AR Build Help


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vaughabr
March 4, 2012, 03:42 AM
I'm looking to build my first AR and, naturally, I have a ton of questions. I have standard tools and am reasonably mechanically inclined (I've watched several videos on building an AR, and nothing seems too challenging). I have many of the basic hand tools I've seen used in those videos (hammer, screw drivers, pliers, punches, bench vise, strap wrench, etc.), but no torque wrench or armorer's tools. I'm perfectly happy to start with fully stripped uppers and lowers as long as I'm not going to spend more on tools than the money saved.


Budget
$900-ish (including necessary tools over and above those I already own)

Uses

Plinking (primary purpose)
Home defense (distant second purpose)


Wants

5.56 capable (so 5.56 or Wylde)
Flattop upper, preferably with extended M4 feed ramps (I know many say they're not necessary, but if I'm building new, why not remove a potential source of problems)
16" barrel, 1:9 twist, standard profile (chrome-lined or unlined, I'm not married to the idea of either)
Railed handguard
Railed gas block or flip-up front sight block
Collapsible stock
Mil-spec (or superior) parts, staking, etc. (Yes, I know "superior" is subjective, so I'll live with the consequences. Haha.)


Considerations

To give a better idea of what I have in mind, I like the features of the Rock River Tactical Operator2 (http://www.rockriverarms.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=464). I was just hoping I could get a similar feature set, but slightly higher quality for the same price if I build it myself. (I'm not knocking Rock River by any means. I was just using that as an example of a rifle with nearly all of the features I like. From what I understand, they make a respectable rifle for the price point, but that's a different discussion.)
I'm not opposed to piston systems, but I'm not sure that would be the best use of my budget this time around.



On to the questions...

Given the information above, is this achievable, or should I just buy that Rock River and be done with it?

Will I likely be better off with a complete upper (saving money on tools), or building it from the ground up?

Suggestions for specific parts (brands/models) that would fall into the budget?

Any specific combinations of parts I should avoid and why? Something along the lines of, "Don't get an upper with M4 feed ramps and a barrel without them because you're creating a lip for the round to catch on when chambering."

Source(s) for parts (ex. Brownells)?


I know this is a long post, but I wanted to put as much on the table as I could. I know I'm still leaving things out, so let me know if anything is unclear.

Thanks in advance for all your help. This is my first post, but I've been reading tons of posts over the past month. This place and the members are phenomenal.

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35 Whelen
March 4, 2012, 07:23 AM
I see no need to get all the parts and build a rifle as it's little if any cheaper than a rifle kit. You can get a Palmetto (PSA) stripped lower ($79 + shipping & FFL transfer), then just find the kit that fits your needs. If you can't find a parts kit that fits you needs, then get the stripped lower, a lower parts kit, the stock of your choice, the buy a complete upper. This way all you need are fairly ordinary handltools.
I've built three rifles using a PSA stripped lower and Del-Ton kits that Midway USA sells, all for around $550 apiece. Utterly reliable and yesterday I competed in my third High Power match with my 20" model which shoots quite well. The parts/kits, etc are available from Palmetto State Armory, Del-Ton, MidwayUSA, Brownell's, Model 1 Sales, MA Parts Inc, Red X Arms, and others.
I'm new to AR's so I can't say this brand is of higher quality than that brand. I have notcied that with AR's there seems to be alot of "Brand Snobbery" so to speak. I can tell you that after the first hundred or so rounds mine NEVER jams. Yesterday at the match, I completely forgot to oil it yet it cycled through the rapidfire portions with nary a hiccup. I compete with guys who shoot RRA's, White Oak, etc., and there's are no more reliable than mine and only a little more accurate because most of them use stainless steel match barrels.

35W

Hacker15E
March 4, 2012, 08:57 AM
I think you'll find something to your liking easily in your price range with your desired features from a number of different makers and suppliers.

If it were my dollar, I'd pick one of these kits.

http://palmettostatearmory.com/index.php/ar-15-05/rifle-kits.html

madcratebuilder
March 4, 2012, 08:59 AM
+1 on starting with a PSA kit.

A armorers wrench and a beam style torque wrench well cost about $50+. Bushmaster makes a good AR wrench, Sears sells beam style wrenches fairly cheap. You need this for the barrel nut and castle nut. Custom hand guards well often require a custom barrel nut and wrench.

If you end up liking the AR you may build several more.

Down load a free copy of the 23&P, this manual covers every aspect of assembly.

fredeee
March 4, 2012, 09:05 AM
Best advice, stick with forums like this for reviews and advice. For videos, I like ITStactical's Channel on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/ITStactical). There's a DIY AR-15 Build link on the right, they walk you through the entire process and seem to know what they're talking about.

With that said, $900 is a tough. Seems like you're looking for a "quality" build as you said "mil-spec or superior". I'd say if you shop around, don't mind blem lowers, etc (where you can get great deals), and don't get carried away on expensive parts that are not critical to your build early on, you can build an awesome, mil-spec rifle for $900.

As for your specific questions:
Given the information above, is this achievable, or should I just buy that Rock River and be done with it?
IMO, building is more fun. However, if this is your 1st, be ready to scratch a few parts and make a few mistakes. It's not hard to build a rifle, but it can be intimidating. If any of this freaks you out, just get the RRA, it's an awesome rifle (friend just got one for $900 nicely equipped) and it's likely all the rifle you'll need. But not "Mil spec" if that's really a must have.

Will I likely be better off with a complete upper (saving money on tools), or building it from the ground up?
I built my own lower, but purchased the upper complete. I found the upper a bit intimidating after watching the videos, didn't have the tools and it's the part where stuff goes bang, so I didn't want to screw up. The lower is much easier and in the end, the cost between buying the complete upper and building myself just wasn't enough to justify the risk and expense for tools.

Suggestions for specific parts (brands/models) that would fall into the budget?
Considering your budget, start your build with solid parts, and build over time. For example, you can easily spend $100-$200 on a stock, but there's nothing wrong with a $30 stock for the time being. The most important thing is to spend your budget on the foundation of the rifle: upper, lower and parts vital to the operation of your rifle. Stocks, hand guards, etc can be upgraded later. As for brands, I focused on Bravo Company, Daniel Defense and Spikes Tactical, all great brands and mil-spec parts. Wound up going with a Spikes mid upper/stripped lower and Daniel Defense lower parts. I would have gone with Bravo Company but I live in a BAN state and they don't do the compliance work on the upper.

Any specific combinations of parts I should avoid and why? Something along the lines of, "Don't get an upper with M4 feed ramps and a barrel without them because you're creating a lip for the round to catch on when chambering."
Only advice I can offer is if you're going with a 16" barrel, get a mid-length upper or appropriate parts. Lots of great advice on this topic online, check it out. Also, if you're like me, you'll want to put a bunch of crap on your rifle over time such as optics, lights, etc. So get a rail that's going to accommodate your long term build. And trust me, you think you know what you want now, but you don't. So just make sure your build gives you maximum flexibility for upgrades later.

Source(s) for parts (ex. Brownells)?
I stick with Brownells, MidwayUSA and Optics Planet. Try to find a tactical store near you as well, sometimes it's nice to inspect your part before you buy. Avoid eBay and Amazon as their return policies with smaller merchants is sketchy at best and I found that most of the stuff they sell is cheap, but crap.

Good luck!

vaughabr
March 9, 2012, 01:58 PM
First of all, thanks for the responses. Based on the input, I chose to get a complete upper. I went back and forth between BCM and PSA, but eventually settled on a 16" mid-length BCM upper and a cosmetic blem BCM lower.

If I choose to build more ARs, I might invest in the tools necessary to fully assemble one, but I'm more likely to get something different as I acquire more rifles. Then again, who knows? This might turn me into an AR zealot!

Thanks again.

dscottdennison
March 9, 2012, 02:10 PM
You can do WAAAAY better than $900

dprice3844444
March 9, 2012, 02:12 PM
http://www.whiteoakarmament.com/xcart/home.php?cat=259

GCMkc
March 9, 2012, 02:43 PM
You can build a nice rifle for $900. Rock River Arms is super backed up right now. I tried to order a barrel 2 weeks ago and finally got an email saying that it would be 30-90 days before my order would be complete.

You will definitely need the armorer's wrench and a torque stick.

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