Sterling AR-180 Lower Hand Guard Problems

Reader John R. asked about a finish issue on the lower hand guard of his Sterling AR-180. I had never noticed a problem like that before so at first, I didn’t have an answer for him.

I dug out my Sterlings and had a closer look.

Looks like he might be onto something.

Sterling #1 is a recent acquisition. Serial S17700 and is in like new condition.




It is most pronounced on the right side where a straight line appears with the finish above the line is compromised.

Next up is my first Sterling S19827.


It doesn’t show any of these signs.


But some of you long time readers may recall that when I first got this gun it had a broken lower hand guard that I replaced.

It shows very similar finish issues.


More Sharpshooter Porn.


My third Sterling does not seam to have these problems but it has but hit with a light camo paint job which might be covering it up.



All my other Costa Mesa and Howa guns do not exhibit these issues. I did notice, however, that the Sterling hand guards do not rattle and the others do. I believe that these hand guards must have been built in different places and using different molds.

Does this mean that we can identify Sterling lower hand guards?


Take a look at yours and leave me a comment below.


2 Replies to “Sterling AR-180 Lower Hand Guard Problems”

  1. I have found it interesting that most of the Costa guns I have had or worked on look like Armalite fitted the front sight a bit far back then ground the part of the handguards that fits into the cap to fit. That left a rather squared off edge on the guards that did not nest well into the radius of the cap. As that edge of the guards wore into the radius the guards got loose. Never saw that on the Sterlings.
    I think the variation in the HG finish has to do with the moulding of the Fiberite material they are made of. Some seem to have the glass fibers that are part of the moulding material very close the the surface leading to the differences in how they look.

  2. Rick I checked my Costa Mesa and the lower handguard has some play. Also checked my two Howa, neither has any play in the lower handguard. My Howa XXX that’s one of the first 1,000 both the upper and lower handguards have a dull finish unlike the high gloss on the other Howa and Costa Mesa. This is the same one that dosn’t have the original barrel with the serial number on the flash hider. Metal finish on the XXX Howa is very good, no signs of a high number of rounds fired or abuse. I’m wondering now if this alteration to the barrel and handguards was done at Costa Mesa facility? I guess my Holy Grail would be to locate the original barrel but who knows it may of left the Costa Mesa facility when new that way or belonged to an ArmaLite employee. Rich.

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