My AR-15 Projects...
Hey all. I'm in the process of designing and acquiring the parts to build at least one AR-15, maybe two depending on what's left at the gun show tomorrow and I wanted to start a project thread to keep track of the decisions / process and get some feedback on the directions I'm considering. I've never owned an AR before so I hope I can help other novice builders by posting the resources and so on I find.
Disclaimer: I'm depending on the advice of a few well respected people, the books and videos I've purchased and my own "collector" mentality which may lean more in the direction of style and design than pure functionality. I have a wicked addiction to artistic style in everything from cars, architecture, computers to weapons. That's probably important to get out there for anyone using my project log as reference.
I wanted to build a long range / high accuracy AR and planned to use a Beretta CX-4 as my CQ Carbine with my Beretta PX-4 9mm serving as my " use while I maneuver to the Carbine" weapon. I really like the Beretta carbine in terms of design and function but the more I research the AR-15 platform and history the more I find myself leaning towards building a second Carbine configured AR-15.
I have more research to do on that, especially legal barrel length and so on in TX. I decided to take the time to do some research, learn the history of the weapon and as much technical detail as possible on the seemingly endless options available in a custom built AR.
Step one was to get a lower right now in case of quick legislation following an unfortunate Obama election. I found a decent comparison article on another site which detailed the source manufacturers for lowers and the vendors they distribute to. Rather than post to another forum I'm going to recreate that comparison in this thread and update it. I'll do this in another post in the thread dedicated to lowers.
I came down to a DPMS or a Rock River Arms lower. I went with the RRA one despite being more expensive based on slightly better reviews across several AR sites and the RRA lower seeming to offer a more "detailed" fit and finish according to my admitted novice vision.
The next design steps are more of the "big picture" choices which determine my next set of purchases. I've been checking out various custom rifle builders to try and gain inspiration and ideas. I hope to build a solid rifle which will be configured in such as way as to be easy to upgrade with the high end custom parts and configuration choices, some now and some later. I also plan to design and machine some parts in order to get the level of style and performance I want, hopefully with some cost savings. The possibility of getting a manufacturer's FFL is a subject of current research as well.
Right now I'm quite taken with Noveske custom rifles. http://www.noveskerifleworks.com/ The finished rifles and even the parts are very expensive but I like the overall look of the weapons and will be researching the performance impact and ways to achieve a similar styling at a lower cost, (if possible).
Next post will be on lowers....
Keep the updates
I am also looking to build one and have about the same end result. Please keep posting updates so I can follow.
Looks like an interesting project. I think you are on the right track, but you might be reading more into this that actually exists.
Noveske builds a good firearm, but they know it charge accordingly.
Anyone with any rifle building skills ( gunsmith ) can true up just about any upper receiver for your RRA lower and can give you a tack driver.
There is a great myth out there that the name on the side of the weapon is what makes the weapon great. That is true of a lot of weapons, but the AR platform seems to suffer greatly from this myth versus fact situation.
Keep up the research though, I think you will end up coming to some good conclusions once you get into the "finer" points of what each part of the weapon does and how it interacts with others.... It will surprise you how simple these weapons truly are once you get into the meat of it...
Good luck and welcome to the Black Rifle Club...
I agree with Dillinger. Unless you are building for extreme accuracy such as a varmint or bench rst rifle the basic kits will work great. I have ordered the cheapest lower and the cheapest kit I could find and put it together in 30 minutes and be well pleased with the accuracy and performance. My main tools are a small hammer, a set of small punches, small files, and a set of small drill bits. The drill bits are used to ream some of the parts and holes in the reciever a VERY SMALL bit BY HAND (no drill) since these holes sometimes have finish in them that makes them fit too tight. If you leave something out it won't work and you can't put too many parts in there. After you get it together, lube it up more than you need to and shoot it a bunch to sort of break it in. Take your time and have fun with it.
Just curious as to why you are looking into a manufacturer's licence? Are you planning to sell some of them? If not, the cost and hassle may not be worth it.
I still plan to build or buy a lathe and CNC machine and I've built up a decent library of "how to" gunsmith books, instructional videos and so on.
I'm about to post some updates and photos, working on assembling the lower and in case no one ever told you, the pivot pin detent will fly like a friggin rocket should the razor blade slip. That sucker is pretty much invisible once it bounces off the ceiling also.
Luckily I had the foresight to order the spare parts kit though when facing the choice of buying the install tool said, "nah, why would I need that?"
I think you guys are going to like what I'm doing on this one, I ended up spending more than my original budget mostly due to this possibly being the only AR I'll get to build if things go badly in DC. I'll update here in a bit and try to explain the choices I made and why I made them. Hopefully it will help others or at least help them know what not to do (like launch a detent into orbit - man, I can't get over how fast that sucker was going).
THAT is one of the little secrets we like to keep to ourselves to help weed out those that HAVE and those that HAVE NOT when it comes to the AR platform.... LOL
Everyone has trouble with that the first time - and most of us on the second and third attempts...:D
Don't feel bad, there are probably a dozen of those damn things in varies nooks and crannies around the shop. Happens to everyone...
same thing happened here...
fortunately i was in a small room but it still took 10 minutes the find the small darn thing...
looking forward to some picture infotech
Just in case there are more DIY types in the future and the AR platform is not relegated to an idiot ban for the next 8 years or so I thought I would go into the decision process, why I chose what and so on as this info would have helped me quite a bit and some of it was harder to find than it should have been.
Design Choices: Brands and Build Quality vs. Dependability
As Dillinger and others have stated, the choices in a budget gun are pretty simple, as long as the mfr is following the mil specs and using quality materials the brand name really doesn't mean that much. I did find a school of thought among the light fighting community that home built rifles are bad, they tend to fall apart under heavy use, especially in tactical shooting classes where you are putting a thousand rounds through the rifle in a few hours time while running, ducking and diving, quite possibly banging your gear up while you do so.
The malfunctions they list tend to be parts coming loose - castle nuts, bolt carrier keys, gas blocks. This is usually due to the parts not being properly "staked" - a process where you deform the metal on and around the screw / bolt heads to prevent them from turning or coming loose. I came to the conclusion that I could build a solid, dependable rifle despite the opinions I was reading so long as the following was taken into account:
Examples of staked parts:
Stag CMT Carrier
Castle Nut Staking
Brownells carries a one handed spring loaded punch which makes staking easy:
A nice but expensive tool for staking carrier keys:
The MOACKS II
Next: Upper and Lower Choices
Upper and Lower Choices
My primary goal was to build a SHTF gun, something I could use for home defense. My shooting background was with long guns competing with the local farm kids in long range accuracy. From my first BB Gun to my bolt action hunting rifles, the usual weekend activity was to shoot thumb tacks off the top of a fence post at varying distances. At one point in time, I could do this consistently at 2-300 yards using a scope in calm conditions.
This drove me to want to build a sniper rifle variant of the AR-15, my thought process being that should the SHTF I wanted to keep the hungry mobs far back from my property and loved ones. A discussion somewhere else involving law enforcement officers changed my POV on this one a bit. As they wisely pointed out, even in a SHTF scenario, law and order will probably return eventually and when it does explaining why you had to shoot people 1/2 to 1 mile away from your home is probably not going to be an experience which avoids a Grand Jury. A rifle able to shoot both close quarters and medium distance seemed to be the better choice. (Not to mention I plant to buy / build a different type of rifle for long range shooting and have a carbine / shotgun and pistol for use in very close quarters).
These choices took me from wanting a 20 inch rifle w/ expensive scope to a multi-purpose 16 inch varmint configuration able to use a wider range of optics. I chose to go with a heavy barrel, threaded for a flash hider / muzzle rise compensator, fluted for heat management and set up with a free float hand-guard. I ordered my upper with few upgrades and chose to purchase better quality replacement parts which were either much better than options available from the upper assembly supplier or less expensive from other places.
I went with the 16" varmint upper assembly from model1sales:
I purchased upgrades from other suppliers:
VTAC Free Float (Close to Daniel Defense style which is one of the best reviewed for heat management but a lot cheaper. I also prefer the appearance of this handguard).
Spike's Tactical custom M-16 BCG
I assembled and tested everything using the stock parts but ran into a small issue when trying to switch out my handguard - the stock barrel nut will not loosen. I'm in the process of sending the upper to a gunsmith to have it removed, checked ot make sure it's not cross threaded and have the upper blue printed and headspaced, function checked etc.
Assembled with stock parts and my Nikon scope
For the lower I went with a complete Rock River Arms lower and purchased the RRA parts kit elsewhere. The same people who warned against home built rifles also had seen some issues with RRA components. Time will tell but my experience is very good so far, the lower is tight with no play in the trigger, it feels very solid and there is no play at all between the lower and upper when assembled. The choice to go with RRA for the lower was almost entirely due to availability and price and contrary to the opinions mentioned, I found very favorable reviews of RRA parts and rifles in great number online.
Next: Build lessons, post gunsmith results and upgrades completed
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