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Sgt. Freedom / Rapid Rifle castings - Review
I have been asked to review the partially finished AR type castings which are currently being offered by sgtfreedom.com . From what I am told, this is currently a limited supply of castings, although they may be produced in quantity in the future.
I had originally though that this was simply a variation of the castings sold by Tannery Shop , however it becomes immediately obvious upon examination that these are neither a copy of or variation on the Tannery shop castings. Nor are they a partially finished Forging of the types sold by a few other vendors. In speaking with some people knowledgeable in metallurgy, they found that the material and probably methods used in the production of the two lowers is definitely different. The "Rapid Rifle" casting having an entirely different weight and texture. The rapid rifle lowers appear to use a lower tech casting method than the investment castings of the Tannery Shop lowers, but in fairness and consideration that there are plenty of plastic and synthetic lowers on the market which function fine, I am not sure whether a weaker casting would really be a detriment to producing a functioning AR, although I would not try taking my chances on any aluminum casting with big bore or wildcat caliber uppers.
Another facet of the piece is that it appears to require more machine work to finish than the average Tannery Shop castings, although it appears to follow the same basic theory. What is evident in the picture here to the right and the picture above is that this casting will require the builder to do a bit more milling and drilling to get a functioning magazine catch. This can be a mixed blessing in some respects since it appears to also have enough "meat" left on the inside to use alternative magazine systems such as a fixed ten shot magazine to be California legal, and a conversion to take AK74 style magazines which would require a flapper type magazine release system. Given that the lower would have no provision for a high capacity magazine, it might be possible (depending on local regulation) for a Rapid Rifle based gun to retain other assault weapon features without running afoul of the law. The left side of the machine work for a magazine catch is there, but it would still take a lot of cleaning up and deburring before you could realistically expect a magazine catch to fit. This is in contrast to the true (80%) lowers which you can usually install the magazine catch parts in right away.
The magazine well has a slight taper to it which will require some fitting work before you would expect to make it usable. This would be normal to expect with a casting and is a comparatively similar task to the Tannery Shop casting which have undersized, albeit uniform, magazine wells. This is usually accomplished with sandpaper wrapped around something fairly rigid, or a conventional set of large files. I personally think this level of fit may be considerably less important if someone is going to be fitting it with a fixed magazine.
This top view shows some of the work that would be involved in making the Rapid Rifle lower complete. You will have to machine down the top plane, but there are several ways to do this, including the OSI jig, a sanding block, and or a milling machine. The front "ears" of the casting will need to be worked out entirely just the same as the DSA 0% forgings. This can be a tricky and time consuming operation, but not impossible for the home gunsmith with some basic tools and lots of patience.
Another unique feature on the rapid rifle lowers is a wealth of markings and designations, along with a blank "shield" space which would allow the builder to put their own artwork on the lower. The clear markings and apparent manufacturer labeling can be helpful for those who wish to complete a gun that has the appearance of being a factory build even though it would legally still be a home built.
We have yet to start machining on this lower, but at this point, it looks like we have our work cut out for us. Personally, I think the best market niche for this lower will probably be for people in states where they want to make legally compliant guns on lowers where they would have a fixed magazine in place. This would be easy to permanently install in the rapid rifle lower and eliminate the legal headaches on whether or not it would be allowed under those state's law. The bolt catch assembly will also be difficult, if not impossible to install on this lower without using a milling machine, although plenty of well regarded firearms like the AK-47 (and variants) and the HK G3/Mp5 series almost never have or have had a bolt catch device. Personally, I think perhaps it would be best left off of a gun that will be opened up "shotgun style" for reloading with stripper clips.