The very design of the AR-15 lends itself to easy modification and part changes, and with a modicum of skill, tools and knowledge, a savvy aficionado can easily build a gun to suit his or her needs and budget. That’s a huge part of the AR-15’s appeal. Between different manufacturers and a seemingly endless number of different components, piecing a gun together from parts will give the shooter an infinite number of choices to build the gun of their dreams.
Exponential growth in the AR market has been a spawning ground for new manufacturers and it seems like a new company pops up every time I turn on my computer. Some are good and some not so good. Some are true manufacturers while others are simply nothing more than assemblers of parts. So, it was with great interest that I started researching a relatively new company in my home state of Arizona.
Hogan Manufacturing has been doing business as a full-line machine shop since 1996. Offering design and prototype work, they have done machining for a multitude of industries including but not limited to the auto, movie, aerospace, medical and semiconductor industries. But according to Doug Kircher, Hogan’s inside sales and marketing director, firearms have always been a passion for owner Robert Hogan.
“Robert actually went to the Colorado School of Trades in 1979 to learn gunsmithing. After working in the research and development department at Allied Signal (Honeywell) for a couple years, he opened his shop in 1996. He has full CNC ability, so he can make virtually anything for any industry. Multiple industries and customers helped minimize the risk as a business startup and kept Hogan running even during the lean years,” said Kircher.
“But for the last seven years Hogan Manufacturing has focused on the design, engineering and manufacturing of AR-style components. Earlier this year, when a business venture soured, Hogan went from a manufacturer and supplier of AR parts to a manufacturer and supplier of AR parts and complete rifles.”
I was never aware that Hogan was building the majority of parts for a company that billed itself as a manufacturer of rifles. In an effort to learn more about Hogan, I decided to build a rifle using a majority of parts from the Glendale, Arizona, factory. Though Hogan is known for their piston-driven guns and uppers, I chose to build a gun using the direct gas impingement design.
Built From Scratch
For the foundation of the rifle, I decided to use Hogan’s Generation III HR-416 receiver with the ambidextrous bolt release. Machined from a solid billet of 7075-T6 aluminum and hardcoat anodized, the lower came with the extra ambidextrous bolt release parts that would not be included in a normal lower receiver parts kit. According to Kircher, “We make those receivers in two styles: the 415 has just the safe and semi markings and 416 has the safe, semi and full markings. Some people just get a kick out of having the full-auto markings on their gun.”
If you’ve ever assembled an AR lower receiver, you know how frustrating the roll pins can be. Hogan designed their lowers with an integral triggerguard and that eliminated one of the roll pins. The other roll pin, for the bolt release, is replaced with a screw. To install the ambidextrous bolt release, put the paddle in the right-side cutout and secure with a screw from the top down. Drop the extended pin in the tunnel, with its round nose against the inside of the paddle. Now put the standard spring in the tunnel along with the standard pin. Position the standard bolt lock and use the small screw to attach the part. Assembling the lower without the frustration of the roll pins made the process quick and easy.
Hogan just came out with their own single-stage drop-in trigger, and I wanted to include it in my project. Their goal was to come up with a trigger that wouldn’t come out of adjustment or fail, yet it had to be fairly light and crisp. The solution is a drop-in unit purposely designed to break at a sensible 4.5 pounds.
While other manufacturers achieve a lighter pull weight by reducing the mass of the hammer, Hogan realized that a lighter hammer can lead to misfires with some hard-primered ammo. Accordingly, they wire EDM their hammers so that they have the mass needed for reliable ignition. The trigger has been changed just slightly for a better ergonomic location. It’s farther forward, and the trigger is flatter so that it is better situated for placing the pad of the finger on the trigger face. Machined from tough A2 tool steel, the trigger, hammer and disconnector are Melonite heat-treated for long life and corrosion resistance. The trigger comes with KNS precision non-rotating pins and silicon cord base cushions.
For other lower receiver parts, I used components from a DPMS receiver parts kit. There weren’t any parts that didn’t drop right in and work exactly like they were intended. For the pistol grip, I used a Magpul MOE grip and also used an LMT SOPMOD stock with a standard carbine buffer and spring.
For the handguard, I selected Hogan’s HHR free-floating monolithic rail system. The extrusion is machined from 6000 series aluminum and is lightweight. Hogan machines the upper receiver without a Picatinny rail but does raise the center so that the rail can bolt into it and unitize the two components. Kircher said that the unique rail design was derived from the need to accommodate scope objectives. Rails are machined away where the scope objective would make contact. You can get the scope down about 0.25 inches lower than you could before, which is very important if you’re using a 50mm or larger objective.
For this project, I obtained a barrel from Molon Labe. It starts as a blank from Rock Creek barrels and is contoured and fluted by LGM Machine, a local barrel maker. The chamber is cut to 5.56mm NATO and it has 1-in-8-inch twist rifling. It’s attached to the forged upper receiver by Hogan’s unique aluminum heat-sink barrel nut that pulls heat out of the chamber and throat area. My sample has a 16-inch length and is Melonite heat-treated—a process that raises the hardness of the barrel to 70 Rockwell. Similar to Glock’s Tenifer process, the treatment makes the steel more corrosion resistant and also coats the inside of the barrel to increase the bullet’s velocity. The muzzle has a target crown and the thread is a standard 1/2-28.
Affixed to the muzzle is a brake made by LGM. Kircher noted that the three-port brake’s effectiveness comes from the design of each chamber. “The interior of the brake is stepped with the largest at the back and each subsequent port is smaller in size. Each port peels off gas and vents it to the side.”
I noticed this when I let my photographer Alex Landeen fire a few rounds as I stood to the side. I could feel puffs of gas even though I was 5 to 6 feet away. Each port acts as its own brake. That’s why this design is so effective. With my 1.25-4X Trijicon set on 2X power, I was able to double-tap my steel targets at a range of 35 yards. My splits or time between shots measured just 0.20 seconds. I was amazed—the bright amber chevron never recoiled off target!
This muzzle brake includes a locking nut on the back of it. Rather than torque the brake down too hard on a crush washer and ruin the harmonics and accuracy of your barrel, the user simply indexes the port to where it needs to be and then tightens the locking nut against it.
Ready to Fire
For accuracy testing, I dialed the scope to maximum magnification and set my targets out at 100 yards. I did all of my shooting from a seated position using a cement bench and rifle rest. I didn’t let the barrel cool between shots and fired five shots to a group. The results were impressive!
I was surprised that the 16-inch barrel would be capable of such precision. Both 69-grain loads that I tried provided sub-MOA accuracy and the 50-grain V-MAX load also came very close. Without the crisp Hogan trigger, I am certain that group sizes would have been larger. The ability to keep my aiming chevron on target through the trigger squeeze made these groups possible. One thing that also impressed me about the Hogan trigger was its very short and extremely positive reset. There’s nothing sluggish at all about this trigger.
While the brevity of this article precludes me from going into great detail about any of the parts, the one fact I want to emphasize is that Hogan is a producer of innovative and precision products with which you can upgrade your AR or build a new one. Hogan Manufacturing is also producing complete guns.
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