So, months ago, I talked of building an AR myself, rather than buying one, in order to save money, while getting exactly what I wanted. While this didn’t work out exactly how I expected, it did work out. First off, I saved roughly zero dollars. All told, I’m $850 into my rifle. I could have purchased a fully assembled rifle for the same price off the shelf. What I couldn’t have purchased, however, is the exact rifle, to the exact specs, that I wanted, off the shelf.
I built my rifle in large part to match the one I carried as a Marine. I opted for the 20″ heavy barrel, with a forged upper receiver and an M-16 bolt carrier group. It is a flat top model, with a removable front sight. I didn’t go for a hand guard with rails on it… yet. Instead, I opted for the A2 style hand guards, which I find to be more comfortable in my smaller than average hands. I chose the standard M-16 style pistol grip and buttstock as well, because I know them both by feel, and knew that this would give me a rifle that would be familiar to me. I put standard iron sights front and rear, with a carry handle style rear iron sight setup, because I trust irons not to lose their zero regardless of rough treatment. The beauty of the AR-15 is that all of the things I opted for can be changed as I spend more time with the rifle and decide what I do and do not like. There are already things I’d like to add or change.
As for putting the rifle together myself, I would do it again in a heartbeat. As a caveat, I didn’t assemble the upper receiver-barrel. I ended up purchasing from www.jsesurplus.com as I found good reviews of their products and services. My upper assembly was built by Wilson Combat and test fired prior to shipping, which gave me some reassurance, as there are some areas that you can screw up that can be potentially harmful to your person (read: things blow up in your face). That said, my upper assembly came complete, with bolt carrier group and all. To that, I added the lower receiver, which I had to fill with trigger assembly parts, and a buttstock and pistol grip.
None of the steps in the process were difficult, and it required only basic hand tools. I did have to do a little sanding in order to get the upper and lower receiver to mate properly, as they came from different manufacturers. I made one mistake that involved a little bit of drilling, but this could have been avoided had I read through the steps in the process before starting.
If you are going to do this yourself, here are my pointers, based on experience:
1) Do research before buying parts, to be sure that you get quality products.
2) Buy what you want, within your budget, but remember that you can always change it later.
3) Build a rifle chambered in 5.56 mm, not .223, because the former can handle the latter, but the latter will not handle the former.
4) Read through the steps you are going to follow to put it together, BEFORE you put it together. There are youtube videos as well, but again, watch the video all the way through before you start.
5) Buy ammo. Then buy more.