Since we began interviewing the best and brightest in our industry, we’ve had several requests to do an in-depth profile on Sons of Liberty Gun Works. We’ve heard a lot of good things about the firearms they’re producing…customizable high-quality, “bet-your-life” rifles at fairly reasonable cost. To learn more about the company and some of their recent offerings, we reached out to Mike Mihalski, owner of Sons of Liberty Gun Works.
Q: Mike, can you give us the basics about Sons of Liberty Gun Works? How you started and what you’re doing to stand out in the firearms industry?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: We are in our fourth year of business right now. The company was an idea between my business partner and my brother who is an active duty Navy SEAL. We had this idea of starting a high-quality rifle company where we could bring some actual value to the industry.
Q: Had you been studying the firearms industry prior? If so, were there any companies that stood out to you?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: The companies I was really paying attention to were Noveske, Bravo Company and Daniel Defense. These were companies that I thought had taken the Colt 6920, which, in my opinion is the measuring stick…and they legitimately started improving it. They were not just jumping in the game to capitalize on its popularity. They were actually trying to improve the platform.
Getting the Right Configuration
As to where Sons of Liberty Gun Works could bring value…one of the gaps we saw was if you wanted one of these “hard use, endurance rifles”, one of the things you could NOT do was customize it. You had to buy that gun off of a shelf, take it home and then take the muzzle device off, take the trigger out, change the charging handle. You still had to do all this stuff to get the exact configuration you wanted.
I thought “what if we could build that same level of rifle, that same level of endurance, reliability and durability…but then what if we could build that rifle to the end users’ exact specifications? What if they could choose the exact muzzle device they want? What if they could choose the trigger they want…or even the Cerakote color they want?” Therefore, they’re not having to buy stuff twice.
Do it Once – Factory Direct
So, we started Sons of Liberty Gun Works to cater to grunts, cops and everyday Americans that simply might not be able to go and buy a $1,700 dollar rifle and then spend an extra 3 or 400 dollars getting it to where they wanted it. I wanted them to be able to do it all once, factory direct…save some money and still have that same level of performance. That was the basic idea of Sons of Liberty Gun Works.
Q: So, you’re sort of a one-stop-shop where you can get a dependable rifle then build it up as needed?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: Correct…and what you end up with is a built-to-order rifle. This approach has worked out very well with agencies and with civilian shooters that are serious about defense. You have a firearm that is truly mission-specific. If you require ambidextrous features, or if you are running a Surefire suppressor and need a specific muzzle device…having all of that stuff already on the gun without having to pay for it twice…I think it’s one of the reasons we have been able to compete with some of the bigger names, especially with the agencies.
We’re willing to work with these agencies, and being a bit of a smaller company, we have a bit more flexibility and a bit more room to make changes on the fly. We can spec packages with suppressors, optics and even slings, whereas some other manufacturers will send you the rifles, then you have to have to go out and source the rest of that equipment somewhere on your own. With us, that firearm comes in one purchase order.
Q: So, not to put too fine a point on it…but my guess is how this works is you have a wide variety of accessories in-house at Sons of Liberty, and you can pick and choose from your inventory based on order requirements?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: Yes, that’s correct. One of the unique things about Sons of Liberty Gun Works is every rifle that we sell on our website, when you go there, it has a drop-down menu. When you select any rifle, and a menu appears. Every single option you can think of, trigger, sights, charging handle, Cerakote, grips, stocks…you can customize.
That said, the only options we offer are things that I believe in. For example, you cannot select a Nickel Boron bolt carrier group. You cannot do that because I don’t believe in them. You cannot select a binary trigger, because that’s just not what we do.
Only What We Believe In
The stuff we offer is stuff that has been truly tested and has a ton of performance data on it, and has been thoroughly vetted. As an example, it took us several years before we offered the Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter. It was because I truly wanted to test that product before we offered it as an add-on option to the gun. Now, I know those guys…they’re solid guys and I fully endorse them, but that’s just an example. As cool as the concept was, I didn’t want to offer it until I was confident it paired with our rifle.
For a Sons of Liberty rifle, with all of the options that are available for the firearm, we don’t test something until we get it right…we test until they fail. Getting something to work once is not an accomplishment. If you look at this industry (laughs) you’ll see a Gen 7, Gen 10…because a lot of times the actual T&E on these products is being done on the consumer. So, for us, we test stuff until it breaks.
This is why every single part of the gun that we use on a Sons of Liberty rifle is absolutely deliberate. Even something as simple as the set screw on a gas block. Also, I didn’t go around and price shop for who has the best price on a lower parts kit. For me, there was only one option and that was Schmid Tool because those were true cast parts. Nothing we put on Sons of Liberty guns is for budget…it’s for performance. Let the price fall where it may.
I never started this thing to be a status symbol. I know that there are some brands out there that charge a premium for a roll mark. That was never my intention. My intention was to build a rifle that truly, truly works and preemptively reinforce things that we see fail.
Guns fail because of a broken bolt catch, a sheared lug, a broken extractor, or a stuck case. We want to preemptively build guns to not experience those problems. They need to work in the moment you need them to. And when you preemptively reinforce those things, you can push that gun further than the service life of our competitors.
Q: Let’s go through some of the different rifles you offer. Let’s start with your Patrol series.
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: So, the Patrol series of guns, we wanted to make an entry level rifle that was priced to compete with Colt and BCM and some of their entry level rifles. The Colt 6920 is a well-built gun. We’ve done some things to improve on that, but I wanted to compete with the Colt. Whether it’s an individual police officer that needs a patrol rifle, or it’s a civilian that wants the best thing for his buck. I would rather see somebody put that money into bolts, and carriers and buffers, barrels…put their money into that, rather than rails and furniture.
So, it was a way for us to get our “engine”, meaning barrel bolt carrier group, buffer system, into people’s hands without them having to overpay for some of the “luxury” items that come with guns…upgraded charging handles and some of the free-float rail options and things like that.
Built to Work
These Patrol guns are built to work, but they are built without sacrificing the integrity of the product. We made them as inexpensive as possible for people who want a reliable rifle that are working on a budget. Whether that’s an agency or a civilian who just needs a good rifle.
Q: Can you talk a bit more about your “engine”?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: The “engine” holds true for all of our different guns. Every rifle begins its life as a barrel. We build the rest of the gun to support that barrel.
I’m under the impression that gas ports are one of the most underrated and overlooked aspects of a gun. But if you accept the approach that every rifle begins as a barrel and you build the rest of the gun to support that barrel, if you start out with a messed-up barrel, nothing else you do to the gun is going to overcome that.
Emphasis on Gas Ports
You can play with adjustable gas blocks. Or, you can try to over buffer the gun and try to trick the thing into working….but you will run into some other problems. Starting out with a good barrel is critical to the rest of that rifle’s success. So, gas ports were one of those things that we put a lot of emphasis on. We didn’t just take some of the industry math that was there. We did our own testing and came up with some gas port values that I think make a lot of sense.
So, part of the engine is the correct barrel steel…that treatment. Gas ports…the QC, actually checking chambers. For free-float guns…dimpling barrels. Offering pinning for gas blocks. All that stuff to make sure that barrel is good, as it is the foundation.
Then from there, the second most critical part is the bolt carrier. There was only one bolt that I was ever going to use, and it’s made for us by Microbest, but to me it was critical that it was a 158 Carpenter steel bolt. That it was individually high pressure tested…individually magnetic particle inspected…shot peened…All those things make a difference.
Q: For the end user, what does this mean? What does doing these things prevent?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: Whenever you see a lot of prematurely broken bolts, the majority of the time it was a 9310 bolt that was probably improperly heat treated. We don’t typically see that from our bolts. Neither does Bravo Company, Colt, Daniel Defense. You don’t see prematurely broken bolts there because they’re sticking to a formula…158, HP, MPI, and then we go in and we upgrade those extractor springs. I don’t believe in Crane O-rings. We take that shit and throw it in the trash.
Making a Hole and Filling it
We use a Sprinco 5-Coil Extra Power extractor spring. That thing is rated for 150,000 compression/decompression cycles. It completely eliminates the need for an O-ring and that thing is going to extract that brass. Regardless of how fouled that chamber is, that brass is coming out. If you look at how a gun eats, it’s basically making a hole, and filling it. That’s the cycle of operation broken down into two steps. So, having a very powerful extractor string and having a very powerful action spring and heavy buffers, you’re going to make that hole and fill it every time.
Q: So, we’ve covered the Patrol series…let’s talk a bit about your Liberty Series.
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: The Liberty Series are the most popular guns we do. They come spec standard, unless you have a specific need, there’s really nothing to upgrade on these guns. They come with good rails…most have the VLTOR A5 system, which is one of very most legitimate upgrades the carbine has ever seen happen. But the Liberty Series is just a complete package that makes a lot of sense.
Q: I notice on the Liberty series, you have two different rail options. Can we talk about the two different rail options you offer?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: Certainly. The EX02 MLOK rail was designed with budget in mind…not to make a cheap rail, not to sacrifice on materials, not to sacrifice on rigidity, but to cut down on machine time. The less machine time that is involved, the less expensive it is to produce. And again, this is for agencies specifically that had to work with in a budget that still required an MLOK free-float rail. But it also works in the civilian world where people want a good, rigid, solid rail and they don’t want to spend 2-300 dollars. This will accomplish pretty much everything they need it to without breaking the bank. And we didn’t do that by sacrificing material. We did it buy cutting down on cosmetic machining. What it’s made of and how it affixes to the gun is still very sturdy.
Sons of Liberty Gun Works M76 Wedge Lock
Then for the M76 Wedge Lock rail, this was a project I had talked to Jim Hodge about for a long time. Jim Hodge is a good friend of mine in real life. We’re pretty much neighbors, and he has been a mentor to me and a major influence on the way I approach the industry. Even just the evolution of our own Sons of Liberty brand, talking and working with Jim, I need to give him credit where it’s due…If you want to give him a shout out here for me, I’d totally appreciate that.
The M76 Wedge Lock is just a beautiful rail. But, as far as purpose driven, if you are going to mount a laser to the gun and you’re talking about deflection, then this is the rail that I think comes into play. It’s a strong and rigid rail with minimal deflection. I think the Wedge Lock belongs with any conversation with any of the best rails out there. Arguably I think it’s better.
You have a steel barrel nut as opposed to an aluminum barrel nut…and the way that wedge tightens around that rail, it is truly maximizing that bearing surface…it’s extremely rigid. Then, as far as anti-rotation…you have a steel dowel that goes from the rail into the upper receiver. I don’t think it gets sturdier than that. So, for professional use…a true combative rail, the Wedge Lock belongs in the top categories.
Q: Ok…we’ve talked about the Patrol Series and the Liberty Series. What is the Patriot Series?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: Personally, I hate the term “high end.” But we did create a series of rifle that has all of the bells and whistles on there…trigger, sights, muzzle devices. So, if somebody just wants to buy a gun pre-designed, that’s what that Patriot series of guns is for. However, what most people do is get the Liberty series then they upgrade what they want and it kind of turns into the Patriot series…but deliberately.
A High-End Clarification
If I could go back to something I just said…I mentioned I dislike the term “high end.” I’d like to explain that a bit further. I reject the term because they are a lot of very expensive guns that don’t really perform very well. If there is one thing I could encourage people to do it would be to not look at price tags on guns. It would be look at individual spec and overall performance. Having an 800-dollar barrel and a 500-dollar bolt carrier group, depending on where you’re buying that stuff from, those things could be truly arbitrary or designer costs…by designer I mean like “designer jeans.”
Now, you put that thing on the line and a Colt 6920 will outrun it all day. So, what have you really purchased with your “high end” gun? I’d like to see people not look at these things as status symbols and focus more on actual performance and not so much price.
Q: Let’s say you’re building a rifle for home defense. What does that rifle look like?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: For a general-purpose rifle for home defense or that kind of thing, I think the M4-EX02 is a perfect gun. It has the “engine” we talked about. All that stuff is where you want it. It has a very good, solid, rigid rail. It has the good small parts. And, its priced to compete with anything out there. And performance wise, it will compete with anything on the market. But, you can have it for several hundred dollars less. A lot of that is because some of the cosmetic machining on the rail is not there. These guns also just have a mil spec buffer system with an H-buffer, but it’s still a high quality Sprinco spring. It’s just a very reasonable gun.
It’s just hard for me to blindly tell someone to go with the VLTOR A5 system or the M76 Wedge Lock rail. Now the A5 system we offer, if you are running an SBR suppressed and unsuppressed, the A5 system is exactly what you want. It will handle anything you throw at it. But for a general-purpose gun like the M4-EX02, if it’s only going to be shot in its 16” mid-gas configuration, and you’re never going to put a suppressor on there, then honestly the way that gun comes spec’d it is priced extremely well and is an excellent choice.
Q: Wrapping up, can you talk a bit about the MK10 rifle you offer in .308?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: I’m really proud of our .308. Our approach to that was not to make a really accurate gun and make it reliable. Our goal was to make a really reliable gun and make it accurate. A lot of the emphasis in the industry on gas guns, especially the larger frame gas guns, it’s like there’s a hyper focus on accuracy. It’s not hard to make an accurate rifle. It’s hard to make an accurate and reliable gas gun. So, all of our work went into reliability.
Accuracy is delivered because, let’s be honest, barrel making has come a long way in the last 100 years. (laughs). You have to go out of your way to mess up a barrel. I can tell you from the feedback we get and from our own testing, those things are probably some of the most reliable large frame ARs out there, period…hands down.
Q: Finally, I know you’re a company that offers some interesting programs for law enforcement. Can you talk about that?
Mike Mihalski, Sons of Liberty Gun Works: First and foremost, we are a civilian rifle company. My focus is on arming American civilians. Well, cops are American citizens too. Truthfully, if there is an active shooter or if there is bad stuff happening, police really are the ones responding to that and I want to make sure these guys have fire superiority over whoever they go against. Unfortunately, for a lot of departments their approach is to go with the lowest bidder. That’s why you see some agencies allow police officers to buy their own guns. But some officers are afraid to invest a lot of money into their guns because they are under the impression that if they do have to use it in the line of duty, they might lose that gun.
Getting Good Guns to the Good Guys
So, after traveling the country and talking to a lot of these guys, and asking them why do they carry this substandard firearm, the answer is either “well, that’s what the department issued me”, or “I purchased that myself. I didn’t want to invest a lot of money in a gun I might lose.”
So after hearing this enough times, my partner and I came up with two policies. One is that for individual officer purchases, as long as our rifle is on their approved list for their agency, we will finance the gun. They can order it. We’ll ship it…then we will deduct payments over the next four to six months until it’s paid off. I can’t get into a race to the bottom. I can’t make a cheaper gun. But, I can make it easier for guys to buy.
Sons of Liberty Replacement Policy
The second policy was if a Sons of Liberty rifle gets used in the line of duty and it gets taken for evidence, I will send you a replacement. You will never be without a gun. Now, whenever these bad things happen, typically the process is very fast…but at least that officer has the confidence to know they are not going to do without equipment. We have their back.
Big thanks to Mike for talking with us about Sons of Liberty Gun Works…for more information, be sure to visit them at their website.
Editor’s note…after this interview was finished, Mike released this video about Sons of Liberty Gun Works receiver sets. I felt it interesting enough to add here.
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