General

Project Complete: The Minuteman Rifle

The minuteman rifle

About a year ago, I wrote about an idea for a minimalist rifle. I wanted something great for general marksmanship and light enough for a long hike. I wanted a rugged and reliable companion. Inspired by the “bush rifle,” I wanted it to have an 18″ barrel, fixed rifle stock, and a basic A1 style sight. Essentially, I wanted a modern M16A1. I wrote a few updates on progress over time here, here, as well as my initial impressions of the barrel.

This is my original mock up done on Gunstruction over a year ago:

Mockup

Concerned about the election, I went ahead and picked up two more stripped lowers in August last year. One of those serves as the base for this rifle (the other went to a different project). I also picked up a barrel and other miscellaneous parts required over time. My move across the country and new career put a damper on the plans to finish the rifle. I was weary to have any valuable parts in the hands of a shop while I was moving. I didn’t want anything to return to an old address.

After the move, the primary challenges I faced was the melonite treatment on the Faxon barrel. Melonite is hell on drill bits for pinning a front sight base. Most folks using this barrel go the clamping (or screw in) low-profile gas block path. Another build I saw using a front sight base utilized Fulton’s power wedge system. I wanted to be old school and bomb proof, and wanted it pinned.

Finding someone to do it was the hard part.

After making a few connections, I was directed to Drew at WAR Rifles in Manassas Park. They agreed to do the drilling, pinning, and upper assembly for a very reasonable fee. Drew and his guys are very friendly guys with quality work. I plan on going back to them for other projects with my bolt rifle.

Once I got it back, I took care of a few final touches. I named it the Minuteman Rifle in homage to both my previous career as a Minuteman ICBM officer, and that it also reminds me of a modern minuteman’s rifle. It is no-frills, built for riflecraft, and should be pretty damn reliable. It carries and balances like a dream.

 

Parts List:

Lower Half:

  • Rainier Arms stripped lower
  • Sionics LPK
  • Hogue Overmold grip without hump
  • Magpul MOE rifle stock
  • BCM rifle buffer tube, spring, and A2 buffer
  • ALG ACT trigger
  • Magpul MOE trigger guard
  • V-Seven short throw safety (non ambidextrous)

Upper Half:

  • Rainier Arms Non-FA stripped upper
  • Faxon 18″ Gunner Barrel (1/8 twist)
  • BCM BCG
  • BCM Gunfighter charging handle (Medium latch)
  • BCM .625 front sight post and handguard cap
  • BCM delta ring assembly
  • BCM Sling Swivel
  • Ashley Performance 1/2 MOA front sight post (with white strip)
  • AAC Blackout flash hider
  • Magpul MOE Rifle handguard
  • Daniel Defense A1.5 rear sight

Other Components:

  • Precision Armament Accu-Washer kit for muzzle device
  • TAB Gear Sling

The Reasoning

I wanted this to be an easy to carry, soft-shooting, “Everyman’s Rifle.” I took inspiration from the original M16A1, but wanted to modernize it a bit. There would be no undue weight or complexity.

The Rainier Arms upper and lower receivers have the tightest fit I’ve ever seen. After pulling the pins, it takes a great deal of effort to separate them. Assembled, the rifle feels solid in the hands. There is no rattling, play, or movement of any kind.

I use the 18″ Faxon Gunner barrel mostly because I thought it looked interesting. It has a nice profile, good reviews for accuracy (I haven’t gotten it out there to test yet), and I wanted to see what the melonite treatment is all about.

 

The AAC Blackout was something I already had on hand. It was the first muzzle device I bought way back in my first build, and it has moved around a bit looking for a home. I swapped the rifle it was on back to a classic A2 birdcage. In both cases, I opted to use the Precision Armament washer system to get good alignment without over torquing the device. I realize AAC says that no washers or alignment is needed, but I’m a bit picky with my rifles and wanted the flats of the device to be vertical. I didn’t want to apply too much force on the threads to get there, since it would negatively affects accuracy. I’ve also found that the best shooting teams go a bit past hand tight. With the washer kit, all I have to do is pick the right thickness, torque it just a bit, and add a little bit of Rocksett.

I stuck with Magpul furniture for the fixed stock and rifle handguards. There is no particular reason other than I like them both. They are very comfortable, stable, and I happen to think they look nice. I’m sure a question will arise as to why I didn’t free float it. The answer is that I just flat out liked the Magpul handuards. I already have another rifle (20″ BCM) that I installed a free float rail on, so I thought variety would be nice.

The rear sight took a while to decide. My choices were between a detachable carry handle (which I already had on hand), LMT, Larue, and DD. I eliminated the first two because adjustable rears were outside the set-and-forget nature I was going for. The DD A1.5 ultimately won out over the Larue because it is slightly lighter and I got a pretty good deal on one. They both have great reputations. Scalarworks recently came out with a very lightweight rear, but i honestly don’t care for its appearance.

The Ashley Precision front sight post was an experiment. Since I planned on this being a nearly pure iron sight rifle, I wanted to offer any assistance that I could. The white strip definitely speeds up acquisition, and the 1/2 MOA adjustment is a bonus. I’m a fan of this sight post.

Of all my rifles, this is now the only one with a single stage trigger. The ALG ACT is a product-improved milspec trigger. It does its job fine, but I can definitely tell the break isn’t as clean as my three Geisseles or the Larue MBT. Since it is essentially a dressed up mil-spec trigger, I don’t think it could get any more rugged.

You will not find any QD studs or swivels on this rifle. The goal is ruggedness, and you don’t get much better than avoiding QD all together. I stuck with a more traditional shooter sling from TAB. I already had it on hand, and it is a very good sling. It was replaced by a SAP Positional Sling on my precision rifle, so this seemed like a great way to let the TAB live on. Equally in contention was my RS2, which is on the M1 Garand and is a closer approximation of a traditional GI sling.

I’ve become a huge fan of short throw safety levers. I’ve been utilizing BAD-ASS-ST levers, but I find that I dislike the ambidextrous nature of them. Unless I am careful, the knuckles of my shooting hand are liable to bump the safety back into the “safe” position. For this project, I decided to keep the short throw lever but only on the left side. I may go back and do the same to my other ARs.

For now, I’ve left the remainder of the top rail open. I do love the KISS concept, but I also understand the advantages that an optic brings to the table. If I ever felt the need, I could slap a red dot on here and carry on.

 

Wrap Up

And there you have it. I’ve been creeping along with this project for about a year now, and I’m happy to see it come together. At a final unloaded weight of 6.9 lbs, it is the lightest rifle in my safe. While not an ultralight by any means, it was never intended to be. It is also nearly perfectly balanced, with the center of gravity falling on the front half inch of the magazine well.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get it to the rang for a quick zeroing and accuracy test. I’ve got a bead on a local indoor spot with a 100 yard range and a good reputation. After that, perhaps a jaunt in the woods is in order.

 

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6 thoughts on “Project Complete: The Minuteman Rifle”

  1. I like it – especially the barrel profile.
    Having trained in Appleseed traditional rifleman techniques, I would beg, borrow or barter almost any freefloat handguard. While i’m a fan of Magpul, and their HG’s are a significant and “cheap” upgrade to mil spec hand guards, I am easily able to “bend” my barrel in a tight sling stance and my groups open up whenever using them. With a freefloat, no such problem and the group sizes are consistently tighter.
    Careful shopping, patience for holiday sales, or used parts on forums can net a free float that is not much more than the Magpuls.

    All in all, good job on a good concept!

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I totally understand where you are coming from, and I would be giving the same advice to myself if this was my only rifle of this type. I went down a similar path a few years ago and took my 20″ government upper with MOE hand guard to an Appleseed event. I installed a free float rail shortly after. That is still my favorite rifle.

      This project is meant to follow a different pattern, even slightly less modern.

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