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Building a display (non-gun) AR-15

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by AlexanderA, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    This is my latest project. The goal is to build a display gun that externally looks 100% convincing, but is a non-working non-gun.

    The starting point is an "80%" lower receiver. All the parts are mounted in the standard way, except for the fire control parts. The FCG pocket is left solid. It seems that to mount the safety/selector, all that would be needed is one transverse hole of the proper diameter. (The 80% receiver is already drilled for the safety detent and spring.) The only other externally visible parts are the trigger, and the ends of the hammer and trigger pins. To simulate the pins, I could have rings engraved on the sides of the receiver, along with the other markings.

    The trigger (the visible portion thereof) seems to be the biggest problem. Does anyone make a dummy trigger, which would be the finger piece on a stud which could be screwed into a drilled and tapped hole in the bottom of the receiver?

    The open question (to which nobody knows the answer) is how much completion is permissible before we lose the non-gun status. It seems to me that merely drilling the hole for the selector, with an otherwise solid FCG pocket, would not cross the line.
     
  2. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Just cut the parts off and glue them to the hunk of aluminum.
     
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  3. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    Simple answer: If it can’t be fired, it’s not a firearm.

    It’s legal for you to manufacture your own AR-15, fully functioning, unless you live in a jurisdiction which prohibits them - and even in such, typically there are simple mechanical changes, which could be invisible, which would remove them from the prohibited class. For example, if it’s not capable of firing, it cannot be a semiautomatic Weapon - which is automatically disqualifying. If there is no functional gas system, ie no port in the barrel, then it’s not semiautomatic. If the magazine cannot be removed without use of tools, then it’s not a detachable magazine. If the bolt carrier group were high temperature soldered into the action such it could not be charged or reciprocate at all, it’s not functional. If the barrel were full of cement... If only the trigger recess were cut and no accommodations for any other fire control components... if the stock were pinned at a fixed length... Any of the tricks folks use to facilitate AR ownership in AWB states... since you wouldn’t be worried about facilitating function, you could more easily comply (and less expensively) by making a non-DBM, single shot rifle. Drill out the screw shank on the mag catch and replace it with your own screw, make a spacer to place under the mag release button for proper spacing, then run a screw from the catch side to the button, with the mag in place. Drill and tap the gas port, and screw in a plug, weld or high temp epoxy if you see necessary, then cover with a gas block, and don’t install a gas tube. Use a piston compatible BCG with the piston boss removed, such the BCG wouldn’t be gas compatible. Drill & tap the muzzle and thread in a plug, which would be concealed by the muzzle brake/flash hider... lots and lots of options, easily imagined....

    But...

    Do you really need a non-firearm AR for your art piece? Could a non-firearm replica or other non-firearm look-alike (for example, an airsoft rifle) serve in its place? You might do well to start with a “blue gun” as the base receivers, embed a portion of the trigger in the guard, cut and epoxy together any handguard, barrel, and stock modifications you might choose, then find a skilled artist to paint it up like the real thing.

    The 80% lower route would work, as long as you don’t take it to 100% completion. And again, even in the small-minded states where AR’s are prohibited, a non-firearm remains a non-firearm, and even a compliant functional firearm can be easily made to look like a non-compliant one.
     
  4. sawcut

    sawcut Member

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    Below is a web page that discusses the issue, and even then there are some grey areas when you read it.

    You can make a very nice replica AR with an 80% lower, but based on the information out there, I would not drill into the 80% lower one bit. The replica would not have a trigger, but you could epoxy one on, or something similar. Sure, I am being cautious and conservative about this, and you might not have any issue if you drilled into the lower to add a fixed trigger. I would not, just to keep within the spirit of the law. You'd have to glue on a selector switch too, to finish off the appearance.

    It's my understanding that the 80% lowers are as complete as possible without being considered a firearm, so any additional work you do to them goes beyond that threshold. My advice: just put it together without the trigger. It will still look and handle very realistically. On most 80% ARs, you can still insert and drop a magazine, and pull the bolt carrier back. If you have to have the trigger and everything else, then buy an airsoft rifle. They make some very accurate replicas that (except for the orange tip at the barrel) are almost indistinguishable from a real firearm. After some movie a few years ago got me fascinated with a Mauser Broomhandle, I spent a little over $100 on an airsoft one that looks really authentic (except that is has a perfect finish and does not look 100+ years old!)

    https://www.ammoland.com/2014/11/atf-answers-questions-on-80-receiver-blanks/#axzz5qNHYuAHf
     
  5. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    I've got to ask- why not just make one that works? Otherwise, airsoft seems to make more sense.
     
  6. shoobe01

    shoobe01 Member

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    "80% lower" is not a legal determination. If it is full of real gun parts that could be an issue depending on the audience.

    If it is critical — for legal, safety, or perceptual reasons — that it be very much Not A Gun then I'd go with airsoft also (cheap, easy!) and do whatever changes are needed to make it 100% right. Only AR issues I am aware of for airsoft are:
    • Motor in the grip, so the bottom looks wrong. Just replace with a real pistol grip, and finagle the bolting on or just glue it.
    • Magazines are notably too short. Just stuff a real mag in the magwell. I think they don't fit well, but you don't need to take it out, so if it takes filing, lube, and a bigger hammer that's fine.
    Otherwise visually inspect and mod as needed. Spend the extra to get one with "metal" parts (usually, un-hardened aluminum... but it's aluminum!) and it should look real, real good. Could even have whatever marks you want on the lower, like specific makers or USGI stufff.

    If it must be a home-brew thing, I'd look for non-gun bits like solid uppers, or otherwise go much further than legally-not-a-receiver. Like, get a dewat barrel or weld a pin in that. Like drive an aluminum rod into the upper to keep a BC from being inserted, and so on.
     
  7. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    It wouldn't look realistic. And I don't want the parts, such as the trigger stub, to break off easily.
    I don't think that's the test. The test is the degree of completion. If all that's left, for example, is drilling the hammer and trigger pin holes, the ATF would rule that it's a firearm, in spite of its current inability to fire. This is why the industry has arrived at the current standard of what's incomplete, which is a solid FCG pocket. Anything beyond that is pushing the envelope.
    As usual, the ATF likes to give non-answers. For example, the "80%" lowers currently on the market are machined out for the rear upper receiver lug, something that the cited ATF info implies would not be permissible. But here we are.
    I could go ahead and make an operable gun out of that "80%" receiver. So if I drill a hole for the selector, I'm in no worse position than if I had completed it entirely, and it still serves my purpose of being inoperable. I have no intention of selling it.
    That's why I put it in quotes.
     
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  8. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I wasn’t aware you were an ATF agent familiar with defining the regulations of what constitutes completion.

    Good luck with your art project.
     
  9. someguy2800

    someguy2800 Member

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    I would mill the slot for the trigger to go into from the bottom, drill the pin holes. Then cut the sear and rear extension off the trigger and insert it from the bottom. You could even put a little spring on it so the trigger will move when depressed. The top of the receiver will still be solid so no possible way for it to function or to put a fgc in it.

    As for the upper I would weld the firing pin hole up in the bolt, and mig weld the chamber closed. In this way you’ll still have an outwardly accurate looking piece and you’ll even be able to cycle the charging handle and the bolt catch will work. No reason not to put the safety detent in so that can be manipulated too.
     
  10. MistWolf

    MistWolf Member

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    If you simply drill the hole for the selector, then the trigger pin hole, you could plunge a hole from the bottom just large and deep enough to pin just the trigger in place. You wouldn't have to open up the rest of the fire control group pocket. It wouldn't fire and without more machining, it could not be made to fire.

    Instead of cross pinning the trigger in place, you could simply plunge a hole just enough to drop the trigger in place, then epoxy it in the hole.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
  11. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    If you are just looking at it, your not going to break them off. Get a $29 lower from PSA and install a regular trigger group, then weld everything together inside of the lower, if you want you could even cut the steel parts off below the surface and fill the void in the receiver back up with aluminum rod.

    Would be as non functional, actually more so with the difficulty removing everything, than starting with an 80% lower.
     
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  12. alleyrunner

    alleyrunner Member

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    what is the purpose of this project?
     
  13. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    I want to be able to show it to people, who may not be familiar with the AR-15, without scaring them that they are holding an operable gun. Once they become familiar with it, then we can graduate to an operable gun, and then hopefully to actually shooting. Many of my friends are not "gun people."
    Thanks for the suggestions. I was hoping to avoid too much machining, but if I'm going to drill the selector hole, I might as well drill the trigger and hammer holes. The difficult part would be milling the trigger slot at the bottom. But it would only have to be big enough for a chopped-off trigger to be inserted, from below, as far as the trigger pin. I like the idea of making it spring-loaded.
    My "80%" lower already came with the safety detent hole pre-drilled. That's what gave me the idea of installing the selector simply by drilling the one transverse hole.

    I think what we're seeing is that "80%" lowers are edging towards (slightly) greater degrees of completion. The ones available now are better than the ones I was seeing even a couple of years ago. Maybe the ATF has been distracted (by the bump stock controversy, and other things) or maybe they've decided to become a bit more lenient. I also think that prices for "80%" lowers are coming down. The going rate at this weekend's Chantilly (Virginia) Gun Show was $60, which is about what you would pay for a finished receiver (other than an Anderson or PSA). I've recently seen them advertised online for up to twice as much. And a whole bunch of different dealers were carrying the identical same product. It looks like they're all coming from a single source.

    In the meantime, all of the 100% finished lower receivers are being marked "Caliber Multi." If I build a gun, I want it to be marked with its actual caliber. (I'm old-fashioned that way.) It seems that if you want particular markings, you have to go the "80%" route, finish the receiver, and then have it engraved the way you want it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
  14. kenboyles72

    kenboyles72 Member

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  15. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    I think I grok the concept behind this.
    Normally, for a non-gun ATF prefers a non-working bolt.
    But, as a guess, if you had a solid bolt carrier, so that a bolt could not be fitted, it would probably be legit.
    For 2¢, I'd drill the selector hole and the trigger pivot hole.
    I'd get just a trigger from Numrich, Brownells or the like.

    Also, I think you are on to something in using an 80% lower, in that you are not tryingto Dewat a registered lower, just use a "dummy" lower as a "dummy."

    But, the real key, I still think, would be to weld a rod into the bolt carrier so that no bolt could be installed. That means you could not even slam-fire the thing. (Which, from my understanding is why ATF prefers weldedimmobile bolts; you can't chamber if you can't move the bolt.)
     
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  16. Tommygunn

    Tommygunn Member

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    There's a Spanish company called Denix which makes pot metal duplicates of guns .... I think they make a M-16 which cycles like a real gun but cannot fire real ammo.
    Wouldn't that work?
     
  17. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    I want to have the potential of upgrading it to a real gun later, by milling out the FCG pocket. I'm in no hurry to do this, and in the meantime I want to have it as an inoperable, but convincing, gun.
     
  18. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Remove the firing pin is pretty easy and will make it in operable. All functions would be the same as a functional rifle, except the ability to fire a round.

    Plug the barrel so no ammunition could be chambered in it would be a bit more permanent at least until you swap the barrel. Or you could even make a special flashhider that has a rod that goes down the barrel to to the same thing, just short enough to not hit the bolt when it closed. Thread it in and no ammunition could be chambered, thread it out and you have a functional rifle again.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
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  19. MistWolf

    MistWolf Member

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    Simplest and, with the prices being what they are, most economical way to achieve this is to have a 100% lower waiting in the wings.
     
  20. kBob

    kBob Member

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    We had "Rubber Ducks" in US Army training units that were black rubber over a metal frame with a real barrel and flash suppressor. we used them for activities where no one wanted to deal with having to clean a real rifle.

    There was also a Rubber Duck version of the AK 47 for OPFORS use. and a few RPDs without bipods were seen as well.

    There was also a Rubber Duck version of the M1911A1 and Makerov. Saw a lot of the 1911A1 and only one of the Maks. The Rubber 1911A1 got me in trouble once. We were deployed to our "Go to War" positions near the German village of Schlitz and I was the DivArty "Battle Book Officer" that meant I physically carried the Division Battle plan stuffed in a map case and had to be under arms at all times when the division was deployed...the thing made a crappy pillow in the field.

    In my 1911 style swivel holster I had bought myself (hey unlike the standard 1914 it never got caught in the seat from of a "Pup" jeep) I had a Colt Series 70 Mark IV of my own the Colonel had authorized me to carry. It had Pacymer grips and a busy body Major decided it must be a rubber duck and decided to harass me over it. When he demanded to see it I handed my driver the loaded M16 mag I carried so I would have an armed guard and showed and cleared my Mark IV. He noticed that it had been loaded with Speer 200 grain Flying Ash trays and went all "Geneva Convention" on me. We ended up in front of the Colonel that patiently explained that he had approved the gun and ammo for my use, that we were not at war, and that it was actually one of the Hauge Conventions that applied once we were at war. He then reamed me for getting in a verbal argument with member of his staff, in front of Enlisted folks, whether I was right or not.

    I suppose I really should not have said to the same major while passing out rubber 1911A1s for training a couple of months later that he should check to see that it was not loaded with the wrong ammo...

    No one appreciates a 28 year old 2LT....

    -kBob
     
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  21. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    I suspect an 80 percent lower is one way to go and you could go polymer to make it a bit easier.

    There is a whole sub genre of collectors that acquire parts kits, usually of full auto sub machine guns or machine guns, and make dummy weapons out of them through a variety of means while making them seem as though they are functioning weapons. Receivers that cannot accept bullets, fixed magazines that are non-functioning, plugged or solid barrels are some of the techniques used.

    You might find such folks in Great Britain and their forums as they apparently have a rather large community of folks with dummy weapons but of course some of their dewatting would not match ATF regulations.

    Shotgun News used to run a few of their gunsmithing projects toward making dummy arms as well and so old articles might also indicate some do's and don'ts along with techniques.
     
  22. theotherwaldo

    theotherwaldo Member

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    -Or just get a Tippman Trainer for about $125 - about the cost of the 80% plus needed tools and jigs.
    s-l1600.jpg
     
  23. herrwalther

    herrwalther Member

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    This is my thought. To make it "more safe" you could remove the entire bolt carrier and leave the dust cover closed to maintain the functional "look" aspect. And when folks are ready for the real rifle experience, put the bolt carrier/firing pin and away you go.
     
  24. bluejeans

    bluejeans Member

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    I would caution against drilling the selector hole if you live in a place where you really need a LEGAL non- firearm. My understanding is that any metal removed from the FCG area would be crossing the line to make it a firearm.

    IMO the dummy trigger would be the hardes to mimick... I suggest cutting the trigger bow (lower/visible part) off and wedding it by it’s bottom tip to a steel trigger guard with the top reveal filed to fit against the ceiling of the trigger window.
    ^ easily removes later if you want and no changes to the 80%.
     
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  25. BSA1

    BSA1 Member

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    Your source of information please.
     
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