People have affectionately referred to the Mosin Nagant as “The Garbage Rod” for years. The Tier Three or T3 is a garbage rod AR-platform rifle. It’s every bit the AR one would expect, and at a casual glance it looks like it could be a decent rifle. It is not. Not even a little bit.
When I built the T3 initially I did it on a receiver set that I had kicking around in my bins. The finish on that particular receiver set was Aluma-Hyde II Black and I had sprayed it in my garage. I ultimately swapped out that receiver set for something far more accessible but also exceptionally affordable: A set of Anderson Manufacturing receivers. Anderson seems to catch no end of flack for being affordable, but honestly, when it comes down to it, an AR receiver that is finished to spec from a standard forging is going to be the same no matter who makes it. Unless, of course, the finishing manufacturer makes some sort of modification to the receivers. Like adding in a tensioning screw that will take the rattle and play out of the receiver set. But when it comes to a standard mil-spec receiver set, they are all the same.
The heart of the rifle is the barrel. Mounted into my Anderson upper is a house brand barrel from a well known distributor. I am not going to list them by name because I got the barrel expecting it to perform poorly. I have used a barrel from this brand in a previous build and could not get the damn thing to zero reliably with iron sights, so I don’t have high hopes for this barrel either. As mentioned in the previous article, this barrel also has a carbine gas system rather than the mid-length system I had spec’d for project. That is because at the time I purchased the barrel the most affordable option was the 16″ M4 profile with carbine gas. The mid-length version was sold out. This barrel is chambered in the basic 5.56mm chamber, not the more versatile .223 Wylde chamber, and the rifling is a 1:7 twist. This, I feel, accurately simulates the standard barrel option you will get on a super tight budget. It has no bells or whistles, but is supposed to offer good general performance. We will see how that goes when it gets to the range. The muzzle device is a generic A2 birdcage. I wanted to be able to mount a suppressor to all of the rifles in this project, but rather than try and select a proprietary mounting system, I decided that a spec A2 birdcage and a suppressor designed to mount to Nato weapons that are so equipped would be the best option.
The handguard that shrouds the barrel is 15″ long and has MLOK slots at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions and a full length picatinny top rail. It mounts to its proprietary barrel nut using two set screws, one at the 3 and one at the 9 o’clock position. The set screws tighten into a groove and then three locking screws at the 6 o’clock of the tube clamp down to really firm up the mounting. Or at least, that is the intent. It is possible to over-tighten the screws and distort the handguard right at the mounting point. The handguard also flexes a good bit. I had initially purchased this part for another build, but when I mounted a bipod and set it down, I noticed that the rail flexed and the gas block was resting on the MLOK nuts that held the bipod adapter to the rail. That was a precision rifle, so that was unacceptable and the handguard joined my collection of crap parts in my bins until the T3 came to be.
Most of the other parts are fairly standard. The bolt carrier group is a generic brand titanium nitrided unit and the dust cover is a Magpul part, but everything else is basic low end parts. I went even lower grade for the backup iron sights. I ordered the cheapest Magpul MBUS knock off sights I could find on Amazon.com to equip this build with an analog option should the scope fail. They will likely not be capable of getting zeroed in, but they are there. The scope was also an Amazon.com purchase. It was the absolute least expensive illuminated first focal plane 1-4x Low Power Variable Optic I could find that came with a mount. I have about as much faith in the optic as I do in the back up iron (plastic) sights.
The whole purpose of this build was to build a rifle on an extremely tight budget that would be able to actually function and meet the expectations of the Tier Rifle Project. It was built from the outset to be a garbage rod. This is the Tier of the project for the people who cheap out but insist that what they have is “just as good”. This is the rifle you expect to find paired with a Hi Point on some Wish.com combat kit. I’ve been there before. I’ve had the low-end kit because I didn’t have the income to throw at building up a set of gear that was made to last. If this is all you can get, it would still serve better than nothing at all. Once I’ve run all the evaluations on the gun though, I do intend to address its shortcomings and build a better rifle by fixing whatever parts do not meet expectations (like the hand guard and the bits that are used to aim), but this rifle is the bottom of the barrel for this project.