this build. They are affordable and lightweight. A set can be purchased for around $80 (less if you shop around, especially on the secondary market).

The optic that I chose weighs around 6 ounces with its ADM QD mount, has 50,000 hour battery life, rugged construction, has a variety of mounts available, and uses a common CR2032 battery. Sounds expensive, right? It is also backed by some of the best customer service in the business yet it costs only $238.99 (with an ADM mount so it could cost even less with a less expensive mount). The Primary Arms MD-ADS has impressive specs and has proven itself to me as a solid value.

I just used an A2 flash suppressor that I had laying around. If you don’t have one, ask a buddy.

The Tally

The total weight of the carbine build listed above worked out to 6 pounds even. I was hoping to go under 6 pounds but I am glad I didn’t go over.

The total cost was $1219 going by mostly normal retail prices. Like I said before, a savvy shopper could easily build this for less than $1200.

Wrap Up

This build made me realize how blessed we are as shooters/consumers. A build like this wouldn’t have even been possible just a few years ago. Rails were much heavier, barrels were more costly, weapon lights were massive, lightweight optics were more costly, and there certainly weren’t as many choices.

Expensive AR-15s are often expensive for a reason but, in this golden age of AR-15s, you should never feel like you have to settle. There are enough options out there that anyone should be able to build something close to what they want at a price they can afford if they are willing to do some leg work.

GWACS Armory and KE Arms – Flying Too Close to the Sun

I have written about GWACS Armory CAV-15 Lower Receivers before. They are the only polymer AR-15 lowers that I have personally vetted over several years and a few thousand rounds. I own two of them and trust them in large part because they are designed around the strengths and weaknesses of polymer rather than just a normal lower rendered in plastic instead of aluminum. Are they for everyone and every purpose? Maybe not. Do they work as intended and take a massive amount of abuse? You bet. I believe they are very under-appreciated.

InRange TV (who you really should be watching regularly for their unique blend of firearm reviews, history, culture, and consistently solid content) posted a test a while ago that I shared on the JTT Facebook Page that showed them running over, shooting, and generally abusing a GWACS Armory CAV-15 Lower.

KE Arms recently sent me some press that shows what happened to that poor, abused CAV-15 Lower. You might think it was retired to trade show booth wall-hanger status or the dust bin. Not quite. Karl, one of the hosts of InRange TV is still using it. In fact, he is using quite effectively. The lower was recently used in conjunction with a KE Arms upper to win Trooper Division at the Independence Day Action Rifle Match and place 6/76 over all.

The upper/lower combo has affectionately been named Icarus which is very fitting. It certainly looks like it has been flying a bit too close to the sun. Both KE Arms and GWACS Armory are understandably proud of Karl’s accomplishment and their gear.

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KE Arms and GWACS Armory Lightweight Collaboration Rifle

KE Arms and GWACS Armory recently collaborated to help a student of The Suarez Group who has a physical limitation. The result was a sub 5 1/2 pound carbine with an MSRP that is less than $1000.

KE Arms GWACS Lightweight

The carbine features a GWACS Armory CAV-15 lower receiver with KE Arms lower parts kit. The KE Arms built upper receiver features a lightweight contour barrel, Young Manufacturing Lightweight BCG, and a KE Arms 12.5″ Delta-S Keymod Handguard. The total weight is just 5.6 pounds.

Hopefully, this or a similar package will be available as an off-the-shelf item in the near future.

GWACS Armory CAV-15 Lightweight Pivot Pins

The CAV-15 lower receivers from GWACS Armory are popular among lightweight AR-15 builders. Their two piece polymer construction has a track record of durability and they are very lightweight. A modified GWACS Armory CAV-15 lower is central to my Sub 6 with a Twist build. I recently emailed them to ask if they ever considered making a lighter pivot pin set (the ones I have are solid steel). GWACS Armory response was something like… “Yeah… we already make those.” Their real response was much more polite than that but they probably felt like being snarky to the guy who was giving them ideas for products that they already make.

The new lightweight pins save .4 oz versus the standard steel pins. The steel pins weigh .6 oz while the new lightweight pins weigh in at just .2 oz. They are machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and hard anodized for durability. GWACS Armory sells them for $15 including shipping.

Note: These pins are for use with the CAV-15 lower receiver only. They will not work with standard lowers.

gwacs lightweight pins

GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII Torture Test

What happens when you break boards with a GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII lower receiver, then run it over with a Jeep a few times, shoot it a few times, and put it through a shooting competition in between the board breaking, running over, and shooting it?

Not much.

GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII Improvements

Several months ago I wrote a review of the GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII AR-15 lower receiver. I was actually surprised by how much I liked it. They just work and don’t seem to have the durability issues of other polymer lowers on the market.

In the review, I mentioned a few fit and finish issues that I noticed: the finish on the take down pins was so bad that they looked used before I even installed them and there was plastic flashing left in the magazine well. GWACS Armory immediately acknowledged the issues and said they would work to correct them… and they did.

GWACS Armory Improved Pins

I have been able to check out a handful of their recent CAV-15 MKII lowers, including a new one that they sent me to show off the improvements. The fit and finish on the take down pins has been MUCH better. The new finish appears to be a deep, black oxide that has held up very well for me. Even after being installed and removed several times, the pins show little wear and look much better than the previous ones even when they were new.

They also addressed some of the plastic flashing issues. GWACS Armory is obviously taking a bit more time cleaning up the lowers by hand after the two halves are fused. The bottom of the grip and the magazine well are much cleaner on this newest example.

GWACS Armory Buffer

All CAV-15 MKII also now come with GWACS Armory’s new distinctive buffer. It is a standard weight buffer (H buffers will be available soon as an option) that is hard anodized bright red and branded with a GWACS Armory logo. This isn’t really a functional improvement (though this buffer is of a higher quality than the one that came in my previous lower) but it does add the type of detail that rounds out a lower and lets you know that the company behind it gives a rip.

It is great to see a company responding to customer feedback the way the GWACS Armory has with these new improvements to the CAV-15 MKII. Check out GWACSArmory.com. Use discount code “triggerjerk” to save 5% off your purchase.

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