Firearm & Gear Reviews

Building an AR-15 – Part 1: Gathering the Parts

“I love it when a plan comes together”

– Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith

 

Finally got around to building my first AR-15. I purchased a stripped lower before the election, it was the sole exception in my resistance to doing any panic buying. I hadn’t intended to be in a particular hurry to build the rifle but once I got started it was hard to slow down. I didn’t have the entirety of my plan in place when I stated the build but the following represents the resources, parts and tools that I ended up using. I can’t claim that this is a budget build but in many respects it was. Their are simply that many choices available, many of them costing significantly more money. In the end I believe I got quality components at reasonable cost and believe the rifle is worth every penny I paid for it. Of course that all assumes perfect function which is yet to be determined.

Video References:

  • AR-15 – Detailed Step By Step Assembly / Build Instructions

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8sY5CQmlHI

I can’t say enough about this video. There are quite a few videos on building an AR-15 to found on YouTube. I suspect many are well done. This one just seemed to me to be one of the better ones and with only a few exceptions it was my number one resource.

The following two videos relate primarily to the specific handguard system that I used for my build: the Hogue Overmolded Freefloat Hanguard.

  • AR Barrel Install by sootch00 Hogue AR 15 Stock Kit Review & Install by sootch00

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOngykamU-4

  • Hogue AR 15 Stock Kit Review & Install by sootch00

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjvefMMMZI0

PARTS:

  • Anderson Manufacturing Stripped Lower (FFL) – $104.94

https://www.andersonrifles.com/product/stripped-lower-7075-t6-2235-56-a-federal-firearms-license-is-required-to-purchase-this-item/

anderson-stripped-lower

  • 7075-T6 Aluminum forging
  • Hard-coat anodized finish
  • MULTI CAL
  • “Safe” and “Fire” selector markings
  • Accepts all standard AR-15 magazines
  • Mil-spec dimensions

NOTE: This Receiver is marked as “AM-15 CAL .223/5.56mm”, but the lower will accept any standard AR magazine.

Key Specifications

  • Item number: 644896
  • Caliber: Multi
  • Material: Forged 7075 T6 aluminum

Why this lower? Because it’s what my local FFL had and Anderson Manufacturing has a solid reputation. Some may be surprised at the cost considering that this lower can be purchased for half the price online. That is true but one must also consider the cost of shipping and then more importantly the transfer fees that a FFL will charge to make the transfer. If I paid $10, $15, or even $20 dollars more for it in total to support my local gun shop then so be it. If we don’t support our local business then they will eventually disappear.

  • Anderson Lower Parts Kit (Minus Fire Control Group and Pistol Grip) (Anderson Manufacturing) – $27.00

https://www.andersonrifles.com/product/anderson-lower-parts-kit-minus-fire-control-group-and-pistol-grip/

  • Magpul B.A.D. Lever Extended Bolt Catch (MidwayUSA) – $28.98

https://www.magpul.com/products/firearms-accessories/miscellaneous/bad-lever-battery-assist-device-ar15-m4

magpul-bad-lever

This extended bolt catch wasn’t part of the original plan but is a welcome addition. Especially after seeing how it operated once installed. It makes dropping the bolt and locking it open a breeze without leaving my firing position. Likely to find its way soon onto all of my AR’s.

  • Anderson Manufacturing Mil Spec Buffer Kit (Anderson Manufacturing) – $33.00

https://www.andersonrifles.com/product/mil-spec-buffer-kit/

anderson-mil-spec-buffer-kit

  • Hogue Overmold Beavertail Pistol Grip and Buttstock Kit in Lava (Optics Planet) – $67.96

http://www.opticsplanet.com/hogue-milspec-buffer-tube-collapse-stock-ar15-m16-kit.html

hogue-overmolded-lava-pistol-grip-and-stock

This is how the build got started. I bought this butt stock and pistol grip set for another rifle. I thought it would look cool. I didn’t like it. Not because of the color, which is different to be sure, but because I felt like it didn’t work without a matching forend. Still wanted to use it though and now I had an excuse to buy a matching forend.

  • Rock River 2-Stage Match Trigger (Rock River Arms) – $100.00

https://www.rockriverarms.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=434&CFID=591949949&CFTOKEN=36733405

rra-trigger

Again I bought this trigger originally to use in another rifle. My Smith & Wesson 15-22 to be exact. Never got around to installing it so here it is. Jury is out as far as how it performs. It feels great when dry fired. The first stage is short and then a crisp break. I’m hopeful.

  • Anderson Manufacturing Stripped Upper Receiver (Joe Bob Outfitters) – $49.95

https://www.andersonrifles.com/product/5-56-223-and-6-8-spc-stripped-upper-receiver-2/

anderson-upper

  • Made of 7075 T6 Aluminum Forging.
  • Features M4 Feed Ramps
  • Hard Anodized Black
  • Can be used for Multiple Calibers on the AR15 Platform.
  • Machined to the Mil Spec.

A matching upper receiver was a no-brainer for me. It would have driven my OCD ass crazy if the finish and the color didn’t match with the lower. I also assumed that I would get a good tight fit with the lower this way. And I did.

 

  • Palmetto State Armory Premium Bolt Carrier Group (Palmetto State Armory) – $89.99

http://palmettostatearmory.com/palmetto-state-armory-5-56-premium-full-auto-bolt-carrier-group-8779.html

palmetto-premium-bcg

  • Milspec Carpenter No. 158® steel bolt
  • Shot Peened Bolt
  • High pressure tested
  • Mag particle inspected
  • Chrome Lined Carrier (AUTO)
  • Chrome Lined Gas Key
  • Gas Key Hardened to USGI Specifications
  • Gas Key Grade 8 Hardened Fasteners
  • Gas Key Staked Per Mil-Spec
  • Tool Steel Extractor
  • Extractor Spring
  • Extractor O-ring Insert
  • SKU 8779

First thing I have ever purchased from Palmetto State Armory. They seem to have a good reputation and the BCG specs hit all the marks. Plus it was cheap.

  • Forward Assist & Dust Cover (Joe Bob Outfitters) – $18.90

http://www.joeboboutfitters.com/Complete_Mil_Spec_Ejection_Port_Door_Kit_Dust_Cov_p/jb-ejectionportdoorkit.htm

&

http://www.joeboboutfitters.com/Complete_Mil_Spec_Forward_Assist_Kit_p/jb-forwardassistkit.htm

 

  • BCM Gunfighter Charging Handle – Large (Aim Surplus) – $49.95

http://www.bravocompanyusa.com/BCMGUNFIGHTER-Charging-Handle-s/123.htm

bcm-gunfighter

Every one of my rifles has a BCM Gunfighter Charging Handle in it. Good quality, reasonable price and flawless function.

 

  • Hogue Overmold Extended Free Float Forend – Lava (Optics Planet)  – $196.61

http://www.opticsplanet.com/hogue-ar15-m16-overmold-ext-free-float-forend.html

hogue-forend-lava

Ahhh. Here it is. Beauty and the beast. I have a serious love hate relationship with this thing. Expensive but high quality. Most important of all it matches my butt stock and pistol grip. I will be unveiling the final build along with a review of this forend in an upcoming post.

  • 18″ Heavy Fluted, 5.56 NATO, MID-Length, 416-R Stainless Steel QPQ Black Nitride (Faxon Firearms) – $266.86

http://faxonfirearms.com/18-heavy-fluted-5-56-nato-mid-length-416-r-stainless-steel-qpq-black-nitride/

18-heavy-fluted-5-56-nato-black-nitride

Originally wanted a stainless steel spiral fluted Cadillac looking barrel for my build. Couldn’t get the one I wanted so I went a different direction. Glad I did. I spent about $100 more than I intended but I believe it will be worth it in the end. As it turns out the sleek black nitride finish of the barrel looks awesome with the matte black receiver and the lava colored furniture. I hope to see good performance from this barrel as well.

 

  • DPMS Micro Gas Block .750 (Hogue) – $28.30

https://www.hogueinc.com/store/products/dpms-micro-750-gas-block-for-3-gun-extension-tubes/7907

dpms-gas-block

Because I had too. Seriously. I looked at a lot of gas blocks. Wanted an adjustable one. I will cover more about this in my review of the Hogue forend but it is suffice to say: I felt like this was my only choice. It’s okay. Gas port hole lined up with the barrel’s while seated against the barrel’s shoulder. That made it okay in my book. Time will tell.

  • Del-Ton Mid Length Gas Tube (MidwayUSA) – $12.99

http://www.midwayusa.com/product/3163535924/del-ton-gas-tube-ar-15-lr-308

It’s a gas tube, what more needs to be said? A lot unfortunately. I had to custom bend this thing to make it fit properly with the Hogue forend. Major pain in the butt. Not the gas tubes’s fault but rather one of the challenges using this forend.

 

  • LANTAC Dragon 5.56x45mm Muzzle Brake 1/2″-28 Thread AR-15 Steel Nitride (MidwayUSA) – $103.99

http://www.midwayusa.com/product/679845/lantac-dragon-556x45mm-muzzle-brake-1-2-28-thread-ar-15-steel-nitride

lantac-dragon-muzzle-brake

This was a splurge. Pricey and totally unnecessary but I have wanted to try one of these guys. Will see if it was worth the money.

 

Total Cost:

  • Stripped Lower Receiver (FFL) – $104.94
  • Lower Parts Kit & Buffer Tube Kit (Anderson Manufacturing) – $73.09
  • Hogue Overmold Pistol Grip & Buttstock (Optics Planet) – $67.96
  • RRA Two-Stage Match Trigger (RRA) – $100
  • Stripped Upper Receiver (Joe Bob Outfitters) – $49.95
  • Bolt Carrier Group (Palmetto State Armory) – $89.99
  • Dust Cover & Forward Assist Kit (Joe Bob Outfitters) – $18.90
  • Strike Industries Charging Handle (Joe Bob Outfitters) – $33.95
  • Hogue Overmold Extended Forend (Optics Planet) – $196.61
  • Faxon 18″ Heavy Fluted Stainless Steel 5.56 Barrel with Black Nitride – $266.86
  • DPMS Micro .750 Gas Block (Hogue) – $28.30
  • Del-Ton Gas Tube Mid-Length (MidwayUSA) – $12.99
  • Lantac Dragon Muzzle Device (MidwayUSA) – $103.99
  • Magpul B.A.D. Lever (MidwayUSA) – $28.98

Total: $1176.51

 

Tools –

I didn’t have to buy many tools but I did buy a few. I needed a heavy duty vise for starters. The portable one wasn’t going to cut it. I wasn’t thrilled about taking up more space on my bench with a large vise but it was a necessity. I unfortunately bought three bench blocks. A generic lower receiver bench block, a DPMS “panther claw” upper receiver block and finally the Magpul BEV block which proved best and is recommended. It acts as both a lower and upper receiver block and has features that make it superior in my mind to other choices. I may do a review at some point. I also bought a strap wrench for installing the handguard. More about that in my upcoming review. I ordered a takedown pin installation tool. It was worth the few dollars I paid for it. I also picked up some barrel nut thread grease and chose to use Rocksett instead of Locktite for securing my gas block set screws for its high temperature tolerance. Finally and unfortunately I needed to buy a dremel tool. Not because I wanted one but because I ended up needing one to cut off a crush washer from the barrel after torquing the muzzle device down too far. A pain in the ass and a story for another time.

  • Bench Vise
  • Lower Vise Block & Upper Vise Block – Magpul BEV Block
  • Punch Set
  • Rubber mallet
  • AR 15 Wrench
  • Allen Wrench Set
  • Takedown Pin Tool
  • Strap Wrench
  • CLP for general lubrication
  • Grease (Mobile 1 Synthetic) for spot lubrication
  • Rocksett adhesive (for installing gas block set screws)
  • Barrel Nut Thread Grease 33MS

 

So that’s it. The build is complete but I will save pictures for my follow-up review. I’m hoping to get the rifle out and tested at the range in the next week or so and will do another article about how it performs. All in all things came out well assuming we don’t have any functional issues. I won’t say more about it right now but I will say that as far as first builds go it could have gone easier. As much as I love the Hogue Overmolded Forend it has its issues and I will explore them thoroughly in an upcoming post.

JD

 

 

 

 

 

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