Book Review: The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide (Vol. 2)

I didn’t realize how much I missed instructional books until last month when a copy of The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide (Vol.2)  by Walt Kuleck and Clint McKee arrived at my doorstep with the inaugural parts of my latest project, the FAR-15 rifle.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve become quite accustomed to digital dialogue and diagrams, and I’m not complaining either. But there’s just something nice about a real book in your hands. Maybe because it’s as much of a tool as any other on the workbench or how the act of writing notes in ink solidifies them on the pages for the remainder of its existence?

Whatever the reason, I was looking forward to a refresher in the basics and most excited to (hopefully) learn a new trick or two.

The Guide’s authors, Walk Kuleck and Clint McKee, both began their love of firearms at a young age and share the same passion for U.S. gas operated service rifles. Their knowledge is expansive and I’ll be quite fortunate if I am able to amass the level of insight they have before my brain bails on me.

What’s more, each copy is autographed by the authoring duo, a neat touch and simple show of pride in their works.

And in fact, there are a surprising number of books available by Mr. Kuleck and Mr. McKee, including Complete Assembly Guides for the M1 Garand, M14, and M1911, with accompanying author Drake Oldham. A litany of other guides and manuals can be found in the books section of the Fulton Armory website.

Tracing the roots of how I ended up with The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide (“The Guide“), we quickly arrive at The Device MK I Mod 0. The Device is a machined aluminum tool used to secure AR platform upper receivers for assembly, maintenance, and disassembly.

Given The Device has features specific to A2 variants, building and disassembling a USGI A2 upper was realistically the best way to test it. While picking out the upper receiver and parts kits on Fulton Armory’s website, I came across the book.

The Guide is extremely well-written, providing concise and easy to understand steps. Assembly is split into sensible chapters, each following the same format and including a full list of required parts and tools.

The steps are written-out in paragraph form and then immediately followed by the same steps in photographic form with captions. Pitfalls are called-out and tips, notes, and testing procedures are also detailed.

The photography in the book is top-notch guide photography, clearly showing all parts and pieces required, specific steps and techniques for assembly, completed portions of the process, and tools. All photos and images are also captioned, outlined, or otherwise referenced in the written instructions.

While assembling the Fulton Armory A2 USGI upper on The Device I referenced each step outlined in The Guide. The two things I appreciated the most were how clearly and specifically The Guide conveyed information, and how the photos were well-positioned near the relevant text.

The Tests, Tips, and Pitfalls throughout the book provide the type of insight most people would expect to gain from an in-shop conversation with a highly-qualified gunsmith.

After reading The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide in its entirety and following the suggested methods while completing a straight-forward USGI A2 upper receiver assembly, I believe it to be an excellent resource. I will surely be referencing it throughout the reminder of my FAR-15 build.

With the overwhelming incorporation of electronics in most everyday items, we’ve become accustomed to re-buying instead of repairing. If you own a firearm, it would behoove you to know how to fully assemble and disassemble it and books like The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide by Walt Kuleck and Clint McKee are the perfect electricity-less resource for all levels of experience.

Specifications: The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide (Vol. 2)

Price as reviewed: $21.95

Overall: * * * * *
The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide is a concise, yet very adequately-detailed reference guide for assembling any and all parts of most AR-15 platform rifles, although the rifle used in the examples is a USGI A2 clone. The photos are very helpful and extremely clear and the tips, tricks, and pitfalls, including when to (and not to) use which types of grease and oil, will be invaluable to beginners. I highly recommend all AR platform rifle and pistol owners keep a copy handy.

comments

  1. avatar little horn says:

    for that price, why not pick it up?

  2. avatar michael in ak says:

    what about volume 1?

    1. avatar Conner W. says:

      Vol. 1 is no longer available from Fulton Armory.

      They also offer, “The NEW AR-15 Complete Owner’s Guide,” which includes information on more recent advancements in the platform, such as gas piston systems.

      1. avatar EWTHeckman says:

        Does this cover everything “Volume 1” covered, making this more of a “2nd Edition”? In other words, if you get this one, do you need Volume 1?

        1. avatar Conner W. says:

          Great question – clearly I failed to explain this in the review…

          The Series is titled, “AR-15 Guide.”

          Vol. 1 in the series is, “The AR-15 Complete Owner’s Guide”, which has been superseded by an updated version. It is now titled, “The NEW AR-15 Complete Owner’s Guide”.

          Vol. 2 in the series is, “The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide.” This volume covers everything specific to assembly of the firearm.

        2. avatar EWTHeckman says:

          Thanks for clarifying that!

    2. avatar BLAMMO says:

      If Volume 1 of the “Complete Guide” was really the complete guide, we wouldn’t have needed a Volume 2 of the complete guide to make it complete. But this really does make it complete. We really mean it this time. No, really. We really, REALLY mean it this time. Don’t wait for a Volume 3, because there won’t be any. So, you’d better buy this before it’s not available anymore, just like what happened to Volume 1 of the complete guide.

  3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    FYI, these two gentlemen have forgotten more about service rifles and smithing on them than most gunsmiths like yours truly will ever know. I have their books and they’re worth the price, IMO.

    1. avatar MyName says:

      That, folks, is what is known as a sterling endorsement.

      Never met ya, DG, but, so far you’ve never steered me wrong. Thx.

  4. avatar Chazbo says:

    That’s the book that guided me through my first AR build, and many more that followed. Worth it’s weight in gold to me.

  5. avatar Walt Kuleck says:

    Hi, Folks,

    Thanks for the kind words. A brief clarification would seem to be in order. The original concept was a “Guide Series” for several platforms, starting with the AR-15:

    Vol I: Owner’s Guide: History, nomenclature, function, operation, maintenance, troubleshooting, etc.—everything you need to run the gun.

    Vol 2: Assembly Guide: Everything you need to take a pile of parts and build an AR-15.

    Vol 3: Tactical Guide: Handling, Shooting, Malfunctions, tactics; never proceeded with for a number of reasons. So, DON”T LOOK FOR IT, there never was one, there’s never going to be one.

    After many years of solid support by readers, it became clear to us that the Owner’s Guide, originally written in 1999 and published in 2000, had fallen behind the times. For one thing, it was written in the midst of the Clinton Crime Bill/AW Ban; thus, the focus was on finding a pre-ban rifle and then configuring a host of unrestricted uppers for it. Now, folks don’t buy a lot of uppers for their AR, they just buy another rifle.

    Consequently, we published “The NEW AR-15 Complete Owner’s Guide” and retired the original (the NEW Guide is, in fact, all-new, not an update or rewrite). So, today we have two independent, complementary books, “The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide” and “The NEW AR-15 Complete Owner’s Guide.” Because we were never able to get the “Complete Guides” concept well-enough articulated, we’ve dropped the “Vol 1/Vol 2” designations. The Assembly Guide and NEW Owner’s Guide are two separate books to cover two distinct perspectives on the AR-15. We hope this helps.

    Best regards,

    Walt Kuleck

    1. avatar Conner W. says:

      Thank you very much, Mr. Kuleck!

      1. avatar Walt Kuleck says:

        Thank you, Conner, thanks for the kind words, and for “getting it”!

        Very best regards

        Walt

    2. avatar Nigel the expat says:

      I’ve been building for years but decided to pick up a copy just because the author was humble enough to chime in on the article. Nicely done.

      Copy ordered.

  6. avatar Rick says:

    I am real fan of the guys at Fulton Armory. I had them update my AR-15 target rifle with a free float tube and a once over, I also have their AR-15 Predator upper and their AR Carbine. All shoot better then I can. F-A is a class act and Clint McKee was kind enough to show me what happens when head space is not respected. I now gauge every load I use in my gas guns. They also overhauled my M-14S which I picked up used just before the AWB. It is now a work of rifle art! At 65 I no longer compete formally, but I do enjoy taken these rifles to the range. My next purchase will be an AR-10 type rifle from F-A later this year.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I cannot echo this enough. Clint & Walt are classy gents, who know their stuff. I mean, they really know the issues in American service rifles. They’re like walking encyclopedias of American gas-operated service rifles, and quite versed in other gas-operated rifles as well.

      Fulton Armory is an example of how to build a gunsmithing business on a specialization basis – ie, they’re not going to try to make a buck taking in all manner of guns as I do, which isn’t a road to anything other than headaches and distemper. Sure, I can tell you all manner of arcane facts and issues in Hopkins & Allen revolvers, but the most recent one I worked on, I cleaned and handed back at no charge because the customer was a nice young man who was just getting started in collecting, and I didn’t want to discourage his future by charging him $55 for a DCI on a gun he just paid $20 for.

      It’s not a viable business model, but I sure do learn a lot about a great number of guns.

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