With such a glut of manufacturers producing for the AR-15 market these days, it seems to be tougher and tougher for a company to stand out from the crowd. Every now and then a company manages to dream up enough new to reinvigorate the market and inspire new builds around the country. Magpul’s rifle furniture and the recent rush on PDW stocks come to mind. Identifying a new niche, developing the right products, getting them to market with the promised quality and keeping said products at the right price point are the main challenges facing a new manufacturer.
Joel Allen of V7 Weapon Systems is no stranger to building quality products. Formerly the lead tech of Noveske Rifleworks, Joel knows how to knock out excellent parts. In search of the new method of reinvigorating the AR world, V7 seems to be going full speed in the direction of lighter, stronger parts. Using both titanium and a lithium/aluminum alloy, many of the lightweight parts featured on the company website boast weight savings of 40-60% while being significantly stronger than 6061 Aluminum alloys. A number of their parts are listed by their weight in grams. the titanium bolt carrier weighs in at 7.9 oz versus a Colt full circle BC that weighs in at 9.6 oz. Likewise, the titanium V7 GI barrel nut comes in at 22 grams while the mil spec barrel nut comes in around 1.25 oz. While each part may only shave a few grams here and a couple ounces there, piling these weight savings one on top of the other means you can end up with an extremely lightweight rifle without sacrificing ruggedness, reliability or adaptability. I found though, that lighter parts isn’t really the whole picture at V7. That was a beneficial byproduct of using some advanced alloys like 2055 Lithium-Aluminum.
I was able to catch Joel at a good time, just between laser cutting barrels and lunch. We chatted for a while so I could get to know more about V7, Joel himself and the V7 corporate mindset.
First I wanted to know if Joel, like many in the gun industry, had a background in machine work before jumping to guns.
“Not at all. Not before I met John (Noveske). He spent time at Pac-Nor (barreling inc.) doing barrels. Him and I became friends and he taught me barrels. Our first business was a little barrel shop called Cascade Barrels believe it or not. All the machining knowledge, he taught me. We met many mornings early, early in his dads garage before I had to go to the other job I had at the time. It was freezing cold, we could see our breath but we would sit there and work mainly on 10/22’s and custom bolt action guns. It was a long time before we could afford a mill which was a really big purchase for us at the time. It was all manual machining, no CNC work. Funny enough we never learned to use a CNC, just did it all manually. He was the master. I could chamber, headspace and all but he was the master. Even now, I understand machining and the process very well, how to design parts and all, but have a handful of really skilled people working with me. My area of expertise has been more on the business side. Product design and those kinds of things, We have 5-6 employees, some part time and some are subcontracted out because you never know how much demand there will be for a certain product in a week, it goes up and down. We’re adding more people every few months it seems though, it’s been hard to keep up with some products. On top of everything else, I was doing anodizing and it got to the point I was doing it 7 days a week and stepped back and said ‘You know, it’s time to get these out to a full time anodizer’.”
I wanted to know what the lightest rifle he could put together using V7 parts would weight in at,
“Around 5 lbs. That goes up and down depending on how extreme you want to get with fluting and whatnot. I saw this lightweight craze coming years ago. I pushed for the (Noveske) NSR rail for 2 years knowing that the big rush for lighter parts was coming. It’s not just about making these really lightweight parts though. Its about making a gun that is worthy, what I would call V7 worthy. A gun that is from the ground up, truly more corrosion resistant, stronger, more durable and if its lighter too that’s great. That’s why we started by making all the little parts, the parts nobody else wants to make before moving to receivers. Nearly everybody gets the small parts from the same company. That’s great, they make mil-spec stuff and all but what I wanted to know was: ‘If I was Eugene Stoner today with these alloys we could hardly even cut 20 years ago, what would I make? Where would the price point lay?’ You make a worthy part and the market determines the price point. We want to keep moving forward but also want to keep the ‘one size fits all’ AR15 standard. It’s not all about lighter though. It’s about being better from a material standpoint (using alloys). We don’t just want to do lightweight stuff. We also like to focus on what we call ‘extreme duty’ stuff like our inconel gas tube. That’s the kind of thing you’re going to see more of in the future.”
I had recently sent Joel a recent Facebook message asking about the likely hood of V7 making an ultralight PDW stock. While I finally got my answer, this opened the door on what other new products V7 might be releasing soon.
“We’ve been alluding for a while to producing upper and lower receivers with the lithium/aluminum alloy. We’ve had some delays but got it all nailed down. The lowers will be out in the near future and the uppers a bit behind them but this 2055 alloy is truly superior. Just stronger, more rugged and lighter too. We’re also adding a few new barrel lengths like the 14.5″ 300 BLK and more lengths for our Enlightened Rail line. Full uppers are coming soon and we want to do full rifles but we’re not sure when. Some days we get 150-200 items back from Ion-bond and they get shipped out the same day because orders are piling up. It’s tough to get assembled receivers and full rifles together when the parts are selling like that”.
When asked about the mindset that helps to drive V7,
“Very simply we give God glory for all He blesses us with. That’s a rock solid part of who we are. We have great love for the military. My son, John Noveske and other family and friends having served in the military means they are very, very important to us. That’s what we live for. God, family, the military, our friends and defending our way of life.”
There is as they say, no free lunch. Many of V7’s products are priced nominally above their “standard” weight counterparts. Their alloy parts specifically may not find many homes in budget builds. Joel hasn’t set V7 up to be a mass producer of “good enough” parts though. The AR15 market in America has shown itself very capable of supporting a number of premium parts manufacturers and that is where Joel and company seem to want to place themselves. For those looking for the parts capable of being subjected to the most extreme conditions or those who live by the adages “Buy once, cry once” and “ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain”, V7 Weapon systems may well be worth a long look. On paper V7 seems to have a great deal going for them. In the end it’s up to the bearded warfighters, hog hunters, bushbeaters and ragged hole punchers of the world to run their products through the wringer and answer, “Are they worthy”?
As for me, I’ll have a build/range report including V7’s 6.5″ 300 BLK barrel out in a few weeks.