A couple years back I had traveled out to Wisconsin for a wedding of my wife's friends. She was going to be doing quite a bit with the wedding party and I knew no one. So, I decided to do a few trips and look around at the local clubs, companies and ranges. Pretty quickly I found out that this area of the U.S. was a hot-bed of firearms manufacturing. Even on a Sunday I drove up to one of the locally acclaimed manufacturers, Midwest Industries.
Midwest Industries had grown a lot over the past few years. They began as a small machine shop that produced high quality firearm parts and currently are coming up with some of the best rifles out in the market. While their main platform for full firearm manufacturing is the AR there are also lever-actions in their lineup.
I reached out to them a few weeks after I had visited. During the time that I was there I was impressed with the amount of knowledge and help salesmen offered while I was visiting. Their humble store front with an attached shop was only the top of the iceberg as I learned they were expanding and growing significantly in 2017. As 2018 rolled-on I reach back out to talk to them about the quality of their parts, which I was impressed with when I had visited their shop.
What truly stood out to me about Midwest, in my personal dealings with them, was how clear-cut they were without being oppressive. They understood that people are learning more about AR's and sometimes doing it on their own. The salesmen are willing to offer experience and support to those who are building an AR front the group up using their parts and are non-judgmental when mistakes happen. Trust me, mistakes will happen.
Testing It Out For Myself:
I was curious about why this company in particular got so many positive responses from clients. Was it their customer service only? Their prices were in a mid-range level. There were not any sub-$300 uppers or rifles like some of their competitors so the prices seemed a little high for someone just getting into the AR platform. On first inspection in their shop, the parts were of excellent quality.
They sent me out a complete upper receiver to observe it for myself. I was intrigued about their construction and how someone would be able to upgrade their sub-$300 AR and quickly turn it into a high-performer. Midwest seemed like the best option to save both money and time.
They built up a 16" chambered in .223 Wylde with a beautiful 17.5" M-LOK handguard, two-chamber muzzle brake, Raptor Ambi-Changing Handle and standard 8620 steel BCG with a set of their low-profile backup iron sights. Out of the box this looked bad-ass. The finish was a moderately glossy undertone to a matted finish and covered in a protective layer of oil.
This M-LOK handguard gave the rifle a unique look I had not seen anywhere else. Notched away at the end to give an almost V shape at the muzzle brake it brought the whole rifle together in a unique way. Adding the flip up sights made it feel as if this was a comprehensive package from the very beginning. My goal was to see if this would be an adequate upgrade for someone who already had their lower in hand. Especially one who wanted to trade up to a better performer.
The fit was tight but mounted directly to our American Made Tactical lower that had been built previously (SEE OUR BUILD HERE). The rear pin needed a bit of pressure to fit in properly, but this isn't an issue to me. In fact, that makes me feel a bit more comfortable. Having a tight fit allows for less movement during recoil, and movement is the killer of accuracy. Knowing that I can reset on my target by feel a well as sight makes the process much easier.
We cycled it with both dummy rounds and live ammunition before sending it downrange. The amount of oil on the gun meant each piece needed very little oiling and cleaning before getting it ready. We did oil the BCG a bit more as the finish was somewhat matted compared to others we have used in the past and are accustomed to. I'd much rather over oil and burn up a receiver. Ejection was pretty far. The empty shells would fly out about 3 to 4 feet away from the shooter. Not bad for staying away from hot brass but that does make it difficult if you're in a far left lane.
The Weight and Feel:
Surprisingly, with all the extra handguard and the hefty irons added on the upper weighed what I would expect. It does come in about 6 oz. over out 5D tactical upper receiver but well under our Hardened Arms receiver with a quad-rail. Holding on to the handguard was a dream and fairly thin compared to low-cost alternatives. Many have to compensate for both larger than average gas blocks or those that will fit suppressors.
The time came to really put it to the test. We added a DI Optical DCL30 prismatic sight. Keep in mind, this optic is designed and intended for military and law enforcement ONLY. They do have a commercial equivalent: EG1C, which offers superior performance. The reason we added this type of sight was the flip-up irons supplied by Midwest Industries could still be used with the DCL30 and ED1C. They sit slightly low when used with this sight.
We took several types of magazines and ammunition brands to avoid the potential of ammunition and mag issues. Using the Hexmag gen2 we experienced great success with cycling and ejection. As always, Magpul performed flawlessly. We tried avoiding the P-Mag Rollermags but ended up using a few and had continued feeding issues with rapid rates of fire, as expected. The Rollermags did perform quietly and efficiently at more moderate rates of fire.
Using several grain weights of ammunition was important for us. The standard twist rate on a 223 Wylde is between 1/7 to 1/9 and this sat comfortably in the middle at 1/8. Upon review, it seems all of their 223 Wylde have a 1/8 twist rate to compensate for the 1/7 5.56 standard and 1/9 .223 standard. This gives a broad range of bullet weights that will fly straight, stable, and at a greater effective range.
We began to fire off rounds while usung the lower with an attached Magpul fixed carbine stock we started out at 50 yards to sight in our DCL30. The first impressions of the first few rouds were incredibly positive. The action was smooth and not hang ups on anything. The BCG moved quickly into the buffer tube and back, locking back in the next round with relatively limited noise.
Moving on we wanted to reach out and touch 100 yards. The range was perfect for this, but first the iron sights needed to be honed in. Out of the bod they hit dead on perfect. There was no deviation at 50 yards and they hit as accurately as our skills would allow. At 100 yards they held the same accuracy.
Of Corse, a rifle's feeling comes from not just the upper receiver. The buffer, tube, trigger and parts all contribute. But once someone if used to a specific lower's function, trigger, and movements small changes in a complete upper receiver can have a noticeable impact. In this complete upper every piece was tight and well assembled. Every round hit exactly where it was meant to. There was no deviation and less that a ½ MOA at 100 yards with no magnification.
It should be noted, we are not expert marksman. We are also not the best shots at over 100 yards. Our range, while outdoors extends to a total of 100 yards and is sunken by 12 ft. We did mount the rifle on bags and on a bench for stability but not ratcheted down.
To our amazement this complete upper receiver felt as comfortable as any complete rifle out from a factory. Even though it was added to an already manufactured lower this was the perfect addition to go from a subpar rifle to an above par rifle. No need to spend much more than $500.
Looks are a significant factor to an AR and manufacturers spend a lot of time manufacturing a complete look. Making one that doesn't disappoint, functions well, and doesn't break the bank is virtually impossible. However, Midwest Industries has done just that. They have left plenty of wiggle room to upgrade a trigger, grip, and stock. For under $700 anyone could take their complete upper systems and build a beautiful, fully-functioning system.