Review: ALG Defense El Jefe

The El Jefe is a premium milspec AR-style rifle.

by
at USPSA posted on February 21, 2024
ALG El Jefe 1
The El Jefe rifle from ALG Defense includes a sling and Warner & Swasey red-dot optic. MSRP: $1,199.
ALG Defense

When you walk into any guitar store, there are walls of instruments from various manufacturers that have price ranges from a couple hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. For 99.9 percent of us, all we notice are the different shapes and colors, not the details of why one is $150 and another is $15,000. However, once you pick one up and start comparing them, the craftsmanship starts to show—how the neck feels as you slide your hand up and down, how the frets feel as the strings glide over them and you feel the rounded edges instead of sharp corners; how the sound resonates as you strum the strings, and the feel of the hardware from the bridge to the tuners. Then once you plug it in, and the pickups come alive in the amp, you really start to understand the differences.

ALG El Jefe
ALG Defense’s El Jefe comes standard with a M4 carbine web sling and steel quick-detach swivels.

 

At the factory, this starts with the selection of the wood to make the body and the neck of the guitar—how the pieces are put together and sanded down first by machine, then by hand. The body of the wood, once assembled, has to be cut out to hold the electronics, the pickups, the control knobs and bridge. From how the wood is prepared for the body to be painted, right down to the type of paint and layers, also affects the tone of a guitar.

While the craftsmen work on finishing the wood, the other parts are being made. From the selection of metal for the tuners and bridge to the wire and magnets that are used to be wound together to define the sound of the pickups. Combining all these parts together gives a guitar its tone. Each instrument has character, based on how all these parts are crafted. And while we may not be able to pick up an Eric Clapton Custom Signature Fender Stratocaster and have it make the same sounds as “Slowhand,” that guitar certainly has the ability to make those sounds in the right hands.

There are a lot of comparisons that can be made to ARs and guitars. You can walk into any gun store and there is going to be many different ones behind the counter that all look alike for the most part. They are going to range from a couple hundred bucks to some that are several thousand dollars. They are all usually in a similar caliber and configuration to each other. Usually the choices come down to barrel length, and handguard configuration either being M-Lok or Keymod. Where it goes from there and why the difference in price is all about the features, the parts and the advertising behind the brand of the manufacturer. How they start, the selection of the metal and materials and how they are put together will give an AR its character.

So, let’s get this out of the way—yes, you can play “Layla” on a $500 guitar just the same as you can take a $500 AR to the range and have it make the same noise as a $2,000 one, and if you are shooting at 25, 50 or even out to 200 yards, you’ll probably get the same results from them both. But if you were to take that $300 knock-off guitar out on tour with you, the chances of it not lasting too long are good. The same can be said, most of the time, about a hard-use AR. Whether it is for competition, tactical use or just seeing a lot of range time, the quality of the parts and the build have a lot more to do with the longevity of the rifle and its accuracy.

Red-dot sight
The Warner & Swasey three-MOA red-dot optic is mounted to the El Jefe’s top rail with a scope mount that has oversize cross bolts set at the 1.54-inch above bore centerline.

 

Geissele Automatics was founded in 2004 by Bill Geissele, an avid CMP and NRA High Power Rifle competitor. What started out as small business improving match triggers for target rifles has led to multiple patents, military and law enforcement contracts, as well as two spin-off companies—ALG Defense and Abraham and Moses. Bill went from improving triggers to making them. The first was the Geissele Hi-Speed trigger that was designed for target shooting, but soon was discovered by the U.S. military to have great performance in semi-automatic sniper systems. The Department of Defense asked for a select fire trigger that was as good as the Hi- Speed trigger, and soon the Geissele Super Select-Fire (SSF) was adopted by certain groups in the U.S. Special Operations community. A version was developed for law enforcement and the civilian market, the Super Semi-Automatic (SSA) where select fire is not needed.

Geissele soon followed up the triggers with a line of machined, structurally rigid scope mounts. With the success of the triggers and scope mounts, the next logical path was to build complete rifles. Enter the Super Duty rifle. The Super Duty was built to meet the needs of those folks that are going to be putting them to use all over the world in some bad places. That is not me—however, I was lucky one afternoon to walk into a local gun shop to find a “used” Super Duty hanging on the wall. Every once in a while, you might find that hardly played Stratocaster that someone tucked back and decided it needed someone that could appreciate it. That happened to be the case with this particular Geissele. The person bought it, put a magazine through it and decided that instead of it sitting around, he wanted a new lever-action rifle. So, the shop had it hanging on the wall for about 40 percent off what a new one would cost. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money; I walked out with 10.3-inch Super Duty AR pistol and a smile. After a few range trips and some “rulings,” I decided to swap the upper for a 14.5 Super Duty Geissele and a new stock for an extremely capable AR rifle that has seen much range time over the last year. It is my go-to range, home defense and travel rifle.

Advanced Combat Trigger
The ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger is used in the company’s El Jefe AR-style rifle.

 

But for those of us that are just starting to look at rifles, whether it be for competition, self-defense or just range use, you might not need to go all in for a Super Duty or similar premium rifle. You also might not want to go the route of putting together your own parts rifle, but realize that you want to make a better investment than the current “on sale” rifle in every email you get. Geissele’s spin-off company might have what you are looking for.

At the end of last year, ALG Defense introduced the El Jefe rifle. ALG Defense (ALG stands for Amy Lynn Geissele, wife of Bill) was founded in 2012 as a sister company to Geissele Automatics. ALG manufactures and designs custom rails and triggers for military and law enforcement to their requested specifications. As a sister company to Geissele, the same manufacturing and engineering teams are utilized to deliver the most cost-effective and highest quality products available. ALG Defense’s goal is to provide superior affordable products and industry-leading customer service and limited warranty.

Enter the El Jefe AR—with an MSRP of $1,199, you are getting a premium milspec rifle. It is designed for customers looking for a milspec class rifle at a reasonable price point. It comes with everything you need to hit the range. It is a complete rifle system with an included sling, plus a Warner & Swasey red-dot opotic that is already mounted and zeroed.

Just like all Geissele rifles, the El Jefe starts with quality parts. At the heart of every AR are the upper and lower receivers. The El Jefe uses domestically sourced 7075 aluminum billets. These are heat-treated near 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and hammer-forged with a 1,100-ton forge press into the rough shape of the upper and lower parts. The forgings are machined on a CNC horizontal machining center, creating a strong lightweight part that is then polished, smoothed and anodized into milspec (type three) in matte black. The two pieces are fit together tight, just like the Super Duty; they require a punch to get the pin out to separate the upper and lower.

The ALG V3X slim rounded profile M-Lok handguard is used on the El Jefe rifle. The V3X employs the ALG rock-solid large diameter barrel nut for attachment, keeping it extremely stiff during shooting and handling. The El Jefe barrel is button-rifled and chrome plated, machined from MILB- 11595E chrome moly steel and is chambered in 5.56 mm NATO so you can shoot .223 Remington and military 5.56 mm ammunition.

From the Geissele website: “Hard chrome plating is the most effective method of making a true hard use combat barrel. Not only does chrome provide corrosion and wear resistance but it also is non-fouling and resistant to the erosive effect of hot powder gases. The owner of an El Jefe will get a long life barrel where accuracy is maintained for thousands of rounds even if shot at a high firing rate.”

Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X 24 mm optic
The author swapped out the Warner & Swasey three-MOA red-dot optic for a Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X 24 mm first-focal plane riflescope on a Vortex mount.

 

A Geissele 17-4 PH stainless steel gas block with a Geissele exclusive extended mid-length gas tube is mated to the barrel of the El Jefe. It is shipped with an A2 flash hider; however, the company has announced that suppressor-ready muzzle devices are expected. The ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger is used in the El Jefe rifle, which is a good trigger system with a crisp break and solid reset. The bolt carrier group is also made by Geissele from MilSpec 8620, 4140, 4130 and Carpenter 158 steel with the ID of the carrier and gas key hard chrome plated. All parts of the bolt carrier group are manganese phosphate coated except for the chrome-plated firing pin.

The El Jefe ships with a B5 Systems SOPMOD stock that is mated to a 7075-T6 aluminum milspec six-position buffer tube. A Geissele Super 42 braided wire buffer spring and H1 buffer is used so that the El Jefe will reliably cycle even low-powered ammunition. The rifle ships with the Geissele A22 grip installed, which is a modern take on the classic grip angle of the M4 platform. It features an aggressive anti-slip texture and thicker palm swell. The same grip is used on the Super Duty I have, and I really like the feel of these. The milspec M4 sling comes attached to a pair of steel quick-detach swivels.

The Warner & Swasey three-MOA red-dot sight comes mounted to the top rail of the El Jefe on a scope mount with oversize cross bolts set at the 1.54-inch above bore centerline, to give alignment to the shooters eye while maintaining a cheek weld. The Warner and Swasey red dot has built-in integral backup iron sights on the top of the housing, eliminating the need for a BUIS set. The glass is clear, and the red dot was sighted in when I hit the range and put the first few magazines through the El Jefe rifle.

For testing, I used the AAC 5.56 mm 55-grain full-metal jacket load and Norma .223 Remington. I ran through 10 or 12 flawless magazines of ammunition through the El Jefe. I swapped the red dot for a Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X 24 mm first-focal plane optic on a Vortex mount, and stretched the shooting out to 200 yards on a MGM “Know Your Limits” target, easily ringing even the small two-inch steel. The 300-yard, ⅓-size USPSA steel target at the range—the longest I could go—was also no issue, keeping all rounds in a nice tight group using the top of my range bag as a rest. I brought along the Super Duty to do a little side-by- side shooting, and the El Jefe gave up nothing performance-wise to the Super Duty. If you are looking for a rock-solid milspec AR-style rifle that is built to the same demanding standards as Geissele Premium rifles, then the ALG Defense El Jefe is going to check all the boxes and not dent your wallet too badly.

Check out all the Geissele parts and rifles at geissele.com.

Article from the January/February 2024 issue of USPSA’s magazine. Photos by Jake Martens.

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