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  1. 100% support for this. Build a couple, it’s a terrific education about how the rifle goes together and how it works. Buy spare parts and gunsmith tools AND LEARN THEM. A couple extra stripped lower and upper receivers as spares is nice, but begin with everything else – complete BCGs plus MULTIPLES of all the little parts to make them up. I like – and use – Geissele triggers but buy the PSA complete lower kits and save all the trigger parts after polishing (no metal removal, just hand polishing, so put the Dremel away) the mating surfaces. BUIS sights – use whatever name brand you like, get extras when they’re on sale. Even if they won’t fit in the proper place with a scope mounted, put them on the rail ahead of the scope, folded down so they’re always with the rifle (Pro Tip: remove scope, mount BUIS, zero BUIS, move to front of rail folded down, re-mount scope, re-zero scope. Ain’t perfect, but in a scope-fail crisis you stand a chance of being “close enough” at <100 yards). Scopes – buy (quality) extras when on sale, and quality does cost money; remember that when SHTF things like scopes will be completely unavailable. Mount scopes with QD rings, or at least have the tool to remove the scope mount attached to the rifle. Pro Tip: a good combination (if you're willing to train enough with it to become proficient in using it) is a quality adjustable scope (1-4X, 1-6X, 2-7X, whatever) with a 45 degree RH offset pistol red dot mounted behind the scope (see: Weaver offset mount on Amazon, it's scalloped for scope clearance, and, yes, Southpaws are at a disadvantage here). The RDS is zeroed at 50 yards, the scope at 200 meters. Learn what "point blank range" actually means, then determine it for your rifle/ammunition configuration. The only correct answer to "how many magazines do you need?" is "MORE."

    Pro Tip RE: parts. Springs and detents. However many you think you need, buy 3-6X that. A weak link in ARs is the extractor, they break plus it's a regularly scheduled maintenance item, have lots of extractors, pins, springs and o-rings and get good at replacing them (spare barrels, too – figure 10K rounds per). Ditto for the ejector. Pro Tip: a screw-top pill bottle is a handy way to carry a complete "AR small parts set" in your pack (use your favorite method for eliminating rattles, and if you pack it small enough, 2 kits isn't excessive). Don't depend on Larry to carry extractors and Fred to carry springs, etc. Have your own stuff.

    Never stop learning your rifle. Know POI from muzzle to 25% beyond point blank range, means learning hold-over. Practice clearing Type I, II and III jams with dummy ammo. Practice field replacement of key parts – BCGs, bolts, firing pins, cam pin, etc. Pro Tip: a 40" triangular bandage (Amazon sells 12-packs, they come tightly wrapped in plastic ) is useful as a sling, wrap to hold a pressure bandage in place, AND as a drop cloth to contain the rifle parts during "field fixes." Carry two of them.

    Anything you use for a build – ALL parts, even gas tubes, slings, muzzle brake/flash hiders, EVERYTHING, – you need spares AND a way to organize them so you can find them. Amazon, Home Depot, Harbor Freight, Milwaukee, etc. sell multi-bin clear-top parts organizers, get several, and label what's in each bin. That way you know what you have and how many of them AND CAN FIND THE PARTS WHEN YOU NEED THEM. Get tools and ways to use them; a workbench, machinist's
    vise and magwell block is great, but you can come close with 2 C-clamps and a truck bumper. Pro Tip: bolt a (decent but not fancy) 4" vise to a 15" square of 3/4" plywood, use C-Clamps or "Rapid Clamps" to hold it to something. Pre-drill a few 5/16" and 3/16" holes in the plywood so you'll be able to lag bolt, wood-screw or nail it to a surface if that surface is available (plan the hole positions……). Add'l Pro Tip: If you're a Southpaw, do not buy left handed anything, especially rifles, stick with RH only; LH parts are hard to find now, when SHTF LH parts will be non-existent, and "battlefield pickups" will be only RH. Learn them now.

    Train then practice what you've trained, then train to the next level, practice that. Climb the skills ladder. Sooper-Dooper Trick Rifles And Lotsa Kool Gizmos are Neat-O but it's skills that will keep that crack in your butt from suddenly getting wider and longer.

      1. Parts, etc. – stripped lower – this is the “FFL-required” part unless you F2F a no-paper or used one (meaning it’s new, or used, but you aren’t the original buyer who had to fill out the 4473) for cash. Everything else is internet-available. Palmetto State Armory (PSA) does daily sales-right now $279 gets everything BUT the stripped lower and a rear sight, and comes with free shipping to your porch. $399 gets your choice of a 16″ in 5.56 or 18″ barrel in 223 Wylde with everything BUT the stripped lower. PSA has complete upper assemblies at different prices. It all depends on how much work you want to do, and ultimately, how much you want to learn in the process. PSA – as well as others – sells stripped lowers. Create a “junk” email account (gmail, yahoo, etc.) and get on the email lists for PSA, AIM Surplus, Brownells, Midway, Ammoland, Giessele, etc. for the sales announcements. Brownells and Midway both have very good Youtubes on different aspects of assembly and maintenance.

        Pro Tip: wear your safety glasses when assembling anything with a spring. RE: spring stuff: tape over the tub drain, close the shower curtain and assemble inside the shower, it’ll help contain “flying springs.” For field work, a couple 2.5 gallon clear ziplock bags held closed with bulldog clamps to allow just enough hand access allows you to see what you’re doing and helps to contain parts. I know a couple gunsmiths who re-purposed 20-30 gallon aquariums for the same thing, but they’re not portable.

        Tools: a few straight punches, 10-12 oz plastic tipped hammer, long nose pliers, a 6″ hemostat is handy (Amazon has ’em, get several, they’re great for LOTS of things beside gunsmithing), an AR-15 armorer’s wrench – about $50 everywhere, frequently on sale at Brownells or Midway for ~ $30. Get a name brand wrench in steel. Amazon has several books on AR-15 assembly & maintenance, figure ~ $15-25. RE: punches – 1/8″, 1/16″ and 3/32″ straight punches are the most commonly needed, you can get by with just 1/8″ for a while but you’ll need 1/16″ for the pins in bolts, etc. . A set of roll pin starter punches is very handy, but you can work around with needle nose and the plastic tipped hammer. A small cold chisel – ~ 1/4″ wide – is handy for staking (worst case, buy a 1/2″ or 3/4″ chisel and carefully grind it down; don’t overheat it with the grinding). Get a plastic mag block to hold the lower receiver in a vise (which means having a vise and having it securely attached to something, and a vise with a 6″ opening is way better than a 4″). If you’re building an upper from scratch – starting with a stripped upper – you’ll need something to hold it (although I know of one person who built an AR from a box of parts on a folding TV table), Wheeler Engineering’s upper receiver vise clamp block is handy, ~ $25-30. You can spend a bunch on gunsmithing tools all of which will make assembly & maintenance easier and more precise, but remember Eugene Stoner designed AR-15’s 60 years ago to be field-fixable by high school dropout draftees. One caveat – when buying tools, for anything – screwdrivers and pliers to table saws – buy the absolute best you can find. Buy quality, buy once. About the only thing I’ll go into temporary debt for is high quality tools. “Group ownership” of expensive tools is a great fantasy idea, but never works. Fred has the tool you need, but he can’t find it, or Larry has it and broke it/lost it/loaned it to…some guy at work, George has it but he’s on vacation untl the 24th. Buy your own and NEVER lend tools out; it’s not being selfish, it’s being “basic” smart and “prep” smart. You wouldn’t loan out your wife, don’t loan out your tools, for exactly the same reason.

        The other choice is PSA’s Daily Deals for a complete rifle, few days ago PSA had a ready-to-go 16″ AR for $469, and IIRC, with free shipping to the FFL of your choice. If you are “AR less” this is a decent way to start.

        Pro tips: direct gas impingement is cheaper (and lighter) than gas piston; in direct gas, rifle length systems work better and more reliably than shorter systems and cycle the rifle more gently than shorter systems (choices are: rifle length, carbine, mid-length, pistol). 2nd choice would be mid-length; whatever you get, a couple sapre gas tubes is a good idea (get a couple tubes in ALL lengths, they’re not expensive); You can build your own BCG (Bolt Carrier Group) but that means being sure of the quality of the gas block bolts AND properly staking them. Good to learn, but now that I know how I always buy brand name BCs with the gas block installed and staked. Brand name complete BCGs are good, too. Have on hand a couple completely assembled bolts, they can be changed in 30-45 seconds with practice when an extractor or ejector breaks. You can buy them completely assembled or assemble your own. Assemble a couple so you know how, then buy the complete assemblies. Parts is parts, but knowledge is forever. BTW, as you accumulate knowledge, share it with your kids and spouse. Better yet, get them involved and help them learn it with you.

        Pro Tip: Keep a notebook, enter accurate and complete notes on what you did, with what, how, and when. Life is busy, 10 months from now you won’t remember that torque value, or that screw size, but your notebook will.

  2. LaRue Tactical in Texas makes a really nice AR15 “kit” that run about $1000 with their stripped lower. The stripped lower can be up to a 3 month wait. They are very nice and well made, top quality materials and machining. Short of that, you might want to try one of their triggers at $87. Really smooth. And I have really come to like their barrels for accuracy. With their barrel, you’d need also to get one of their gas blocks (held in place with 3 set screws on the bottom). There may be alternative to the LaRue brand gas block out there.
    They also make a similar setup for the large frame AR in 7.62 x 51, 6.5 Creedmoor, others. I am not an employeee, but they make some nice tools for the tool box.

      1. Respectfully, I would disagree on both statements. The average budget AR (the most sold) are going to be either 1/9 or 1/8 twist rate.

        While a 55gr M193 type bullet will fire from a 1/7 and 1/8 barrel, they and other, lighter bullets work better from a 1/9 twist barrel. The fast 1/7 twist rate barrels are optimized in the heavier bullet weights, say 65gr and up.

        The old M16A2s used 1/8 twist rate barrels with 62gr M855 ammunition as a way point.

        1. The 1/7 twist was invented to stabilize the M-856 tracer round. It is the length that matters not the weight necessarily. There was an article in the American Rifleman when this twist was standardized that tested the accuracy of the various twists with various bullet weights. The results weren’t even close – the 1/7 twist absolutely destroyed accuracy. Especially with the 55 grain bullet.

          The AR is an inherently accurate system. 1 MOA is not at all difficult to achieve. If I recall correctly, 4 MOA was the best that could be achieved with 55 grainers in a 7″ twist. 5 MOA was the norm. Your mileage may vary of course but again, this was the NRA technical staff arriving at these conclusions which were illustrated in the American Rifleman. It was a very thorough trial.

          Unless you have an overwhelming requirement to shoot the heavy tracer bullets (which, remember, work both ways), there is absolutely
          no reason to buy a 1/7 twist barrel. It is proven inferior when it comes to hitting what you are aiming at and faster twist means reduced barrel life all else equal.

          When I could see better in my younger years, I shot the National Match course. I wasn’t a High Master shooter but I never saw anyone who was shooting this twist. Just sayin’.

  3. I bought a couple PA10 (.308) PSA lowers but they don’t have their proprietary PA10 lower build kits available. Does anyone else make a compatible lower kit?

  4. Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with the author and JWR on this, but I myself am actually building two ARs this weekend, with another two next month as part of my backup set of guns that’s physically stored at another location…”just in case”. After all, our new Governor Newsom (Nuisance, Screwsom, et al) has recently declared that he’s now coming after our guns. It still astonishes to hear the Governor of one of our United States to boast about violating the very Constitution he swore to uphold, but here we are, folks. Never store all your guns in the same place for this very reason.

    I appreciate the lists above (both in the article and the comments) of recommended spare parts. I will certainly look into getting a small inventory set aside. I’m a Glock armorer and will be making efforts to acquire the same level of proficiency in the AR platform.

  5. Great advice. As for me, I took your advice six years ago, when Obama was going to “do something” about “gun violence.”

    I think the AR-15 should be made the “National Rifle,” in the spirit of the Bald Eagle as the national bird.

    And related: see this well-presented argument about the dire state of free speech in New Zealand following the recent tragedy there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QH_IZnKzqKA

  6. I live in the Peoples Republic of Kalifornia. Maybe 10 years or so ago, I was at a gun show. A vendor talked to me about a kit for an AR that could convert it to shoot single-shot .50 cal. Browning rounds. New purchases of .50 cal. rifles had been banned a few years earlier. I was surprised and asked him how that could be legal.

    He said that since I already owned a registered AR “assault rifle” that I could simply remove the upper receiver and use this kit. This surprised me. I asked how the lower could stand the strain from such a powerful round. He said that there was very little stress on the lower receiver with the AR design.

    Since then, I have seen a photo on Calguns.net where someone built a lower receiver that was actually BOLTED together. (I could be wrong, but I don’t recall thinking at the time it was a joke. I think that it was a way to circumvent legal issues.) I have heard that someone, as a demonstration project, fabricated a lower receiver out of wood and that it actually worked (at least for a while). I do not know whether this story amounts to an “urban legend.”

    Since then, I have talked to several people about the issue. The consensus seems to be that the lower receiver is, for all intents and purposes, simply a mechanism that holds parts together in the right place.

    If this information is bogus, I would like to know. If it isn’t, then all of the talk about quality receivers (at least within limits) is off the mark, and the maker’s stamp on the side of the lower receiver is simply a status issue for bragging rights. (I am reminded of a comment someone made in the 1990s that what you were buying with a Land Rover was a Ford Explorer with $20,000.00 taped on the hood.)


  7. I’d like to hear this communities reaction to the hypothetical that the government pulls a bump-stock on all ARs? No compensation, destroy or turn in, otherwise you are a criminal.

      1. Hey guys, I’m looking with for the above mentioned article: The threat of up coming legislation. A little help please. This I NEED to read. Thanx.

  8. Right on Survivormann99, I think will all need to guard against letting a ‘brand name’ take us way off base. I do agree, there a situations, where the quality of the ‘brand name’ warrants the difference in price, but, do your homework! That’s what I’m doing right now, haven’t got any input on your question but I’m definitely looking forward to the replies. LEARN,LEARN,LEARN!!!!!

  9. I agree with this a hundred percent. My interest is in 80% lowers to remain under the radar. Is there some that are better than others and the tools required?

    1. Highly recommend using billet lowers instead of forged for durability and longevity. The 5DTactical Jig is excellent and easy to understand and use. 6061 grade billet (such as those sold by 80% Arms) are a little easier to mill (and thus extend the life of end mills) than 7075. There’s a big jump in strength and reliability from forged to 6061, but negligible from 6061 to 7075.

      Everyone has their two cents’ worth on this topic, but that’s my preference.

      1. My issue is not whether billet lowers are stronger. My issue is whether any data or evidence support a contention that there is an actual difference in the performance of billet lowers vs. forged lowers.

        Many products can be overengineered without any benefit to the user. Is that the case here? Where’s the evidence for either side?

        1. The lower only acts as a locator for the trigger parts group,attaches the shoulder stock,buffer and spring and locates the magazine. As this it takes very little stress and lowers are now available in reinforced polymer(light weight and completely impervous to rust) with proven reliability. Yes a lot is ego driven.

        2. As I said, everyone has their opinion and you are certainly free to do as you wish, with kudos from many who own ARs with whichever type of lower you end up using. This is kinda like the pistol caliber debate, where everyone has a preference.

          That being said, I know of polymer AR lowers that have failed, so I will never use them myself, even if some people choose to and have success. I also know people who have multiple ARs with a variety of lowers (some forged and some billet), and they informed me that forged is acceptable, but they prefer their billets and recommend them.

          Again, this is all personal opinion subject matter, so everyone should feel free to do as they wish, but I stick with billet. I’ve worked with both forged and billet materials in my company machine shop for many years, and I go with what I know.

      2. Thanks BB for the link. That’s a very clear comparison. I’m in aerospace and we use a lot of aluminum and each alloy has it’s own advantages/disadvantages. Here though I agree that the answer really is no difference as you stated. I would add that if someone wants to get even deeper into the weeds then 6061 is weldable and 7075 isn’t. Someone out there may have heard that 7075-T6 cracks and while that’s true it’s caused by a condition called Stress Corrosion cracking. For that to happen it’s just what it says, you need stress and a corrosive environment like sea water. AR’s generally aren’t going to experience that combination. So for the guy that might worry about his lower cracking and he wants to repair it he should go with 6061. For me I’m just going to stack them deep and swap them out like magazines as needed.

        1. Agree that for this application either variation will provide required level of service. I was in pipeline industry and saw many instances of corrosion, cracking, etc. Would only consider trying to repair as an absolute last resort.
          Two points;
          1. As Mike16 concludes, just have spares if you think it is an issue, but
          2. There is a reason all the discussion around spare parts concentrates on springs, pins, extractors, firing pins, bcg, etc. THAT IS WHAT YEARS OF EXPERIENCE TELLS YOU CAN/WILL BREAK OR WEAR OUT! Not the lower, at least not due to normal use (I.e. Don’t throw it out of a moving vehicle, etc.)

  10. I will not give a firearm to any “grasshoppers” who have no range time and who have worked consistently over the years supporting legislation to disarm the civilian population as they lived their frivolous lives shucking their duty to preserve the freedom that we all enjoy. Not only would they not be effective riflemen, their incompetence could be a danger to the rest of us. They will be lucky if I take them in at all. If I do, I’ll give them binoculars and a handheld radio. They can monitor the perimeter and do household tasks.

    Other than that, I think the author has some sage advice. In Connecticut, we have been stripped of our right to even own ARs, much less build them. Our tools will be the M1 Garand and the M1A, because those rifles don’t have pistol grips and thus do not scare our legislature and the rest of the uninformed.

  11. I have a FFL. I order complete AR kits for $285.00 from PSA almost weekly. Antone should be able to get a basic AR kit from them (minus rear site) for around $300.00.

  12. It seems one must have deep pockets to have a “deep” supply of the AR’s.
    And even more deep pockets for places to store the extras.

    But really what is the plan to keep them if or when they are declared illegal?
    The police have awesome powers of surveillance to track your every move, bank transactions including taking out cash. It would not be hard for them to know everyplace you own property including every relative and friend going back decades.

    So why build such a stockpile with tens of thousands spent to simply have the authorities come and take them or just put you in jail?

    If the Deep State can use its power to make up a bogus story about a sitting President and do it for over 2 years destroying people’s lives, what can a everyday citizen do with zero political or financial power?

    1. “It seems one must have deep pockets to have a “deep” supply of the AR’s.
      And even more deep pockets for places to store the extras.

      But really what is the plan to keep them if or when they are declared illegal?
      The police have awesome powers of surveillance to track your every move, bank transactions including taking out cash. It would not be hard for them to know everyplace you own property including every relative and friend going back decades.

      So why build such a stockpile with tens of thousands spent to simply have the authorities come and take them or just put you in jail?

      If the Deep State can use its power to make up a bogus story about a sitting President and do it for over 2 years destroying people’s lives, what can a everyday citizen do with zero political or financial power?”

      Response: Well let’s just all roll over and give up. Forget about concepts like liberty and freedom of worship. Let’s also forget about all the people who have sacrificed for us, many with their lives. Please wake up friend. In the alternative, there is always a place for you in places like Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, and the Northeast.

      1. Jef,plenty of folks in the north east you would be happy to meet,mostly upper parts of New England with more held by jobs/families behind enemy lines in say Ct./Mass. ect.Keep in mind in Vt./Me./N.H. we have no need for permission slips to own/carry firearms as the 2nd which reaffirmed a birth right to self defense recognized at least for the moment,must be vigilant.

        To those that can afford to build for others I hope you have the time to introduce said family members/friends to their use and maintenance.I realize may be someone elses job for future grandkids ect. you are not around,have fun builders.

  13. This article is great. i have been interested in building an AR rifle for quite a while. I have read many articles about how to do it, most leave out the parts list the article has. That I would consider buying the parts but would never do it. I just imagined my luck of buying the parts and they end up being the wrong parts.

    I ended up buying what at the time was determined to be a quality AK rifle.
    (CIA C39 V1)
    Time ended up showing it to not be as good as billed upon release so i guess I am stuck with it.

    1. Travis,
      I don’t know what you have for an AK, but there’s always someone waiting to buy it. Clean it up, gather all spare mags you have for it, and put it up for sale at the pawn shop. They’ll take a cut. You will be free of the gun and can start fresh on a AR build.

  14. Great article. Thank you. Hopefully some people will follow this information. I would like to offer a few suggestions. Watch several videos on building lowers and uppers before you attempt to do this. Invest in a good set of AR punches for roll pins. Midway and Brownells are a source. I got mine from MidwayUSA since got a free shipping deal. Larry Potterfield has some good videos on AR assembly as well as Brownells.
    When assembling the lower, there are several small springs that I lubricate generously with either wheel bearing grease (Walmart) or Break Free CO (Midway or Brownells). AR triggers can be a little stiff (6 to 8 lbs). CMC makes an excellent drop in trigger in several configurations that breaks at 3.5 lbs( $129 on daily deal from PSA). M*CARBO has a trigger spring that improves AR trigger pull to 4-5 lbs for less than $15 each. Subscribe to PSA’s email and you will get daily notices of their deals to get the most bang for your bucks.

    All the best.

  15. Jefmil
    As to your suggestion;
    Response: Well let’s just all roll over and give up. Forget about concepts like liberty and freedom of worship. Let’s also forget about all the people who have sacrificed for us, many with their lives. Please wake up friend. In the alternative, there is always a place for you in places like Colorado,
    California, Oregon, Washington, and the Northeast”

    Where in my comment did I State give up? I didn’t.
    I stated why spend money on so many guns? Not a difficult concept since a layered strategy is better tactic.
    As to giving up liberty, you have no clue who you are taking too.
    Let’s just say I have excellent liberty and freedom and that’s never going to change.

  16. I hate the AR-15 and the 5.56. I don’t own, and don’t want anything that has a bore diameter smaller than .30. A barrel shorter than 24 inches and a muzzle velocity under 2700 FPS with a 150 grain bullet. If it won’t kill with the first shot, it is a detriment , not an asset. The AR-15/M-16A1 is a weapon I learned not to trust as a young 11B. I have seen nothing in the last 40 years to change that. It is not a weapon I would play “you bet your life” with. I would honestly carry a 1903 Springfield or an M-1 Garand to war before I would any version of Stoners Folly. IMO M. Kalashnikov made the only “Assault weapon” worth the effort to carry. It is also the only carbine class weapon I own.

  17. I have a question about the parts list. The uppers come with a BCG, but then there’s a link (broken) to another BCG. Is the recommendation to take out the one that comes with upper and use the nitrided BCG?

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