Forged or Billet?
Forged or Billet, what’s best for your next build?
In a previous blog article, I discussed the two main types of aluminum used in making AR receivers sets. One was 6061 aluminum and the other 7075 aluminum. Now the conversation switches to what manufacturing process do you prefer, forging or milling (billet)? Both types of aluminum retain their qualities whether formed from milling or forging. The differences between the two are found in the manufacturing process itself and the costs involved in using one over the other. The main difference for the person choosing a receiver set is that one is stronger and one is more aesthetically pleasing.
When I think of forging, I default to an image of a blacksmith hammering out a piece of red-hot steel into the shape of a sword. The concept is relatively the same as a block of aluminum is compressed into shape. It’s actually pounded into a general shape by the forging dies that apply the form to the aluminum. Here is a link to how a 1911 frame is made. I picked it because it shows how the initial block of metal is hammered into its basic shape. What comes out of the forging process is an almost complete upper or lower. In the case of a lower, all that’s left to do is taking some material off to final size, create the magwell and drill some holes for the hammer, trigger pins, and safety.
The pressure applied by the hammering of the forging dies compresses the aluminum and makes the grain run in the same direction. This makes it stronger and more durable than other processes. Forged lowers tend to be lighter than milled lowers because they don’t deal with proprietary design changes.
We call it billet, but the process is called milling. The milling process starts the same way as forging; with a solid block of aluminum. The difference is it goes straight to a CNC machine and is cut into shape using a computer program. This is why milling products look more appealing. The lines are crisper and each one will be the same as the last until you change the computer program.
Take a Look
You can see the differences between forged and billet from the from the picture of the two lower receivers located above. The forged lower on top has more rounded edges. The milled lower on the bottom has clearly defined lines and sharper angles. They both do the same exact job. Forged uppers and lowers are stronger and usually cost less. A milled upper and lower look cleaner and are usually more refined.
The forged product has to be made within a certain tolerance because it’s not so exact. Also, once the forging die is made, it can only be changed one way; you can make the part bigger but you can’t make it smaller. Outside of that, you have to create a new die. On the other hand, with milling, all you have to do is adjust the computer program. Your more detailed or custom ARs are made using the milling process from a billet of aluminum.
So Which Process To Buy From?
The short answer is whatever floats your boat. Since forging and milling end up doing the same job, it’s up to your personal preferences. I have found great utility in both. Before you make up your mind and buy into fancy marketing, do your homework, define what it is that you need, match it to your budget, and see what kind of deals you can get out there. At the end of the day, as long as the rifle goes boom and hits its mark, that’s all that really matters. I have never seen anyone call someone out on a range because they were using one or the other.
If you’d like more information or have any questions, feel free to email me at Murgado.firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember that Live Free Armory is here to help you whether you choose to buy from us or not. We believe that obtaining the right information should always be your first step.