Novice-to-Novice: AR15 build: SOTA Arms: 5.56 Upper Receiver Review and Test

SOTA Arms 5.56 Upper Receiver

Sota Arms isn’t really a household name. That may also be the reason why many who are interested in building a rifle or upgrading their upper receivers may not consider SOTA Arms for their rifle. SOTA Arms is centered in Minnesota, hence the name. In a marketing genius, it also stands for “State Of The Art”. They produce the majority of their parts in-house with their fully functioning and ‘state of the art’ metal shop.

I wanted to see their manufacturing quality for myself and reached out to them in an interest to share about their products, but also give a hands-on review. After having researched their customer reviews, we saw their customers were overwhelmed with the quality and functionality mixed with a great price point. After having spoken to SOTA Arms they sent us a 5.56/.223 receiver for review. Those who continue to read our articles will routinely see this receiver and build in our optics series.

The Complete Upper Receiver

SOTA Arms Upper ReceiverSOTA manufactured a 5.56/.223 complete upper with an in-house machined, round, floating handguard. It features a flat top, Picatinny rain system on the receiver and gas block. The BCG comes standard with their complete upper receiver system. In addition, they go together with an m4 contour 16″ barrel in a 1/9 twist. While you won’t be winning any long-distance competitions with this system, it is a great addition to anyone’s collection.

Love And Marriage

We thought this receiver would be great to marry to our Polymer 80 lower build. Connecting it to our lower with the front takedown pin first. Pushing the rear end of the upper receiver down we had a seamless fitting with the rear takedown pin. It took a little finagling, but the rear takedown pin fit in without issue. I believe using the Polymer lower receiver made the fit easier, as polymer will flex, if necessary.

Lastly, we cycled the bolt and dry fired. Perfect ‘click’ with no issues. Using the rifle buffer and tube made it feel a little heavy to cycle and charge, but possible. One issue, which we will resolve at a future date, was that the lower receiver still allowed the firearm to fire in safety. While not always, we believe this is an issue with the safety select hole being slightly elongated. This has nothing to do with the function of the SOTA Arms upper, however, it is not recommended to use a receiver that has issues with the safety.


Polymer 80 build with Night Force OpticsWe arrived at the range at Griffin & Howe, ready to zero in our sights. G&H allowed us to use of one of their Night Force optics for our test fire. Loading our magazines, we went over our safety concerns with one another and loaded it up while secured on a shooting bag. Using a shooting bag made us feel more secure because of the safety select issue we had with the lower receiver.

Reading out to 200 yards we tried to zero in our sight. Click, click, click, we dry fired without hesitation. Putting our ammunition in and breathing deep our finger squeezed the trigger. The gun fired smoothly. Not just smoothly, it hit the target dead center at 200 yards with hardly any recoil. 300 yards and the same effect. As we inched closer to 400 to 500 yards, there was some accuracy difficulty. Swapping out our ammunition to a different grain we reloaded and sent it down range.

NightForce 5.5-22x50 NXS Tactical Riflescope, 30mm.250 MOA, ZeroStop, Moar Reticle, C433,
10 Reviews
NightForce 5.5-22x50 NXS Tactical Riflescope, 30mm.250 MOA, ZeroStop, Moar Reticle, C433,
  • Internal Adjustments: Elev- 100MOA/27.3 MIL, Wind-60MOA/ 16.4MIL
  • Tube Diameter: 30mm
  • Eye Relief: 3.7"

Each of us at the range put about 30 to 50 rounds through the rifle. Not once, did it jam. We used Magpul, Promag, and HexMag. Each magazine performed without hesitation and without any jamming difficulties. While many users complain that one magazine may outperform others, we did not notice any feeding issues while using these magazines with SOTA Arms Upper Receiver.


AR15 build with Night Force OpticsWhat surprised me most about SOTA Arms upper receiver was the quality of manufacturing mixed with the price. At $260 their complete upper receiver included a BCG and Charging handle. By themselves, a BCG can run over $60. That means the receiver, barrel, Gas Block, and Handguard are all less than $200. It’d be hard to beat that price.

SOTA also stands behind each of their products. Since they make nearly everything in-house when there is a failure there is only one direct and responsible party. In order to maintain the stellar reputation, care of their customers and standing by their product is essential.

I personally loved their handguard. It’s not fancy and doesn’t look like much, but the checkered pattern and rounded design fit comfortably in my hand without slipping. Even high-end handguards don’t seem to perform as well as their simple, run-of-the-mill handguards. The checkered patterns aren’t completely consistent all the way around which is shown by deeper and shallower checkering in various spots.


For being a budget-entry option there isn’t one way you could go wrong with their complete upper receiver. Price is on point and accuracy means that there is no fiddling to get things right on target. Having a Picatinny system on the gas block means that you can set up this rifle in an M16 variant style, or stick to other priority sights. Having sights set further between from the front and rear also means the potential for increased accuracy. It looks like SOTA Arms has taken that into consideration from the very beginning.

From start to finish this upper receiver is well worth every penny put into it. Not just that, it can easily take upgraded parts, if you so choose. From changing to an upgraded BCG, Charging Handle, or even gas block, you’re set with a solid foundation to start with.

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Jonathan Kilburn is a Martial Arts Instructor, Special Needs educator and businessman. He focuses on self-reliance and survival in difficult urban and sub-urban areas. Natural disasters have pushed Jonathan to teach about urban farming, homesteading, and survival. As a Special Needs Educator, Mr. Kilburn has developed a neurological approach to executive function. This means: pushing the boundaries of human needs vs human wants. This mindset and philosophy assists in training himself and others in self-reliance and survival. Mr. Kilburn has also studies martial arts which include but are not limited to: Aikido, Combat Sambo, Judo, TaeKwon-Do, Haidon Gumdo, and various other sword arts.


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