Fail Zero AR-15 Basic Kit

Although I supposed this should be considered a tactical review, I originally wrote it as a Recreational Review due to the number of hunters and competitive shooters who use AR-style weapons. The product under report is the AR-15 Basic Kit from Fail Zero. Fail Zero manufactures products that use EXO Technology (more on that below) to provide permanent DRY lubrication to metal surfaces. Anyone who's ever cleaned all the carbon and grit out of a well-lubricated rifle will understand how dry lubrication can be quite desirable. How well does this dry lubrication work? Let's take a look.

The Fail Zero Basic AR-15 Kit consists of a complete bolt and a hammer. The "treated" parts (more on that in just a moment) include the Bolt, Bolt Carrier, Hammer, Extractor, Cam Pin and Carrier Key. That simply and easily said, the Basic Kit is listed on their website as having the following features:

  • Case Hardened, Shot peened and MPI Bolt (Magnetic Particle Inspected)
  • EXO Coated Bolt (40% more wear resistant than Chrome with a very Low Coefficient of Friction)
  • Mil-Spec Gas Rings
  • EXO Coated Carrier
  • Chrome Lined Gas Key
  • Gas Key Hardened to USGI Specifications
  • Grade 8 Hardened Fasteners
  • Blue Extractor Insert
  • Mil-Spec Staked Gas Key
  • Firing Pin and retainer

The AR-15 Basic Kit retails for $250 on the Fail Zero purchase page.

To test the performance, I put the kit into my test Thor Global Defense Group TR-15 rifle for my second day at the range. On the first day I had put about 250 rounds of Federal ammo through the rifle after zeroing it. After that first range day I didn't clean a thing. I took the rifle to my usual gunsmith and asked him to swap out the bolt and hammer for those in the FailZero AR-15 Basic Kit and then I prepped for my second range day. I felt that I was starting out the FailZero kit at a disadvantage since it wasn't even going into a clean gun. (NOTE: FailZero's Installation Instructions specify that the bolt & carrier must be checked for the correct headspace by a competent gunsmith before use. They make it very clear that every gun owner is responsible for the safety of their own weapon. READ THE DIRECTIONS.)

The FailZero website says this about their products:

FAILZERO tactical upgrades give law enforcement, security and military professionals the "active weapon advantage" in critical use: no grease to hold grit, no oil to wear off, no gun-jamming crud on key components. FAILZERO tactical rifle upgrades and pistol drop-in kits use patented EXO Technology to provide permanent dry lubricity to metal surfaces. This breakthrough technology, thoroughly proven in SWAT applications, DoD testing and battlefield conditions, creates a greaseless, permanently lubricious surface that's harder than the substrate itself. Unlike films, conventional coatings and applied lubricants, it never rubs off, thins out, spalls off, or builds up crud. FAILZERO upgrade parts radically reduce maintenance and improve the performance of tactical firearms starting with the AR-15 M4/16 and 1911 -- and the confidence you have in them when optimum performance is critical.

I'll talk a bit more about the EXO Technology in a moment, but first let me tell you about the kits performance on my second range day. Remembering that I had put it into a dirty rifle and didn't lubricate or clean anything in any way, off to the range I went. I loaded up four 30-round magazines and positioned myself at the 25 yard line. My goal was to fire through the magazines as fast as I could pull the trigger and reload to see if any type of malfunction would occur due to the weapon being dirty and not-lubed. I experienced no such malfunction; in fact, I experienced no malfunctions at all... so I did it again... and again... and again. 480 rounds and a sore thumb later (from stuffing magazines) I was satisfied that the bolt kit wasn't going to cause me any issues. Bear in mind that, at that point, the rifle had now fired about 750 rounds without any cleaning or lubrication at all.

Satisfied that the system - as matched - wasn't going to fail, I went back to the 100 yard line and assumed my prone / sand-bagged shooting position. One 30-round magazine produced ten 3-shot groups that ranged between 1/2-MOA and one MOA. The majority of the groups spanned the 1/2-MOA to 3/4-MOA size. Of the ten groups I had one that was sub-1/2-MOA and one that was almost exactly 1 MOA (just slightly under). Just as I had the day before, with the stock equipment, the FailZero bolt kit had supported the consistency of the 1/2-MOA to 3/4-MOA groups.

Just to double check I put another two 30-round magazines worth through and confirmed the group sizes throughout. Then came the fun part (yeah, right)...

At home I field stripped the weapon to clean it. FailZero specifies a stainless steel brush as necessary and a dull edged instrument for cleaning out the bolt gas nozzle end. By and large, the fouling / dirt on the bolt carrier wiped off with a rag. I had to use the brush around bolt face, extractor and ejector. Cleaning the inside of the rifle wasn't as easy - that was obvious.

Now, let's talk a moment about this "EXO Technology" that coats the bolt and carrier. The FailZero site says this about EXO Technology:

This unique, breakthrough technology creates a permanently lubricious surface, harder than the substrate itself, which eliminates the need for grease, oil, or any wet lubrication for the life of the weapon. Unlike films, conventional coatings and applied lubricants, it will never rub off, never flake off, never build up crud. EXO Technology eliminates wet-lubrication failures of critical components, giving you an "active weapon advantage" under all conditions.

Proven by DoD tests, SWAT teams, tactical experts.
The patented EXO Technology used in FAILZERO upgrades has been thoroughly tested and proven effective by UCT Defense - a division of UCT Coatings and developer of EXO Technology - and by the U.S. Department of Defense. Test results include:

  • 50,000 lube-free rounds on AR-15s.
  • 15,000 lube-free rounds on M9 pistols.
  • 18,000 lube-free rounds on carbine rifles.
  • 23,000 lube-free rounds on machine guns.

Obviously I hadn't gotten anywhere near 50,000 rounds in my test bed. The EXO "dry lubrication" seems to work. It certainly made cleaning the bolt and carrier easier after I'd fired the weapon and I could discern no appreciable or measurable difference in accuracy of the weapon with this kit installed. Ultimately that adds up to a more reliable equally accurate weapon if you use this upgrade. For more information or to order yours, visit the FailZero website.

Happy Trails!