School Me on AR-15 Builds

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MarkD
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School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by MarkD » Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:06 pm

Now that I live in America, I'm thinking of an AR-15 (because 'Merica!). I keep seeing links to Palmeto State Armory running sales where you can get a complete AR-15 kit (in the recent case minus sights and mags) for under $350, and build it yourself.

Here's a link to the current offering: https://www.ammoland.com/2019/08/gun-de ... z5xte0FDEj

How hard is it to build a rifle from one of these kits? I'm pretty handy, and know which end of a screwdriver goes in your hand. I've torn down guns I own for cleaning/maintenance and gotten them back together with no leftover parts.

Are there any specialized tools you'd need to build one of these?

Are the rifles themselves any good?

(Gets out popcorn).

Old Grafton
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Old Grafton » Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:32 pm

This is a fun type thread to start on most websites; it usually devolves into a catfight over whose balls are biggest in the "I AM A (insert .mil or .cop qualifications here) SuperHero Gun Expert" etc. etc. This site is a shining exception to all that(NOW.....lol).

As a (retired) 35 year fulltime gunsmith (no Superhero here) my advice is go ahead and try it, only one or 2 specialized tools needed, and use new parts from a reputable supplier and lots of LSA. You'll hear of many majikkal fluids/treatments but just keep it simple at first. The rifles themselves usually work well from the start. Accuracy ranges from decent to superb, money and skill being the determining factors.
I'm not old--It's too early to be this late.

Precision
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Precision » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:12 pm

this is an article I had published on this very topic. Hope it helps.

I am not editing it down out of laziness.

Building your own AR-15

There are almost as many ways to build an AR-15 as there are parts combinations, but I will focus on a few general build styles.
The simplest choice is to buy a pre assembled lower and mate it to a pre assembled upper. This is technically “building” an AR from a legal stand point as it avoids the 10% ITAR tax on the sale of a complete rifle. If for no other reason, this might be a worthy way of doing your build assuming your goal is a mainstream desire. You also have some degree of control over the options you chose to mate together. This method is inherently limited to the options bulk builders see a market for. It is rare that you will find many of the higher end options in these offerings. The good news, all uppers will mount to all lowers assuming they are not from a third rate manufacturer or not specifically labeled as being proprietary. This is of specific concern with pistol caliber lowers and some billet components.

A slightly more labor intense option is buying either a prebuilt lower or a prebuilt upper and assembling the other half from parts. Many people do this when they find desired components in a preassembled half but not in the other half. Most of my AR builds fit this pattern. Although I am fully capable of assembling an upper, a prebuilt upper matching my desires usually costs less and is the manufacturer’s problem if something doesn’t work properly. Prebuilt lowers rarely come with quality triggers, so I usually build those myself.

An example:
I priced out buying the components for a 24” heavy barrel precision upper build. Buying the components I wanted would have cost me roughly $1000. Instead I bought a fully assembled White Oaks Armament upper for just under $700. The only thing I wasn’t entirely sold on was having a tube hand guard instead of a railed one. I have come to learn, a tube on that type of rifle it is a great option. In addition to saving $300 and the time of assembly, I also received the White Oaks Armament reputation for accuracy. My sub MOA expectations were handily exceeded with hand loads. When I do my part, the rifle provides sub 1” five shot groups at 200 yards. Occasionally the group size hits .625” at 200 yards. I seriously doubt any assembly of parts would do as well. In my three years of owning this rifle, the only thing I have changed on the upper, is having the barrel threaded for suppressed use.

In this example, I knew the barrel and chamber were going to be spot on, so the best use of my money was to make sure the lower components performance matched with the uppers potential. This meant I needed a quality stock and trigger. On a build with a 7# upper, a light collapsible stock was not the best idea. It also meant that a mil-spec, 8# gravel road trigger was not an option. The $300 saved on the assembled upper went a long way towards building the lower properly. This included purchasing a Magpul PRS stock, a high quality lower parts kit and one of Geissele’s SSA-E, two stage triggers.

The last general category of building your own AR is to buy a basket of parts, assembly tools and get building.

I would strongly suggest not taking this route on your first build. It would also be smart on the initial build of this type, to not use generic brand components. These parts have a much greater chance of being out of spec and creating assembly issues. As a new builder, it is unlikely you will be able to easily diagnose the issue and may well spend more money chasing the issue than if an assembled gun was purchased. The worst of the potential issues is out of spec head spacing. This brings me to the point where I give the safety brief.
Every build has the potential for error. Some errors result in a scratch on your lower or upper; frustrating, but not a big deal. Others result in a broken or lost component. Annoying, but not tragic. The worst issues result in out of battery ignition, dramatic over pressure situations or other potentially catastrophic events. If you are doing anything beyond mating a pre-built lower to a pre-built upper, you really should have some AR build tools and one specific safety item.

Caliber specific head space gauges – this insures the round chambers properly and having this within spec will eliminates most potentially catastrophic issues. This is the safety item.

AR Armorer’s wrench – very helpful in doing many of the fiddly assembly components of the upper, getting them properly mated and tight
Punches, roll pin punches
Upper and lower AR vises
Pivot pin Tools
A well documented assembly video series from a reputable builder, parts company or wholesaler

Whichever method you choose, there is a great degree of satisfaction in building your own AR. It also opens up the build possibilities; be that for a specific component or building an AR in a non-standard caliber. My next build is likely to be a 458 SOCOM pistol. I plan on running a Faxon 10.5” barrel, Fail Zero nickel boron bolt carrier group, Brigand Arms 9” ATLAS handguard, Spikes “Honey Badger” lower, Geissele SSA-E trigger, Magpul BAD lever and a Gear Head Works Mod 2 Pistol Brace.
"Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not." ~Thomas Jefferson
My little part of the blogosphere. http://blogletitburn.wordpress.com/

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Weetabix
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Weetabix » Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:42 pm

I'm too lazy to read all of Precision's undoubtedly excellent article. (no sarcasm - I've read his stuff before.)

Do it. It's not hard. The kits I've done came with the upper assembled. Looks like that one does, too. Normal tools with the addition of some punches and that wrench that tightens the buffer tube on ($10 at a gun show). IIRC, I did a lot of one with just a Leatherman, cuz 'Merica!

The main thing to watch out for is when putting in the bolt release pin, protect the surfaces with some tape or you'll scratch it.

I've done my builds just following along with this site.
Note to self: start reading sig lines. They're actually quite amusing. :D

Langenator
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Langenator » Wed Aug 28, 2019 10:20 pm

I'll note that the buffer tube wrench is only necessary if you're building your AR with a collapsible stock. PSA's kit does have such a stock, so you'll need the tool.

I built my very first AR, an A2 rifle clone (Double Star, IIRC), with no special tools at all, back in 2004, right after the Clinton AWB expired. Some things were a royal PITA without special tools, but it can be done.

Now, I buy all my uppers assembled, mostly because I don't have a workbench with a vise, or any place to put one. If you're going with pre-built uppers, here are the most useful special tools:

1) Armorer's wrench - because you can't do the castle nut without it, and 90% of the builds out there now use collapsible stocks
2) Pivot pin tool - this tool is not strictly necessary, but it makes installing the front pivot pin a quick and easy task, and virtually eliminates the problem of the detents shooting off and getting lost
3) Roll pin punches - it can be done without these, but the make things so much easier

Other than that, I used a small hammer, c-clamp, pliers, and a standard screwdriver. Some kits/grips may use a hex or philips head screw.
Fortuna Fortis Paratus

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Netpackrat
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Netpackrat » Wed Aug 28, 2019 10:39 pm

Two words: Aero Precision.
Cognosce teipsum et disce pati

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Frankingun
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Frankingun » Thu Aug 29, 2019 3:06 pm

I went with Precision’s last option first. Not quite done yet.
Buy ammunition and magazines.

You'll shoot your eye out!

Another blog.

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Netpackrat
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Netpackrat » Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:53 pm

My pivot pin tool is a 1/4" clevis pin from the hardware store.
Cognosce teipsum et disce pati

"People come and go in our lives, especially the online ones. Some leave a fond memory, and some a bad taste." -Ass-op

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Durham68
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Durham68 » Thu Aug 29, 2019 7:04 pm

I assembled my first lower with a hammer, pliers and duct tape. Like Langenator said, I have since purchased punches, an AR wrench and a pivot pin tool. Only other specialty tool I really like having around is a bolt catch pin punch.
"Unattended children will be given an espresso and a puppy"

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Vonz90
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Re: School Me on AR-15 Builds

Post by Vonz90 » Thu Aug 29, 2019 10:31 pm

Durham68 wrote:
Thu Aug 29, 2019 7:04 pm
I assembled my first lower with a hammer, pliers and duct tape. Like Langenator said, I have since purchased punches, an AR wrench and a pivot pin tool. Only other specialty tool I really like having around is a bolt catch pin punch.
I've done two basically this way albeit I have punches too. Unless I was going to do a bunch, I see no reason to buy more specialized tools.

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