Milspec = Quality? Guest Post by Daniel Shaw

Mil-Spec = Quality?

By Daniel Shaw

Anyone who has perused popular firearms related forums has likely encountered the dreaded gun snob who seemed to know it all. A list of his or her personally approved Mil-Spec AR 15 manufacturers was likely produced at some point during the encounter. If your AR doesnt happen to be from one of those listed companies – you are ill prepared and will likely die as a result of your “jammomatic” not operating properly. In most cases, the list provided includes very reputable companies that do in fact produce high quality ARs. Does that mean they are the only companies that make quality guns of that genre? I think not.

For the last fourteen years I have been issued numerous Colt, M16 A2s and M4s as well as Fabrique Nationale M16-A4s. I would not even dare guess how many thousands of rounds I have fired through the Colt made guns, because at one point in my career I was firing approximately 800 to 1000 rounds a day, three to four days a week for a six month period and have before and since used both extensively. With the FN guns I would venture to guess that I have likely put in excess of 5000 rounds downrange. From this experience I have found that I trust them both equally. I had some FN rifles that were far more reliable than some Colt rifles and the same can be said for some of the Colt made guns. Neither company stands out as being better than the other; however some individual guns did stand out as being more reliable than others.

Years ago I had heard that DPMS made reliable and affordable ARs and I had little in terms of money to spend on my first AR build. I located a DPMS at the local gun store and bought my first AR thinking that it was going to be just as reliable as my issued guns. Over the next four years and a few thousand rounds later, I found that it actually was. I have upgraded a few times since while building two new ARs. For one build I used DPMS again for all parts save for Troy Industries sights and quad rail. For my latest build I decided to use a Bravo Company complete upper on a DPMS complete lower with Mag-Pul furniture. My experience with my latest build is far from comprehensive due to my location, but based on my past experiences, I have no doubt that it will prove just as reliable as the others.

What about Mil-Spec? Doesn’t the gun have to be Mil-Spec to be considered a “quality AR”? Considering that I use Mil-Spec gear and equipment for a living, I don’t believe Mil-Spec necessarily means quality. For example, I like a wide variety of pistol manufactures, most of which do not make Mil-Spec guns. I think it is safe to say that thousands of people around the world trust Glock pistols with their lives on a daily basis and whether you like Glocks or not, the company has proven itself to make reliable firearms.

I would venture to say that the 5.56 ammo you use at the range or keep for protection does not meet Mil-Spec standards. Furthermore, why would anyone even want to limit the efficiency of a 9mm by only using Mil-Spec ammunition considering the ballistically advanced alternatives? The Checkmate brand Beretta M9 magazines that were issued for years after the Brady ban is a perfect example of how a Mil-Spec piece of equipment, that lives depend on, is outright garbage. Many operators refuse to use Break Free (CLP) instead they choose a non-Mil-Spec alternative that they have found to work well. We could go further and discuss; how often body armor that LEOs trust their lives to is not Mil-Spec, neither is your mobile phone you may need to call 911, and unless you’re running Windows 98 or XP on an outdated machine – your computer isn’t Mil-Spec.
Without a doubt, there are manufactures that make reliable ARs and there are some that make ARs that are not so reliable. Mil-Spec is not synonymous with quality and just because your rifle is not Mil-Spec does not mean that it will not do what needs to be done, when it needs to get done.

Daniel Shaw is a U.S. Marine Infantryman stationed in Okinawa Japan and is the host of the Gun Rights Radio network podcast – Gunfighter Cast.


Thanks, Daniel.  Great post.   This is actually an argument I made eons ago in the what was then fairly new…  So I totally agree with the points.

Daniel and I will be bringing out a new Online Radio Show as soon as our schedules mesh a little better.

11 thoughts on “Milspec = Quality? Guest Post by Daniel Shaw”

  1. Actually, my mobile phone /is/ mil-spec 🙂

    But yeah, mil-spec is sort of like building codes… it describes the bare minimum. Doesn’t mean someone can’t do better. A lot better, in some cases.

    1. “describes the bare minimum”

      Bingo. I work and supply to mil-specs all the time. Definitely a bare minimum. A do not exceed, on the bottom end.


  2. The mil spec for the M16 and M4 say very little about design and construction, the pertinent part states something akin to “built in accordance with accepted plans and procedures”. The spec is more a performance based metric than an appearance based one.

  3. I liked the computer comparison. My unit just recently upgraded to Vista, on the same machines that shipped with Win 98.

  4. While I do agree with my brother Marine on the basic premise, I find one overriding flaw in the post.

    NO reasons where given just a few examples. Remember, the plural of anecdote is NOT fact.

  5. I think a lot of the people who throw out and/or use the word “Mil-spec” don’t even know what it means. I believe that the majority of the manufacturers use “Mil-spec” more for a compatibility thing than a “quality” standpoint anyway.

  6. The boots issued to me at Great Mistakes were “mil-spec”. As soon as I could, I got better boots.

  7. I run a Bushmaster 20″ HBAR and a CMMG “bargain bin” M-4 style rifle. They are both very reliable and accurate as long as they are lubed, with CLP by the way. May internet ninjas would say that even holding one of these is downright unAmerican. Very, very few civilians will run a gun hard enough to exceed the durability of these guns.

  8. A United States defense standard, often called a military standard, “MIL-STD”, “MIL-SPEC”, or (informally) “MilSpecs”, is used to help achieve standardization objectives by the U.S. Department of Defense.

    Standardization is beneficial in achieving interoperability, ensuring products meet certain requirements, commonality, reliability, total cost of ownership, compatibility with logistics systems, and similar defense-related objectives [1].

    From Wikipedia

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