V Seven Weapons Systems is building high-quality, lightweight ARs using a variety of uncommon materials including titanium, magnesium and lithium aluminum. In recent months we’ve heard a lot of very good things about these rifles from trusted sources, so to learn more we reached to V Seven Weapons Systems owner and founder, Joel Allen.
Q: Joel, can we start with your background?
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: I’ve been in the gun world as an enthusiast pretty much since I was born. (laughs) I grew up with a .22 in my hand and soon graduated to an 870 shotgun when I was 12 years old, and I’ve been hunting ever since.
I just love guns, and got into gunsmithing and re-barreling old guns, building 10/22 barrels and things like that in my early 20s with my best friend at the time.
As far as what led me to the AR world, I knew two guys in eastern Oregon who were varmint hunters. They were also AR guys. We were varmint hunters as well, but we were not into ARs. We grew up with our fathers telling us that ARs got a lot of guys killed in Vietnam, and because of that, we just didn’t think they were very good weapons, so we stayed away from them for a long time.
However, when these guys requested barrels from us, we decided to take a look and learn what the AR was all about. We started asking the basics – “hey, what’s a barrel extension? What’s this ‘gas block’ thing?” because we were so used to bolt guns. (laughs)
“We had a preconceived idea…”
Slowly, we figured it out and we built a couple of 20” heavy varmint barrels in 5.56. We test fired them, put a gun together for the first time with mainly DPMS parts, and we quickly fell in love with the platform.
We could not believe we could get through a full mag without a malfunction. We had a preconceived idea that it was going to have problems. But that’s what initially led to my love of the AR. I soon fell in love with all of the different calibers as well, 6.8 and now especially 300 Blackout.
As time went on, we learned more and more, and I built my previous company up with my best friend and a few other very smart guys in the industry. I learned a lot, and when that time period and chapter came to an end, I ended up starting a new company with my wife…that company is V Seven Weapons.
Q: Can you talk about what makes V Seven Weapons stand out in the firearms industry in your opinion?
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: At V Seven Weapons, we’re doing stuff that I always dreamed of doing. I always looked at the AR and said “if I could just be in my garage and make parts out of anything I wanted…any material, what would I do?”
I decided the first thing I needed to do to avoid getting a “black eye” in the industry was to educate myself. So, I went on a self-taught metallurgist type of process that was really intense. I wanted to get some knowledge under my belt, learn nomenclatures, designations and aspects so that I could potentially explore the newest alloys on the market, versus going with what Eugene Stoner had available at the time. I wanted to be able to see if there were materials that were more appropriate or better, without a V Seven Weapons firearm costing $10,000 in the end.
“I started working on each part…”
What I learned was there are titaniums and more advanced aluminums and it was all very, very intriguing to me. So slowly part by part, I started working on each part I thought I could revamp and improve upon. Two and a half years later, V Seven Weapons got to the point where we were able do every part from the ground up and build a full rifle.
The titanium parts we created, in many cases replaced elements of the gun that would have otherwise been steel. The castle nut, end plate, mag catch, takedown and pivot pins, selector could be improved upon by making them out of titanium.
The Grade 5 titanium that we mostly use is about half the weight of steel. An awesome byproduct of its nature is that it is nearly 100-percent corrosion proof, even under the harshest conditions.
So, the V Seven Weapons parts are lightweight, corrosion resistant and that’s a win-win. But in a lot of cases, they actually exceed mil-spec specifications as far as strength goes. It’s pretty cool stuff and it was a no-brainer.
Q: I know working with titanium can be a challenge, and you mentioned some parts not being appropriate. Can you explain?
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: Titanium is expensive, harder to machine and it takes longer, it’s also harder to put a finish on. Because of its corrosion-resistant nature, it is harder to put color on it. There were some V Seven Weapons parts where titanium was not appropriate, such as the barrel, obviously…and the bolt catch.
Titanium is strong enough and tough enough, but it simply cannot be surface hardened enough for it to wear well. During our testing of titanium bolt catches, we found out that they wore out more quickly. We were not going to ask a customer to pay two to three times as much for a titanium item that is going to wear out twice as fast. To improve on the standard bolt catch, we instead made it with a much better steel called S7 tool steel.
“Not just a brainless thing…”
My point is, it’s not just a brainless thing where I’m saying “hey, make everything out of titanium.” We are intentional about using it when appropriate, always making sure we are on par with mil-spec durability, and even improving on it.
Q: Now titanium is not the only material you’re known for…let’s talk about V Seven Weapons Systems and lithium aluminum.
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: As far as the lithium aluminum goes, that was a long process. I talked to the guys over at Alcoa for a couple of years before they even entertained the idea of selling V Seven Weapons lithium aluminum. Finally, I befriended some of the guys over there, and I talked them into it. We were really the first in the industry to break ground on lithium aluminum. I think a few other companies have dibbled and dabbled trying it.
What turns a lot of people off with it is that it is very expensive. Depending on the extrusion you are using, it can be four or five times more expensive than typical 7075 or 6061 that people use on rail sections.
We use 2099 lithium aluminum on our rails, and what that specific alloy does is it give you much more rigidity. On a long rail that’s 15” or 16” inches long, you’re going to have less deflection on your front sights, less deflection for your lasers that are mounted to it…things like that when you’re loading the rail on a bipod or something like that.
Q: It’s also stronger as well as more rigid, correct?
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: Yes. It’s very cool stuff as far as rigidity goes, but it is also twice as strong as 6061. If guys have ever seen keymod sections pull out with their 6061, they’re not going to see that with our 2099 lithium aluminum.
It’s also lighter. So, if you take a square inch of 6061 and a square inch of 2099 and you the weight the two, the lithium aluminum will be slightly lighter because it is infused with lithium, which is the lightest of all metals. So, the lithium aluminum is a win-win-win. It also stays more stable as far as its strength attributes and as far as brittleness under intense cold or strength under intense heat, it is much more stable…
Q: V Seven Weapons Systems uses another variety of lithium aluminum on other parts, correct?
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: Our other lithium aluminum alloy we use is 2055. V Seven uses that on our receiver sets and our buffer tubes. 2055 is slightly less rigid than 2099 but it is stronger, it is much stronger and more rigid than even 7075 which is what most AR enthusiasts are used to.
It’s really amazing stuff and it’s one of the most advanced alloys on the planet when it comes to aluminum…it’s tougher, stronger, more corrosion resistant, more rigid. I’d say it’s just better everywhere, in every way. I can’t say it’s light years ahead, but it is significant in a lot of small ways that all add up to a much better product that could potentially last longer, stay truer as far as accuracy and things like that.
Q: Why should builders consider your upper and lower?
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: V Seven Weapons is a “lightweight” company. The original concept for the company was I wanted to build lightweight, but then I also wanted to overbuild. So, I had a “lightweight concept” and an “extreme environment” concept. Some things that would go under the “extreme environment” concept would be things like our S7 tool steel bolt catch, our Inconel gas tubes.
We’ll continue to do the overbuilt, “extreme environment” side of the company once I get the “lightweight” side of the company completed, so there is more to come on that side. But obviously the demand for the last the six years has been lightweight products. I had identifed that as the next upcoming thing about eight years ago, and since then, I’ve just been focusing on that to ensure V Seven Weapons got in on the growth in the industry…which I think maybe we saw peak a year or two ago.
“A lighter package that’s stronger and tougher”
Our V Seven Weapons receiver sets, especially the 2055, they are lightweight compared to other things on the market, but we have this unique aspect that goes back to the alloy. I always thought if you were going to make an upper receiver thinner and lighter, you’d have to start “swiss-cheesing” it. I was not going to do that.
I hated the idea of losing that rigidity, and I found that the only way to do what I wanted was to switch to a better material. By doing that, we keep the rigidity and accuracy that people are used to, and then you also give them a lighter package that is stronger and tougher.
Not Totally Abandoning 7075
Now, as a businessman, I was putting in bricks of this fancy 2055 lithium aluminum into our machines, and then sometimes the machines would just sit for a day or two. My thought was why not throw in some bricks of 7075 and build what everybody else out there was building, but do it at a better price point? That way, we’d have two different price points. One would be our flagship, and the other the more standard model. That’s the reason why we have a 7075 version as well.
V Seven Weapons Systems – An Investment for the Long-Term
But for some builders I talk to, they are very interested in handing something down. They’ll call in and tell me “hey, I have a 15-year-old son, and one day I want to hand this rifle down to him and have him keep it in the family.” So, they’re thinking of long-term durability and strength, and for that, you can’t argue with lithium aluminum if you really look at the science of it. You will see that it is truly a better material.
And when you combine that with our other parts, you have something that if you leave it out in the rain, it’s not going to rust. You end up with a platform that is just very durable, very corrosion resistant, very tough, very strong, and I feel there is just not another animal like it on the market.
There’s some out there that are starting to try to catch up, but we’ve been ahead of the curve, just by the grace of God, for a long time. In the end, I think V Seven Weapons is giving that average guy out there real peace-of-mind that he’s made a wise, long term investment for his family.
Q: You have lithium aluminum, but can you talk magnesium handguards?
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: Magnesium is pretty cool stuff, but it is challenging to work with. It’s tough and it is lightweight, but when you’re machining it, it’s totally different. We actually machine it dry, and it’s rather flammable when it is in chip form. So, you have to have a cleaning system where you clean every so many hours of production so you don’t have liability building up that could potentially burn your whole shop down (laughs). Your fire suppression is all different…it’s not water-based or oil-based. It’s anti-oxygen based basically. If you pour water on the stuff when it’s burning it just gets hotter and hotter. So, you have to have all this special stuff…
Currently we have two machines that are dedicated to magnesium 24-7. We have them set aside, kind of quarantined off by themselves. We also process it with different tumbling media because it is a slightly softer material than standard aluminum. There’s a special blasting pressure and grit that we use to get the finish as close as we can to match the aluminum.
Q: The finish is special too, correct?
Joel Allen, V Seven Weapons Systems: Magnesium is interesting stuff. It has a very expensive, elaborate, high-tech finish that goes onto it called Keronite…it’s a ceramic that gets built-up on the material and is actually really tough stuff. It’s much tougher than anodizing that can go on magnesium.
The downside? It’s like a cream-colored white when it’s done. We get these rails that are super tough, super lightweight…but they’re white (laughs). So, we go over them with something called E-coat, which is a thin, durable layer of basically paint. It’s pretty durable, but it is thin, because you can’t mess with tolerances after everything is finished.
“Wanting to push boundaries…”
While the manufacturing is a bit of a pain, it has been something that has been pretty good for us. It’s cool stuff, and it takes about a third of the weight out of the rail. It’s definitely added to the “lightweight” concept of our company…wanting to push boundaries to be as light as possible.
The magnesium we use is very tough, high-tech stuff as far as if you were to look at all of the different magnesium alloys, it’s near the top as far as strength and rigidity. It’s pretty much on par with what everybody else is using as far as 6061 aluminum. Magnesium is typically weaker stuff, but ours is on par and we were able to get that strength and durability back to what everybody is used to.
Q: Finally, what are you excited about as far as recent V Seven Weapons Systems releases?
Our 6.5” 300 Blackout has been a great barrel for us. It was pretty challenging to build, mainly because the pistol length gas system wasn’t reliable with that short of a barrel with all of the different types of ammo, suppressed and unsuppressed. We ended up creating our own proprietary gas system length and gas block and also decided to include an Inconel gas tube standard to insure long term durability with the shorter hotter gas system.
The end result is that the thing shoots great…better than you could ever imagine a short barrel could shoot. We’re a match-grade minded company.
When you combine this barrel with our 5.7” rail, you can get your suppressor right up about a quarter of an inch against the rail and you have a seamless, awesome little package that gives you a lot of power on target. It’s very impressive.
V Seven Weapons Systems 16” 5.56
I do love our 16” 5.56 rifle. It’s very lightweight and durable. I see people who get their hands on it for the first time and they are blown away. They say “man, I have never felt anything quite like this.” It feels solid, but it’s so lightweight. That’s two things that usually don’t go together.
Usually when you feel something solid, it’s also like a bank vault. That’s not the sensation you get with our rifles. It’s hard to explain unless you have actually held one.
V Seven Weapons Systems 6.5 Creedmoor
Our 6.5 Creedmoor is my other favorite. It’s just such a consistent shooter. 1-MOA is nothing with these barrels. We have a 20” and a 22”. Our 20” we sell the most of. I think guys want to keep it shorter and lighter, but regardless…man, what a shooter these guns are.
Most reports I hear are a half-MOA, and it’s just a consistent superstar that we are continually getting amazing feedback on from our customers that are looking for serious accuracy. In addition to that, they are getting a gun that is just so light and solid compared to other large chassis ARs out there.
These guns are also just so fun. When you can have that kind of long-range accuracy in a gun that can be easily carried on hikes and whatnot, it’s an amazing combination and certainly one of my absolute favorites.
V Seven Weapons Systems – “Almost everything you can think of…”
Other than those guns, we also have almost everything you can think of as far as standard lengths, 7.5″, 8.5″, 10.5”, 11.5”, 12.5”, 14.5”, 16” 18” in 5.56. We also have the 224 Valkyrie barrels in 18” and we’re coming out with a 20” and a 22”.
We are soon adding a 20” and a 14.5” .308 barrel to go with our existing 16” and 18”. We also offer .458 SOCOM; which I love. There might also be some new calibers that we come out with. Guys are asking for 6.8 and 6.5 Grendel, so we’re looking at those.
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