This week was an exciting one that started with assembling my first modern sporting rifle, from start to finish, by myself, and ended with a club handgun match hosted by the Utah Defensive Pistol League. (There was also a trip to the SilencerCo factory for a political fundraiser that can be read about in an earlier post) This week was packed, but I want to share some insights on assembling an AR…
Despite having seen multiple gunsmiths build AR’s in front of me in the past, I was still forced to watch several YouTube videos on the subject and they were played, rewound, fast forwarded, and paused over the course of about 3 hours, but I got it done. I’ve heard some folks say that the bottom has dropped out of the AR-15 market in comparison to the crazy demand for them this time two years ago, and it’s evident as parts are very affordable right now, so I stocked up. I bought barrels and uppers from Palmetto State Armory, as well as the lower parts kits, Magpul MOE stocks & grips, and three nickel boron bolt carrier groups. I purchased the handguards and vertical grips from Primary Arms, and finally bought the carbon fiber composite lower from Utah’s own, Tegra Arms. It weighs less than 4 oz and is tough as nails — “It’s not plastic!”
While not difficult to assemble once I knew what went where, I quickly learned that there are quite a few tools that I still needed to purchase, like roll pin starters and punches, as well as a vice grip upper and lower “holders” to keep your upper and lowers from getting mangled in the vice grip when tightening up the barrel and buffer tube. A torque wrench, an AR-15 armorer’s tool, a small rubber mallet, standard wrenches and standard punches also come in handy. I only owned half of the required tools, so after purchasing the rest via Amazon, my build costs went up significantly, despite the great prices on some of the build components.
Needless to say, it was a lot of fun and once I finished the first build, I could hardly wait to start on the second, which took me half as long as the first and didn’t require me to reference YouTube any longer.
I then built a 3rd one, but got a little more creative, thinking I’d like to have a “bump in the night”, lightweight AR that could also second as a very fast 3-Gun competition rifle. This time I enlisted the help of the guys at Darkside Tactical in Draper where I bought a lightweight profile, polygonal, Blackhole Weaponry 16″ barrel and attached a Primary Weapons System FCS556 muzzle break. Then we added a mid-length gas tube attached to an Allstar Tactical .75 low profile gas block that tucked neatly inside the Magpul MOE midlength handguard. While again using a carbon fiber lower from Tegra Arms in Orem, UT, the upper came from a company out of Sandy, UT called Crosshill Technologies — their XSR-15 Receiver is made from billet 7075 T6 grade aluminum, and features ambidextrous side charging handles attached to a proprietary Nickel Boron bolt carrier group. I met these guys a few weeks ago at a “customer appreciation event” held at the Gun Vault range in South Jordan and was really impressed, so when Darkside Tactical had one in stock, I thought it would be a perfect fit for this build. Then I added a Magpul MOE stock, a CMMG lower parts kit which I have since polished with a dremel and Brasso–it feels great now. (I might add a Geissele trigger later–I have a “3-Gun Enhanced” trigger on another build that I love, but Geissele’s are pricey) added the MOE pistol grip and then put it on the scale: It only weighed 5.95 lbs!
For some additional irony a friend suggested that I try to get it to even lighter and weigh in at 5.56 lbs. . CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
SO, to drop the weight further, I’ve ordered a Magpul MOE SL handguard, a Mission First Tactical BMS stock, a Primary Weapons System lightweight enhanced buffer tube, a JP Tuned and Polished buffer spring, and a Spike’s ST-T2 Tungsten buffer, and the Magpul MOE Plus pistol grip–because it’s my favorite. In keeping with the spirit of this build, I’d like to put a VERY lightweight optic for CQB, but I’m not opposed to a 1x magnification red dot or even a 1-4x…Let me know in the comments below what optic you think I should put on this.
Once the new parts arrive, I’ll be sure to post up finished pics along with a full shooting report.
I’m now finishing up a fourth build this afternoon, also with a Tegra Arms lower and a hodgepodge of new, but cannibalized parts from other rifles that I’ve owned. It’s fully assembled, minus a buffer tube and a pistol grip, which will be available once the aforementioned parts for my lightweight build arrive and I swap those current parts onto this one. I did change it up a bit though, as this one has a Troy battle flash hider, and Magpul FDE colored furniture instead, and I did order a new MOE + grip for it.
Is there a point here? Well, I bought my first AR on Election Day 2008 after casting a vote for Senator John McCain. Pre-election polling indicated Obama had already won, so why not “celebrate” by purchasing my first AR?! I’m not kidding when I say that I went straight from the polling station to Gunnies in Orem, and picked up a DPMS Panther Carbine. Their marque read ”15% off everything if you show your “I VOTED” sticker”. Ironically enough, on election day 2012, when I realized we were going to be stuck with another round of this administration, I bought my first AR pistol (a Sig) to “celebrate” then as well. I’ve owned at least dozen “modern sporting rifles” since the first, and in the last week built four new ones–what’s so cool is that only the two pictured above are the same. AR building is a lot of fun, and mildly addicting as new products and new innovations come to market. I’ve heard on more than one occasion that building ARs is like Build-A-Bear for men, or Legos, or Barbies, the analogies are endless as are possible AR configurations, it’s great! The best part is that you don’t have to build your dream gun overnight–you can slowly add on or take parts off as your vision for “the perfect build” evolves.
Final thought: As the coming mid-term elections near, vet the candidates as best you can, ESPECIALLY on the state legislature level as they have the largest impact on our daily gun rights here in Utah. Please, only vote for pro 2nd Amendment candidates, because building personal ARs is a blast and I hope we always have the freedom to do so.
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