Sin City Precision has been fortunate to build a relationship with New Frontier Armory. Many of our members have been patrons of the store since the first day they opened their doors. Since then, New Frontier Armory has made leaps and bounds. The store has more than quadrupled in size and they not only offer a wide selection of products, gun smith services and gear, but they also manufacture their own AR15 components. Since NFA has their own manufacturing and assembly capability they can offer high quality billet rifles and components at very competitive prices. They recently have brought their own, non reciprocating billet aluminum, side charge upper receiver to market. I have been using the upper receiver in conjunction with my billet C-4 NFA lower receiver on my Sin City Precision Team carbine.
When I first learned about the product I was immediately excited, I have been learning a lot more about AR-15 carbines and I never liked the placement of the charging handle. I have seen products that improve the rear charging handle, but they always seemed like a band-aid solution. Those of us who run optics know exactly what I’m talking about. The rear charging handle is just plain awkward, why is locking the bolt to the rear a two handed operation? When I received my non-reciprocating side charge upper and assembled the rifle with Brad, one of the first things that put a smile on my face is the ability to lock the bolt to the rear using just my left hand, sometimes in life its the small things.
The New Frontier Armory side charge upper comes with a black anodized finish which we are accustomed to seeing on these types of products. The machine work looks great, even on some of the difficult to machine rounded contoured areas of the receiver. The upper does not have a brass deflector, forward assist or dust cover. The right side of the upper receiver is nice and clean.
The non reciprocating charging handle is located on the left side and generously extents away from the upper receiver. The charging handle easily clears the locking levers on my American Defense Manufacturing Recon FDE mount and will clear the levers on LaRue mounts. When the charging handle is in its rearward position it does extend past the upper and lower receivers. It does not extent very far past the receivers but does have the potential to hang you up, if for some reason you had your hand around the forward portion of the buffer tube.
The side charge handle on the upper has some adjustments you can make. The charging handle is kept in the forward position by a spring tension ball and detent. You can adjust the tension to your preference. I have mine adjusted so it is nice and secure. To adjust the tension you just need an Allen wrench. The adjustment is located on the charging handle unit. The rifle is very easy to charge, and when the BCG comes forward the non reciprocating handle is locked in the forward position. The upper uses any AR-15 bolt carrier group. You only have to replace the bolt’s cam key with the one provided. The part is very quick and easy to change. Once you have that done your upper is ready to build.
Why a non reciprocating, side charging upper? I really like the placement of the side charging handle for multiple reasons, some of which I mentioned above. When other side charge uppers came out I also really liked the placement of the charging handle, but didn’t like that it reciprocated (moved back and forth with the BCG). I know for most people it is not a problem, but I would find a way to get my hand or something else caught in it when I was shooting. Making the side charging handle on the upper receiver non-reciprocating (the handles does not move back and forth with the BCG) removed any reservations I had about a side charging set up.
I have yet to start hand loading for the carbine but have plans to do so. The rounds I have fired have been factory loaded. Running the side charge upper is very similar to any other AR rifle. The only difference is the location of the charging handle. I have found it easier to clear the rifle during malfunctions with this set up. The bolt is also easier to lock to the rear when confirming the rifle is clear.
I did have to increase the tension on the handle retention detent, so the handle would stay in the forward position when the bolt locked to the rear after the last round fired. Like I described earlier, this is very easy to do with an Allen wrench. The adjustment is located on the handle and you just turn it C.W. or C.C.W. to adjust the amount of retention. Since making the adjustment I have had zero problems with the charging handle not staying locked forward after the last round is fired.
I really like the function and look of the NFA side charge upper. The team at New Frontier did a great job creating this product and it displays the same function over form and attention to detail found in their billet C4 lowers. The billet products from New Frontier have been working very well for me and I look forward to continuing my “test and trials” with their products.
If you are not a build it yourself kind of person but are interested in their side charge upper visit New Frontier Armory, they have a selection of complete side charging uppers you can choose from. They offer different options like Mid West Industries KeyMod rails, multiple muzzle brakes and barrels. I will continue to run my New Frontier Armory non-reciprocating, side charge upper for 3 gun practice (and eventually local 3 gun matches), predator hunting and training opportunities. When I get more rounds down range and with continued use, I will be able to give more insights on this product and I look forward to doing so!