Clint Hanson is the Director of Product Development at Ballistic Advantage, a manufacturer of high-end rifle barrels and other firearm components. AR Build Junkie was able to speak with Clint and discuss the company, his signature BA Hanson barrels, new products for 2019, and the idea behind his Q&A and Builder Series, which help AR builders avoid mistakes and get better results.
Q: Clint, with so many choices out there for today’s builder, what is a reason should someone consider Ballistic Advantage?
A: I think one thing Ballistic Advantage does very well from the standpoint of the shooter is the amount of attention we pay to our gas ports. Gas ports are something we take very seriously, and we don’t necessarily go with what the industry standard is all of the time.
There is a nature in the industry as a whole, from a barrel standpoint, for gas ports to be a little larger so they run on different types of ammo, and so the gun isn’t returned.
Sometimes you need a smaller gas port or slightly bigger depending on your setup. Being a barrel manufacturer, we are really sitting in the middle of the industry…We don’t know what muzzle device you are going to put on your build, or if you’re going to shoot suppressed. There are just a bunch of different details that while they won’t make or break your build, they won’t optimize it as much either.
Q: Can you talk briefly about the BA Hansen Profile Barrels and the benefits of having a shoulderless design?
A: Well, if you take a drinking straw right out of the package and wave it around in front of you, it’s going to be stiff and rigid. If you were to then crease the straw…you have created a weaker point. That waving is barrel whip. If you have a right angle, it is going to increase barrel whip just a touch What that means is that a quick, controlled group could be in different places, not because of the shooter, but rather the barrel.
The BA Hanson line is about more than right angles though. The way we profile and gas each barrel is our representation of what that length barrel with that gas system should be represented as.
So for example, take our .308 barrel. It has no right angles, but you’ll notice it’s a bit beefier at the back end because it is very high-pressure round.
You want that rigidity at the back taking all that shock, and plus it balances out the AR10 because all the weight is in the middle. With the AR10, you have a larger chassis, a larger BCG, so that helps you there, and then you can get light weight out in front of it…So, that really is the argument in terms of eliminating right angles – you can not only eliminate barrel whip but it can also allow you to go a little lighter on the profile without compromising barrel whip as it gets heated up.
Q: How has 2018 been so far for Ballistic Advantage? Anything exciting on the horizon?
A: It’s a very exciting time. The popularity and the success of the brand has been fantastic. It’s been my busiest year, just getting out in front of people, working on different collaborations within the industry. I think people are noticing.
We are currently very busy, cranking out more than ever and constantly expanding. In terms of new stuff, one thing that is super exciting, obviously Aero Precision is our sister company…so were not just limited to our barrels. Not only did they make us a forged upper and lower set in the past, but now we have a new, enhanced version which is really selling well. People are seeing that, and you can get that with our spade logo…it’s a good little collector set.
So…our BA10 sets, that’s super exciting. With all of that, it’s been difficult for us to come out with new stuff all the time that isn’t a barrel because we are having to ramp up and expand to handle the growth and demand.
But in terms of barrels, the .224 Valkyrie has had a lot of buzz this year, so now the 20″ and 22″ are on the way. We are really digging that caliber. That wind is still in our sail.
I think what I am most excited about is hopefully towards SHOT Show, we can show some Ballistic Advantage muzzle devices. We are working on a few different exciting things there in terms of both flash hiders and muzzle breaks.
And then I think another cool thing we might do is come out with a new Hanson barrel. We did 10.3″, 11.3″, so I think there has been enough asking for it that we are possibly going to come out with a 12.3” Hanson barrel to accommodate other rails.
Other than that, I think we’ll definitely see a Ballistic Advantage rail come out here real soon.
Q: Finally, can you talk about the videos that you appear in? They really are a tremendous resource for builders.
A: There’s just a ton of information and a ton of good questions we cover in the Q&A videos we do for builders. There are so many things that come into play when building, and there’s no one answer for all of it.
New builders see new products from a company that makes great stuff, but they have to keep in mind that each new part does something different. They add a new muzzle break to mitigate felt recoil and keep the rifle flat, they add a heavier buffer system to slow down the action…all these things come into play and they have to keep their eyes open and ask the right things.
But, that’s what we want from a barrel manufacturer standpoint. We want people asking questions because one plus one doesn’t always equal two.
Q: With your background, I can imagine you’ve built an almost countless number of ARs over the years…
A: I built a lot…but I took an outside the box approach to building. I got decent at it and was speedy, but I had the luxury of building from thousands of parts. I built about a hundred guns a day and I got very comfortable with it. My goal was building a gun that didn’t look like it ever had tools on it, was done efficiently, ran properly and could be built in a timely fashion.
So, along with that, as I was building, I did observe the industry and how everyone spoke about it. On one hand, you have the people who say this is Legos for adults and I get that. It is not the most difficult thing in the world to do. Almost any human is capable of doing it. But, if we don’t take it seriously we can run into problems and that’s what I really want to help people with.
My approach in the videos is that we make it very practical. Not everyone wants to hear all these decimal points and torque values and all that serious stuff to scare you and make you think you can’t achieve this.
I wanted to have a laid-back, open approach where it didn’t really intimidate people and it gave them the confidence. Then I could give them the little tricks here and there that I have to help them out.
Q: How do you decide what to focus on?
A: The most common questions and problems are the things we cover right now in our weekly Q&A.
The product selection on a lower, that’s more just knowing what the product is. Typically we don’t run into too much difficulty assembling a lower. Everything has somewhere to go. Just be careful, watch the videos and use the right tools so you don’t scratch your rifle.
I know a lot of guys will beat em’ up and they don’t care, but I think many others, they spend their hard earned money on something and they want to keep it nice and pristine and I want to help them do that.
The gas system is another huge place where people mess up, doing something they can’t undo later. Dimpling their barrel if they didn’t need to, for example. Also, how are builders positioning when they torque the muzzle device or the barrel nut? And I think the main one, my favorite tip…is when they are hitting in a coil pin or a gas tube roll pin, teaching them to brace the barrel with their body up against it.
I’ve just seen too many guys, even guys who are teaching people on YouTube, and they are standing in front of it and they are beating on their gun. It may not do anything, but there is a chance to rattle something loose, hit something crooked. It just seems like a delicate process you should take a bit more seriously.
I think the biggest thing people should take away from any of the series that I do is that the world is an imperfect place. What I mean by that is you can’t knock a manufacturer if when building a rifle, you bought things from four different companies and now something doesn’t fit. There are tolerances that people hold, and if you stack tolerances then sometimes it can make it so the planets no longer align.
You might find yourself with something larger and the piece that should fit into it is smaller and you get a loose fit, or vice versa. My advice is don’t get discouraged and don’t get angry. You can usually swap out the part. Typically you can make it happen. It’ not the worst thing in the world. There’s a trick to everything. Keep an open mind and appreciate the parts you have.
It doesn’t always go perfect but there’s places you can go and places you go to ask for help. It doesn’t mean the company is bad and they make bad parts. Maybe you were the 1% who got something out of spec, but I don’t think that should change your opinion on that company it happens. Just know it can be done and your confidence should be high.
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