Courtesy Brownells
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Courtesy Brownells

[Ed: This article was first published here back in 2019…what now seems like decades ago. Other than the references to low prices and low crime rates it’s just as relevant today.]

By Key Stone Scout

This past Christmas I wanted to get my two LEO brothers gifts without draining my bank account. This was mostly because I love them, but I also wanted to fill up the good will bucket in case my foot feels gets too heavy.

After a little online research, I found a set of three consecutive Spike’s Tactical lowers and scooped them up. I thought it would be fun for each of us to build one from the ground up.  As luck would have it one of the lowers matched one of their badge numbers so that made it feel even more like a home run.

I immediately got impatient and started buying components almost daily. (No honey, I swear this was on back order from months ago – and yes of course I’m still contributing to Junior’s college fund!). As the parts trickled in I got even more excited.

What I ended up with is a rifle that will give me some serious utility. This certainly isn’t a rifle with “top-end” components. It lacks precision tuning by a skilled gunsmith. It lacks prestige because because it doesn’t have a famous name on it.

I don’t really want to show it off to anyone, especially my gunsmith who might want to beat me senseless with it. It’s also not the most attractive rifle I’ve ever seen. But let’s get into some very good reasons why you too should build an AR-15 regardless of your skill level.

1.  I made it. There are many like it and this one is mine. There’s a lot of pride involved in assembly followed by punching accurate, consistent holes at 100 yards. My little project also has never hiccupped after nearly 2,000 rounds through the thing. All of this stuff builds confidence and fluffs the ego.

2.  Customized is the way to go. This AR-15 platform is so ubiquitous that there are scores of component manufacturers out there, making it a great first gun build. Also, being that I shoot most comfortably as a southpaw, I ensured the rifle I built is fully ambidextrous.

Topped off with a little JV rattle can action this weapon turned into my truck gun, ready for any situation, good or bad. At first I was hesitant to spray paint my AR. But I weighted the options (black rifles stick out like a sore thumb) and went for it. I was also comforted to know how easily the spray paint can come off.

3.  You will learn a lot. I am a life-long learner. It was a good experience to look up articles and how-to videos on the topic. Besides learning to build your rifle, you’ll learn about the laws involved. You will learn about what’s important to you personally for attributes and usage. You will also learn how deep your passion for self-defense and/or shooting sports can go.

Even if you end up buying a complete upper as I did, you inevitably will be researching things such as barrel length laws and pistol vs. carbine compliance. I’d even go out on a limb and say building an AR-15 is the responsible thing to do.

4.  You’ll save money. Get the parts you want and leave the rest of the junk out. I realized that I’ve had five AR-15s in the brief time I’ve been a Second Amendment enthusiast. Every single one I owned and sold had been slightly customized by yours truly.

These were always small changes, but the costs added up. I ended up selling each of them because they just weren’t quite right.

Courtesy Palmetto State Armory

I will keep this one. Lowers are very inexpensive right now. Even if you don’t have the means to build the whole rifle now, buy the lower (or three) and stash it in the back of your safe for when the time is right.

You can start your build slowly. Next time you go to the gun shop, buy two boxes of ammo instead of five. Now you probably have the funds for that upgraded grip.

5.  The times in which we find ourselves make this a very valuable piece of equipment. Let’s face it, this is an important piece of hardware to have at hand as an option no matter what the situation. While the national crime rate is low, there are always those out there who would do you harm.

My LEO brothers couldn’t agree more. Police simply can’t be everywhere, and when seconds count, a cop is only minutes away. At best. Having the means to provide your own effective self defense and protect your family is a must.

My next goal with this rifle doesn’t have anything to do with hardware. Instead, I want to select a quality training outfit and take a carbine training course.

It’s been some great fun building America’s rifle. It’s yet another piece of equipment in my inventory that my father-in-law will probably ridicule. Then again, he won’t be seeing this little guy any time soon.


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  1. Why does this even matter?
    Who cares what kind of rifle one has.
    It is a moot point.
    Owning a AR15 does not imbue the owner with mad SEAL Team Six skills and proficiency.
    Strive to master the fundamentals of marksmanship per the late, great COL Jeff Cooper.
    The man who can shoot and hit everything he can see, within the limits of the caliber of the rifle is a master of the rifle and a greater asset on the battle field than some yahoo who can pull a trigger, up fast and in a hurry and not hit a dang thing.

    This is nothing more than AR15 porn.

    Focus on skill. Not on hardware.

      • If hardware is so important, why would you assemble it yourself? I’ll leave my gun assembly to those who design it from the ground up. I will assemble my computer, but not my gun, thanks.

        • That makes no sense at all. Do you refuse to change your own oil or air up a tire too?

          All the sudden there is an influx of city dwelling pretty boys here. More worried about iphones and wifi, unable to get their hands dirty and build stuff, obviously not self reliant for food either.

          Really… you’ll build a PC, but not a rifle? C’mon soy boy, take your ass back to reddit.

        • It is better to assemble it yourself precisely because hardware is so important. Firearms ARE hardware. Otherwise, what are you talking about?

        • The man that designed the AR15 died over 20 years ago. Your sentiment is very confusing. If your not comfortable doing it then don’t. Building one is very doable and many do. Building AR15’s are done for the same reasons computers are built. I would suggest to anyone that building is better with either one.

        • If hardware is so important, why would you assemble it yourself?

          Because you want to reach extreme competence at assembling your own rifles for enjoyment and pride, and you can accomplish this through practice.

          I will assemble my computer, but not my gun, thanks.

          Looks like you are giving up already on the quest to be competent at assembling your own rifle for enjoyment and pride.

        • I build my computers and ARs. It’s not overly complicated and you get what you want the first time. That said, I still want a POF Revolution in .308.

        • I’ve never understood wearing ignorance as a badge of honor. Assembling an AR is a fairly simple process – not much different than completing a puzzle. Yes – headspacing a barrel is slightly complicated, but it’s not rocket science.

          Everyone should try to achieve a minimum of competency in a few areas – learn to use your hands, grow food, cook, fix simple machines, understand – at a high level – how the human body works…etc.

          A “liberal arts” education does not make one well-rounded. Learning how the physical world around you works makes you well rounded.

        • zerofoo: Headspacing an AR is something of a misnomer – you check it, and then either know it’s good, or call the barrel (or bolt) mfgr to tell them something’s wrong.

          It’s arguably more important to do on a .308 AR than on a 5.56, because for the latter everything is so standardized; but it’s good practice in either case. Regardless, it’s not so much something you’re setting, as checking.

    • “Focus on skill. Not on hardware.”

      How do you not focus on both? You do not achieve skill without an intimate familiarity with your “hardware”.

    • Well stated. So tired of the “You must have an AR-15” articles.
      If someone else wants one, fine. But don’t act like it is the best rifle in the world and the only one to deal with anything and everything.

      • 1) you should expect some of that as it is such a popular rifle.

        2) have what you want. That has always been the way it is.

        3) most companies act that way with their own wares.

    • A comfortable rifle made and adjusted to your own needs and desires is not a waste of time and has a bunch of advantages. You should try it sometime.

    • Why does this even matter?

      Just the article explains, one will learn about the hardware, how it fits together, become proficient with repairing/installing/modifying the hardware. Learning about the laws restricting the hardware through research. And there is nothing wrong with learning new stuff. It’s desirable actually.

      Who cares what kind of rifle one has.

      Nobody cares what kind of rifle you have. You probably don’t care what rifles I have. That said, this is “TTAG” – “The truth about guns” where they talk about gun culture, laws, current events, etc. And in the article, they provide you with 5 reasons, you might want to consider building your own AR15. So, it has nothing to do with what kind of rifle one has. They are talking about 5 reason to build your own AR15. The article didn’t say they have a interesting in what kind of rifle someone has. That didn’t happen.

      It is a moot point.
      Owning a AR15 does not imbue the owner with mad SEAL Team Six skills and proficiency.

      The article didn’t say that owning an AR15 imbues SEAL Team Six skills. That didn’t happen. The writer isn’t making this argument.

      Strive to master the fundamentals of marksmanship per the late, great COL Jeff Cooper.

      That sounds good, and probably is, but it doesn’t have anything to do with this article.

      The man who can shoot and hit everything he can see, within the limits of the caliber of the rifle is a master of the rifle and a greater asset on the battle field than some yahoo who can pull a trigger, up fast and in a hurry and not hit a dang thing.

      This sounds good, and probably is, however the article doesn’t suggest this, at all. The article is purely about learning about the hardware, assembly, options, modifications, and respective law. It doesn’t suggest or not suggest that suddenly becoming an AR15 owner makes one a yahoo who can’t hit anything.

      This is nothing more than AR15 porn.

      Well, this is the “The Truth About Guns.” A site that talks about all things guns. Including occasionally hardware, assembly, options, modifications, and law. So yeah. Its like going to a car dealer and looking at their sports car in the lobby and telling them it’s sports car porn. I don’t see your point, and gun related material, including hardware, is expected on a gun related site.

      Focus on skill. Not on hardware.

      Some people focus on their collections, because they have collections. Some people focus on both, their collection and skill. What con’s are there in having a knowledge of the hardware and building one yourself?

    • Two or three times a year I teach the rifle merit badge to local scout troops. I start by showing them how to build 22LR ARs (it is against scout regs to let the scouts shoot anything more powerful than a 22LR or muzzleloader). I start with a total breakdown of parts on the table and walk them through the assembly identifying and describing the function of each part. After the rifle is assembled we go out back to my private range (I am an NRA certified instructor, and have a friend who is a range officer) and let everyone test fire the weapon.

  2. Kinda late to build. Prices for no name lower’s are insane. The same price paid for a complete S&W Sport. The revolution will be televised…and lied about!!!

      • wife just informed ME we may have martial law declared. By TRUMP . AS I spend a gazillion hours a week on social media I had to humor her(which she did not appreciate). Oh and we have to prep 😏

        • Yeah, Trump has never had the guts to more than incite others into taking risks on his behalf. The whiny little shit is a coward, no way he’d risk that overt an act.

        • Where I work is pretty fun. Half the guys I work with build AR’s. Anytime I have a question about suppressors, 80% lowers, 6.5 Grendel, 300 blackout, 6.8, AR10, AR pistol barrel length, concealed carry pistols, bullpups, plate carriers, etc. There is always someone to talk with. It’s almost like I work with all the commenters on this site (minus the annoying people like Enuf and Miner49er).
          Even my Democrat leaning co-workers are into guns and knives. It’s nice

        • Hedgar sounds a lot like Miner, and popped up right around the time we started advising others to ignore him. Along with multiple other random names around here… no surprise. Chief Censor is back too, so it’s one of the two.

          See what I mean? Ignore the trolls and they get desperate.

        • “See what I mean? Ignore the trolls and they get desperate.”

          I’ve been saying that for years. Usually I get some variant of “But if we ignore them then they go unchallenged” as an argument.

          Some people just love to argue with trolls. I don’t get it.

    • This past week Primary Arms had Anderson stripped lowers on sale and in stock for 47.99,4 years back they were 24.99 on sale,so that price increase is not outrageous.

      • I’m talking about complete lowers. The ones that were waaaay under $200 at PSA. Don’t have the tool’s or machine shop to go 80%(or care at my age)…and no helper monkey.

        • A little over a year ago, you could occasionally find PSA complete kits (everything except stripped lower) for $279 with free shipping. With the lower, you could be all in for around $350. That is pretty awesome.

          Prices have gone up a lot since then. At least Palmetto still has such kits in stock.

        • Oh I busted my azz refinishing and fixing antique furniture for 20 years & made a huge pile of $. I have breathing problems from using noxious chemicals(like methal chloride) and crap. I don’t want to “work” on squat now…I worked miracles with wood.

  3. “No honey, I swear this was on back order from months ago…”

    Good to hear that I am not the only one who uses that line.

  4. I might as well have built my own for all OE stuff I’ve taken off and replaced but, yeah, it’s an expensive “hobby” to get into right now. Of course, getting those armorer skillz could come in mighty handy sooner rather than later…

  5. F*ck the AR. What we need is for possum to get off his furry ass and complete his neutrino fission weapon.

    Time for a reset.

  6. Already have two AR’s. The super lightweight one is a polymer upper and lower. That’s for hiking, thing is crazy light weight.

    The other is built mostly on Yankee Hill Machine lower and upper. Just a solid workhorse, nothing fancy.

    Had I the time and loose coin I’d build an AR-10. Maybe ten years ago I’d of done that, now I just concentrate on what I have.

    And yes, you learn a lot building from a pile of parts. Whatever the gun is, AR or otherwise.

    • (Insert doubting of credentials here)

      Always funny to listen to people say “I would have done that, but…”

  7. Building from a serialized lower with a government permission slip required to buy may not be the best choice right now. Go 80%, then go boating.

  8. I have a AR pattern gun. Just one. It works well and I shoot it properly. I will get a few replacement parts for it before it takes an FFL just to buy a spring.
    Thats my take on it. You mileage may vary.

    • That’s my take on it too. I started buying spare parts like extractors, springs, pins, detents, and a complete bolt. There is a certain president elect who wants to ban on line sales of firearms, firearm parts, and ammo. That would suck.

  9. something wicked this way comes…
    it matters not whether its built or bought
    what does matter going forward is that one has a 30 round capacity magazine fed semiautomatic centerfire rifle based plan to keep oneself and ones family from being dragged out of the house in the middle of the night and beaten to death in the street
    welcome to 2021
    if you thought 2020 was as bad as it could get…
    you thought wrong…

  10. I already owned 3 store bought ARs before I decided to try my hand at building my own. It was quite an experience. Fairly easy to do and it was fun. Great sense of accomplishment. Okay, I admit, I just built the lower. I don’t really have the tools needed to build an upper.

    • maybe, but the idea of ‘ghost guns’ is about like ‘Saturday night specials’.

      The purpose of the article is in part to learn. What your talking about is a non serialized 80% lower.

  11. So the bigger question to ponder is what will his “two LEO brothers “ do when they are told to kick in the door of someone who built a similar AR15 this Christmas?

    Something tells me they will focus on collecting their paycheck.

  12. make no mistake Biden and Harris are coming for ARs and large cap mags for all guns

    time to make a plan ……in some states more than 10 rounds already a felony


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