While we have seen an almost limitless assortment of rail systems, grips, stocks and other exterior parts to customize your AR15, few companies have chosen to address what is under the hood. The bolt is arguably the most important part of your rifle. It retains the combustion pressure of your cartridge safely in the chamber. It sees an enormous amount of stress and if it fails, renders the rifle useless.
Sharps Rifle Company released an innovative product at the 2014 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, NV. The SRC Relia-Bolt is an interesting update to the classic AR15 bolt. The first thing that most people will notice is the bright silver NP3 coating. NP3 is an electroless nickel finished developed by Robar. NP3 co-deposits sub-micron particles of PTFE (Teflon™) with electroless nickel. This results in an extremely corrosion resistant finish with some self-lubricating properties.
Looking beyond the shiny NP3 finish you begin to see the small changes in the design of the bolt itself. The bolt lugs have been rounded and tapered when compared to the squared off lugs of a mil-spec AR15 bolt. This “patent pending” tapered lug design facilitates the bolt lining up with the lugs in the barrel extension. If fouling or wear causes a slight misalignment the rounded lugs will not catch on the extension. Since the front of the bolt lugs do not assist in locking the bolt closed, this change has no effect on the strength of the system when the bolt is in battery.
The updates to the Relia-Bolt are not just skin deep. Instead of using the same Carpenter 158 steel specified in the mil-spec Technical Data Package, SRC chose to go with S7 tool steel. S7 is advertised to provide a 75% increase in tensile strength and a 60% increase in yield strength over Carpenter 158. While the average end-user may never see the benefit to this increase in strength, it is nice to know it is there. With ammunition plants running at peak capacity, there is a greater change that an overcharged cartridge may sneak through quality control. I will gladly accept an increase in strength of a critical component when it comes without any weight penalty.
The Sharps Relia-Bolt continues to use a standard AR15 extractor. If you crack or wear out an extractor, it is nice to be able to replace it with a widely available component. Ours included an O-ring around the extractor spring, which is common on carbine bolts.
You might be wondering how much all these “bells and whistles” add to the cost over a standard USGI bolt. A standard bolt from DPMS will run you about $44. Some companies are selling standard bolts with various coating for $89 and up. An LMT Enhanced bolt runs around $150. The Relia-Bolt direct from Sharps Rifle Company will only set you back $79.99.
We have just gotten the opportunity to unwrap the Relia-Bolt and install it in our test rifle. The Relia-Bolt appears to be a very high quality component. Once we get some rounds downrange we will report back with how it performed.