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How hard is it to build a complete AR upper half?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by NYH1, Feb 8, 2012.

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  1. NYH1

    NYH1 Member

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    I ordered a Stag complete lower half with a A2 buttstock. I'm not sure if I want to buy the Stag upper that they use on their model 1, buy a different brand or build my own. How hard is it to build a complete upper half? I like to have a mid length hand guard/gas system setup. I like the way they look and feel. My last AR was a middy (RRA Tasc Rifle 16"). I'm in New Yorkistan so it has to be AWB compliant. Which is no big deal. I don't like the collapsible buttstocks, don't need a bayonet or flash hider and can still use pre ban high capacity magazines.

    I definitely want a 16" barrel with a permanently affixed A2 front sight and a flat top A3/A4 receiver, this is set in stone. As mentioned, I'd like a middy, but it's not a deal breaker. However, if I build one, I'd go with the middy. . . . .if I build one, I might as well go with the one I like. The Stag model 1 upper comes with a removable carry handle with A2 sights, which is nice. I could shoot it until I can get whatever optic I decide on using. Maybe a RRA Dominator mount and EOTech. That won't be anytime soon.

    If I need special tools, that'll add to the price. If it cost the same or more to buy tools and build one, maybe I'd be better off just buying a complete upper. So what do I need to properly build a AR upper? By that I mean what AR parts and tools do I need? I'm definitely on a tight budget. I have a lot of irons in the fire right now. However, putting this AR together is a priority. I'll take all the info I can get!

    Thanks, NYH1. ;)
     
  2. rjrivero

    rjrivero Member

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    Building an upper isn't "hard" at all. Really all you need is an armorer's wrench, (Or the barrel nut wrench for a proprietary foregrip, if you're going with a proprietary one.) A torque wrench, and a vice are all you really need. A little locktite and some grease for the barrel nut. I would build one with a screw down gas block. Maybe once you know it's lined up, put a little dimple in the barrel for the set screw to bite into. (Drilling the barrel for pins would require a jig to make sure everything is nice and lined up.)

    If you're getting a stripped upper, you'll need the bits and pieces for the forward assist, dust cover, spring, rod and e-clip, charge handle, bolt carrier, bolt, gas tube, gas tube pin, and rear sight.

    For a flat top upper, you just need a vice and a couple pieces of wood. One on the top of the flat top, and one on the bottom between the lugs. Then clamp it in the vice. No need for a fancy block or anything.
     
  3. why.kyle

    why.kyle Member

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    I heard on a podcast something I really like about building an upper. The real savings come from buying the parts you want on your rifle the first time.. that way down the road when you want to put those special handguards or what not, you didnt have to "buy" the ones that came with the complete upper just to have them sitting around.

    Make sense?
     
  4. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    If you can assemble LEGOs and change a tire, you can build a AR upper.

    The tools are a one time cost and come in handy later if you need to do maintence.

    BSW
     
  5. Livnoutdoorsxd9

    Livnoutdoorsxd9 Member

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    Dont loctite your barrel nut. Use either a light oil or anti-sieze. If you use the latter, make sure it does not have graphite in it b/c that will break down aluminum over time, and use it sparingly. Uppers are simple to build, just make sure to do it in the right order. Brownells and midway have great instructional videos.
     
  6. justice06rr

    justice06rr Member

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    This is a good point. You'll have to invest in some tools at first, but they will become very useful in the future.
     
  7. rjrivero

    rjrivero Member

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    Absolutely correct. The lock tite is for the screws on the gas block. Barrel nut gets Mobil 1 grease and tightened, then loosened 3 times before final torque/alignment.
     
  8. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    Mobil 1 grease with moly?

    The problem with using grease wo moly in it is that that area right over the chamber can get frieaking hot. The oils in the grease boil off and then the nut seizes on the upper, tearing the threads when you try to remove the barrel.

    This grease actually meets the spec: http://www.skygeek.com/aeroshell-33ms.html

    I don't trust Locktite on barrels. Barrels easily get hot enough to damage the chemical. If your gas block shifts you now have a clumsy straight pull action. I prefer pins if I can get them or at the very least staking the screws.

    BSW
     
  9. Surf

    Surf Member

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    Assembling an upper takes some skill and minor tools but nothing crazy. Building an upper requires quite a bit of machinery, tooling etc, etc..... :)

    Check out my signature if you are serious about assembling one.
     
  10. helotaxi

    helotaxi Member

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    The problem that you're going to run into is the permanently attached muzzle device. You can't do that with basic tools. Once the muzzle device is attached, everything is permanent. For that reason, you're pretty much stuck buying an assembled upper with the muzzle device pinned and welded.
     
  11. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Member

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    Oil is to light and can cause thread galling, Anti-seize can cause corrosion if used on the barrel nut. The barrel nut threads on the upper need a good quality moly grease. You torque the barrel nut to 30lbft three times, this seats the threads, then go for finial gas tube alignment.

    Anyone wanting to assemble a upper needs to down load a copy of the 23&P and read it. It spells out the proper procedures and materials needed. It's not rocket surgery.
     
  12. Jeff H

    Jeff H Member

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    Sorry you live in one of those states.

    I thought silver soldering was one accepted way to permanently attach the muzzle device. That can be done with a hot enough torch without a problem.
     
  13. gotigers

    gotigers Member

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    easy, if you have a vise, vise blocks and a barrel nut wrench. Go ahead and get the tools. You will want to build another one. You really don't need a torque wrench, but it is nice to have.

    Use moly grease for the barrel nut threads. Don't use grease with copper or graphite. Don't use loctite. I found a very cheap tube of moly grease as walmart. I have built 4 uppers with enough left to built a hundred more.
     
  14. Tirod

    Tirod Member

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    I've done it.

    First, don't plan on installing the FSB. Get the barrel with it done already, it's a big step up if pinning is the plan. Setscrew or clamp-on, no problem, and they do allow future changes to be done much easier - if you can stand all the nitpickers telling you it's going to move or fall off.

    Tools? Not really - you do need a vice or some way of firmly holding the upper. The instructions for torquing the nut are all about keeping a 22 year old from twisting off the threaded nose. It's tightened three times to seat the threads and flatten the burrs, then one last time to line up the sprocket to allow the gas tube thru. IT'S NOT A FINAL TORQUE NUMBER, it's a upper limit to prevent damage. It's not even accurate, as it's ONLY an indicated number on the torque wrench - which is affected by being attached to the longer length of the barrel nut wrench.

    For those of us who've tightened a few lug nuts by hand in our life, it's a known feel what 85 foot pounds is like. I used a set of 18" Channelock pliers on the barrel nut, with the upper held in my vise with some rubber blocks. No big deal.

    The armorer's tool kit is for dissassembling large machine guns, it's not an AR - only kit. Don't let the tool salesmen buffalo you into getting more than you need. On the other hand, if you don't already have the minimum tools to do it, then ask whether the experience and skill are sufficient. It's not rocket science, but some people can break bowling balls, too. I have. :)

    In most respects, the upper is pretty easy. The modularity of the AR is why, get the barrel with the extension already headspaced on it, and carefully choose what sights are going to be used. Then it's a matter of just screwing it together. Quality parts will result in an accurate upper - it's not - repeat - not like installing a barrel on a old school receiver type firearm.
     
  15. MtnCreek

    MtnCreek Member

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    Budget about $85 for an armorer’s wrench and an upper receiver block, assuming you already have a bench vise and a torque wrench. Add that to the cost of the upper parts and compare that to the cost of a complete upper. If you plan on building more than one in the near future, allocate part of the tool costs to future builds…
     
  16. NYH1

    NYH1 Member

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    My friend has the wrench. I have a torque wrench. I'm seriously considering building it myself.

    As far as a muzzle device go's, my last AR was a post ban RRA A2 Tasc Rifle, mid length hand guard. It didn't have a muzzle break or flash hider on it. It was crowned on the end like a regular rifle. I liked it like that. If I build my own upper, I'd build it without any type of muzzle device. If I buy one, I'll try to buy one without it if I can. If not, no biggy, it's not a deal breaker. I want my this AR to be like my last AR, but with the A3/A4 flat top instead of the permanent A2 carry handle.

    Thanks, NYH1.
     
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