Industry leaders Aero Precision and Clint Smith have teamed up to produce a family of Thunder Ranch AR-pattern rifles and components. These ARs feature slight changes and improvements to Aero’s enhanced designs in-line with the shooting methods and philosophies taught by Smith at Thunder Ranch.
“It’s pretty simple, God and Stoner got it right to start with and this is, in my minds eye, the pinnacle that I’ve searched for,” said Smith. “I could never get anyone to quite go where I wanted to go and this is it.
“This is not necessarily an improvement on Stoners design, it’s an addendum to it to make this gun more shootable for more people,” he said. “It’s about making the gun just a little bit better for a lot more people.”
Thunder Ranch ARs feature modified upper and lower receivers and Aero offers them as complete firearms or as kits including standalone and populated lowers, complete uppers and receiver sets for builders.
One way to make an AR-based rifle stand out is to break away from the standard features and controls found on standard ARs. These Thunder Ranch rifles have highly modified upper and lower receivers to bring them in-line with their teachings.
The upper receivers have no forward assist, but they’re not completely slab-sided and do have brass deflectors. Forward assists were added to early AR designs due to military requirements, but many shooters today believe that chambering a round by force is bad practice. Instead users should eject the round and chamber a new one.
To help with stuck cases and double feed problems the lower magwell has large cutouts on both sides. These give users the ability to clear stoppages from the lower more easily than just up through the magwell and down through the ejection port.
Otherwise they keep all of Aero’s improvements including the upper and lower tensioning screw, flared magwell and styling. Every receiver is with Thunder Ranch branding and are available in standard black or with a flat dark earth Cerakote finish.
Thunder Ranch complete rifles will be offered with 14.5 or 16-inch barrels, with pinned-and-welded VG6 Precision Delta flash hiders on the 14-inch models. The uppers have Aero Atlas free-floating handguards and come with Magpul MBus flip up iron sights. They all have mid-length gas systems and of course are chambered for 5.56 NATO.
The complete lowers feature Magpul MOE grips and MOE-SL 6-position stocks and come with standard MIL-SPEC buffer assemblies. They are completed with ALG QMS fire control groups and standard right-handed controls.
Aero Precision will sell stripped Thunder Ranch upper and lower receivers separately starting at $129. Receiver sets start at $239, while populated lowers start at $319 and complete uppers at $574. Flat dark earth parts run a little more, about $20 to $30 extra depending on which parts or sets to buy.
Anyone looking to assemble an affordable but well thought-out AR-15 can turn to Aero to pick up one of these tidy Thunder Ranch sets and slap one together, and people who like the receiver updates can pick up a set to do their own build for not a whole lot.