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What is a Mil-Spec Rifle?

What Is A “MilSpec” AR-15?


Gregg F. Swift

There is no such thing as a “MilSpec” AR-15.  A “MilSpec” rifle by definition would be a rifle that is made for the United States Military.  The designation AR-15 indicates that the rifle is available on the civilian market and is related to the family of rifles used by today’s United States Military – the M16 and the M4.  The AR-15 was actually made before the M16 and the M4.  There is a significant amount of misinformation regarding the topic of “MilSpec.”  Only rifles made for the U.S. military have the distinction of being “MilSpec.”  “Milspec” rifles are approved by a U.S. government inspector and meet a “military standard” or “MilStd.”  This standard includes every aspect of the rifle from the materials allowed, dimension of the components, research and testing of parts, durability of parts, components, accuracy, precision, and the overall service life.  As a result no civilian AR-15’s can be “MilSpec“.  The next best thing to having a “MilSpec” AR is to have an AR-15 that is made with parts and components made by “MilSpec” manufacturers.

Colt and FN Herstal are the two primary manufacturers that make a “MilSpec” version of the AR-15 platform weapon.  The M4 and the M16 are “MilSpec” rifles because they are made to the specifications and tolerances that the United States Military dictates and they are only made for the military.  These weapons have a three shot burst or full auto capability and are not available to the civilian market in the United States.

The select fire capability of these types of weapons starts with a lower receiver milled to accept an automatic sear allowing the weapon to be fired in the select fire mode.  The manufacturing of a lower receiver with this capability is restricted to FFL Manufacturers with the proper SOT paperwork.  In any event, even with the proper licensing, the select fire lower receivers, milled to hold the auto sear, cannot be purchased on the civilian market.  They are only available to military, law enforcement, or as dealer samples available to dealers only that have the proper authorization from the BATFE (a “love letter”).

Having stated that lower receivers that are milled for select fire capability are only available for military or law enforcement purchase, all other parts found on “MilSpec” weapons are available for purchase as parts or on AR-15 weapons on the civilian market.  The trick is to find companies that have access to these higher quality parts.  Many companies claim to have “Mil-Spec” parts and components on their AR-15 platform weapons.  The truth is that the actual manufacturers of “MilSpec” rifles closely guard the identity of their suppliers – the companies that they use as sub-contractors who make the “MilSpec” parts and components.  This makes the manufacturing of AR-15 platform weapons with “MilSpec” components and parts difficult unless the company making AR-15’s has the right connections to obtain “MilSpec” parts and components.  Many companies, both large and small, have been known to be somewhat misleading regarding the types of parts found on their weapons.  Many smaller manufacturers just don’t really understand the true meaning of “MilSpec.”  True “MilSpec” parts and components that are made by a legitimate “MilSpec” manufacturer will come with certifications or “certs” indicating that the products in question were made to the “MilStd.”

Defense Standards – http://govitwiki.com/wiki/Defense_Standards 
MilSpec - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Military_Standard
AR-15 Rifles – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AR-15
M16 Rifle - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M16_rifle
COLT Manufacturing - http://www.coltsmfg.com/
FN Herstal - http://www.fnherstal.com/
BATFE - http://www.atf.gov/
SOT - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Firearms_License
FFL - http://www.atf.gov/firearms/how-to/become-an-ffl.html 


Gregg Swift, J.D., IACSP is the Director of Operations for Tactical Weapons Solutions, an AR-15 manufacturer. Mr. Swift graduated from Barry Law School in 2001 and has written numerous articles relating to the manufacturing and selling of high quality AR-15 parts, components, rifles, 2nd Amendment rights, the political environment relating to guns, and survival related topics. Visit Tactical Weapons Solutions at http://twsarms.com/.  For more on MilSpec parts and high quality AR-15 rifles and to enter a monthly drawing for a FREE AR-15 at http://twsarms.com/ar-15-monthly-drawing/.

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