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Considerations for first AR to build or not to build

Discussion in 'Firearms' started by monkeyman, Jan 16, 2014.

  1. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    So Im thinking of getting my first AR when taxes come in. I have read some on them and fired a few rounds from a couple but know very little about the finer points. I have shopped around a bit looking at different ones and a friend also mentioned that you can build your own for less money or better for same money as buying complete. I have pretty much settled that if I buy complete I will most likely go with a DPMS or Core15 in an M4 type configuration but am also thinking I want to figure up what it would cost to build my own. Being so new to ARs though and having so many options Im trying to sort out what I NEED, what I want and whats just hype so figured I would pop in and see what advise I could come up with.

    So basic requirements for the finished project..... Money is very much of an object, I looking at a budget of around $1250 tops for everything right down to mags, sling etc. Reliability is obviously a top concern and also I want high accuracy. Not much fun to me if with good ammo and me doing my part it wont tear up a quarter at 100 yards and better, dimes are preferred. Durability is also somewhat an issue, I wont be battering down doors with it but don't want anything breaking if falls on the floor either. I don't care much about looks and names just that it dose what I want at a price I can afford and I do prefer metal parts over plastic which is why if I buy complete leaning more to the Core15 than the DPMS. Rifle would also likely be part time trunk gun since I work (and usually stay) a couple hours drive from my farm for bug out gun and also since I provide personal security and some clients go to crazy areas at bad times may be there as a patrol carbine. so versatility is important.

    Based on what I do know some of the features Im pretty sure I want are;
    1:7 bbl since I plan to shoot a lot of heavier bullet weights

    5.56/.223 bbl for versatility

    16" bbl length

    Ambidextrous mag release and safety since I mostly shoot left handed

    beveled mag well for easier mag swap

    varmint scope since I like making jagged holes at the end of the range

    flip up back up sites

    M4 feed ramps (been told by a couple big boost for reliability but if hype let me know)

    good trigger

    adjustable stock with storage

    Im also considering;

    extended or tactical charge handle

    A2 muzzle brake for less muzzle flip

    debating chrome lined and or floated barrel

    So was hoping to get some input as to what stuff Im looking at is pure hype and not going to help any for what I want, what Im forgetting, what stuff will give the best bang for the buck and other suggestions and figured this has always been a pretty good place to get helpful advise.

    Any thoughts including if Im likely to be better off building from the start or buying a completed gun and then modify it?
  2. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey Site Supporter

    I will ask. What are your reasons for other than stock M4 Colt?
    Finster likes this.
  3. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    My two cents:
    Build it, that way you'll know the inside as well as the outside, plus you are not locked into a specific group of parts.

    Plastic furniture is more than adequate. You will want the adjustable stock to accommodate varying thickness of coats. Storage is not justified in my mind.
    Free float the barrel.
    Muzzle flip is essentially none existent with ARs, go with a good flash hider.
    M4 config is OK, but you might like a heavier barrel with M4 feed ramp.
    I don't care for chrome lining, but there's a lot to like if a LOT of shooting is planned.
    Think a bit on piston or direct impingement. There are advantages to each.
    Not too sure that a beveled mag well serves much purpose. If you are in a fire fight where 20 or 30 rounds isn't enough, you are in the wrong place without backup.
    Put some real money in the trigger. Some are good, some ain't.
    Tactical charge handle is a good idea if you are going to use gloves, and especially if optics are anticipated. (You won't hit the budget with decent optics included. And, tearing up a quarter ain't gonna happen without optics, either.)
    Iron sights are a given, optics are optional.
  4. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    A few reasons but the top one being budget. YMMV but IMHO the stamp on the side that says Colt tends to cost to much, other options just as serviceable for a lot less money. Other than that I know I will be adding on some of the non stock stuff like ambidextrous controles since I mostly shoot left handed. Don't get me wrong, I know Colt makes great guns but just like in handguns, my absolute favorite brand is Bersa even while I own Berrettas and other names as well because the Bersa line may not be quite as pretty but is every bit as reliable if not more so for around half the price and the price is mostly for the name.

    ETA; that said I also have no use for Lorcin for example but if it dose the job well Im by no means a snob for names or looks. Hell if I was worried about looks I have to bust all the mirrors. lol
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
  5. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Yeah may not have been very clear on the plastic thing. My friends AR I shot I guess had aluminum charge handle but from feel would have swore was plastic. Don't have a problem with plastic/composit furniture but for working parts don't like stuff that make me feel like Im going to snap it off.

    Was considering heavier or even bull bbl but not sure how hard that makes it to find the other parts to fit or cost issues.

    Considered piston drive since my limited understanding is that its the main thing that gives the AK so much benefit in the reliability and durability under abuse department but not sure how important it isvs how much of that gets over hyped in the AK vs AR debates.

    Was thinking of the gloves and optics for the charging handle. Will most likely move my Barska scope (6-24 x 50) from my .270 to the AR and upgrade a tad on the .270 or may just get a second of the same scope, a bit under $100 and real clear up to 20x and not bad to the top.

    As mentioned I don't have much trigger time on the ARs and only fired a couple so not sure how tight the mags are to line up since they are more squared off than most handgun mags. I was thinking partly of ease to slop it in with gloves and without looking as I know with the AKs its a bit awkward for me at times to get the groove to catch at times so don't want to fine required but don't know. How close/tight do the mags normaly line up without a belled mag well?

    Im still trying to talk myself through what I do/don't want and need too. lol
  6. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey Site Supporter

    I suggest you price both the Colt M4 and the system you want to build. In this be willing to add the tools needed to build your version.

    As a "first" AR 15 the Magpul Colt at about $1250, in my area, will give you a chance to learn what you need without the "lost" money you might experience in purchasing parts, tools etc. FWIW, a friend recently went from a custom Galil in 5.56 IMI Galil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia to box stock M4 Colt. He had been competing in local rifle events and finished in the middle of the pack. With the Colt he now finishes in the top positions.

    There is a reason the Colt cost more.

    After a bit of trigger time you will then be able to answer your questions and have the Colt as a Bench Mark to build against..

  7. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I think the ones I was seeing at my LGS were running around $1400 but still trying to wring out for sure how important which options are then look up pricing to build so can compare build price to off the rack plus tweeks price. Off the rack is still a definite possibility though.
  8. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Oh and you do bring up another consideration. What specific tool would I be needing for an AR build? I already have a general tool box as well as my basic smithing tools; brass and steel punch sets, hammers, picks, allen wrenches, screw drivers, files etc. for DCOAs and replacing parts and such on my other guns but I guess would probably need an AR wrench for bbl and buffer tube but what all else am I not thinking about?
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2015
  10. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Cool will keep that in mind either way. Figure even if I don't build it will want to be sure I can do full armorer level tear down and DCOA so can do the deep cleans when needed and fix what ever I break. Figured out it was time to at least get to the kitchen table level on gun smithing when my sidearm for work broke down and all the smiths told me they were backed up a couple months and to bring an open check book. Tore in, found broke piece and had it from Brownells in a few days and fixed it for under $20 my self then had to do another part a few months later. Think the Berretta was just ready for it 10k round overhaul, or at least that's what Ive run through after buying it used. lol
  11. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey Site Supporter

    Walmart is the best price in my area, not all Walmarts carry AR15, or so I am told.
    Finster likes this.
  12. Moatengator

    Moatengator Monkey

    I looked at a Colt M4 flattop today at WAL-MART $1499.00. Yes, they are more than some other brands out there, but IMHO they are worth it. I have shot several AR's, and for me the Colt is the bee's knees. DPMS, for me, is not too shabby either. YMMV

    I would, however, like to try my hand at building one.
    Finster likes this.
  13. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Haven't seen any ARs other than striped down DPMS at the salvages here. Kind of leaning towards buying built gun then add the parts. Figuring it up and looking at online pricing (buds guns and such) can get the rifle around $700 then add about $250 in parts and have what I'm looking at.

    My friends AR I shot was a DPMS and it shot pretty well but do like the look and feel of the Core better. It also don't hurt that they have a good warranty, lifetime any problem unconditional and the nastiest rant I found on them was a complaint that the guy got one with a problem, they paid round trip shipping and got it back to him working great in about 2 weeks at no cost. Figure when their shipping date is off by a couple days and this is the worst experience I found with them sounds like for half the price is well worth it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 17, 2014
  14. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    I saw that one Distributer, that I get flyers from, had a Colt AR15 M4 for $999US and a DPMS AR15 Classic A3 for $790US just a week ago.... and they both were in Stock. I know DPMS is getting very close to being caught up on Back Orders. They were quoting 12-18 Months a year ago, but shipped my last order within 6 months. Kind of wished I had ordered three more, back then......
  15. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Yeah the LGS had a couple DPMSs around $800, about the same as the Core ands Bus guns had the Core I was looking at for like $675 on one and $700 on a second one.
  16. Building is obviously the best route, that way you can piece together exactly what you want. On the other hand one of the benefits to purchasing a manufactured rifle is that most of the time you get a warranty. Also, when you deal with smaller manufacturers like core15, TWSarms, or American Spirit they can build you custom rifles so that way you can get what you want.
    Finster likes this.
  17. Finster

    Finster GOA, Go team! Site Supporter

    I have built a few, and still own 3 in two calibers. You are right on in most of your ideas / assumptions. I have a couple of suggestions All are debatable but heres my expert opinion. First go to Walmart and pickup a book all about the AR, Patrick Sweeney has written over 4 books on this single subject. You are about to spend a grand or more on a new toy that you will have for the rest of your life, start by investing $30 in knowledge and save yourself $300 on your build. Be careful of the "name brand specific" parts suggestions. Many of todays gun writers make more money from sponsors and favored suppliers than they do publishing, so read through the potential bias and pick out the real important stuff.

    Don't buy the most important tool you will ever buy at Walmart! They force vendors to Cheapen almost every product on their shelves. You wont get the same quality parts in a rifle from Walmart as the same brad in Bass-Pro or Cabelas. Buy guns from local gunshops or professional dealers that offer guarantees, like lifetime repairs or 30 day exchange.
    1. Your budget is fine, but if you want a lot of accessories go with a better manufacturer than DPMS etc. I am not a huge fan of their stuff, I think they are treated like a higher tier maker and they are really tier 3. They are fine for a off the shelf AR for $675, but you mentioned wanting to "punch holes at the far end of the range". I doth know what you consider FAR but the .223/5.56 is capable out to 300+ yards with the right loads for that barrel, if you meant a 100 yards a carbine is fine, if you mean 300 go with a longer (18"+) barrel I think you will be glad you did.
    2. Piston vs. Gas, go gas. For the money it will be much better, more reliable with more types of ammo and its what Eugene Stoner intended for a reason. Few people realize that the AR is "self cleaning" which does not mean you don't need to clean it. If for example you get dirt or sand or grit into your action/trigger group the "excess gas" vented into the breach area BLOWs dirt/dust/sand out of the action keeping you "in the fight" until you can field strip and clean your machine. A piston gun, like an AK will "run" with less maintenance and tolerate a hell of a lot of dirt dumped into the action, but wont get better with each shot, the gas impingement AR will tolerate a little less (still a hell of a lot) crap being dumped into the open action and will either get better as you go or not work at all. I prefer the gas systems for a SHFT gun simply because all the parts are interchangeable. If you bend the piston rod on a LRWC you need a new rod from the same length LRWC, or you are holding the fanciest club in the world.
    3. Many makers make GREAT less expensive gas rifles, in multiple lengths and variable features. Look at some of the others like Stag Arms (complete LH rifles available) PSA (Palmetto State Armory) and Spike Tactical. AXTS makes GREAT stuff, the only fully Ambi Lower I am aware of. These 4 IMO make some of the best components and finished rifles available, the fact they are currently underrated saves you money. 'BAD' also makes a receiver that is reasonably priced, has Ambi features and is top of the line. Stag makes great rifles, One I built from all Stag components and one I bought off the shelf. Both are capable of same-hole accuracy at 100yrds, I used one (the one I built) to tie for 4th place in a regional match at 200 yards with iron sights.
    4. BUILD YOUR OWN !, If I can only keep one, it will be one I built, franken-style o_O . Its the lightest, handiest and least expensive one I own. IT also is exactly what I wanted as I had some experience with shooting other ARs and what accessories I did and more importantly didn't need. Brownells has a great series on building your own AR and a few sites have "dream-it, build-it" type web tools to help you visualize fit and finish. I don't really like a lot of accessories, and they must be slim, light and QD or they aren't going on my carbine.
    5. If you build your own, and need some help or have questions I will be glad to assist. You will need a set of punches, an "ar combination tool" to tighten the barrel spanner nut and flash suppressor, and an "AR Vise" which are plastic vise jaws that protect your new upper and lower receivers while you torque certain components. Add a small hammer, screwdriver and Torque wrench (3/8") which you can rent from the home center and you are set. if you know what you are doing and get all the right components spread out on the workbench you could ASSEMBLE a custom AR in < an hour on your first attempt.
    I agree with the others' points, here are a few "must haves" for ME;
    • 1x or low power scope, too many people put too much glass on their AR.
    • Chrome Lined barrel, all the other parts-finishes are not terribly important. Nitride finishes will make the parts more durable and easier to clean but the chrome lined barrel is a must for me (Stag guarantees their barrels will "never shoot out" BTW and are great about replacing anything)
    • Free float barrel, without quad rails, add the rail sections where you need them. Lots of great brands available, I like Midwest Industries for functionality and price points. As long as its straight and fits the gas system you are planning you are good with just about any brand.
    • Trigger, there rare several that are very good, some excellent. as with most things you get what you pay for so only pay for what you WANT and or need. IF you want a two stage trigger, make sure that is the primary feature of the one you buy, if you are more interested in shooting rapid fire and defensive situations an adjustable single stage with a "glass break" is what you want, IMO that is the better way to go for most rifles and is appropriate for proper use with less practice.
    • Furniture, many are "good enough" but make sure you are not getting the airsoft version of anything. Fit and finish is excellent with Magpul or USpalm and about 4000 others. Get the color & style you like, or start out with "standard" A1 grip and adjustable stock and you can upgrade when you see where you are at with the important bits. For me I like FDE or Ranger Green with a black rifle, breaks up the outline a little. This is un-important and easily changed at any time.
    • Bolt $ Bolt Carrier Group, other than a top quality unit with a Ni or Hard-Chrome finish there are not a lot of good reasons to go big $ here. Don't cheap out either be aware there are lots of over hyped versions that will do absolutely nothing important for the general shooter. [gun] Now if you're planning to do 10,000 rounds a year, or use this in a specific competition or anything other than tossing brass at the range and have the right tool ready when the SHTF then you may want to do more research.
    • Magazines, the most important item and most common issue with all autoloaders is the magazine(s). Look around, get quality and don't try saving 3$ and buy them in bulk at the gun show. Buy your mags where you know you can return any mal-acting units. I have never had a problem with AR mags, probably because I never purchased china-made knockoffs. I buy 99% of my mags (yes I have >100) online at one of 4 vendors. These are some of the top names in gunsmithing and supply for serious shooters. I will buy them on sale, but only at these suppliers who have a no-BS return policy. Natchezs, Brownells, MidwayUSA, Cabelas and sometimes CTD. ( Although I have stopped using CTD because they advertise tons of cheap ammo and never have any stock and they led the pack in raising prices during the boom last year and have been slow returning prices to normal). IF you want 10 magazines, buy 1 or 2 / month... Also some second hand USGI magazines are great but only if they are in good condition and relatively cheap. I use 4-5 magazines in my range trips, but normally only my older USGI mags, they are old and ugly but never jam (green follower) and are the cheapest ones in my stock. I paid $3 each in a mil-surplus store after the old assault weapons ban expired.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2014
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