Build vs Buy (AR-15)


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johnmcl
March 8, 2006, 04:36 PM
Hi guys,

Up until today's mail came I had pretty much decided I wanted to build an AR 16-incher to go along with my 20" Armalite. I positively love that Armalite, by the way. Its a great little service rifle.

Ok, so I was shopping around getting my parts list together and scanning through the impressive documentation over on AR15.com and this month's Midway sale flyer shows up.

On page 11 is a $399 A3 flat top (part # 496-810). The price is hard to argue with. So the question now becomes, do I trade the experience of building an upper or go straight to the finished upper? Any experience with DPMS (I have none) or stainless barrels (same experience level) would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

John

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1911user
March 8, 2006, 05:15 PM
I would build one unless that is the exact configuration you want. Is it really what you were looking for? Or, is the $400 price the most attractive feature?

If you're going to be around AR's, having the tooling to recofigure at will is very nice. You're no longer stuck with the configs offered by various manufacturers and can take advantage of good deals on used parts.

Bartholomew Roberts
March 8, 2006, 07:07 PM
Does the $399 price include bolt and bolt carrier? If not, then you can probably build for a comparable price. How close is that upper to the options you want?

johnmcl
March 8, 2006, 07:28 PM
Bartholomew,

It is a complete uppper with bolt and assembly. Here's' the link to the assembly.

http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpage.exe/showproduct?saleitemid=496810

As far as it being what I want, it is what I want.

John

Bartholomew Roberts
March 9, 2006, 10:38 AM
If that has all the exact options you want, then $399 isn't a bad deal and I would probably go for it. You can always take it apart and put it back together if you want to get the experience of assembling it.

antarti
March 9, 2006, 03:26 PM
I think you'll find out soon enough that you'll be accumulating the tools. You'll want to accessorize or change out something, and it will just happen that over time, you've bought all the tools... then you'll end up building the next one.

In the meantime, you will have built a lot of familiarity, a good thing.

BTW, I like stainless barrels. Longer wearing than CM (but less so than chromed) they have a good reputation for accuracy and toughness. A bead-blasting gets rid of the shine (if that bugs you), or you can duraheat/durabake if you want the stainless steel without the stainless look.

Don't Tread On Me
March 9, 2006, 04:28 PM
That's not a bad price at all, because it includes the bolt carrier group. Hard to beat that price. I'm not sure if the kit stores (JT, Model 1 sales, M&A) can even beat that. (Model 1 Sales has a 16" chrome-moly, non-chromed for $300 less BCG) Bushmaster sells 16" uppers less BCG for $415-$425. More money, but you get the better resale on it because it has the Bushmaster name on it. This may or may not be a factor. Also, it is chrome lined (which I am an advocate of)

Personally,

I'd spend $150 more and get the uppers made by BCM (Bravo Company) for $399. These are without a doubt the best uppers for the dollar you can get. They are as good as Colt uppers, minus the Colt name. You get all the "military features" with these uppers.

For a bolt, I'd also check Bravo Company and buy the M16 bolt carrier group with MPI tested Bolt. You'll need handguards and a charging handle, those are like $40 total.

If you decide to build:

The experience is worth the price of the tools. It is a nice feeling knowing you can pretty much gunsmith the whole AR (minus headspacing/barrel extension work). It is a lot easier than any online how-to describes. The only thing is to be patient, and to pay attention to detail.

johnmcl
March 9, 2006, 05:00 PM
Hi all,

Well thanks for the insightful thoughts on my tough decision. After thought, I've decided to take my time and build a first class rifle from scratch. I'll go ahead and invest in the tooling on a sub-group by sub-group need.

It seems the experience that'll last a lifetime will be well worth it. I'm an engineer so this is doubly appealing as a shooter.

Thanks again,

John

cgv69
March 9, 2006, 05:03 PM
If that has all the exact options you want, then $399 isn't a bad deal and I would probably go for it. You can always take it apart and put it back together if you want to get the experience of assembling it.

IF that is EXACTLY what you want then go for it. I don't see you building it, with new components, any cheaper. That said, are you sure that is really the configuration you want? I personally can't see much sense in a 16" SS HBAR but if that's what you want? :cool:

KC&97TA
March 9, 2006, 06:11 PM
I've built 2 now. I may build 2 more a standard 20" barreled clone of the M16A2 and a 9mm carbine.

#1 National Match RRA upper, LPK, stock and a CMMG inc lower. Has some crazy 2-stage trigger, Gizzel? Total cost $1168. hand gurad and but stock weights free, assembly free by USMC Match Armorer. Retail from RRA (before trigger and weights) $1125 Aproximate retail value est $1500 unfired - Wifes Gun, It has been used and shoots under 1 MOA @800 yards, been pushed to 1000 yards and hits black every time.

#2 RRA Entry Tactical 16" upper, 6 pos collapsable stock, LPK and a CMMG inc lower, assembly free. Total cost $851, retail $975 didn't really save much, the RRA rifle comes with a hogue grip.

The only reason I build my own AR's was do to my inability to purchase exactly what I wanted in the state I am currently 'stationed in' and was haveing alot of heart ache trying to order the rifle my wife wanted and then purchase it in the neighboring state. So to get what I wanted I had to build my own; due to California law not allowing 'Black Guns' to be sold throught a CA FFL. Being active duty military, I became part of a loop hole in CA law. To own the AR-15's I had to purchase the lowers out of state or own them prior to moveing to CA, Register them on my duty station, once Base registration was accomplished, I fell into a 'gray area' of the law. I needed to get the CA DOJ 'dangerous weapons permit' to be 100% legal (yes it is really called a 'dangerous weapons permit) after getting the permit I could begin buying the parts and removeing the recievers from my home lawfully. If it weren't for Commy Californias gun laws I would have just ordered the rifles dirrectly from RRA.

I don't see that we saved alot of money by building our own, There's only one thing I would have changed by building the rifles, I would have tried harder to purchase RRA lowers so that the rifles were 100% RRA and not 'mis-matched'. The NM rifle is a really tight rifle build for precision, I don't see useing used parts on a rifle of that level.

My Entry Tactical was bought over a few months, so the cost of the rifle was spread out, makeing the hard ship off buying all new hard ware less of a strain. I did run across several military surplus 16" uppers, for around $300, some 10.5" with fixed 5.5" flass hiders for $250, a 4 position stock could have been had for $35 and a LPK could have been had for $55... I like knowing that everything I have is brand new.

If there are any other Active Duty Military Members resideing in CA, send me a message and I'll give you the phone number, and womans name to talk to about obtaining your permit to 'legaly' have semi automatic rifles that the state of CA has banned from sale or you just have brought them to the state and have stashed them in the closet because you were told they were illegal w/o exception. Permit has a one time fee of $78, and an annual renewal that will cost a few stamps.

Don't Tread On Me
March 9, 2006, 06:49 PM
That's not true, it can be cheaper to build yourself, it depends what parts and where you buy them. On the low end, it is difficult unless you buy some parts used. On the high end, you will save a fortune. Factory rifles with rails and other parts approach $2,000. Ouch!. Can be done for cheaper yourself, using SUPERIOR parts.


I bought the upper reciever vise block from Bushmaster. I like my tools seperate, so I bought the USGI barrel wrench, instead of the multi-tool. A lot of people hate the USGI wrench, but I love it. Easily attaches to a breaker bar or torque wrench. I also have the castle nut wrench seperate. You need a few pin punches, 2 of which should be roll pin punches.


You can build a superior rifle than the RRA DEA carbine, or the Bushmaster Modular, for less money.

cracked butt
March 10, 2006, 09:53 AM
If you are going to build one from parts, you might as well start out by getting a C&R license to get dealer status from Midway. The standard dealer price for that upper is $391, combine that with what you will save on cleaning kits, lower parts, and tools, it would be enough to more than pay for your license.;)

bp78
March 10, 2006, 10:50 AM
What's the average discount for a C&R holder? Or say the discount cost on Wilson 47D mags..?

I just ordered my forms from BATFE (they arrived in 2 days). Between the $30 fee & $25+ bound book, I'm curious how quick I'll recover the $60 cost in getting a 3yr C&R license.

Bartholomew Roberts
March 10, 2006, 10:55 AM
I needed to get the CA DOJ 'dangerous weapons permit' to be 100% legal (yes it is really called a 'dangerous weapons permit) after getting the permit I could begin buying the parts and removeing the recievers from my home lawfully. If it weren't for Commy Californias gun laws I would have just ordered the rifles dirrectly from RRA.

So where do you go to get the "non-dangerous weapon" permit? :D

Lobotomy Boy
March 10, 2006, 03:21 PM
That's a pretty nice upper. DPMS is local and attends all the major shows. They build good guns. We can get a good deal on DPMS stuff around here if we buy directly from the company at major shows, but that is a good price.

Don't Tread On Me
March 10, 2006, 05:51 PM
Well, the reason that is on sale is probably because most people don't buy 16" bull barrel AR's. Most people opt for the 24" bull or Hbar barrels because of velocity. However, if you don't care about velocity downrange, and simply want accuracy, a 16" can do anything a 24" can. Barrel length has nothing to do with accuracy.


Some argue that 16" can be more accurate because they are shorter. They are thicker in proportion to their length, so they are stiffer as a result. Less whip. That DPMS one is free-floated too. That upper should be a tack-driver.


The only problem is, you have to be after accuracy. Most people who get 16" rifles do so for defensive guns, or for action shooting. Want short length, and light weight. Anyone doing long range shooting wants the velocity for better performance of the cartridge. A 16" is heavy, and doesn't produce the best velocities. So it is kinda a speciality thing.

DougW
March 10, 2006, 06:44 PM
Kits can be had from M&A, JT Distributing, Model1 Sales, etc. Grab a Shotgun News, and you can see all the makers of kits. Mate them to recievers, and you have a custom rifle. Could cost around $600 average to build, maybe $800 to buy. The real fun (and expence) comes when you start upgrading.

I have a M&A Car15 on a Rock Ricer lower, a CAR15 that is all DPMS now, a 16" mid length from Model1 on a DPMS lower that I have over $1200 in :eek:, a HB 20" AR that was built from an M16A2 kit from Century on a Stag lower, and am building a somewhat upgraded 20"A3 on a Stag lower.

Being able to build allows you to configure the rifle any way you want it. The 16" mid length is spacifically set up as my 3 gun match rifle, as it has a Nikkon scope on a flat top upper. The DPMS Car15 is a light weight patrol rifle. The 20 inchers are just because. No more builds, as I have enough variety to choose from, and I can spend my few remaining dollars on bells and whistles for these.

Orddy
April 27, 2006, 12:47 AM
I've put together more than 15 AR's already in the last 6 months and there is nothing like the personal satisfaction of a job well done and seeing it work or having a customer be happy from just how well it does work. Pasture poodles don't stand a chance with a good AR after them. My latest creation was an AR in 6mm ppc.........what a work of art it turned out to be too. My best yet and boy can it ever shoot too. 10 shot 200 yd groups that you can cover with a quarter........I wonder just exactly what it'll do once the barrel gets broke in?

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