Most likely know about this gun called the AR15. You see them on the news and you see the military using a version of them. You know, the evil black rifle that you have probably heard so much about. Well, believe it or not, the AR15 is by far the most popular rifle in the United States, coming in at close to 10 million rifles nationwide.
They are practical, useful, customizable, and easy for you to get your hands on! You have the choice to either buy one fully built or build one yourself from home. The way you want to do it is completely up to you, but which method is better?
Part I: Building
Why should I build it?
There is nothing more satisfying than putting pieces in places and making things go BANG! Building this rifle is a great experience for both learning and having fun. There is no better way to learn the ins and outs of your gun than piecing it together yourself.
You will be able to break it down 100% and put it back together in your sleep. You will know what each part is and how it functions. This information is vital to becoming proficient in shooting as you will be able to upgrade or replace parts as needed. You can fine tune your AR to match your shooting needs from the get-go, so you won’t ever be disappointed.
Is it realistic?
It’s completely possible to build and shoot an AR15. If you ever played with Legos as a kid or in your adult life, you’ll be golden! It’s crazy to think that you can build a precision rifle exactly how you want, in your living room. You can get 95% of the parts delivered to your door step. Hell, you can even get them 2-day shipped via Amazon Prime and have it built in time for the weekend.
The most taxing element is obtaining the lower receiver. This is the part that has the serial number and will need to be purchased through a licensed dealer, as it is treated like a long gun. Lower receivers should be widely available at gun stores, shows, and ranges in your local area, unless you live in a state that has strict gun laws. If you live in the south you can practically buy them at the local Wal-Mart.
I can’t do that!
Oh, yes you can. I thought the same thing before I built my first rifle. You don’t even need technical skills to piece and put it together. If you have had the pleasure of putting together an Ikea furniture piece, you will find this to be a walk in the park. They don’t call this gun “adult Legos” for nothing! But in all seriousness, it really is about following instructions and putting the right parts in the right place, at the right time.
There are an endless amount of resources online. Infographics to step-by-step videos. It helps if you have the proper tools (punches, vice, hammer, etc.), but they aren’t necessary.
I did my first lower receiver with a YouTube video, a hammer, screwdriver, and body weight *not recommended* but completely possible. Just dive right in. Research different parts and decide what kind of gun you want. There are endless combinations for you to make a unique and functioning AR15.
The price depends on your patience. If you are one of the blessed few with the willpower, then you can build a decent AR15 on the cheap. We’re talking >$600, but this will take some time. You need to keep your eye out for deals and sales.
Palmetto State Armory is an excellent place to find quality components for a low price. Not something you see in life very often. Keep in mind that this will get you a bare-bones rifle. If you want a customized tactical monstrosity then you will have to dig a little deeper into your pockets.
Part II: Buying
Why should I buy it?
Buying an AR15 fully built from the factory is kind of boring, but it is a solid choice. You have the insurance from a company that when you pull the trigger for the first time, it will go BANG. If it doesn’t, well, that’s what warranties are for. If you had built it, you’re SOL.
Time to pack up and figure out what’s not working properly. The waiting period can also be shorter. Most gun stores and/or big box stores carry factory AR15 rifles from popular manufacturers, so this can cut down on your wait time. Just go and pick one up!
Is it really easier?
Yeah, sure it is. You buy the gun and shoot it, done. There isn’t researching which part you want and there isn’t the intimidating aspect of building it. You will pick it up from the FFL ready to go and never have to think about it again. Until the inevitable happens and you want to upgrade parts and change little aspects. This is known as “black rifle disease” and is very contagious.
That sounds simple! Is it fun?
It will never be as fun as building your own AR15. There are few things in this world more satisfying than making something and solving problems. However, buying an AR15 is simple. There’s not much middle ground or journey.
You will think of your AR15 as just any other gun in your collection. Nothing too special, but it does the job and that’s all that matters. If you just want a tool that works or you’re not into bells and whistles, then this route is for you. Shooting the thing is the best part anyways!
This is the same as building. There won’t be a price difference between building piece by piece, and buying fully built. It will be very close, no matter how you slice it. Again, if you have the willpower, hold out for deals and you can save a few hundred dollars. Pick a rifle and buy it. They are available at different price levels up to several thousand.
Part III: Decision time
The choice is yours to make. Think about which route matches your lifestyle and capabilities. Do you have the time to build a rifle? Do you have the money to buy a complete gun instead of chipping away at parts? Ask yourself questions like these and the answer should be clear. One route will make more sense than the other.
If you are really on the fence and can’t decide, here is my personal opinion.
Clearly this is slanted toward building an AR15 because I think that is the better route. Why? Re-read part 1! I’m biased because I built one with less than the bare minimum, so I believe that everyone can. Step out of your comfort zone and dive right in. There are more than enough resources available online to help you finish your mission. Once you are done, you will have learned a ton of useful information.
You will completely understand how the AR15 rifle functions. Much of this is applicable to other guns, as most use similar systems that are relative. With a little critical thinking, you can understand all firearms through the AR15. There aren’t many things more satisfying than creating something that you can call your own. You will look at your gun and just think, “Yeah. I built that.”