[Review] Radical Firearms Upper

If you’re always hunting deals (make sure you like and follow us on Facebook, we post 3-4 every day) you probably have seen something from Radical Firearms for sale on the cheap.

I’m talking, complete rifles selling for $500-$600, uppers for $200…that kind of cheap.

Of course, when you’re looking at something that uses an explosion to fire a 55gr projectile out at 3,200 feet per second, is it really the best idea to go cheap?

That’s what I wanted to find out.  

I found a Radical Firearms upper for sale for the rock-bottom, the you-gotta-be-kidding-me price of $190.  This was an assembled upper minus BCG and charging handle, for less than $200 even with shipping

Radical Upper and Aero Bolt
BCG and Charging Handle not included.

How did it shake out?  Is a $200 upper worth it?

Let’s find out.

Specs of the Radical Firearms Upper

  • 16” 4140 Chromoly Barrel With Melonite Coating
  • 5.56 SOCOM Profile
  • M4 Feed Ramps
  • 1:7 Twist Rate
  • A2 Flash Hider
  • 1/2×28 TPI
  • Low Profile Gas Block
  • Carbine Length Gas System
  • Radical Firearms Forged MIL-STD Upper Receiver
  • MIL-STD Upper Parts Kit
  • RF Dimpled Forward Assist
  • Radical Firearms 15″ MHR Hybrid Rail System
240
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

A Little Background on Radical Firearms

Radical Firearms is a relative newcomer to the AR-15 world.  I first heard about them when they brought some of their work to SHOT Show in 2016 or so, but they’ve been around for about five years now.

In that half-decade, they’ve expanded rapidly and carved out a niche for themselves as one of the best budget manufacturers in the business.  

How did they do that?

They decided to start making as many parts as they could in-house.  

radical firearms rifle
Be sure to check out the awesome article from Breach Bang Clear about Radical’s business.

This afforded them the opportunity to exercise a high degree of control over their manufacturing, while also allowing them to cut out a lot of the middleman markup that gets slapped on rifles by “manufacturers” that just assemble guns from third-party parts, rather than making everything in-house.

And make no mistake, they are a manufacturer.  They make every part of the rifles they sell, other than barrels, pins/springs, and LPKS.  Their site also says they don’t make BCGs but I think that info is a bit out of date as I’ve seen a number of Radical Firearms branded BCGs out there.

They are also an American manufacturer, which I know is important to a lot of folks, and best of all they prefer to hire vets and LE personnel when they can, like many in the firearms industry.

Why I Bought The Radical Firearms Upper

This all leads me to this review and why I bought a Radical Firearms upper of my very own.

Now, like I said, Radical and PS buried the hatchet over the misunderstanding and everyone moved on.  But it left a wonky taste in my mouth. I know the smell of PR spin when it passes my nostrils, and this felt a little…off.

So I decided to see for myself, and I didn’t want to contact Radical about getting a T&E upper in to check out.   I wanted a regular ole upper off the warehouse shelf, just like the one you would get if you ordered one.  

Radical upper
I was worried about the handguard screws, but so far I haven’t had any issues.

I searched around and found one at Optics Planet and snapped it up during last year’s Black Friday sale.  

I did this for two reasons.

  1. I wanted to be as unbiased as possible, and avoid getting a T&E/review upper that might get looked over a little more on the way out the door.  Not that I don’t trust the folks at Radical Firearms, I just don’t trust anybody, especially not when they’re offering me cheap prices.
  2. I needed another upper, and I’m at that age now where I have to buy Christmas presents for every-freaking-body in the world, so money is tight around our house from about Halloween to Valentine’s Day and the Radical Firearms upper was cheap.  Cheap is good.  Me and the missus like cheap. 

So, is Radical Firearms another in a long line of fly-by-night machine shops turning out AR parts with sloppy standards and poor practices?

Or are they something else?  Maybe even a sorely needed quality, American manufacturer offering good rifles at great prices?

I wanted to know, and I sure found out.

The Upper Itself

The upper I bought had a 15” MLOK rail, and A2 flash hider, and not much else going for it.  I like the shape of the handguard, it has a sort of quasi-rounded thing going on with a flattish bottom.

Radical fitment
The finish on the pivot pin hole is a little lacking and seems to be more like a paint than an actual anodized finished, but I suppose corners have to be cut somewhere, and it shouldn’t be an issue.

Machining is totally adequate.  I noticed no rough edges, file marks, burrs, or other machining imperfections.  Everything is totally in spec and I had no problems fitting the upper to a variety of lowers, including two Aero lowers, a Spikes lower, and an Anderson lower.  

Testing the Radical Firearms Upper

Now, the upper I received was sans BCG and charging handle, so I added my own until I could get a Radical Firearms BCG, which I’ll talk about it a minute.

For now, I threw in a spare Aero Precision BCG and a generic charging handle that came from…somewhere.  I throw BCM Gunfighter handles on all my guns, so this one probably came off a complete upper or something.  

125
at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

With that, I inspected the upper, daubed a little Dykem layout/machining fluid on the screws holding the handguard in place so I could see if they were turning or working themselves out under recoil, lubed everything that needed lubing, slapped the upper on an Aero complete lower, and hit the range.

I packed a little over 250 rounds on that first outing, a mix of Federal American Eagle, range-quality handloads, and a box of Federal Gold Medal, all with 77gr bullets to take maximum advantage of the 1:7 twist barrel.

I also slapped a Bushnell TRS red dot, my personal favorite cheapo optic, on top of the upper’s full-length rail. I chose this because I figure most people who buy these aren’t going to be putting something super expensive like the absolutely amazing Aimpoint PRO on top of it.

53
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And again, there’s nothing wrong with a budget rifle, as long as it works.  If you aren’t a precision shooter, the difference between a sub-1” group and a 2.5” group isn’t a big deal, but you will pay through the nose for the former and can throw together a rifle that’ll do the latter for about $600.  

I zeroed this setup in at 25 yards, and then stepped over to the 100, 200, and 400 yard stretches to see what it could really do.

Again, this is with a mix of ammo, and honestly, I didn’t expect much out of the upper.  At $190, if I could hit pie plates at 100 yards, I’d have gone home happy.  I set out to build a beater gun after all.

But holy shit did I underestimate this upper.

I was hitting 6” steel plates at 100 yards with absolutely boring regularity, the staccato pingpingping of rapid-fire impacts setting the plate swinging on the chains.

At fifty yards, I was left with one ragged dime-sized hole.  

Reaching out to 400 yards, I was able to fairly easily smack a steel pig silhouette target, though I was pushing myself more than the rifle, and I’ll take credit for any misses.

Punching paper with the Gold Medal ammo was equally surprising.  I swapped in a Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x scope and after a quick bore sight and about a third of a mag to really dial the scope in, I was getting easy 2 MOA groups at 100 and 200 yards, and a best group of 1.8 inches (measured center to center with calipers) at 100 yards.

 

Best Bang-For-The-Buck Scope
299
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I noticed no keyholing or other weirdness, and I shot the full 250 or so rounds without a single issue (this was with beat up PMAGS and one steel GI mag).

Now, is any of that matching accuracy?  No, of course not.  I have AR’s that’ll punch ¾ MOA groups all day.  

But those rifles have an extra digit on their price tag.  Nowhere do I see Radical Firearms claiming to make the most accurate guns in the world for $600.  I see them saying they make guns that work for $600, and their upper certainly reflects that.

Since November, I’ve put about a thousand rounds through this upper, cleaned it once, lubed it three or four times, and I’ve experienced precisely two malfunctions, both from the same mag.

That mag also had problems feeding in a $2,500 rifle where it actually causes a double feed (and some swearing).

Overall Impressions

Overall, I was very impressed with the Radical Upper I received.

The rumors and the gossip and the snide remarks are all just hot air.  I think Radical Firearms is a good company that makes great products, and they are definitely a manufacturer to keep your eye on.

When I was researching them beforehand, I saw a lot of comments from others about the low quality of their products, and machining issues, and “Chinesium” and on and on and on.  

But I noticed that these were always comments from people who had a “friend” who owned one.  Or somebody was quoting somebody that overheard somebody that…was full of it.

I haven’t seen very many complaints ( none, really) from people who own Radical Firearms products, and I can say, since I purchased this thing with my own money, that I also have no complaints about the upper I bought and tested for this review, and others are saying the same.

Will it knock the wings off a fly at a thousand yards?  Not unless you get very lucky, but not every rifle needs to be that accurate.

For me, for this rifle, I wanted something I could abuse and knock around, and still count on it to hit what I was aiming at inside 400 yards or so.  And this does that.

If you’re looking for a reliable beater gun, an entry-level upper for a new build project, or even something that’s competition-ready on a tight budget, I can’t think of a better value for your dollar than these uppers.

And they’re available in everything from 7.62×39 to the hot new .224 Valkyrie, so you can get one for every occasion.

Parting Shots

I’m happy with my purchase, and anyone who complains about a $200 upper that goes bang every time and puts rounds on target is probably just looking for something to complain about.

What do you think of the Radical Firearms upper?  Would you put one on your gun? Drop me a line in the comments below!  Check out the rest of our favorite guns & gear at Editor’s Picks.

37 Leave a Reply

  • Davis Gunner

    I couldn't stand not having a less expensive AR in my arsenal for fun run and gun shoots. My under $200 upper with 18" 1/8 H-bar has really shown well. Shoots under one inch even after 200 rounds without cleaning with 62 gr ammo. I don't worry about impact changes when tossed into a barrel either. p.s. I slid it on a $20 dollar lower that my local engraver had on sale as a "oops" lower, and a unknown BCG and a home modified mil trigger brought the total cost to $260.00... That leaves mo money for ammo!

    1 second ago
  • jeffery london

    I bought a 458 soccom had to send it back because of feeding issues been 2 months still no upper warranty is worthless. Jeffery London Hickory NC.

    2 weeks ago
    • Davis Gunner

      90 percent of feed issues with FrankenAR calibers are MAGAZINE based.. The other 10 percent is spring/buffer. You have to spend extra bucks to make them work and it is not worth the fuss.

      9 minutes ago
  • Danny Durland

    I took a roll of the dice and bought a RF 13.5" 300 blk pistol (4150 heavy profile barrel) and holy crap was I surprised when we took it to the range. One of my (grown) sons took 6 shots at 100 yards after zeroing at 35 and 50 yds. This young man is a novice shooter but the first two shots were 1/4" apart and the third right at 1" from the first two. The next three had two shots kissing and the third about 1.5" away. He got up and said he was done while my jaw was still hanging open. Zero issues with that pistol and we dressed it up to look badass and it is. FYI, I put a Vortex Crossfire 1-4 on it and the big eyebox and simple reticle on that budget scope made it sooo easy to shoot that pistol. So, that lead to buying a 16" 5.56 upper (4140 socom profile barrel) with mid gas and slapping it on a Del-Ton lower that I had sunk some dough into previously.. It shoots smooth as can be but I have not made 1 MOA with that upper....yet but I think I'll get there after I get my crap together with my Strike Eagle 1-8. I think a good shooter will get 1 MOA out of it. FYI, the pistol has a 4.5 lb CMC duty trigger and the DelTon lower has a Geissle 3.5 lb . Which lead me to purchase an RF 16" 300 blk upper (4150 with pistol length gas). Holy crap again. I put that on a simple Anderson Lower I put together and the two happen to fit like they were made for each other. At 100 yards I'm 1 MOA about half the time using a cheap UTG 3-12 first focal plane scope and I'm NOT a highly skilled shooter. Far from it. For what it's worth, I'm shooting Australian Outback 300 blk brass that uses Sierra Match HP bullets. And I forgot, I was shooting Wolf Steel ammo out of the 5.56 and still get close to MOA. I should have been doing somersaults with the first outing with that rifle. I've only put 200-300 rounds out of these RF's but so far so good. Zero failures to feed and fire. Lastly, or what it's worth I own a DDM4 V7 LW with the rattle can cerakote. Of course this is a Sub MOA rifle in the hands of another son who shoots it very well. There is no comparison in regards to materials and manufacturing methods. The DD is a work of art. However, these budget rifles compare pretty closely in regards to accuracy and reliability...so far. I say take a dive into RF because the water is just fine for those of us who enjoy putting cheap rifles together that keep up with the big boys...at least for range rats and hog hunters.

    1 month ago
    • Danny Durland

      Correction on my long winded post. The RF pistol is 10.5 “ and the barrel is 4150 M4 profile

      1 month ago
  • Justin

    Bought a 300blk upper a year ago. The first time I shot it, it didn’t cycle. The gas block came without set screws and it slid down the barrel when I fired it. It wasn’t too difficult to fix. Radical firearms offered to exchange the upper but I just bought some set crews and fixed it myself. I’ve put about 300 rounds through it with no other issues. Definitely worth the $200 I spent on the 300blk upper. I just ordered a 5.56 upper on clearance for $142 with shipping and will comment when I get that one as well.

    1 month ago
  • Jon Zack

    I just bought one. Complete rifle with the 15" socom barrel and MFT furniture. So far I have about 360 rounds through it. The only problem I had was with the magazine that came with it not wanting to feed when full. I used Amend2 mags that worked great. Put a 1-6X24 Primary Arms scope on it and had it zeroed in 8 rounds at 100m. Just wished I didn't forget my spotting scope. But anyways so far so good. Everything is tight and seems to be made very well. Hopefully the range is less busy the next time so I can try to get it dialed in and see just how accurate it can be. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a solid rifle that doesn't break the bank. Thinking of trying their rifle in 7.62X39 next.

    2 months ago
  • Ray Freeman

    I purchased a 7.62x39 upper from Radical 2 years ago. I've put at least 40,000 rounds through it and never had an issue. The only mod I did was swap the firing pin for an enhanced pin (a little longer) so I can blast crap steel ammo all day. Great upper.

    2 months ago
    • Jon Zack

      What lower are you running it on? If you don't mind me asking.

      2 months ago
  • Ranger

    Bought a 300 BO AAC upper......for less than 150.00 on sale Satisfies

    2 months ago
  • Mark

    Love mine . Paid $477 out the door for a complete rifle. Shoots straight and runs like butter. Great truck gun. It simply works fine.

    2 months ago
  • Norm

    Bought one the other week from . joe bobs outfitters . No issues fits tight .. bought a bolt group from . AR15parts depot . ... upper and bolt group was 318 bucks lower is KE arms .mp trigger and pin kit . Sights flip up trinity force . With a sig romeo5 .

    2 months ago
    • Swamper

      forgot to mention that the price was at the manufacturers website

      2 months ago
    • Swamper

      You can get some uppers on sale for $125 + %18 shipping as of yesterday 3/6,19. I currently have one on order. I have had a 300 bo for almost two years and it runs flawless with a cheap BCG and charging handle.

      2 months ago
  • John Klampe

    I bought an 18” stainless steel bull barrel with the hybrid rail and luthAR style stock as a fist competition rifle, a couple years ago. $600 no problems, runs great, almost as accurate as some of my $$$$ rifles. The only issue I had was it is Heavy, 11,lbs loaded with 1-4 vortex viper. Not RF fault I didn’t pay attention to weight. I did not understand the importance of weight as the only other experience I had had at the time was the old M16 I used in the military. Great value.

    6 months ago
  • dmaq

    I bought a .300 blackout from Radical several years ago. It was super cheap. I figured why complain since I only spent $600 on it. But, it was a super low quality gun. The craftsmanship was poor. The upper and lower together had so much wiggle I wish I would have spent twice as much for higher quality. The lower doesn't fit on any of my other uppers and the upper doesn't fit any other lowers. one thing I will say is that it's accurate. It doesn't malfunction but I was def. concerned when I saw the craftsmanship. I think you should try an entirely new gun and re-review..

    7 months ago
  • Bill

    I've been using a 300 AAC upper for 18 months. Worked up a few loads, and accuracy is great for the dollar. Hunting in the forest at up to 200m, I'm fat and happy!

    9 months ago
  • Ct Smith

    I have 2 7.62x39 uppers, both hit playing cards every shot with steel cased crap ammo at 100 yards. No complaints. I can ring the steel at 300 as well. Remember this is Russian crap ammo.

    11 months ago
  • Edwin

    I’ve had nothing but problems with the Radical Arms 5.56 NATO SOCOM 16” upper with 15” radical keymod handguard. I am shooting 223 REM American Eagle 55gr ammo with a nickel boron full auto BCG. I have six Magpul mags and they all jam. Tried the upper on my friend’s PSA lower and it jammed also. Gun is always clean and properly lubed prior to shooting but it jams every 7-8 rounds which results in the bcg getting jammed forward with a live round in the chamber. I have to resort to mortaring to release the bolt. Is this just the breaking in period? I hope so. Will bring it to a gunsmith to have it checked out. Contacted Radical through email but no response yet.

    1 year ago
    • Nofn

      Try a different bolt group .

      2 months ago
    • Steph

      You should contact them at [email protected] they will take care of you. Also, you should never mortar with a live round in the chamber. It has a free float firing pin. Stay safe Edwin

      11 months ago
  • Nigel the expat

    I've had both good and bad experiences with RF: Good:: • 10.5" 300BLK barrel used in build. Been a trooper. No issues. Good accuracy. • 10.5" 5.56 barrel used in build. Been a trooper. No issues. Good accuracy. Bad: • 16" Socom barrel used in a build. When removing flashing hider to mount a different muzzle device, the barrel extension unscrewed. This is (or maybe 'was', if RF has changed their practice) a somewhat commonly reported issue. Apparently RF installs their extensions before the nitriding process, the high temps cause a problem which results in the extension being to be backed out easily. Google it. • 458 Socom complete upper. FTL, FTE, constantly. RF 'fixed' it. Still FTL, FTE (with many and varied loads tried). I've built two 458 Socom uppers from parts since (one KAK, one Tromix), neither have issues and can even run with the carrier that came with the RF upper. I think the PTG-reamed chamber of the RF is the problem. RF went quiet on me after they 'fixed' it.

    1 year ago
  • David

    I bought a 300 BLK upper. It shoots very well at 100 yds. 1 MOA. That's good enough for me and hog hunting.

    1 year ago
  • Gilbert

    I have a Radical Arms upper with 1-8 twist on a Ruger 556 lower and it has been a good rifle. No malfunctions. Chews steel or brass cases. Fairly accurate not a tack driver but very combat effective, hit everything I shot at out to 200yds. Very satisfied with the upper I have and will most likely be a repeat customer. Customer service is good.

    1 year ago
  • Ed P

    I love my RF riffle.. in case you didn't know, their customer service is the best I've ever seen. I'm no badass Marine but with my Vortex optic, poor eyesight, standing, unrested, i put 28 of 30 rounds onto an 8 inch target at 100 yards. I ask for no better, although I know they are out there.

    1 year ago
  • Betty

    I have a complete RF pistol, 10.5” barrel, chambered in 5.56, quad rail. I’m fairly happy with it. I had a couple initial, minor issues. 1) upper and lower were not a perfect fit, I ended up using Accu Wedge. 2) I equipped the pistol with a set of polymer Magpul MBUS. Never before did I have to file these sights so much in order to mount them. Other than that nice machining. The rail feels fine to grip and all controls are very, very smooth to operate. I had a chance to compare the groups of my RF at 50yd and 100yd with my friend's' budget "sporting" rifle (16'' - let the rifle remain unnamed...). With only 10.5'' barrel, RF shot much tighter. I have discovered, however, that the pistol can be a little fussy with some mags. When using Magpul Gen2 magazines, it tends to get double feeds. However, no problems with Magpul Gen3; with Daniel Defense mags, the pistol runs flawlessly. I’ve had this firearm for about 2 years now. I’ve used it quite a lot at the range (it’s really fun to handle). I’d buy this pistol again and again – it’s a solid weapon. Having overall good experience with RF, I'm tempted to try their 300 BLK upper.

    1 year ago
  • Sonny

    I own a Radical Firearms pistol upper and will buy again great affordable upper for fun shooting

    1 year ago
  • g.ray

    good review , thanks

    1 year ago
  • Chancerx

    Man it’s good to see some positive feed back about Radical! There are quite a few nay sayers out there, but I have had my upper for 3 1/2 years and love every experience I have had with it. Hitting targets out to 500 yards with 2 inch groups but that’s just for fun. Great rifle for anything I want to do with it. Glad you enjoyed your experience as much as I have mine. Thanks for the great and informative review.

    1 year ago
  • Kent

    I’m new to this. Does any upper fit any lower? For example, I have a Stag Arms AR15 rifle. Could I put this upper on that rifle?

    1 year ago
    • Joe L

      The only part of your rifle that you might have issues when it comes to part compatibility is changing the stock and/or buffer tube. Some companies use Mil-spec tubes, some use commercial-spec tubes, which have different diameters. For a rule of thumb, the commercial-spec tube has a slanted back, while the mil-spec is flat. Performance-wise they are practically the same, though the commercial-spec tube has a very-slightly longer length of pull. Just make sure you buy a stock to match your tube, or you might have fitment issues.

      1 year ago
    • David

      Generally speaking yes, any AR-15 lower will fit with any AR-15 upper. There are some minor exceptions to this but they are very rare, super pricey, and come with lots of large red letter warnings letting people know. Your Stag Arms and the Radical Firearms upper will fit up perfectly!

      1 year ago
    • Robert Mccallum

      Pretty much , yes. When it comes to AR 15 , most will say “mil spec” meaning they are set up to military specifications. Most companies that build AR 15’s. hold that standard. So uppers and lowers and bolt carrier groups are interchangeable. When you get into AR 10 (.308), they are often proprietary and not all match up

      1 year ago
  • John

    Really enjoyed this read. Haven’t added radical to my arsenal but planned on it down the road. This artical sold me on all the naysayers. Thanks

    1 year ago
  • DoubleH

    I have a 7.5 " .223 upper and an 8.5" .300 BLK upper both as SBRs and I think they are great! Several thousand rounds thru each with absolutely no upper induced problems. Like you, I got them on sale and would buy more in a heartbeat!! Great write-up! Thanks

    1 year ago
  • Steve L.

    Very good read. How would you compare Radical with Palmetto?

    1 year ago
    • Nigel the expat

      My experience with RF has been roughly 50%. While I don't buy pre-built anymore, if I did, I'd go with PSA. I've never had an issue with a pre-built PSA upper. Anecdotal, yes, as there are definitely people that have. However, in my group of shooters (accounting for over 30 PSA uppers in my quick count), none have had issues. These have run the gamut of their product lines (PTAC, Freedom, 'Premium', and FN CHF offerings). They are not magic by any means. We may have just been on the good end of the 'I wasn't drunk when assembling today's uppers' curve :)

      1 year ago
New to Guns ? Check out our beginners guns video course. Start Now