Forward Controls Design (FCD) produces high-quality components for the AR-15 that put function over form. Until recently, one thing missing from the lineup was a Forward Controls Design lower receiver. That changed with the launch of the LRF, an ongoing collaboration with Sons of Liberty Gun Works in the form of a billet lower.
However, you may not know there is another FCD lower on the market – at least temporarily. Collaborating with Evolve Weapons Systems, a limited run of forged receivers is set to launch. To learn more about both lowers, we recently reached out to Roger Wang at FCD, Adam Tarr of Evolve Weapons Systems, and Kyle Grothues at Sons of Liberty.
Q: Roger, congrats on the LRF billet lower receiver launch you did with Sons of Liberty. That said, you’ve been working with Evolve Weapons Systems. Can you help clear up any confusion from having two different lowers ‘in the wild?’
Roger Wang – Forward Controls Design – Certainly. The development of the LRF we did with Sons of Liberty started in 2019 with a set of objectives to meet. It has everything we want in a lower, including all of the duty-related parts, features, and ergonomics. It has nothing more and nothing less. We had initially planned it to be a forged lower, but as it turns out, doing it out of billet was more doable and faster.
On the other hand, what you see with the short run of forged lowers we did with Evolve Weapons Systems is simply something that we thought would be a fun thing to do for our friends. Adam Tarr from Evolve and I go way back to around 2010. While others have approached us about putting our logo on a lower in the past, Adam is very different. We have a shared history, and I know him to be a no-nonsense guy who cares deeply about quality and customers more than profits.
With the forged Evolve Weapons Systems lowers Adam makes, there are simply no surprises. I mean that in the very best way – in the sense that no news is good news. Everything goes on his lower precisely as it should. It’s just like any other production lower that Adam makes.
I expected nothing less from Adam, and he certainly delivered. That’s important because even though Forward Controls didn’t “make” it, the lower has our logo, which means quite a bit to me. Because it represents us, it must meet our standards, and it does that. Adam’s lower represents everything we want a forged lower to be. There are no bells and whistles, and it is what I had always envisioned a forged Forward Controls Design lower would be – simple and no-frills.
Q: Can you discuss the small number of Forward Controls Design lower receiver being released?
Roger Wang – Forward Controls Design – The limited number is not designed to create artificial demand, but rather it’s due to my reluctance to put our logo on things and use our logo to make money. Our logo has a reason for being, but that’s not one of them. Also, it just becomes logo overkill after a while, with too many logos on everything. In this case, the logo is tastefully done and small.
Finally, the run is small because I don’t want to dilute the market, and I also knew the LRF lower was also going to come about. I didn’t want to create a huge number to compete with the LRF. Instead, our collaboration with Adam at Evolve Weapons Systems is something unique, fun, and collectible for folks who are fans of Forward Controls and Evolve Weapons Systems.
Evolve Weapons Systems / Forward Controls Design lower receiver
Q: Adam, can you give us your take on the collaboration from your perspective?
Adam Tarr – Evolve Weapons Systems – As Roger mentioned, he and I have known each other for over a decade before starting our current companies. The gun industry seems like a monster, but once you’re in it, you realize how small and tightknit it is.
Last summer, I reached out with an idea that seemed fun – that we’d do a limited run of lowers that would come with all of the FCD stuff, and throw them out there. Now that Roger is a Texan, he lives not too far from me. I went to his house with a lower. We talked, looked over some parts, goofed off and hung out for a bit, and we decided to do it.
Even though positions and companies and titles change, it’s cool to remain friends and maintain relationships with people throughout the industry as they grow and change. That said, Roger is very cautious with what he does and who he does it with. So the fact that he considered the collaboration and then that it happened is an honor.
Q: You’re manufacturing one of the better ARs on the market right now. Can you talk about how what you do at Evolve Weapons Systems compares with Roger’s approach at Forward Controls Design?
Adam Tarr – Evolve Weapons Systems – At Evolve, I want our focus to be on relationships and quality. It’s great to see so many manufacturers, customers, and dealers coming together who are focusing on that, and I think this lower is a small example of that.
Roger and I think a lot alike, as do a lot of other manufacturers out there today. We want our stuff to be made of proper materials, as they should be, with quality parts, as they should be. We want to make things that “just work,” but are not flashy. One thing I learned from Roger is that while everything has a nice look, the real key is function and the quality of materials. That’s what will always come first.
There are a lot of choices for ARs these days. My goal at Evolve is to give consumers peace of mind that if they buy something I make, its going going to work. I put the time and care into everything I make here. I machine the lowers here at my shop, where I make all of the stuff I do for Evolve. Each lower is gauged and checked. We don’t do things in batches, but rather each one is checked and looked at. I try to make that a focus to make sure everything is proper and the way it needs to be.
Q: Can you walk us through the basics of your limited run, forged lower?
Adam Tarr – Evolve Weapons Systems – Anyone familiar with Forward Controls knows the friendly jabbing between the “dimple gang” and the “serrated gang” (laughs). Roger and I are doing a one-time run limited to 150 total lowers. That’s all that have been made, and all that will ever be made. We spilt the amount in half, with 75 dimpled and 75 serrated. The serial numbers start with either SG or DG. They will come with not just the lower receiver, but bundled with the following Forward Controls Design parts:
Roger spent months saving parts for these, which was super cool of him. So, you’ll get everything you need to finish the lower except for a trigger, a grip, receiver extension, and a stock or brace. We talked about including a receiver extension but with standard carbine and A5 systems out there, we didn’t want the customer to feel tied down to something that they wouldn’t normally have used. The same thing applies with the trigger and grip. Those can be pretty personal choices.
Q: Can you talk a bit about the Sons of Liberty / Forward Controls Design lower receiver and why there are, in a sense, two different lowers from different companies that will both wear the FCD logo?
Adam Tarr – Evolve Weapons Systems – The Sons of Liberty lower was a bit of a surprise to me, as I didn’t know about it until this project had already started. Sons of Liberty is a company that I really respect regarding their product quality and the guys that work there. After I learned about it, I spoke with Roger about it. I intended to do the project because it was fun, and it would be something cool that all of our friends who have supported us would want to have. I certainly did not want to step on any toes. That became a large concern for me.
Forward Controls Design/SOLGW Stripped Ambi Billet Lower Receiver
Sons of Liberty and Roger put so much time into the LRF, and in no way did I want to be seen as trying to steal their thunder or diminish the hard work they had done. I was torn on it, and put a lot of thought into it.
I certainly didn’t want to cause any drama as I am not a stir-the-pot kind of guy, especially with people I like and respect.
Roger and I went back and forth, agreeing that this was such a one time, limited thing versus the Sons of Liberty LRF lower. Also, the lowers are dramatically different. Mine is just a standard forged lower, versus theirs, which is billet and has some added features and involved planning years in the making. That difference gave me a comfort level, and what made me really feel better was reaching out to Kyle Grothues as Sons of Liberty.
I was fully prepared to stop if he wasn’t cool with it. As it turns out, Kyle from Sons was incredibly gracious, kind, and supportive. That really meant a lot, and talking to him gave me the comfort I needed to move forward. I went from questioning what I was doing to feeling great about it.
I’m excited to be able to partner with a friend and do something fun, and for those that miss out, it’s awesome that there is another permanentForward Controls Design lower receiver out there from a great company like Sons of Liberty.
Q: Kyle, briefly, what’s your take on the Evolve/Forward Controls Design lower receiver?
Kyle Grothues – Sons of Liberty Gun Works – As far as Evolve’s collaboration with FCD, Adam was very open about it when he called, and I think what he and Roger came up with turned out great. We’re really good friends with Adam, and we’re excited to see them release his forged lower along with the package of Roger’s parts.
Q: Let’s talk about your own collaboration with FCD…can you give our readers the basics on your billet LRF lower receiver?
Kyle Grothues – Sons of Liberty Gun Works – The LRF began before the COVID craziness. The idea was to put Roger’s touch on a lower. He had a lot of really unique ideas that had never been done before, as far as I am aware of, like putting an indentation around the takedown pin hole to make it easier to push in farther.
We worked hard to get all of the fences around his parts to match perfectly. We wanted to get his trigger guard contour in there. He’s got a cut at the back of the mag well built into the trigger guard that we wanted to make sure was present so that you can rock a magazine in.
Q: Why decide to go with a billet lower receiver instead of a forged one?
Kyle Grothues – Sons of Liberty Gun Works – There were a few reasons why we backed off the forged plan. Originally it was timing. We wanted to get them out quicker, but with COVID, everything was slowed down regardless. Also, when the market goes crazy, it can be challenging to get forgings, let alone come out with an entirely new forging. Getting dies made can take a long time, and when the market is the way it is, aluminum costs are very high, and everyone is making as many normal forgings as they can, it can be tough to get a new product made.
We also saw that a lot of higher-end forging places have actually pivoted back to making automotive parts, and they are not taking any new firearms projects right now. The other part is we ended up going with a normal, standard pattern bolt release. At some point, that may be something that we explore designing our own bolt catch and release, but at the moment, that is kind of on the back burner. There’s also a lot of stuff you can do with a billet receiver in regards to ambi components that make it a little easier to produce, as you’re controlling more tolerances when you are doing a billet receiver versus forged.
The idea behind it was also to make a billet receiver that looked like a forged receiver. Forward Controls Design and Sons of Liberty are on the same page about not wanting any flashy branding on the rifle. It’s all about function first and foremost. It’s got to look good, but we don’t want any fancy cutouts or machining on it. I think we ended up with something that looks beautiful. It’s a gorgeous receiver that looks really clean and functions well.
It’s something that we are going to continue to make, and it is going to be a regular product that we come out with every month. Our hope is at some point, it becomes readily available. We want it to be something that everyone who wants a Forward Controls Design lower receiver can get their hands on.
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