Should I purchase or construct an AR-15? If you visit any AR-related internet forums or Facebook groups, you will inevitably run into people who are debating whether to purchase a ready-made firearm or construct one themselves. This debate has been going on for years because of the abundance of parts and the simplicity of using the AR platform.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of building a rifle as opposed to purchasing one from a manufacturer? If you put one together yourself, can you save money? This first part of a two-part post should hopefully help dispel some misinformation and emphasize the solutions that many people are seeking.
We’ll start by examining purchasing an AR-15 from a producer or a store in order to decide if you should build one or buy one. When purchasing directly, all assembly, parts, troubleshooting, and other tasks should be completed before the handgun is sent to you. A pre-built gun will be guaranteed by a manufacturer’s warranty and constructed in accordance with industry standards before you even touch it.
The main advantages of purchasing something that has already been put together will vary depending on the brand you choose, and will include these warranties, quality control procedures, and overall gun quality. Finally, this will provide you with a product that is ready to use right out of the box and will only need a small financial commitment.
So what are the drawbacks? The sector is currently seeing its highest level of demand in quite some time, thus there may not be enough supply. Additionally, quality control has suffered universally as a result of trying to keep up with the demand (though any company worth supporting will still handle any issues without hesitation). Unless you want to spend additional money on parts and change them out on your own or have someone else change them for you, purchasing something also ties you into the configuration that the manufacturer picked.
Depending on the business you choose to purchase from, there is one more significant possible negative.
Companies that have staff who are well-trained, adhere to strict quality control procedures, and care about the items they produce will produce goods that are of high quality.
There are businesses that make an effort to concentrate on producing high-quality firearms that are constructed in accordance with the necessary requirements and put through rigorous quality control procedures in order to work with a high degree of dependability. Bravo Company, Sons of Liberty Gunworks, Sionics, and much larger firms like Knight’s Armament, and FN are excellent examples of companies that adhere to this philosophy. All of the individuals mentioned will take the necessary steps to port barrels correctly, use parts made of the appropriate materials, concentrate on individual inspection of items rather than batch testing, and more.
Due to the amount of attention and consideration given to them at each stage of the production and assembly process, these firms have components and firearms that, in comparison to some of the competition, are frequently as different as night and day. With the exception of Knight’s Armament, who employ a different class of threading, the staking (or lack thereof) on a factory gun’s castle nut is a pretty great indicator of the amount of quality and care put into the product.
It is possible to go on an entire voyage while building your own gun. Building enables you to entirely customize the pistol to meet your needs. Given that you choose every component, it is the choice with the most personalization potential. If you keep an eye out for sales, part selection may occasionally cost you less than it would for a factory-made firearm. Consumers who are able to resist the temptation for instant pleasure can find some incredible discounts online. It is also possible to grasp the platform and how it works by putting it together yourself, but this has its own set of challenges.
You need to be completely honest with yourself when deciding whether to build or purchase an AR-15. How much money are you willing to put into making your weapon? Given that I just stated that customers can save money on parts, that may seem contradictory. The investment entails not just a monetary outlay but also the time commitment required for assembly, troubleshooting, and other tasks.
Do you have the tools and knowledge necessary to correct your bolt-carrier group’s improper staking? Do you know what to check for when determining whether the barrel’s threads have been correctly finished? Can you tell if the machining was done correctly by looking at a lower?
Beyond purchasing parts, you will need to make a financial investment in tools. There is a minimum expenditure you’ll be required to make, despite the fact that I’ve published a list multiple times and that I’m aware Chad from School of the American Rifle has one organized into tiers. This presupposes that you intend to assemble your firearm in accordance with accepted standards for the industry.
To do this, you will need to set up at least $500 on tools alone (this could be slightly less if you find sales or buy things second hand). To put the gun together, it takes more than just grabbing a cheap armorers wrench and a hammer and holding them between your knees. The typical gun owner is not even aware of all the instruments that are required to avoid taking short cuts. It goes without saying that the more guns you build over time, the less burdensome this expense becomes, but does it make sense to acquire everything up front and end up paying more?
To begin with, there is a basic minimum set of instruments that you must purchase in order to complete tasks correctly. To hold the parts you are working on, you need a vice in the first place. You also need a clamshell block, a mag well block, and some form of response rod. Without this, you cannot apply the necessary torque to a part (and a torque wrench, so add that to the list as well). I’ve seen accounts of individuals trying to attach objects to different surfaces or hold them between their legs, but it simply begs for issues down the road when the specs are incorrect.
You will require a castle nut, barrel nut, and muzzle device specific wrench or an AR armorer’s wrench that can handle all three. For varied installations, a decent set of roll-pin starting punches and roll-pin punches will be required, and a set of center punches will either be necessary or very helpful depending on the parts you choose (some companies like Aero have started using hex head screws in place of some pins). There are other additional tools you will require, so this is not a comprehensive list; rather, it is a sampling to help you understand what is required so you don’t balloon out a roll pin or shear off the ear of a barrel nut.
What happens if you purchase your components and all the necessary tools but lack the skills to complete the task? Well, many will advise you to pick up tips as you go. That’s great, but how do you get your information? What movies are reliable in a world where information is sold and bought? What happens if you put everything together but it doesn’t work? How do you solve the problem? How do you handle the situation where you choose a number of pieces but were unaware of the tolerance stacking issue?
Please realize that my goal is not to convince you to take the initiative. Few things can compare to the satisfaction of making your own AR-15. You can gain a thorough grasp of the platform, how the components go together, and how the entire system functions by building your own AR. You will be able to work on your AR more effectively in the future for cleaning, replacing parts, and troubleshooting some faults if you put it together yourself. However, I do want you to know that unlike what many people say, these guns are not Legos.
You do suffer some other repercussions, there is a level of education and awareness required, and you will need to invest in tools. Many businesses will void parts warranties if they are installed incorrectly (this will vary wildly depending on the company). Are you prepared to postpone a project while you wait for that specific part you want to come back in stock since some parts are more in demand than others? Do you have backups ready in case you damage or lose a part during assembly? The responses to those inquiries explain why some people decide to spend money on an assembly service from a reputable armorer or business.