Modern Armory – Quality Control for a Better AR-15

Modern Armory is a company currently putting out quality components and rifles under the watchful eye of company founder, Don Stokey. Don takes great pride in producing products that he considers duty grade…taking no short-cuts, and ensuring that every rifle that leaves Modern Armory has been throughly gauged and function checked.

To learn more about Modern Armory, we recently sat down with Don Stokey. We spoke about the history of the company and his philosophy on building the best AR possible.

Q: Don, let’s start with your background and how that informs what you do at Modern Armory…

Don Stokey, Modern Armory – I was a general contractor by trade in southern California, and I ended up hurting myself to the point where I couldn’t do the work anymore.  So, I needed a trade that wasn’t manual labor.  That’s what led to Modern Armory. 

I took my passion for guns and I decided to go this route with it and approach it the way I approached things my entire life…with a focus on quality and customer satisfaction.

Q: What was that initial step into the firearms industry like for you?

Don Stokey, Modern Armory – It started off with me just selling other people’s parts until that kind of plateaued. I wasn’t going any further. So, I decided to do some research to find vendors that had parts that were American made.  I went so far as to make sure that they even sourced their materials within the United States…to have them make our products. From there, it took about a year to get everything to line up to where we could launch all of our stuff. It’s been about 2 and a half years ago now that we launched our own products.  Since then, I think it’s caught on and sales are doubling each year, which is a good sign.

Q:  Working with contractors, I know that most of the best really focus on quality and customer service…it really helps limit callback, and by putting the effort forth on the front end, it really helps them later on.

Don Stokey, Modern Armory – It goes back to one of my first bosses ever…through him I was fortunate to be taught some valuable lessons about how you treat people, and how you are perceived by others.  There was a big emphasis on the belief that the effort you put forth will pay off in the end…it’s a concept that I try to honor at Modern Armory, as we really try to have an eye on the little things that make a big difference when it comes to the performance of an AR.

Modern Armory – A Commitment to Quality…

My dad was always in the construction industry, in late 1996, I started my own company…which existed until 2014, which was when I injured myself. The simple fact of the matter is that you cannot run a successful company if you’re doing crappy work. We did a lot of custom remodels and house builds along the southern coast of California.  These were multi-million dollar homes, offices, doctor’s offices….I was always branching out and doing more work, but with a commitment to keeping that quality of work very high. I guess that’s just carried through everything in my life. 

With every business I’ve ever owned, it’s always been me trying to keep the quality of the work high, good materials and exceptional customer service.  I think customer service is really key, because if the customer service is bad, it can break a company faster than anything.

Q:  Are there other things that you think separates the products that Modern Armory offers from others on the market?

Don Stokey, Modern Armory – Like I said, some of it is sourcing things from good companies like Forward Controls Design, V Seven, Dark Hour, or PWS and Bootleg Inc.   Some of it is quality control.  All parts that come into Modern Armory go through a quality control inspection on my end before they get a pass and are determined good enough to put our name on. 

My goal is to give Modern Armory customers the best rifle there is for the price point we are at…and then give them an exceptional lifetime warranty to go with it.

Photo by 715_Tactical

Q:  Can you walk us through some of the complete rifle offerings from Modern Armory?

Don Stokey, Modern Armory – Our Alpha series of rifles are the top, upper choice rifles of our Duty line.  Most of them have our 16” Duty-grade barrels.  That said, all of our rifles, no matter what, start with the same bolt carrier, no matter what grade of rifle you are buying. That’s not what changes. 

As the rifles go into different categories, obviously some of the parts change, but the core platform for any complete rifle from Modern Armory is going to have our lower parts kit in it, our BCG, and then either a 10.5” or 16” barrel.

We’re in the midst of expanding our barrel line to 11.5” and 12.5” and then a few more 300 Blackout and maybe some 6.5 Grendel options. We have one Grendel option now, but we’re exploring the idea of more options, maybe a 12.5” or a 16” package.

Q: You mentioned a focus on quality control…I’d imagine this is an area where you spend some time ensuring there are no issues?

That’s correct. All barrels that Modern Armory sells are high pressure tested, magnetic particle inspected, stress relieved…There is lot of inspection we do on our barrels to ensure the customer is not getting a defective barrel, something with a damaged crown, or damaged bore.  A lot of our inspection tools come from Chad at School of the American Rifle.

But regardless of barrel length or caliber, all of our Modern Armory rifles are very solid packages. We use Sprinco springs for the ejector and extractor in our BCGs.  The rifles come with a Sprinco buffer spring.  They are set up with an H-buffer running on a mid-length gas system. 

A shooter will find that the rifles are pretty well tuned to the port, and are kicking rounds out at around 4 o’clock-ish. We’ve done pretty much everything we can to tune them, and make them run reliably for tens of thousands of rounds. We spec out our gas port sizes to what we want…we’ve done extensive testing to make sure that a rifle from Modern Armory is not going to be over or under gassed.

Our Modern Armory bolt carriers come to us completely stripped down.  They are already finished, but they are not assembled. We don’t use standard carrier screws for the gas key.  We use the OCKS (Optimized Carrier Key Screw)…like I touched on, we use Sprinco for the ejector and the extractor.  Sprinco is a major upgrade.  They are cryogenically processed. They’re ideal because you are going to get a really decent round count out of them….50-100,000 rounds on those two springs, versus a standard spring.

You get a cam pin with a directional arrow put on them so the customer knows which way to put the cam pin in to avoid excessive wear. All of our bolts are Carpenter 158 with stainless steel firing pins and nitrided gas keys.  We try to put as much love into them as we can (laughs) so that they will be 100 percent reliable.

On top of that, we offer the customer free gas rings for life. All of our BCGs are warrantied for life.  Normal wear and tear is an exception, but if a BGC falls apart, we are going to replace it, no questions asked.

Bolt carrier and barrel are two of the main components in the rifle that you really do not want to skimp on, considering that there is a relatively large explosion happening just a few inches from your face.  You don’t want to go for “just as good.” You need to know that the two most important parts of the rifle are going to stay together.

Q:   Can you talk about your lower receivers?

Don Stokey, Modern Armory – They start off as 7075 forged lower…they come to us like all of our parts do…in the raw. They are anodized here in Texas so that they have a consistent color match between all of our parts.  We start off with a 7075-receiver extension…and we use a QD endplate.

Forward Controls Design, we OEM their castle nuts…which is a huge upgrade over the mil-specs.  They are a little bit stronger, not to mention they are prettier looking (laughs.)

Diving in from there, you’re getting a B5 stock, and a B5 grip.   Going internal, our parts kits are sourced from multiple different quality vendors…the rifles have Forward Controls takedown and pivot pins, and a majority the rifles come with a Forward Controls magazine release…it just depends on what rifle you choose from us.  They all come with a Winter Trigger Guard from B5.

Q:  Can you give us a brief overview of your rails?

Don Stokey, Modern Armory – Our handguards are manufactured in Ohio.  We offer two different lines.  We have a hybrid that has Picatinny at 12, 3, 6 and 9…and then 12, 3 and 9 on the rear.  They are 6160 aluminum, and are very lightweight…and strength wise, they are very rigid and solid. Then, we offer a Gen 1 Slimline…which gives you the same rigidity, but a lot less weight, but it still allows you to mount pretty much anything you want on it.

The barrel nuts are all steel, non-timing…and they come with our retention system, so once you put the barrel nut on, slide your rail over, you put your retention key inside there and tighten it up. Even if the screws start to loosen up, the handguard will not go forward unless the screws are completely backed out.

Q: Anything else you would like to mention about Modern Armory that we have not discussed?

Don Stokey, Modern Armory – I don’t take anything I make at Modern Armory lightly.  Pretty much every part of the rifle has been inspected and touched by a human being.  Our reason for doing that is to make sure that what we produce is the absolute best that it can be.  Any rifle that comes out of here has also had at least 30 rounds put through it.   

I would feel comfortable taking any rifle that I assemble, or any rifle that I sell, and putting it in the hands of my 12-year old child and letting her shoot it, knowing that the rifle is not going to come apart in her hands…knowing that it is not going to fire out of battery, and knowing that you are going to get clean, consistent and reliable shooting with the rifle every single time. 


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