Cheapest Possible AR Build


May 15, 2006, 08:58 PM
I've been looking at what people are spending on building up there AR's and it can get kindof intimidating. Especially for a college student on a tight budget. I've been looking into getting an off list lower in anticipation of the AR's getting compleatly obliterated here in **********.

I'd be looking into building a fun gun, not a tack driver, not a pretty toy, just something to drag out and chew through .223 when I feel like it (I have other guns to fit those specific needs)

used parts arn't a problem, shipping has to be factored in however as there arn't much in the way of parts here in the peoples republic.

The question is: How do you do it on the cheap?

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May 15, 2006, 09:10 PM
About $500 is a reasonable figure. Any less and you won't be getting decent parts. You could put together an A-2 for about $500 if you bought parts on sale and/or used to save some money. I have built a few of them and unless you are looking to build a custom rifle, you may be just as well off if you find a good deal on a used RRA or Bushmaster.

You are going to have to spend some money on items to help you build the rifle that must be factored into the cost. You are going to need a barrel vise and a AR-15 wrench. Unless you plan on building more than one AR-15, it may not save you any money. OTHO, if you are looking for a hobby, it is worth it.

Don't Tread On Me
May 15, 2006, 09:54 PM
The cheapest way to go would be to search the EE (equipment exchange) on daily for barely used quality AR parts, and then assemble when done. This can take time, but is doable.

The other way, would be to find a stripped lower locally for $115 or less. If not, then buy one online for $90 shipped, and find a cheap transfer ($15-$20 + nics)

Then buy a kit from either JT or CMMG or DelTon.

Tools needed would be a couple of pin punches, and if you get the collapsable stock, a castle nut wrench ($10).

DO NOT, REPEAT, DO NOT BUY A KIT FROM MODEL 1 SALES. I am preparing a thread on why not to buy from them with pictures included)

I've heard that Olympic isn't using cast receivers anymore, not even on their "plinker model"..this might be an option. If you really search around hard, you might be able to get a factory rifle for $100 more than building a kit, which in some instances is worth not dealing with building it yourself, transfers, and tool costs.

Just depends.

May 16, 2006, 12:54 AM
It can be done very cheaply, if you find the right deal at the right time.

I got a C7 20" upper with bolt carrier and handle, buttstock and pistol grip for $225, with a minty barrel, Stag lower for $89, lower kit for $49. Upper came from a gun show, lower and kit from the EE on ARFcom.

That's $365 for an AR, and it runs like a top.

May 16, 2006, 08:23 AM

$515 if you don't count the Holosight.

Stripped Stag lower and Model 1 lightweight CAR kit.

May 19, 2006, 12:52 AM
When buying used parts, what should I be warry of? what wears on an AR? How worn is too worn?

are barreled uppers the only way to go? or is it cheaper to piece it togeather one at a time?

I really just want to make sure I have an AR in the event that they get further banned here in **********.

I don't want to just have a lower sitting around that can't run.

what is bare minimum to make a reliable gun?

May 19, 2006, 06:18 PM
I wouldn't buy a used bolt/bolt carrier as a stand alone part. Those should always be new or kept with the upper they were broken in on.

Barrels can be worn and accuracy can suffer after thousands of rounds.

Barreled uppers are usually the best way to go unless you have the wrenches and receiver blocks (which most people don't).

The lower receiver IS the gun and you can have several uppers for it and it's still only considered one gun.

Reliable gun? Barring some lemons, all AR's will run when kept reasonably clean and you use good ammunition and good magazines (don't go bigger than 30 rounds).

May 19, 2006, 06:40 PM
When it comes to AR lowers, aren't CA residents limited to a fixed, internal magazine?


May 19, 2006, 07:38 PM
they are limited to a fixed mag ONLY if you keep the pistol grip and/or flashider on the gun (and you have to have a fixed stock)

If you want the fun features you have to put a pinned 10 rounder in place.

May 19, 2006, 07:54 PM
i recommend that you don't try to cut corners too much. go ahead and get a stag or rock river lower now - they're still pretty cheap. don't, however skimp too much on the parts because it can be kind of hit or miss. i have a model 1 upper that is 100% reliable and as accurate as one can expect from an 11 1/2" barrel but it didn't fit a rock river lower very well and the model 1 parts group had fit issues as well. the hammer pin walked out binding the action and giving me fits.

May 19, 2006, 09:30 PM
Well I bit the bullet and bought a stag lower today, should be here in a few weeks, now I have to chase down a lower parts kit.

whats good to get? whats crap to avoid? and how cheap can I get it for?

The gun shop I went to buy it from had stags for 175+ fees, so I ordered one for 99 shipped + 45 charge from shop + 25 DROS fees. 169 total out the door.

The guy at the shop tried to sell me a complete stag ar that he had there for 1200, I told him I figured I could probably get out the door on a self built for less than seven hundered.

He didn't believe me and wants to see reciepts when I build it.

The place I ordered from is currently back ordered on stags, but I can get a double star for the same price any thoughts on that?

I appriciate all the help guys, I'll post pictures as I get it togeather.

May 19, 2006, 10:24 PM
The Double Star guns are the same as the J&T.

Eagle firearms was selling Stag uppers for about $500. Currently out of stock, but they fill relatively fast.

May 19, 2006, 10:31 PM
Thanks for the input, anyone know anything about quality?

I've got a thread started over in firearm accessorys trying to get pieces for this.

If anyone's got anything send me a pm from there.

May 20, 2006, 12:12 AM
haven't heard much good or bad about doublestar. my friend just bought a complete ameetec lower with six position m4 style stock for $200. i can ask where he got it if you're interested.

May 20, 2006, 01:11 AM
It would be good to know. Is that lower off-list in CA?

May 20, 2006, 07:37 AM

Not sure what your beef is, but my Model 1 Sales M4 type kit with chrome lined barrel is perfect, and mated with my DPMS lower, it's an awesome shooter...

May 20, 2006, 11:02 AM
del-ton 20" kit- $455
essential arms stripped lower- $77

or you can often find oly arms plinkers for around $500. You might also look for some used parts.

May 20, 2006, 01:07 PM
You will be pleased with the stag,they are top tier in quality. Your friend for AR parts is . Look in the EE (equipment exchange) for used stuff and in Industry for new stuff. I would just buy the Stag lower parts kit or the Rock River lower parts kit. They are reffered to as LPK . I would recomend " Pete in New Hampshire" for anything Rock River, He is about as cheep as any and will give you the straight skinny about shipping,availability or anything else you need/want to know. He is found as "Legaltransfers" in the Industry section of
Most guys will agree that the savings is in building the lower ,best bet is to buy a complete upper new or used depending on your budget. Cost is higher but I allways recomend a flatop as the first for the versatility factor.

May 20, 2006, 09:03 PM
I'll check it out, I've been having difficulty registering at ar15, my student e-mail has been down, and my primary hotmail hasn't been accepted.

It should get sorted out however.

May 22, 2006, 10:58 AM
I just bought a double star stripped lower. Picking it up next week (30th). I'll compare it to my friends Stag and Mega Gator lowers. I have also heard that double star is by J&T or vice versa, never heard of anyone having issues with them.

Like Foxtrot mentioned, I am also looking at a del-ton kit, 16" though. I've already got 3500 rnds of .223 at the house :evil:

May 23, 2006, 02:04 AM
One nice thing about assembleing your own AR... you can spread out the purchase price. So you can put together a high quality rifle over a few to several months and not feel the pain of shelling out $950-1500 at one time, think about it that way when you're on a budget.

It took 9 months for my M4-gery to get 100% complete, and about 4 months for my wifes NM to get done.

May 23, 2006, 10:25 AM
ultimately I'll build up a nice AR,

right now I just want something that runs true and eats ammo reliably.

I'm trying to build it for less than half of the 1200$ that the gun store was charging for a new Stag AR.

The propriator stated that it was not possible to do a build for 600$ or less and that if I was able to do it he wanted to see reciepts.

a small wager was involved

May 23, 2006, 10:35 AM
I've heard that Olympic isn't using cast receivers anymore, not even on their "plinker model"..this might be an option. If you really search around hard, you might be able to get a factory rifle for $100 more than building a kit, which in some instances is worth not dealing with building it yourself, transfers, and tool costs.
That is correct. Even the Olympic "Plinker Plus" now uses a forged lower. IMHO, it's much more cost effective to just buy one of those rather than try to build you own if you want an entry-level AR-15. It's difficult to beat the price, and when you get done building you have no warranty. The Plinkers seem to work out of the box, they have a warranty, and they are affordable.

May 23, 2006, 01:52 PM
I got a plinker for sixish--runs like a top and is very accurate.

I've since built a DPMS lower with a RRA internals. Using that with the plinker upper until I buy a 6.8 upper.

Anyone make a "clean" lower? Just a serial number? (I'd like to have one engraved all special like at the tropy shop.)

May 23, 2006, 04:17 PM
lycanthrope , pretty nice. by any chance, can we get a complete list of the components of your rifle?

May 23, 2006, 08:39 PM
Mudpuppy: Superior Arms makes lowers with custom logos. I'm sure they'd do a plain one.

Roadwild: The gun above is a Stag stripped lower from Eagle firearms. I then bought a Lightweight 16" CAR KIT from Model 1 sales. All in all I got it for $515 + the cost of some punches to put it together. I topped it with a Bushnell Holosight.

May 23, 2006, 09:21 PM

(I love this forum...)

May 30, 2006, 07:32 PM
Just to keep everyone posted as to the status of the cheap AR project

I just picked up a pinned bushmaster m4gery stock with buffer buffer tube and spring on arfcom for 30$ shipped.

The lower parts kit was 57.68 shipped on arfcom (nice finish to the pieces)

this brings the grand total to

170 lower out the door
57.68 parts kit
30 stock
257.68 for the lower half of it.

now to save some money up and find a cheap upper.

June 1, 2006, 03:46 AM
So far I have found NOTHING wrong with the 20" bull barrel, flat top kit I ordered from Model 1 Sales. In fact I was so pleased with their products that I ordered another kit from them last week.
I installed the SS bull kit on my Doublestar lower (good product!) and the next kit (20" std rifle kit) is going on my Lauer (also very good quality).
Ajax, if you are going to be legal here in **********stan you will need a kit of some sorts to affix the mag per state law. I use the kit offered by with confidence.

If you have any other questions, send me a pm

June 1, 2006, 06:21 PM
sorry, haven't heard back from my friend on where he got the ameetec complete lower for two bills but here's their website: if you call 'em, they might be able to help. btw, their stripped lowers are $110. dunno for sure if they're off list but they most likely are.

June 1, 2006, 06:51 PM
From what I've been told, (even though its cheaper to buy lowers assembled) those of us behind the iron curtain can't have the lowers shipped assembled as the pistol grip will be attached when it arrives at the ffl, causing it to be immediatly sent back to shipper.

The guy I went through was really nice, but he let me know in no uncertain terms that if the lower was not compleatly stripped he wouldn't do the transfer.

I've ordered a Stag (or a double star if they can't get more stags on order) as I've heard that they actually manufacture the parts for alot of other major labels, who just engrave there own names on them.

so far cheapest lower I've found has been through they sell for 99 shipped with a discount if you buy more than three. or 155$ with a lower parts kit assembled.

July 30, 2006, 11:22 PM
Just an update, the project is creeping along, a cash infusion coming up should lead to some real progress in the next few weeks.

I am having a dificult time deciding if the savings are signifigant enough to warrent building my own upper as opposed to buying a used upper that is complete.

Apparently uppers run about 100$ used,

barrels go for 100-150,

Barrel nuts I believe are less than 50

gas blocks should be around 30

and I don't know what the tube costs.

so it would seem that it would cost around 300 bucks to build it up (not counting tools) and used ones can be had for that price fairly reliably.

July 31, 2006, 12:04 AM
Don't forget the tool box when you go to the range.

July 31, 2006, 12:10 AM
So far I have found NOTHING wrong with the 20" bull barrel, flat top kit I ordered from Model 1 Sales
Model 1 has been having a fair amount of trouble with broken bolts, some sooner, some later, there have been a number of cases reported on

July 31, 2006, 05:38 PM
Ajax im sitting on a couple off list lowers right now also. Ive seen some uppers from cdnn for a good price. I believe I would rather own an AR with no permanantly affixed grip then one that needed to be broken open every 10 rounds to reload. Good luck and I hope you make your FFL blush when he sees what you paid for your evil black rifle.

August 2, 2006, 02:46 PM

quick update, I have found the upper for my rifle (start cheering now)

Its a RRA flat top upper, which is coming with the delta assembly a flash hider (which is going on the .22 rifle and the compensator from the .22 rifle is going back on the AR)

the best part is, it's complete with forward assist and ejector port cover, and all of the parts are 100$ shipped.
the cheepest I had found up untill this was 88$ pluss tax for a stripped flat top upper.

so now I only need


Gas block

Gas tube


and of course the Bolt Carrier group.

I figgure that the barrel the first thing I should find, as everything else (handguard length, gas tube length gas block diameter) all hinge on what kind of barrel I can find for cheap, I would like to get a barrel and bolt that are matched to eachother, but we'll see what turns up.

Thanks to the THR member who hooked a brother up with the upper.

August 2, 2006, 05:07 PM
Let's have a running total!

August 3, 2006, 12:00 AM
ok here goes nothin,

Lower receiver = 130$
Tax on lower (long story)= 10.08
Dros Fees = 25
Pinned Tellescoping butstock with buffer tube spring and wrench=30.90$ shipped (including postal money order fee)
Lower parts kit= 57.96
Flat top Upper receiver, Delta ring assembly, and flash hider= 100.90 shipped (including postal money order fee)
Mil spec phosphate Bolt Carrier with key=75 Shipped

le Total de jour = exactly 429.84

I'm not all the way done yet, but I'm still well shy of the 1200 bucks that the FFL wanted for his.

Let me know if you guys spot a cheap barrel or gas block, or bolt for sale, I'd like to see this done for 600 out the door, 1/2 asking price would feel good to walk back into the store and slap down reciepts.

August 3, 2006, 01:14 AM
do they make a plinker with 20" barrell?

August 3, 2006, 02:19 AM
Get a cav arms lower for 150 bucks and assemble it yourself (not hard). Or pay the extra 30 bucks and get it fully assembled.

Purchase an A1 upper for about 400 bucks. Put them together and add some magazines, and you have a new 600 dollar AR.

Downsides- A1 twist rate only takes 55 grain ammo

August 3, 2006, 07:38 PM
beerslurpy, I appriciate the thought, but I think by shopping around I'll wind up with higher quality parts, there are alot of used AR stuff kicking around with little or no wear on it. EBR guys get a bit carried away buying stuff they don't need. (no offense guys, nothin but love for ya)

I just sent payment for a 20 inch preban barrel, 65 bucks shipped, so el total is now.


parts still needed:

gas tube



and unless I am forgeting something th-th-th-th-thats all folks.

August 4, 2006, 01:06 AM
I found a gas block with a rail on it and a 20 inch gas tube for 25$ shipped,


519.84 total.

Still need:

a set of handguards

and a bolt head

and a charging handle (totally forgot about that, would have been embarassing at the range)

Thanks for all the parts assistance you guys, the THR community has really helped me out on this project.

August 4, 2006, 05:15 PM
I feel bad for you guys living out west. $150+ out the door for a stripped Stag lower? $106 with tax here.

August 4, 2006, 05:35 PM
all gun prices get kinda inflated here in the peoples republic, there is very little availability, you have to find a willing dealer, and then the fees... oh yes the fees.. our reg fees probably fund the whole DOJ (exageration)

August 4, 2006, 06:20 PM
do they make a plinker with 20" barrell?

they sure do....not for $600, tho.


August 4, 2006, 06:47 PM
Just get a SP1 upper from CDNN for about $370 and add a lower. You'll be in under $650 easily, even if you need to add a bolt and carrier.

January 1, 2008, 09:58 PM
what about this one??

January 1, 2008, 10:07 PM
Not a bad price, but nothing amazing, either. Similar deals can be found from the aforementioned companies, like Del-Ton.

January 1, 2008, 11:32 PM
How about $570 complete plus shipping and transfer fee's

cmmg is selling bargin bin rifles, all new parts, stored in bult, have a few marks on them, not beuty queens but all brand new parts.

Problem with "CHEAP" and "GUN" ... is you usally get what you pay for. I've seen too many guys go the cheap route on AR's and have problems, for $1k you can get a RRA or Bushmaster and never have a single problem.

January 2, 2008, 12:47 AM
ajax...have u checked calguns' classifieds?

January 2, 2008, 01:09 AM
When Del-ton gets mid-length uppers back in stock.

16' mid-length carbine kit.......Del-ton.........$465.00
Lower receiver (Stag).............Gun show......$139.09
Rear sight carry/handle..........Gun show......$65.00
CAR spanner nut wrench........Del-ton.........$3.95
A2 sight tool.........................Del-ton.........$5.95
Del-ton shipping.......................................$17.53

Total $696.52

I could have saved a few bucks:
Superior Arms lower (incl. transfer)...$110
UTZ carry handle.......$40
Nix the sight tool (hope that it is on target as-is).

That would have brought the total down to $636.48.

January 2, 2008, 01:29 AM
Mojo, you won't be disappointed. Mine's a Del-Ton 16" Midlength A3, with Leapers rear sight ($30 from CTD), on a Superior Arms lower. :)

Skimped on the telestock wrench by using tongue-and-groove pliers and a length of leather strap. Hasn't worked loose yet.

Also, FWIW, this thread is almost 2 years old, now... :D

January 2, 2008, 01:45 AM
Skimped on the telestock wrench by using tongue-and-groove pliers and a length of leather strap. Hasn't worked loose yet.

Darn, now why didn't I think of that! I have a strap wrench!

January 2, 2008, 05:10 AM
I think Ajax is already on his third AR now... this thread was from two years ago ;)

But I haven't heard from him since winterval break started :D

January 2, 2008, 05:44 AM
Heh, I just saw that the thread had re-awakened on 1/1 and decided to add my 2 cents....

Dionysusigma - Any regrets on the mid-length, or would you prefer the "regular" carbine forend? I am going for the mid-length for the longer sight radius. I'm sure it's trivial, but seems logical. Is this a good or bad move?

January 2, 2008, 06:07 AM
No regrets whatsoever. I've always hated the look of 90 miles of barrel sticking out past the FSB, as most 16" carbines have. The "snubby" look of a dissipator is even worse, IMO. I didn't want the full 20", as I don't really need it. The mid-length was (and is) perfect.

If there was ever a drawback, it'd be finding a rail system for it, but I have no plans to put one on. This isn't even really an issue anymore, since any manufacturer worth their salt already has one out.

I'd say good move. :)

January 2, 2008, 09:30 AM
whoever resurected this thread is getting me into big trouble.....

as now I'm getting seriously interested in doing and AR build :o

Essex County
January 2, 2008, 02:53 PM
Everytime I go for the absolute cheapest I end up getting burned. Wheather it's firearms, tools or Scotch. My builds tend to be DPMS uppers, mated with stripped Stag lowers. Trouble free at a little over six hundred. Essex

January 23, 2008, 10:08 PM
I think Ajax is already on his third AR now... this thread was from two years ago

But I haven't heard from him since winterval break started

I have compleated builds on 4 AR rifles, and am working on two AR pistols, and have four other complete uppers that I need to get lowers for (along with a few pistol uppers that I am building for .22LR conversions for my bolt action target AR's.

I REALLY got into building cheap AR's in a big way... I need to update this thread. There are alot of lessons taht I learned in the process and alot of mistakes that others could benifit from.

January 24, 2008, 04:26 AM
Ok, lets say I'm interested in building my own AR as well, but for the sake of enlightenment, assume I'm really dumb (hard, I know). As far as I can tell, I need an upper, lower, and a parts kit, assuming the upp has a barrel and a bolt... is that right? I start seeming acronyms like CAR and HBAR and words like "wrench" .,.. ;) I'm an AR noob. I can strip my mini 14 to bits but EBR's are currently beyond me, and without some advice they will remain that way. What I need is someone to break it down like Run-DMC for me; should look like this:

1. find a lower reciever
2. find an upper reciever with these parts: bolt, charge handle, whatever else
3. buy a parts kit
4. assembly help
5. other stuff I should know, like which companies online are good, what the diff is between A1-A4, things like that. go crazy.

If this is posted somewhere else, like page 2 which I haven't read yet or something, please redirect me. Any help is greatly appreciated!!!!!

January 24, 2008, 04:21 PM
Upper receiver types:

A1 - "Original" style upper receiver. Does not have a forward assist. Integral rear sight and carry handle. You won't see many of these.
A2 - Basically same as above, but has forward assist.
A3 - "Flat top" receiver. No rear sight and carry handle. Has Weaver base.
M4 - Also "flat top," and has some notches in the feed ramp to improve feeding under some conditions.

Barrel lengths/fore ends.

Standard = 20" barrel with 12" fore end.
Carbine = 16" barrel with 7" fore end.
Mid-length = 16" barrel with 9" fore end.
M4 = 14.5" barrel with 7" fore end.

Standard fore ends attach to the barrel nut and at the gas block. "Free floating" fore ends only attach at the barrel nut and do not touch the barrel at the gas block. These are useful for mounting accessories without putting stress on the barrel.

Common abbreviations:

HBAR = Heavy barrel.
LBAR = Lightweight (thinner) barrel.
CAR = Carbine. Rifle equipped with 16" barrel and an adjustable stock.
"M4gery" = M4+"Forgery" - M4 upper, 16" "civilian legal" barrel with a cutout in the barrel for mounting of the M203 grenade launcher (original M4's are 14.5", which is an NFA weapon). Also has an adjustable stock.
SBR = Short Barreled Rifle. Barrel shorter than 16". This is an NFA weapon: tax and registration applies.

You need:

1. Stripped lower receiver. This is the only part you have to get transferred through an FFL.
2. Completed upper receiver. Includes upper receiver casting and installed barrel, gas block, handguard, etc.
3. Bolt, bolt carrier, and charging handle. These are sold with SOME complete uppers. Make sure your upper comes with this, as a bolt and bolt carrier will cost about $100 if you buy them separately from the upper.
4. If you get a flat-top receiver, you will need a scope or rear sight of some kind.
5. Lower parts kit. This includes the fire control system, bolt catch, magazine catch, grip, takedown pins and some roll pins and springs.
6. Buffer tube assembly (including buffer and spring) and stock, whether it be fixed or adjustable.
7. Tools. At the very least you will need a 1/8 pin punch, a hammer, a pair of long nose pliers and a flat head screwdriver. Additionally, you really need a set of roll pin punches if you want to put in the pins without marring the finish on your lower receiver. They are not expensive.
8. If you choose an adjustable stock, you will need a buffer tube nut wrench (~$4).
9. At least one magazine.

Many suppliers sell a "Rifle kit" which includes everything you need except the stripped lower, magazine and tools. This will give you the best price--they put a pretty heavy discount on the kit. It took me about 2 hours to put mine together, and that included a trip to the store to get some roll pin punches. Tip: Work inside a plastic bag when installing the takedown pins. It keeps tiny springs and detents from flying across the room.

There are many, this is a very short list. Look around for many more.

M & A Parts
Bravo Company USA
J & T Distributing
Coleman Tyler

I chose Del-Ton for mine, mainly due to price. I was very pleased.

Assembly help and more info here:

Happy building!

January 24, 2008, 04:51 PM
Excelent, Thats exactly what I needed. Thanks for spending the time. Also, is the M4gery also refered to as an A4? I know I saw an A4 upper on Also, what does SPR mean?

January 24, 2008, 05:05 PM
For all intents and purposes, a A3 and A4 receiver are the same. The designation comes from the military M16's: A4's are 3-round burst only, while A3's are full automatic.

SPR = "Special purpose rifle." Heavy match-grade barrel, free floating fore end, match grade trigger. This would be a designated marksman or "sniper" rifle

January 24, 2008, 05:06 PM
This is a great post! thanks Mojo-jo-jo!

I'm mulling in my mind building a rifle equivalent to the M16A2 I carried in the Army except with the A3 style upper with removable carry handle to make it easier to add a scope if I feel the need in the future. This info looks like it will get me started.

January 24, 2008, 06:09 PM
For all intensive purposes

Sorry, I have to be the grammar/spelling/whatever it is Nazi for a second and feel dirty doing so, but feel compelled.

The expression you want here is actually "For all intents and purposes".

..and now back to your regularly scheduled programming!

January 24, 2008, 06:20 PM
:o Fixed.

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