Hello all. Wanted to post a user review of a (relatively) new AR manufacturer so that anyone interested might have more to go on. There isn’t much out there on this manufacturer so hopefully this will help…
Warning: Lengthy Review
I am in the army (soft MOS) and used to be a police officer and have become very comfortable and familiar with the M16/AR15 platform. For my first personal AR I wanted a rifle of high quality, reliability and value. Somewhere along my research I came a cross the DI vs. Piston discussion. Drawing from personal experience with the Army -issued rifles I saw merit in the piston design and started leaning in that direction and was looking hard at a POF. Needless to say, the price was hurting my conscience but, I believe in the cry once philosophy.
I then ran across the Fail Zero brand of components and I liked the argument: Piston-like reliability, greater “inherent” accuracy due to fewer inertial movements (piston), and easier maintenance because there would be no oil in the upper. The only problem was that I would have to home-build this rifle as the components don’t come in a complete rifle (to my knowledge). This would require a learning curve and an investment in some tools.
Shortly after that, I came across Anderson Manufacturing and their offerings.
Anderson Manufacturing is based in Hebron, KY. They have been in the machining business for over 40 years but, because of the downturn in the economy were going to have to shut down until they decided to enter the AR-15 market. At first they produced OEM parts for other manufacturers, but then decided that they could produce a better rifle under their own brand. The “better” part--in my opinion--came in the form of a proprietary treatment of the upper, BCG, and barrel called RF85. RF85 is the treatment produced by Better Than New for the racing industry. In a nutshell, the performance claims are almost exactly like those of Fail Zero. Also, they apparently will only sell matched uppers/lowers in order to assure tight fit. Lastly they only use 7075 aluminum for their upper and lower receivers. Their story and claims of quality assurance helped me decide to take a chance on a new manufacturer. (Plus I’m a sucker for a good underdog story)
Anyway, SPECS HERE
I purchased the rifle from Bud’s Gun Shop as they were a little less than retail: $1150 shipped. Here’s what came (minus the owners manual which is nothing more than photo copied pages bound in a clear report cover--no problem there since shiny booklets drive up costs)
Not horrible but, less than spectacular. The first thing I noticed was a strange divot (approx. 1mm deep) in the upper receiver’s left side.
I had mixed feeling about this because while I new this was probably only cosmetic and would not affect performance I had high expectations for my little underdog rifle.
Next, I noticed that the upper-receiver/hand-guard rail alignment was off.
Again, detrimental? No. but easily caught by a final inspection process. I assumed the threads had been factory secured with some sort of thread glue (more on this later) and thought I might overcome the mis-alignment by adjusting the sights.
Other than these two (actually three but, read on) issues the rifle felt solid. The upper and lower fit very well with virtually no wobble and only the slightest thread of observable light from the opposite side. Proprietary components such as the free float tube and rails are very solid and perfectly finished. The trigger is definitely better than the Army issued rifles I have had to use. I would estimate about 1-2 mm of travel before a clean break. The travel is a little creepy if I’m really taking my time but, under stressful conditions it’s a non-factor anyway. The flash hider is of the type which has a flatter side for prone shooting; it was timed correctly.
The RF85 treatment is undetectable to the eye or to the touch. This was very surprising to me and a little underwhelming. I though there would be some super slick feeling or something but it honestly felt no different than any other BCG I have handled. The proof would have to be in the pudding.
I wiped the rifle down and cleaned the BCG and bolt with dish-soap and water (you read that correctly--its in the owner’s manual) and dried it off, shot an email off about the issues I found and went to the range the next day.
Range Report #1
The good: 150 rounds from a bone-dry bolt with zero FTF/FTE
The Bad: Hand guard “walked” until it was turing freely
The ugly: The upper rail-screw closest to the upper receiver was actually hitting the gas tube under it.
I started the day with the tried and true--if possibly unnecessary--barrel break in: shoot, clean, repeat. Incidentally, accuracy was horrible for the first ten rounds; don’t know what that was about. After the break in was complete however, it was shooting very “acceptable” 1 inch groups at 50 yrds. with open sights. (actually best group was 0.5 inch). Everything was going great and when I felt the sights were shooting well at 50 I moved back to 100.
At that point I had to push the windage all the way to the left to stay on paper. This was due to the rail misalignment. It was clear I would have to make alignment adjustments my self. Then, on the last ten rounds of the day I was missing every shot. Puzzled, I gave the rifle a good once over and discovered that the hand guard had loosened and was spinning freely. Additionally, when I turned the hand guard I noticed that it was hitting something at the “top” of the revolution. Some additional tinkering revealed that the rear-most rail screw was the culprit. So now I had to back the screw out in order to align the rail properly. Again, not catastrophic but definitely not spectacular.
On the upside, the rifle cycled 150 times without any oil at all with no hiccups. While I concede that this is not conclusive assurance of utmost reliability I felt that the treatment was doing what it claims to do. I will run it harder next time and continue to asses the treatment’s effectiveness.
That same day I received a call from Tom Steffner, V.P. of sales at Anderson Manufacturing. Mind you, it’s Saturday. The conversation ended with him stating that he wanted me to send the complete upper back and he would send me a new one via FedEx. Hmm! That was cool! A personal call, on a Saturday from the V.P. of sales and a commitment to send a new part. Ok, now I wasn’t feeling so bad about going with a newcomer company. Maybe the QA issue wasn’t systemic and I just got the rifle that slipped through the cracks. To boot, in a subsequent email he stated that I would receive my new upper with an extended charging handle and some extra railing for my trouble.
The New Upper (that wasn’t)
Well, I sent it via USPS 2-3 day mail and received it via UPS ground. Total turn around was eight days. Not bad but, not what was stated. What I pulled out of the box was my original upper parts attached to a new upper receiver. Again, not bad but, not what was stated. Well, at least there were the little bonus pieces for my trouble right? Nope, nowhere to be found. There must have been a disconnect between sales and the floor or something. The hand guard was tight with the rails well aligned and the new upper receiver is flawless but, now I wondering if they just torked the rail screw down into the gas tube or something and what about their commitment to make sure the upper and lower receivers are “matched”? Well, can’t have it all, I guess.
In Tom’s defense, later emails concluded with a recommitment to send the extra goodies. These parts arrived today as promised; fit and finish are superb. Conclusion up to this point: good intentions do not a great company make. I don’t feel that I’ve been wronged but I gotta wonder if going with a top tier manufacturer, or building my own would have made me a happier AR owner from the beginning. I told Tom that I would be reviewing the rifle and my experience with A.M. With very few reviews out there, I would think every bit of good publicity would be carefully guarded, especially since most consumers place high value on end-user reviews.
Range Report #2
Not much to report here. Another 150 rounds through a bone-dry bolt with zero failures. Best accuracy form MBUS sights is 3-inch 10-round groups at 100 yds. with four rounds within 1 inch of each other. When I get glass on this rifle and it breaks in all the way I suspect 1 inch groups will be easy. I’m very happy with accuracy. The rifle is now what it is supposed to be and overall I’m satisfied.
If you don’t care to “troubleshoot” your purchases this isn’t the manufacturer for you. While they obviously have the ability to put out a very good product, I think they are suffering from “mom and pop” syndrome. I’m sure they are used to dealing with industry but, if they are going to earn their place among the top tier AR manufacturers they are going to have to shift their thinking to meet the high demands of the consumer market. They have a great philosophy, high quality potential and good intentions. IMHO they need a serious revising of their QA program and better communication between departments. At this point I will wait to see what others’ experiences are before making a decision to purchase from them again.
Hope this helps someone.