In the 1980’s a company entered the firearms market with their offer of what many people called a “plastic” pistol. The polymer product met with a lot of resistance and criticism. I remember people saying things like “It’s a plastic P.O.S. that will break”, “They will be outlawed because they can pass through airport security”, and other things of this nature. To be completely honest, I bought into a bunch of that crap and even fueled the fires a bit myself. Over time, the product has proven itself as not only a valid option, but one that is currently used by approximately 65% of all U.S. Law Enforcement agencies as their handgun of choice. It’s also the weapon that I now carry daily. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 25+ years, you know I’m talking about Glock.
When I was first introduced to the New Frontier Armory LW-15 polymer AR-15 lower, I was skeptical. I had also read a few things on forums like M4Carbine.net where the various “plastic” lowers have continuously been trash talked. Not wanting to jump on the negative band wagon as I had previously done with Glock, I decided to keep an open mind about the product and look into it a bit further. As I searched around the interwebs, I noticed that while the AR type forums didn’t seem to favor the product, the more general gun forums, like Calguns.net, had members chiming in that they owned and like the polymer lowers.
To make a long story just a little shorter, I purchased an LW-15 lower and decided to test it out a bit. For a couple of months I had been hearing & reading of problems with some of the internal parts breaking. What better way to test this than with rapid fire? So, I started by adding a SlideFire Solutions SSAR-15 bumpfire stock to the lower and, with the help of a few friends, have proceeded to put roughly 1,700 rounds down range utilizing simulated “full auto” firing. Just yesterday, we dumped over 250 rounds through it without a hiccup and this morning, I pulled it apart to look for damage. I cleaned up all the parts, inspected them, and the only marks I could find were on the head of the hammer where it strikes the firing pin. Although it was marked from this, it was far from damaged or showing any significant signs of wear or weakness.
Now, I’m not here to try to sell the die hard AR/M4 fans out their on something they don’t want. However, with the recent explosion of civilian AR sales, there are a TON of people entering the market that are seeking a light weight and/or inexpensive entry level type rifle. These are typically not the commando “A” type personalities, but more average guys like most of my readers. They are not looking for a gun to run through dirt and mud or something they can abuse the hell out of. They want an entry level ar-15 that they will shoot once a month, stick in the closet or safe, and shoot it again in another month or two. Others want something they can toss behind the seat of their truck and not have to worry about scratching up an aluminum receiver or a light weight rifle for their wife or kids to use. The LW-15 is a great option for those kind of people.
The stripped lower itself weighs in at about 5 ounces while the Tactical Innovations T15 lower I compared it to weighs 8.4oz. The two lowers are roughly the same cost except that the LW-15 comes complete with a lower parts kit, buffer tube, buffer, buffer spring, & stock all for $109. Assembly is done in house at New Frontier Armory’s retail store in North Las Vegas, NV. The LW-15 has a lifetime warranty so if you do experiences any problems, NFA will quickly remedy the situation. Some owners of the first generation LW-15’s experienced problems with the internals. Once the issue became apparent, design changes were made and parts were swapped out for those who requested them.
The guys over at New Frontier Armory took one of their LW-15 rifles out and shot some video of them abusing it. Running it over, chucking it across the desert, using it as a foot step, etc… Again, all things that most of us will never put a rifle through in the first place. To this day, they still use the same rifle for demos. It’s the dirty rifle in the photos and also the gun that Matt Supnick is using on the range portion of the video below.
Will it withstand anything you throw at it? In most cases, I believe it will. This is a pretty tough lower. In fact, here’s an email from another LW-15 owner and a photo of his rifle that was recently ran over by a tractor.
This is the result of running over one of my AR-15s with my 50hp tractor and a 6 ft Bush Hog. How it occurred is a long sad story, but of no importance to you.
The polymer stock was ripped out of the threads of the lower. The keeper key was bent and the buffer with spring went flying. The bolt carrier was sticking about 1/3 of its length out of the back of the upper. You will note that the rear takedown pin appears to be missing, not so. The upper sheared the rear pin off at both ends and the polymer pin’s center was still in the upper. The half full magazine was ripped out of the lower. After cleaning, the magazine went right back into the lower and locked up, with the release functioning as prior to modification. The trigger, sear and hammer functioned perfectly after the sand was removed and the lower was flushed.
After cleaning with mineral spirits and flushing then hammering the key flat, the stock treaded right back onto the lower, locked up, and was ready to go with the replacement of the rear pin, plunger and spring, plus the buffer plunger and its spring.
The aluminum upper receiver did not fare so well, it was cracked where the barrel extension attached to the upper receiver. Oh, I had to cut the barrel, forearm and gas tube off 6 inches in front of the receiver with a saws-all to get the upper apart. The barrel was bent in 3 directions and the gas tube, still attached to the gas block, was wrapped around the barrel.
If someone wants to know how tough your lower is and if your lower will take punishment, show them this picture.
Although I do not consider myself any sort of expert in the field, I have been building my own ARs for 20 years. I’m a fan of hand picking every component that goes into my builds and pride myself on their uniqueness as much as the quality of the parts that go into them. This is what caused me to be skeptical about the New Frontier Armory LW-15. However, I’m also open minded enough to realize that there is a HUGE market for these kind of guns. Would I carry this gun into a battlefield type scenario? No, but that’s not what it’s intended for either. I will definitely be keeping this gun, using it, and sharing it with those who I believe would benefit from such a weapon.