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Comparing The Direct Impingement Vs Gas Piston Technology On The AR-15

Posted on 26 Mar 2018
Comparing The Direct Impingement Vs Gas Piston Technology On The AR-15

The Differences Between Gas Piston Vs Direct Impingement Technology On The AR-15

The AR-15 Rifle is readily customizable.  However, there are a few challenges associated with it. One of those is deciding which operating system to use and weighing the differences between gas piston vs direct impingement.  

Gas piston fans claim that impingement models tend to foul up quite easily along with being prone to jamming.  Impingement model fans say that gas piston technology is mechanically unsound.  So who is right, and what are the real differences between the two types of models?

Basic Functionality Of The AR-15 

In order to qualify as being an AR-15, a rifle needs to be self-loading and have the ability to perform certain basic mechanical functions, without assistance from the user.  Specifically, when the trigger is depressed, the rifle must be able to fire one cartridge, and then the spent case must be extracted from the chamber and ejected in some way.  Then it must be able to load another unspent cartridge inside of the chamber.  This round gets taken from the magazine, then the breech is locked and the hammer is cocked.  A fresh round is then loaded into the rifle so is ready to fire once again. To get more information on the ar15 for sale, click here.

Direct Impingement - How AR-15 Models Work 

Eugene Stoner developed direct impingement and it is the original technology used by the AR-15.  Propellant gas gets bled via a small hole in the barrel, and this gets channels via a small tube and proceeds to come directly into contact (impinge) with the bolt carrier mechanism.  Then the gas gets pushed to the back of the rifle, while the spent case gets extracted and then ejected.  The spring-loaded action then pushes it forward, and an unspent round gets stripped from the cartridge, which directly loads it into the barrel's chamber.  Contrary to what proponents of the Gas Piston state, we have placed more than 2,000 rounds through rifles without any cleaning and had no malfunctions.  

How The Gas Piston Technology Works 

Mikhail Kalashnikov was the first to use gas piston technology on modern firearms when he used it on the AK-47.  Although at first glance it is similar to direct impingement systems, in terms of its operation there are a couple of key differences.  Its firing process also started with propellant gases bled inside of the barrel.  However, rather than being forced inside of a tube like it is with a direct impingement system instead, it is contained inside of a separate cylinder. 

There is a piston contained inside of the cylinder which operates in a similar way to what can be found with an AK-47.  The piston is moved by the gas, and in turn, the bolt carrier is pushed to the rear for handling the extraction and ejection processes and is then pushed forward by spring into the closed position just like it is with direct impingement technology.   

Which is the better system?

Over the years the direct impingement system has proven itself with the AR-15.  Also, replacement parts are easy to obtain and inexpensive, and in general, are made to a specific mil-spec standard.  It heats up quickly due to the fired cartridge sending out hot gas that is redirected to the action.  It becomes dirty and a cool down period is required before removing the bolt carrier from the rifle. 

A piston rifle's action remains clean and cool, even after 100 rounds are shot in rapid succession.  You can immediately remove the bolt carrier and hold it without getting burned. The trade-off for its action staying clean and cool is that when you are shooting you experience snappier recoil which means the piston rifle is a bit less accurate, particularly on follow up shots.  Piston system parts between manufacturers are also not interchangeable since there are no set standards and proprietary bolt carriers and pistons are used.


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Atlantic Firearms,llc
10337 Bunting Road
Bishopville, MD 21813
Office: (410) 352-5183
Voice: (410) 352-5183
Fax: (410) 352-3374