AR-pattern rifles built from billet are becoming quite popular, especially as demand for ARs rises. While there are a few operational advantages, few companies can either afford or house the forge necessary to produce base “forgings” for lower and upper receivers. Everyone is waiting for those few that have the capability, making it difficult to keep up with demand. For those without CNC machines to complete the process, production can take even longer. Waiting for a supplier to provide parts needed to complete orders must be the bane of most manufacturers’ existences. Billet receivers and lowers are cut from a solid “billet” of material. Although a special CNC machine is required, they are compact compared to a forge and have fewer EPA issues. Many CNC machines can produce a completed product in very little time with very little final finishing—all in one basic step. This gives manufacturers complete control over production time and design. Custom features can be added, and unnecessary ones can be removed. Personal touches and designs separating builders can be input with a simple program change. In the end, it means one less outside aspect a manufacturer must depend on to complete a product.
Billet lower receivers offer some notable advantages. Stiffer as a rule, they can increase accuracy and consistency. Mag wells can be flared, trigger housings enlarged and operational controls enhanced. Even magazine angles inside the receiver can be altered to enhance reliability with various chamberings. Forward assist mechanisms can be altered or removed at the preference of the builder. Allowing for true one-of-a-kind builds, billet construction moves the AR into the truly custom rifle-making world.
In my opinion, Wilson Combat’s Recon Tactical remains one of the best AR-type rifles on the market. It is consistently the most accurate and reliable rifle I’ve tested in this platform without regard to chambering. Each is built by hand with significant attention to the smallest details. Only the finest materials and accessories are used, most of which are built by Wilson Combat. Mil-spec bolts and bolt carriers are MPI inspected and NP3 coated. The TRIM (Tactical Rail Interface, Modular) handguard starts as a thin and solid base, and you can add rail segments as necessary. Wilson’s match-grade barrels are made of stainless steel, and fluted models are available for weight savings.
Recon Tactical rifles also feature M4 feed ramps that are matched in the lower receiver. The rifles use mid-length gas systems in most chamberings, with the carbine-length system used on 300 AAC Blackout (300 BLK) models. Accu-Tac flash suppressors are installed to mitigate flash, and Recon Tactical barrels are threaded for adding muzzle brakes or Wilson Combat’s Whisper suppressors. A 4-pound Tactical Trigger Unit (TTU) is installed in either a single- or two-stage configuration. Hardcoat anodized, Recon Tactical rifles can also be coated at the customer’s request in a number of Armor-Tuff color combinations.
Wilson now offers a “BILLet” upgrade for any of its AR rifle builds. Matching billet upper and lower receivers are used in place of standard forged models. Each perfectly matched pair is machined in the company’s Berryville, Arkansas, facility. Designed by Bill Wilson and his engineers, the billet receivers address many structural and design weaknesses in the standard USGI configuration. Receiver walls are strengthened and a precise bolt raceway is added, making for butter-smooth operation and reduced firing flex. An oversized mag well and integrated triggerguard ensure fast reloads, operation in any climate and added receiver strength. Top rails are precisely machined to exact tolerances. A precision-threaded receiver ensures accuracy while the M4-style feed ramps ensure reliability. Removing the forward assist provides a smooth side that is stronger, stiffer and more conducive to accuracy. Each billet receiver pairing is hand-prepped for a flawless surface finish and hardcoat anodized prior to final finishing.