Building your first AR? I know it can be exciting and maybe even a little intimidating if you haven’t done it before. To help you get started off on the right foot, I have a few tips that can help you avoid some of the mistakes that I made when I built my first AR rifle.
Pick your budget, then your parts. AR components can vary wildly in price, depending on the style and manufacturer. Are you wanting to do a budget build, or high-end?
Make sure you have the correct tools. We go a lot more in-depth here. This one seems obvious, but many first time builders make this mistake, thiking they can get by just using everyday tools. This will only lead to a lot of headaches, busted knuckles, and frustration – not to mention potentially an improperly assembled and unsafe firearm.
The first tools that you will need are a Castle Nut wrench (or the larger AR Armorer tool), a Roll Pin Punch set, a set of Roll Pin holders, a vice block and a torque wrench. The roll pin holders may be the best purchase that I ever made. They allow you to hold the small pins in place and get them started before switching to the roll pin punch. The vice block gives you a sturdy foundation to mount your rifle to while you tighten everything down. The wrench is purpose built for ARs and will keep you from scratching and marring the rifle.
Stake your castle nut. I didn’t know to do this. I found out the hard way one day during a training session. The castle nut worked itself loose, and the next thing I knew was the end plate came off and the spring and detent fell out. I don’t know what was worse, missing out on the rest of the class while I searched for the missing parts, or the embarrassment of having my first rifle fall apart after I had bragged to everyone how I had built it myself. Staking the castle nut is a simple procedure where you use a punch to force a piece of the receiver end plate into the small notches on the castle nut. It literally takes less than a minute and can save you hours of frustration and embarrassment.
Grow a second set of hands. Seriously! Or at least, get a friend to help you. There will be times (like when you have to put the roll pin into the gas tube and gas block) that it’s nice to have more hands. You can also use the other person to look up how exactly you should put the forward assist pin in place while you are trying to keep it from flying out. You can also share your new hobby (obsession) with someone else.
Finally, realize that this won’t be the last AR that you build. Building ARs becomes addicting. You will probably change your AR several times as new components hit the market. Swapping in a new handguard is like putting a new strap on your watch – suddenly you’ve got a brand new watch! Soon your friends will be coming to you to help them with theirs. You’ll probably end up building different ones for different purposes. Target rifles, hunting rifles, pistols, 5.56, 300 Blackout, 308, and on-and-on. You can read more about some of the more popular Alternate AR-15 Caliber options available here or pistol caliber ARs here. The list is pretty much endless. Just remember one last thing, you don’t become a better shooter by adding 10 pounds of sights, lights, and lasers. Practice and Training are the only ways to improve.
If you’re ready to get started, Next Level Armory has the parts and expertise to help you get off on the right foot. Stop by and see us today.
As always, be safe, be prepared and BE MISSION READY!