Detroit, Mich., is known for its industrial manufacturing background. The city developed rapidly in the early part of the 20th century as the auto industry grew and more workers were needed. Detroit also fell just as rapidly as auto industry jobs declined. Today, Detroit is still known as the Motor City, and it’s in full rebuild status.

Modern-day Detroit has a bad reputation as a broken city with big problems, but the real city that locals like myself know is much different. This Detroit is on the rise once again, making a comeback with a bigger and better attitude. It’s a badass city that refuses to fail again, and this attitude is a way of life in Detroit that trickles down to the small businesses in and around it. From the bars and restaurants to the new sports facilities and entertainment venues, the city is growing and rebuilding. New startups are taking over abandoned buildings, and people are coming back to live in the city’s historic apartments and houses. In the surrounding areas, many small businesses are opening up and growing by feeding off of that tough Detroit vibe. One of those companies happens to be a little custom firearms shop called Motor City Gun Works.

Meet the Makers at Motor City Gun Works

Motor City Gun Works is located about 30 minutes outside of Detroit in the small town of Keego Harbor, Mich. Right down the street from Motor City Gun Works are houses that used to be hideouts for the notorious Purple Gang that ran Detroit in the 1920s. They even kept Al Capone out of their turf.

Motor City Gun Works has quickly gained a reputation for being one of the area’s top gun shops. Offering full custom gunsmith services, as well as the best Cerakote services around, it is known for creating some of the most unique firearms in town.

When I first learned there was a top-notch custom firearms shop just a short drive from my house, I naturally had to stop in and check it out. When I walked in, I was greeted by the owner, Heath Williams. I was instantly in awe of the pistols, rifles and shotguns hanging on the walls. This place had everything, even an M249 SAW. Out of all the incredible firearms in the shop, the crown jewel was displayed on the counter front and center: the Detroit Edition AR-15, the company’s signature rifle.

Detroit’s Own

This is no ordinary AR-style rifle. First off, it’s loaded with custom features and accessories. Motor City uses only the absolute finest components. The gun is also assembled by hand, and Motor City can customize it any way you want for a one-of-a-kind AR that will do what you want it to when you need it to.

To provide the highest standard of accuracy for any AR-15 on the market, Motor City Gun Works uses a Proof Research barrel. The rifle comes standard with a 16-inch, stainless steel Proof barrel, but you can upgrade to either a 16- or 18-inch, carbon-fiber barrel as well. Every Detroit Edition also comes standard with a 12-inch, stainless steel, KeyMod handguard, but you can choose a longer 15-inch version and add some Troy folding backup sights as well.

Muzzle Device

The muzzle device is up to you. If you’re looking to run suppressed, the SureFire SOCOM is a great option that allows for the quick attachment of a sound suppressor or great recoil reduction unsuppressed. If you want to say goodbye to recoil, the Lantac Dragon will let you tame the muzzle like none other. Ultimately, the choice is yours.


I was given a custom Detroit Edition for testing equipped with an Iron City Rifle Works bolt carrier group (BCG). The standard rifle comes with a Young Manufacturing Super Light Carrier (SLC) as well as a mil-spec six-position buffer tube. However, if you want to go even lighter, or choose a suppressor-specific BCG and buffer, you can opt for a JP Low Mass Enhanced BCG or JP Silent Captured Spring. My test rifle had the latter installed.


As for the lower receiver, every Detroit Edition AR-15 comes standard with a Hiperfire Hipertouch trigger that can be dialed down as low as 2.5 pounds to give you point-and-click-style accuracy along with a very clean break and a short competition-ready reset. This is just one component that makes the Detroit Edition the ultimate 3-Gun or home-defense rifle right out of the box.


The Detroit Edition offers two standard options when it comes to stocks: The Ace ARFX for $50 and the Magpul UBR for an extra $200. My test rifle came with a B5 Systems SOPMOD Bravo buttstock as well as a Magpul MOE+ pistol grip and an enlarged triggerguard. Altogether, I was extremely impressed with the rifle right out of the box.

Fully Loaded

While I just mentioned most of the standard model specs, I was honored to get my hands on a fully loaded Detroit Edition, which I would call the Cadillac of ARs. It sported a Motor City Gun Works lower and a Vltor upper. Motor City housed the carbon-fiber, 16-inch Proof Research barrel in a 13.5-inch URX 3.1 handguard. It stayed cool at the range and was extremely comfortable and natural to hold. The Magpul MOE+ gave me a very nice pistol grip to hold onto when squeezing the Hiperfire Eclipse single-stage trigger, and with the ambidextrous, short-throw safety selector, you can go from “safe” to “let’s rock” extremely quickly without destroying your finger or moving your hand.

On the Range

Targeting was extremely fast and accurate with the Trijicon 4x32mm ACOG scope mounted on top of the rifle. And let me just say that this rifle is a shooter. I put somewhere around 1,000 rounds through it—everything from bargain bulk-buy stuff to the exotic brands that hurt to shoot because you see dollar signs ejecting instead of brass.

I shot everything from 40- to 77-grain ammo at varying distances. Also, I allowed multiple people to shoot the rifle to see how it performed in different hands. My dad went to the range with me one day to shoot this as his very first AR. He is now spoiled rotten. This was the first time he had a rifle in his hands, and he expressed how surprised he was with the Detroit Edition’s lack of recoil and overall comfort. The rifle performed flawlessly with every different shooter no matter what we fed it.

Since the rifle had the Trijicon ACOG already on it when I picked it up from Motor City Gun Works, I headed out to my friend’s 100-yard range. Of course, whenever I go to an outdoor range, the forces of nature and Michigan weather unite against me. The first time I attempted my 100-yard groups, Mother Nature decided to throw a late-March snowstorm at me. I did some testing anyway with surprisingly impressive results for a guy who was not prepared to shoot in the snow and who is really not the greatest rifle-shooter anyway. The second attempt at 100 yards was a bit better with just a slight breeze and above-freezing temperatures. This improved weather definitely contributed to tighter groups.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, if you have been looking to add an AR-15 to your collection and actually care about performance, the Detroit Edition AR-15 is an excellent bargain for every shooter, and Motor City Gun Works has a rifle for everyone, whether you’re a competitor needing a fully customized rifle, an outdoorsman who wants a multipurpose range and hunting rifle, or just a first-time AR-15 owner who wants to impress his or her friends. With an entry-level price of $1,999, the Detroit Edition from Motor City Gun Works is a great rifle that will make even a rookie shooter feel good, look good and shoot better. For more, visit

Motor City Gun Works Detroit Edition (Fully Loaded) Specs

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 16 inches
  • OA Length: 32-36 inches
  • Weight: 7 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: B5 SOPMOD Bravo
  • Sights: Trijicon ACOG
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $3,400 (as tested)

This article is from the winter 2019 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Grab your physical copy at For digital version, head over to Amazon.

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