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Motor City Metal: Detroit Gun Works

by James Tarr   |  June 25th, 2012 10

I’ve heard it said, in regard to AR-15 lower receivers, that “a lower is a lower is a lower”. And that is true, with two caveats.

The first is that the lower needs to be in spec. You would assume that everybody making AR lowers would — seeing as the basic design is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year — have the specs down, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

The second is this–whose name/logo do you want on your lower? Some AR fans would refuse lowers from some manufacturers even if they were being given away for free, either because of the company history or because of the logo. A fellow tactically-oriented gunwriter just recently told me, when I was showing off my new Stag Arms AR, “They may make great stuff, but I’ll never have an AR with a deer on it.” Stag Arms’ logo is, unsurprisingly, a stag.

I was in the market for a new AR lower or two. I hate spending more for something than I need to, and I am always looking for something cool. I live in the metro Detroit area, and little did I know that I had what I needed just a few miles from my house.

Central Screw Products has been in business since 1924, and are still a family-owned business. They specialize in making heavy-duty truck components, and chances are that if you see a semi heading down the road, there are some CSP parts on it.

In 2009, the bottom fell out of the economy, and nowhere was that worse than in the Detroit area. CSP saw their business drop to near zero as orders stopped coming in. I spoke to Matt Heller, whose father bought CSP in 1975, and he stated that they wanted to stay in the business of actually making things, but “they couldn’t sell anything to anybody.” Too many manufacturing jobs had headed overseas, and he didn’t want the same thing to happen to CSP. Instead of closing their doors, they looked around for ways to keep their employees working, and the only industry at that time that wasn’t seeing a slowdown was the firearms industry. They were no strangers to guns or shooting, and the proverbial lightbulb went off.

Fast forward two years, and now Detroit Gun Works, a division of CSP, is in full gear. They started with AR-15 lower receivers, and are gradually working their way up to full guns. Detroit has a long history of arms making, and is the heart of the “Arsenal of Democracy.” During World War II, many Detroit-area companies, including General Motors, switched over their manufacturing lines to making guns and other war materiel. CSP/DGW just opened a new facility in a Detroit suburb, Troy.

When it comes to the tolerances required, CSP has a long history of making parts for trucks and the medical industry that require much tighter tolerances than you need in making AR lowers. Their lower receivers are forged of 7075 T-6 aluminum and CNC machined according to authentic military prints the engineers at DGW tracked down. They have bullet icons for the selector, which are currently in vogue. The DGW logo on the lower receiver was designed by Mark Arminsky, a local artist who has done poster art for world famous musical artists including Iggy Pop and The Grateful Dead.

Currently their lowers are retailing for about $99.95, and a list of dealers can be found on their website. They’re still in their infancy, but they have big plans. In addition to 5.56 lowers, they are working on uppers, .308 lowers, and they even have their own sponsored 3-gun shooting team.

You can get lowers with all sorts of names and symbols on them, but one which says “Detroit Gun Works” will make you stand out from the crowd. Currently I am using their lower to build my “Ultimate Urban Carbine” in .300 Blackout, as that seems a perfect match, and will keep you updated on that project.

  • Eddie

    Good to know we can still keep some things made in the US and a company from Detroit who didn't take a bail out and fixed the problems themselves, even more of a plus! I will definitely consider them for any future builds I do. I have a Stag though and don't see what the problem is with them? The Stag logo, really? It's made in the US. It is not a fully Mil-Spec rifle but, I knew that going into purchasing it.

    Either way, it's still good that a US company can fix their own problems with no help from Gov. cheese!

  • Max

    It's just great to see Michigan manufacturers thriving! They counted us out and now were back. Check out their lowers here: http://www.centralscrewproducts.com/detroit-gun-w…. Look awesome. Thanks for the article.

    • john

      your site keeps saying 404 (Page Not Found) Error

      • shootbrownelk

        What you said John, are they out of business already??

    • Greg Scott

      You should check your QC people and PR people a little closer and find out what is happening at the customer level

  • kyle

    i would love to have one that is marked 300 blackout

  • madjoe

    I am definitely interested. Thanks for the link Max.
    I'm a big fan of a commited underdog!!!

  • kevin rasmussen

    "fear the deer"

    • kevin rasmussen

      I just bought one on GB, I'm a Detroiter. I have built on stag receivers before that's were fear the deer comes from. Nice to here good reviews after i committed to one. the description in the auction says "ready to ship 8/24"

  • Greg Scott

    I bought two one was fine as it should be the other had a machining issue with the stock attachment point that I brought to DGW attention, so far nothing but lip service and lame excuses, sorry but this company. Now they are in cahoots with Code Red which is also taking advantage of the customer base nothing but thumbs down on these two companies.

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