When Garrett, from Alex Pro Firearms asked Cold Dead Hands to do a review on their Nickel Boron Bolt Carrier Group, I said to myself; “Sure, why not? I’ve heard a lot of hype over the NiB (nickel boron) plating, but never actually tested one.” Let’s face it, if you’re like me, who wouldn’t want something that makes clean up easier? Just ask my ex’s... I hate cleaning and sure enough, a NiB plated bolt carrier makes clean up a breeze.
Now before I get into the details of the review and the “praise” this company and their BCG will inevitably receive, I’d like to take a minute or two to explain some of the details regarding Nickel Boron plating.Nickel Boron coatings are columnar in growth resulting in a distinct nodular topography which serves to reduce surface to surface contact of two mating / sliding surfaces reducing drag / friction. The nodular structure dissipates heat at greater efficiency due to greater surface area. Simply put; it needs less lubrication to slide more efficiently.
The NiB coating process was discovered in 1972 by Harold Edward Bellis to create a technique that would reduce wear caused by the friction of two components. The process has seen several improvements over the last 40 years to help create an even greater frictionless environment. We know that eventually friction always wins... but when we can prolong the life of a part, we ultimately win and that is exactly what these carriers will do for you; prolong the life of your weapon.
Now that you know the technology has been around for a while (so some slick sales guy can’t try and sell you this latest, greatest technology) and that its uses are not limited to the firearms industry, I’ll give you some specs on the Alex Pro Firearms BCG:
The first thing to note about the APF BCG is that it is 100% Mil-Spec for semi and full auto applications, and for those who are not gunsmiths or serious firearms aficionados, a BCG or Bolt Carrier Group is exactly what it sounds like, a group.
So first things first, the bolt. Made from Carpenter 158 material, it has been shot peened, heat treated and finally NiB plated. Since I am not a metallurgist and do not encounter Carpenter 158 very often, I figured since I wanted to know a bit more about it, some of you might as well.
Carpenter No. 158® alloy is an exceedingly high strength, case-hardened alloy mold steel that is cold-melt electric furnace processed to a narrow range of analysis limits. Electric furnace melting, performed under closely-controlled conditions, assures unvarying uniformity and each lot is hot acid etch inspected. This alloy should be considered for applications which require an extra measure of core strength as it possesses high strength core with uniform mechanical properties even up to 5" (125 mm) thick sections. It possesses highest mechanical properties of any case hardening mold steel. Its special alloy content imparts great wear resistance, allowing it to withstand severe abrasions over longer service periods. As you can see, APF is using one of the most durable metals they could find to ensure this bolt could take the “extra abuse a serious operator could throw at it” while allowing for maximum heat dissipation, which can ultimately cause warping issues.
The next section of the BCG will be the carrier. Made from SAE 8620 steel that is heat treated and NiB plated as well as being rated for full auto. Now again, since I am no gun guru or metallurgist (I’m assuming most of you aren’t either), but just a guy who grew up shooting, I want to explain what SAE 8620 steel is as well.
8620 is a hardened chromium, molybdenum, nickel low alloy steel that is often used for carburizing to develop a case-hardened part which typically results in producing good wear characteristics. Now I could go on to tell you more about 8620 steel, but I think you get the point, APF is using the best possible materials to make their BCGs. It is interesting to note that they also heat treat these parts to ensure the metals will not expand and contract as much, as they run through the extreme temperature changes typically found when used in the full auto format.
For those that don’t know what heat treating is or does, here is a brief explanation, and for those that do, skip over it or take a refresher.
**Heat treatment involves the use of heating or chilling, normally to extreme temperatures, to achieve a desired result such as hardening or softening of a material. Heat treatment techniques include annealing, case hardening, precipitation, strengthening, tempering and quenching.
The extractor is CNC machined; most of us know that a CNC is a computer controlled machine that can perform a variety of tasks, and is frequently used to create precision parts for many applications. It is also shot peened, heat treated and finally NiB plated. I would be remiss in not mentioning what shot peening is.
Shot peening is a cold working process, similar to sand blasting, but operates on the principles of plasticity rather than abrasion. Each particle essentially functions as a ball-peen hammer which means a more accurate material removal process while producing a compressive residual stress layer that modifies the mechanical properties of the metal.
I know... I know... You’re getting a cerebral workout from reading this review, something you don’t typically get when reading fluffy little reviews from some of the other reviewers, but I want you to walk away knowing the differences in this BCG versus all the others out there as well as knowing why you would want to spend the extra money for a NiB BCG.
Now with that said, we can move on to the gas key, which is the part of the BCG that actually makes it work, and without APF’s attention to detail even at this level, could’ve made their BCG less effective, but rest assured they didn’t spare any expense here either. The gas key is: CNC machined, heat treated, chrome lined and NiB plated, and finally torqued and staked to the carrier using Military specifications. The chrome lining is that little bit more attention to detail that makes this carrier much better than many of their competitors, ensuring that the corrosive gases do not damage the interior lining.
Finally the firing and cam pins are Swiss machined and heat treated, while the cam pin is also NiB plated for durability, heat dissipation and ease of cleaning. While we’re now at the point of brain overload for some, I’m going to explain what Swiss Machining is.
Swiss machining is performed on Swiss-type equipment that has the ability to maintain extremely tight tolerances (up to 20mm), and is typically used in creating medical, dental and surgical equipment, as well as parts in the fiber optic and electronics field. So once again, APF has spared no expense in creating a very fine accessory for your firearms.
Now, I said I was going to sing a little bit of praise before I got to the end, and I’m just about to do that, but I want to explain just what we did with this BCG first.
Taking the BCG right out of the package, of course it’s all shiny and new and I’d typically lubricate every part with Froglube before assembling it, but I was told to slap it in and start sending rounds down range, so that is exactly what we did. The first day we put 200 rounds through a home built AR with a polymer lower in rapid succession and had absolutely NO failure to feed or extract issues (to note, we used IMI 5.56 brass-cased rounds as well as steel-cased FMJ). We then waited 5 minutes, removed the BCG and to our surprise it was only slightly warm to the touch, so good heat dissipation was definitely noted. We then proceeded to wipe the NiB carrier down with a dry cloth, and sure as APF told us it would, it cleaned up easily without any solvent. We only noticed some slight discoloration in the crevices where the gas key and carrier meet, which could easily be cleaned with a little more attention. Our extended plans for this carrier group is to run it up to 1,000 rounds without a detailed cleaning, and report back to y’all on its performance. We are going to use a wide variety of ammo brands and types, including some of the “dirty” steel-cased varieties as well as some of the smaller manufacturers' offerings. We will also be putting all of our review products in the "hands" of a variety of people, from professional shooters, law enforcement as well as current and former military personnel, so we can bring you a broader perspective on which ones are good and which ones you should avoid.
What I can say about the Alex Pro Firearms NiB BCG, is it doesn’t disappoint, at least not yet... a little more time and rounds may tell a different story, but I’m not anticipating it. This BCG performed exactly as Garrett from APF told me it would, without exception. In fact, we went a little bit beyond his suggestions (as we do with all our reviews) to ensure we are truly putting it through its paces and bringing y’all the best possible gear we can find.
Finally, I just wanted to tell you a little bit more about these boys up in Minnesota “dontcha know”:
Alex Pro Firearms was started by the owners of Alexandria Pro Fab, a precision machining company located in Alexandria, Minnesota, who has been in the business since 1976 (no fly by night outfit) where they’ve been making precision components ever since. These guys are the real deal. True American Patriots, who care about their customers and their country. A company that takes their customer service back in time, to those days when you could talk to real people, who spoke English (although if you’ve seen the movie “Fargo” you might question what type of English they’re speaking) and cared about your concerns. These are the type of qualities that surpass the “big boy” manufacturers, who are only concerned with their shareholders and bottom lines. They are passionate about guns and hunting (what a great combination) as well as making a superior product. Everything they make is 100% made in the US of A.
In closing, I just want to say that NiB BCG’s abound a plenty, as many typical tool and die manufacturers are getting into the firearms industry. So the question is why would you want to buy Alex Pro Firearms products (they make everything to build your own AR platform rifle, or you can buy it already assembled) over any number of their competitors? All I can say is; “If you are a patriot, who’s looking for the restoration of our country as well as a return to the days of a more personalized experience when buying your gear, these hometown boys from Alexandria, Minnesota fit the bill better than many of the others out there. We all know that becoming active politically is an important factor in reclaiming our country, but supporting the small businesses in this country is another factor we have to consider, because it has always been the small entrepreneurial spirit that has tied the fabric of this country together. Best of all, we will be selling their entire line-up of products in our online store as well as offering our outside dealers the chance to carry APF products in their stores as well.
See the video review here: http://youtu.be/tVe0mMP2bFE