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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Detroit Gun Works Lower Review

Sometimes an idea comes along that is so simple that it's mind blowing.  This is one of them.  Detroit was referred to as "America's arsenal of Democracy" in the past.  It only makes sense that they end up coming full-circle and producing firearms as they move into the future.  

I was at a local gun store recently with  buddy who was looking at building a lower, when I was first introduced to Detroit Gun Works (DGW).   The price at the time was a nice deal ($100), especially when FFL fees in my area make anything but the best deal on the net worthless.

My buddy picked one up after I spec'd it with another high-grade receiver that was at the store, and I went home and did some research.  I was pleased by the machining and finish on his receiver, as well as what I could find on the web, which wasn't a whole lot.  I expect that will change soon.

There are a few things that make the DGW lower an attractive piece of kit to me.   First and foremost, it's made in Michigan.  As a guy who's lived here my whole life, this means a lot to me.  America is starting to turn out some astonishing work in the firearms realm, and I feel that if I'm buying something, I'll get it here at home if possible.

Second, the logo is not annoying.  No, it's nothing spectacular and eye catching, but then again, if you want that, there are are a lot of companies out there that can make your AR look like a paintball gun.

Third, the receiver was marked "CAL: MULTI."  Personally, I like this.  Especially since this receiver is intended to be the basis of a 300 BLK carbine in the future.

A week or so later, the lower came home with me.  I put it together with a PSA lower build kit, and in about an hour I was done.

The fire selectors feature bullet pictograms.

Weapon lube everywhere during its dry-fire break in period. The MOE grip and trigger guard went in without a hitch.

So, how did the build go?  Like a snap.  The MOE grip and trigger guard went in like they were made for it, the PSA lower kit installed smoothly, and the CMMG mil-spec stock fit great.  Nothing bent, cracked, or broke during the build.  Despite taping the receiver, I did scratch the body near the bolt catch, but that was my fumble with a hammer, and nothing involving the lower itself or its finish.

After finishing, I slapped my CMMG upper on it and ran a few drills with it.  I was impressed with the way it matched my upper, and the play between the receivers was nonexistent.  The receiver reliably retained and released Pmags, GI mags, BCM aluminum mags, Thermolds, and a few old POS mags that were laying around of dubious origin.

The one and only flaw I found in my testing so far was the C-Products 40-round aluminum mags.  When these mags were inserted fully loaded in the lower with the upper absent, they shot right though the magwell.  I tested them on my CMMG lower and did not experience this problem.

This is worrisome for the fact that if I were to use these mags with this lower, any pressure after seating them (I push/pull on my mags for a reason) could cause the mag to pop up and induce a malfunction.

However, I do not believe that this is the receiver's fault.  Rather, I believe that this was my error in not properly tensioning the mag release during the build.  I plan to tighten this up soon and try the drills again to see what results I get, but at this point I'm willing to chalk this up to my build.

UPDATE 10/10/12
After inspecting the C-Products mags, I found that they have an additional lip above the mag catch cutout.  Apparently, this was added to the design by the CP engineers to ease the heavy magazine into the gun (40 rounds plus the mag itself is a rather hefty package).  As a result, if the magazine is slammed into the gun with force (you don't pat your mags into the magwell, do you?), it has a tendency to try to slide under the mag catch that has been pushed open by the additional lip.

I fiddled with the tension on the mag catch a bit and found the sweet spot that would allow the CP mag to lock in, while still allowing my other mags to drop free, including the 20-round Thermolds, which can be a bit finicky about that, especially when the gun is dirty.

Also, even when pressed in after a hard slap into the receiver with an open bolt, the magazine will not slide past the mag catch.   So, problem solved.

The upper/lower combo ran great on its dry-runs, and all the parts functioned as they should, with the fire selector flipping smoothly into place, and nothing shook/worked loose.

During my testing, I noticed the DGW lower seemed to take mags a little easier than the CMMG lower.  A quick inspection revealed a longer bevel in the inside of the DGW lower, which seemed to almost suck the mags into the magwell.  Once I get to run the system, I'll be able to add my impressions on this difference.

More pics will be up later as I work the system in, but my initial impressions of the lower are great.  If you need a lower and like to buy American made, a DGW lower is money well spent.

For more information, hop over to DGW's web page at

For the record, DGW did not send me this lower for review, I paid retail price for it.  My dollars are important to me, so if I buy something, and it sucks, well, I paid for it.  

Update 2/25/14

 After running a DGW lower for more than a year, and building a few more rifles on them for others, I can offer a few updates.

First, there are no issues with the magazines as I had seen earlier.  Since I started using anti-tilt followers, I've not had one jam or misfeed with this lower.  This was about 8,000 rounds over the year or so.

The finish has held up well.  I'll be shooting some pics for an upcoming project, but I can say this lower has seen a lot of use, and besides a few nicks here and there, the finish is solid.  The machining is also excellent, and has seen a lot of aftermarket parts.  Everything fits and comes out just like it should, even my beat up old buffer tube, which got part of its threads crushed the first time I worked on it.  Hey, everyone's got to start somewhere.

Everything still works just as it should, and is almost boringly in spec.  Some lowers have issues with non-standard parts, but the DGW has taken aftermarket triggers, grips, takedown pins, endplates,  castle nuts and so forth with no issues.

The big developments in the DGW story is the course they have taken in the past year.  After the unfortunate events in early 2013 and massive government pressure, a lot of gun and parts manufacturers changed drastically.  Some closed their doors.  Some limited LE/Gov. sales in states where restrictions were imposed.  Other merged, sold off, or seemed to disappear.

DGW seemed to disappear.  Checking their website gave me  conflicting information.  This is likely due to them deciding their course during that turbulent time.  Following this, they ceased civilian sales, and appeared to be manufacturing components for other companies, their website shifting focus to their automotive and variance production.

I contacted DGW several months later, and receved the following response from DGW's Products Manager, Elizabeth Feldt:

Good Morning Benjamin,

Thank you for your support.  We actually never stopped producing firearms we just were so busy with variance work we had to take a break from DGW product.  However, we are happy to say that Kroll International does carry DGW branded items.  

Have a great day!

Thank you,
Elizabeth Feldt
Product Manager
Detroit Gun Works

This was good news.  I followed up with Kroll International and found that they were a wholesaler.  However, after contacting them, Kroll informed me that they were looking for new dealers, and had reached out to several retailers in the greater Michigan area to get DGW product back on the shelf.  When I asked about the rest of the country I was informed that they had numerous FFL's across the country that had Kroll accounts.  Like any company with something to sell, they told me they would appreciate any leads on companies that would like to carry their products.

At that time, Elizabeth indicated that DGW was only selling their products through Kroll, and DGW themselves still had not reestablished a web presence.  After checking their website today, they indicate that their site is undergoing a major redesign, and they are busy filling customer orders.  They also indicate that they will have their new site up in February 2014.  With only a few days left in the month, I'm not sure if they'll meet their goal, but seeing an update and that they are returning to the web gives me hope for getting my hands on more DGW product.

While selling our KCT kydex holsters at a recent gun show in Grand Rapids, MI, I ran into a vendor who was selling DGW uppers and lowers.  He had a few matched sets as well, in a few different colors, most notably an eye-catching anodized bronze.  Think SCAR upper bronze, but a bit lighter.

I'm glad to see DGW back in the game, and I hope to get my hands on more of their stuff soon.  If you can find anything from these folks, and they have kept their quality consistent, they are definitely worth a look. 


  1. I just bought a DGW Lower. Thanks for the article... I can't wait to start building my first AR!

    1. Not a problem, glad we could help. As far as I know, DGW has ceased sales for the foreseeable future. If you can find more, let me know. I think they turn out a top notch product, and all the builds we have done with them have been a breeze. Enjoy it!

    2. DGW is selling lowers again. I picked up two this afternoon from DoubleAction. They're now 119/ea, but you can also get 308 upper/lower/BCG from them now.