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Since the 1970s, several manufacturers have been building AR-15-platform weapons. At that time, development on the federal front focused squarely on the M16A1 variety, with changes proposed for the Marines and, finally, for big green, leading to the M16A2, -A3 and -A4 variants. As the M16A2 became more common in the military, the commercial market started to simmer, and soon a few new manufacturers entered the AR market.

During the crush of the Assault Weapons Ban, a number of companies began producing non-standard, non-mil-spec ARs. For people who’d shoot a few boxes of ammo and put the rifle away, potential problems would never arise. Coincidentally, the gun community was invading the Internet, and we got to read breathless accounts of M4-style guns that were easily MOA-capable and never incurred a stoppage. The facts, however, were a little different.

Some of these non-standard ARs were taken by students to high-intensity carbine-operator schools, such as Pat Rogers’ EAG Tactical. A few things quickly came to light. The carbine-length operating system was more abrupt than the rifle-length system. If the carbine’s extractor and spring were meant for a 20-inch rifle, the extractor could fail to keep up. Uncle Sam had already become aware of this problem, especially when the weapon was fired on full-auto, so an improved, high-power extractor spring and a new insert were developed.

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