My AR-15 Projects...

Discussion in 'DIY Projects' started by infotech, Oct 26, 2008.

  1. infotech

    infotech New Member

    85
    0
    0
    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.

    Planning Phase:
    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....
     
  2. territup

    territup New Member

    5
    0
    0
    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.
    Thanks,
    Territup
     

  3. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    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...

    JD
     
  4. DBox

    DBox New Member

    3
    0
    0
    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.
     
  5. jeepcreep927

    jeepcreep927 New Member

    1,105
    0
    0
    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.
     
  6. infotech

    infotech New Member

    85
    0
    0
    I'm told I'm pretty talented with the CAD and design programs - I have some ideas for custom AR's though Obama might put an end to that dream.

    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).
     
  7. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    *literally laughing out loud*

    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...

    JD
     
  8. junho806

    junho806 New Member

    909
    0
    0
    hahaha
    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
    :D
     
  9. infotech

    infotech New Member

    85
    0
    0
    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:

    • Use quality parts from well reviewed suppliers
    • Assemble the rifle correctly using the right tools
    • Stake the castle nut, carrier key and so on

    Examples of staked parts:
    [​IMG]
    Stag CMT Carrier

    [​IMG]
    Colt Carrier

    [​IMG]
    Castle Nut Staking

    Brownells carries a one handed spring loaded punch which makes staking easy:
    http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/store/ProductDetail.aspx?p=12619&title=AUTOMATIC%20CENTER%20PUNCH

    A nice but expensive tool for staking carrier keys:
    The MOACKS II
    http://www.m-guns.com/tools.php

    Next: Upper and Lower Choices
     
  10. infotech

    infotech New Member

    85
    0
    0
    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:
    [​IMG]

    Configuration choices:
    • 5.56 NATO
    • Fluted and Threaded Barrel
    • Chrome Moly 1-9 twist
    • Std free float handguard
    • Tactical Charging Handle

    I purchased upgrades from other suppliers:
    • VTAC Free Float Handguard
    • Small rail panels built to go on the VTAC
    • M-16 Bolt Carrier Group from Spike's
    • Low Profile Gas Block (will be under the hand guard)

    Photo:
    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).
    -and-
    Spike's Tactical custom M-16 BCG
    [​IMG]

    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.

    Photo:
    Assembled with stock parts and my Nikon scope
    [​IMG]

    Lower
    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.

    Assembled Lower:
    [​IMG]

    Next: Build lessons, post gunsmith results and upgrades completed
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  11. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    Looks like you got a nice build, and a nice write up there, for the other folks who are hoping to get on board before the looming gun ban.

    I like what you did with the low pro gas block and retained the 1913 rail, just in case.

    Do you have a plan for Back Up sights? Just a thought.

    Let's hope your gunsmith knows what he is doing. :D:D

    JD
     
  12. infotech

    infotech New Member

    85
    0
    0
    I was at the point of frustration where getting out my dremel tool and cutting the barrel nut off started to seem "sane" so it's time to call in the pro's. It might be loctite and too much torque, I tried applying heat and all that but I was pulling my vise off the bench and if it has to be cut off I'd rather someone with more experience look at it first. The gunsmith comes highly recommended and it's not a bad idea to have the upper verified and function checked, I know I'll be more confident in the weapon. ;)

    The gas block in the assembled photo is the one that came with the upper, I haven't' switched it out yet. The new one will go completely under the handguard and doesn't have a rail built in. The small rail panels made for the VTAC will go on where needed for the front site and planned laser designator. I have a tango down add on to hold my tac light but it should all still look clean, I'm not wild about the "all rails" look. I want to be able to quick change the rifle configuration for different types of shooting.

    I plan to buy a set of LaRue front and rear flip up BUIS. They're the Troy sights re-branded but the combo price for both is as low as the non-branded one's are anywhere else. I've been waiting to buy those for either a really good deal or just to let some time pass and avoid pissing the wife off even more than I did on the original budget, (I went over by more than 500.00). I think I spent more on buying the tools and supplies than I had expected, I plan to write up a post on that too since I spent a lot of time deciding what to buy and from whom.

    I picked up a mint condition Magpul EMOD stock (which was what I wanted but passed on to save money) for 80 bucks. It's FDE but I can paint it black.

    I forgot the best part, my wife sold the Beretta Storm to her sister and want's me to build her a carbine AR after seeing mine and comparing the two rifles. We're looking for the parts and trying to get them ordered ASAP but the timing sucks. I hate to say "I told you so" but I friggin told her she would want one. Then again, the Storm was cheap compared to what we're probably going to spend for another AR.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  13. infotech

    infotech New Member

    85
    0
    0
    The gun is about to be on it's way back from the smith - I've got to say I'm not thrilled with model1sales.

    The barrel nut was seized due to dry threads and had to be machined off on a lathe. The upper was undamaged, luckily.

    I had them check the chamber and sure enough, it was set for .223 not 5.56 as ordered and as the rifle is marked. I'm having the chamber opened up in case I ever do manage to get some genuine 5.56 - I'd prefer to have both options.

    I had the upper refinished with gunkote - the finish was a bit fragile as it came from model1.

    Of course I emailed and tried to call them, no response at all. I still have a decent rifle out of the deal and it should be more accurate and durable now thanks to the gunsmith, I just won't be doing any repeat business with model1. I did end up spending enough to have just about covered buying a higher end "brand" but having the upper aligned and checked out makes it all balance out.

    I should have the upper back in a few days or so - I'll finish putting the rest of it back together and post some photos then, hopefully along with a range test.
     
  14. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    Sorry about that bro - that totally sucks, especially when you take the sellers word for what they are providing. Dry threads and possibly cross threaded is not a good combination...

    Gunkote is as good as advertised - definitely makes your finish more durable when it's baked on. I am having a similiar process done to my new 7mm since the barrel is stainless..

    We can definitely add Model1sales to the "Do Not Purchase" from list - Take note folks...

    JD
     
  15. junho806

    junho806 New Member

    909
    0
    0
    dude that sucks
    at least you got everything figured out now
    let us know when you get it back
    :D
     
  16. matt g

    matt g New Member Supporter

    3,865
    0
    0
    We should compile a 'do not buy from' list. In the list, we need to add why we shouldn't buy from these companies to avoid a libel suit.
     
  17. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    I was thinking the same thing - but I think we need notdku to weigh in first since it would be his lawyers on retainer taking the incoming complaint. :p

    We have a few now that have been mentioned, especially in the AR threads....

    JD
     
  18. infotech

    infotech New Member

    85
    0
    0
    The upper came back from the gunsmith but I had some camera issues which delayed getting the pics up. I'm still not entirely happy with the photos but it'll do for now.


    Just to revisit the long path which led to the current rifle - I wanted an accurate weapon able to stand up to hard use so I went with a heavy barrel fluted for heat management and some weight loss. I like the flat top ARs vs. the A2 types w/ carry handle and planned to use a few different shooting setups:
    • standard iron sights using flip up BUIS
    • holo red dot (standard day to day and home defense)
    • ranged scope (I have a Nikon scope for now until I can afford something better)
    Of course I'd prefer to have 2 or 3 different rifles setup with different calibers but that's just not going to happen right now although I am probably going to order another upper configured for light weight, standard A2 iron sights and holo-dot.

    Brett at NW Armswerkes (I can't remember how he spells it right now) performed the surgery on the seized barrel nut, gunkoted the upper, opened the chamber for 5.56 and aligned / test fired the beast. With the VTAC handguard on it is one heavy gun but I'm able to carry the load just fine and the gains in accuracy should be evident. I have the BUIS and a bipod ordered, they should be here this week sometime.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Just out of curiosity, what do you guys think I could get for her if I were to sell her in the current market? Considering she was my first I definitely want to keep her, just wondering how I made out on spending vs. market value.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 2, 2009
  19. junho806

    junho806 New Member

    909
    0
    0
    very nice infotech
    so you decided to scope it huh?
    have you shot it yet?