The AR-15 is a lightweight, gas-operated semi-automatic rifle and is also one of the most popular guns in the US. The reason the AR-15 rifle is one the most unassailable rifles among many gun lovers is its accuracy, flexibility and most of its superior modularity.
One can configure the AR-15 in various ways to suit your specific requirements. This includes hunting, for competition purposes, or to use for your own self-defense needs. And did you know that you can build an AR-15 from the scratch from the confines of your garage? A DIYer can do it all according to the exact way they want if they follow the instructions. So let us jump right into this beginner’s guide on how to build an AR-15 in your home.
Important Points to Remember
But before you start building your own AR-15, please remember these important points:
It is always important to consider all safety aspects before you work on anything. So make sure to wear safety glasses when you work on building the rifle, as you will be dealing with a lot of pins, springs, and other small things that can fly around anywhere.
Ensure to wear safety gear to protect your clothing from any oil or grease etc, and so you don’t come back here complaining at me.
Proper Work Environment:
The environment where you work should also be well-lit with a clear visibility. It is always good to build your rifle in your garage so you can have easy access to all the tools you may require.
A gun cleaning and maintenance mat would be a good option to place all the parts you require and to ensure it doesn’t get lost. The cleaning mat also ensures all the parts from getting damaged too.
Clean Floor Area:
The floor area you are going to work in needs to be clean so that any small springs that propel around can be found easily. The last thing you need is to abandon your gun building process because having lost a small $1 pin or a spring. (Not like I know this from personal experience… or anything.)
Ensure that you have access to all the right tools before starting the building process. It is important that you use the right equipment or you may find yourself damaging some costly parts required to build the rifle. Then, it’s all garbage.
Why Build an AR-15 at Your Home?
So the prime question: Why should I waste my time in my garage, run through all those articles and research to build an AR-15 when it is readily available on the market? You may be right, these rifles are available at many stores, but when you build your own AR-15 there are several things you may find advantageous detailed below:
One of the main reasons why many start building their own AR-15 at home is to save a few hundred bucks. If you do a good research and identify the purpose and gather all the details about the right parts, you may need to build your gun, then obviously you can build an AR-15 anywhere between $500-$600, whereas buying one from a store may cost you around $800 and more.
If you simply want a basic AR-15, then it is better if you spend half a day on a weekend to build your own AR-15. And save a few bucks that you can invest toward doing other fun things. Or buying extra ammo for it.
When you build your own AR-15, it is up to you to choose the less expensive parts to fit your budget. So try searching for stores that have parts that are cheap but serve the purpose. You can even find a complete rifle building kit that contains all the necessary parts that you may require building an AR-15. The only thing those kits don’t contain is the lower receiver, which can be found easily from $50-$90. Use your search engine magic to find them relatively easily.
But these costs don’t include the tools you may require. But if you have access to the tools already (Why don’t you? Buy them anyway), then it is well and good. Otherwise, you may need to invest in the tools for the first time. But it is really a good investment, as it may come handy when you repair or modify your AR-15 rifle in the future.
Build a Rifle the Way You Want
Another main reason many opt to assemble their own AR is that they can build it the way they want. You can customize whatever you may want your AR-15 to be and use expensive parts for the important functions and use less expensive parts in other areas to compensate for cost.
When you buy an AR-15 from a store, every one of them will have the same look and style, but when you assemble at your home, you can provide a unique style and look to your own AR-15. Plus, you’ll know how to work with it better than anyone else.
A Great Hobby
Assembling your own AR-15 could also turn out to be an exciting and enjoyable hobby that could keep you occupied for hours. You would be really pleased with a sense of some achievement at the final piece in your hands after hours of hard work.
Maybe you’ll go crazy like me and start wanting to learn everything about every gun. Or maybe you’ll do this once and say “never again”. Either way, it’s a life experience and if you’ve read this far into this article, I say go for it.
Identify Your Requirements
Before going into a shop to purchase parts for your AR-15 rifle, you need to identify the purpose for which you are building the rifle. An AR-15 can be used for different purposes and it should be customized in a certain way for each purpose.
Say, for example, if you are building an AR-15 for competition—then it should be built with longer barrels and special trigger groups to achieve greater accuracy.
For hunting needs, ARs need to be designed to house large calibers.
Self-defense rifles need to be lightweight, compact, and need to have options to attach laser sights and all that cool stuff.
So before going into anything, the first thing you need to decide is for what your AR would be used for. As this decision will have a major impact on the outcome of the product as you need to assemble the AR-15 with the correct components required for the correct purpose.
Do Some Research
Before you start building your own AR-15, it is important you gain some basic knowledge about the AR-15 and the parts required to build one.
If you started with technical articles online, you could probably sense you were in some unfamiliar territory for the first few minutes when you come across phrases like Barrel Nut Alignment Gauge, Buffer Retainer, or Staking the Castle Nut.
Don’t freak out, it’s just some of the names of the parts, tools and some assembling steps. The directions aren’t difficult.
So do you research in browsing through articles about the parts you may require. Look for stores where you can get some less expensive parts. And specifically try to target the videos on how to assemble these parts.
I have to plug Brownells here. If you want a video to help you assemble an AR-15, then look no further than this video from Brownells on AR-15 Build Up. These videos are a must-see for anyone who is building an AR-15 for the first time.
Brownell’s video clearly demonstrates a step-by-step process of assembling the parts, the tools you need, the parts you need, and the various configuration options of the AR-15.
The Brownells Assembling an AR-15 Checklist is a good checklist to have in your hands to make sure that you have all the parts required for building an AR-15 and to also track each and every component. Another great resource that might come in handy is “The Competitive AR-15 Builder’s Guide” by Glen D.Zediker. It is a great book that comes with over 750 photos and illustrations that provide you dang near every detail to build your own AR-15.
Building Your AR-15
So now you have identified the purpose for which you are building your own AR-15, went through all the research videos and guides, and have a clear idea of how to assemble an AR-15.
When it comes to building an AR-15, there are many ways you can assemble one, as you start building from scratch by assembling all the parts or by including some preassembled parts. Or simply you can purchase the preassembled upper and lower to make your own AR-15.
So it is up to you to decide the best way to build your AR-15. But as far as my personal recommendation, it is simple to attach a preassembled upper and lower and a much tougher task to hunt for each component and build the AR-15 from the scratch.
Do the full assembly if you’re adventurous and want to learn a lot in the process. Otherwise, the best way is to look for a parts kit and use necessary stand-alone components to assemble your own AR-15. Be smart, know your limits.
Building an AR-15 FAQ
- Is there a need to register my custom-built AR-15?
It varies according to different states, but there is no central Federal firearms registry. But when you build an AR-15 in California, you do technically need to register it. Unless you want to be in a world of legal pain. So it is better to check your state laws regarding registering your AR-15s. Or you know, move to a gun friendly state and stop paying taxes to communists.
- Is there any rules regarding building an AR-15?
The rules are the same for buying a factory assembled AR-15 and building your own AR-15.
- Do I need a license?
Not unless you’re milling the lower receiver. Technically, to do that part you should have a license.
- Can I sell my own custom made AR-15?
Generally, the same laws of private sales of firearms apply here too. Better check with your state laws for more clarification. Naturally, if you’re going to make a sell a ton of them, you best be getting a license unless you want ATF to raid your house and shoot your dog.
What is the procedure for buying the AR-15 lower receiver?
When it comes to purchasing parts for your AR-15, you can buy all parts of the AR-15 except for the lower receiver, as it is the only part that is considered to be a firearm or a gun. Hence, you need to undergo all the necessities and procedures when you buy a firearm in your state. If you are buying it directly in a store, then it is a simple task, as all you need to do is to fill out the Fed form like buying any other firearm.
But when you order online, there are some extra procedures that need to be followed as you need to provide the seller with the license of your local gun shop and then the receiver will be sent to your local gun shop after the payment is made.
And then you need to visit your local gun shop, fill out the ATF form and then get the lower receiver in your hand. So when buying a lower receiver, it is always better to buy directly from a local gun shop and avoid all the procedures and formalities. Plus, that way you support a local shop. You’re already saving a ton of money by building it yourself, anyway.
Alternatively, consider getting an 80% lower. I’m not going to go into too much detail about that one, but it’s worth checking out if you want everything to be mailed to you.
- What are some of the most common components?
Obviously, each gun is tailored to whatever purpose you are using it for. But pretty much everyone needs the following: 1) Upper receiver 2) lower receiver 3) Parts for L/U receivers 4) Buttstock 5) Buffer (spring & tube as well) 6) carbine length gas system 7) bolt carrier and parts. Start your search with these seven pieces.
Winding it up
It is always a great sense of achievement when you complete a task and see the result.
So, you know when you get your unique AR-15 in your hands you’re going to be ecstatic. It is always easy to buy a preassembled gun from a store, but what about the excitement of choosing the parts you require, the functions you may need and the color of the barrel/gun to create an AR-15 that is unique and your very own creation.
You can build an AR-15 if you do your homework, have all the required tools before-hand, have a very good schematic design idea, and follow the procedures correctly.
Good luck. Leave a comment with questions if you’re in the process of building one.