The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

6 Facts About AR-15 Gas Impingement Vs. Piston

By Richard A. Mann, Gun Digest

As someone who tests and reviews guns for a variety of firearms periodicals, I’ve had the opportunity to test versions of both the gas impingement and piston-driven ARs. Here are my factual discoveries:

1. Piston-driven guns run much cleaner. Fire a 30-round magazine through a piston-driven AR and it will look just as clean afterwards as it did before you fired it.

2. Piston-driven guns run much cooler. You’ll have to shoot about 100 rounds through a piston gun and a gas gun to really feel the difference, but it is there.

3. On average, piston-driven guns are less accurate. This does not mean piston-driven ARs are inaccurate, but, looking over my test records, the most accurate ARs I’ve tested have been those that work with the gas impingement system.

4. On average, piston-driven guns cost more. This observation must be qualified with “it depends.” There are some very expensive gas impingement ARs and some piston-driven ARs that are not all that expensive. However, if you want to purchase the least expensive AR possible, it will be a gas impingement gun.

With the gas piston system, gas is funneled from the barrel to drive a piston that works the action.

With the gas piston system, gas is funneled from the barrel to drive a piston that works the action.

Gas-Impingement-2-300x154

With the gas impingement system, gas is diverted from the barrel through a tube and back into the upper receiver to operate the action. 

 

 

5. If you intend to run a suppressor on your AR, it has been my experience that the gas impingement guns are more suppressor-friendly, especially those with an adjustable gas block that allows you to control the amount of gas directed back through the gas tube.

6. Both piston-driven and gas impingement guns are very reliable. If, by magic, you inserted me in the pages of Bryce Towsley’s book The 14th Reinstated and I had to live through a social and economic collapse where there were roving bands of marauders, and if you told me I had to pick between a gas impingement or a piston-driven AR, I really would not care which one I ended up with. Except for three things: parts for gas impingement ARs are easier to find, much more plentiful, and less expensive.

Now, here’s the good news. The unmatched modularity of the AR allows you to, in a way, have your cake and eat it, too. If you own a gas impingement AR and want to try a piston-driven AR, just purchase a piston-driven upper receiver. Since the gas impingement and piston systems work independently of the lower receiver, you can alternate between both on the same lower receiver.

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This article is an excerpt from the Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to the AR-15Be sure to take advantage of Gun Digest’s free downloads to learn all about Gun ValuesAR-15 OpticsGlock Accessories and Concealed Carry Holsters.

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