Since the AR has become one of the most popular Semi-Auto rifle platforms in America, there are thousands of AR-15 rifle builds out there to peruse… So here’s another, but with my spin.
So I haven’t really considered myself an AR-15 kinda guy. Some people go to the range and before they whip out their range toys, you kinda already know what it’ll be. They are the people who have the tactical range bags with all the pockets, the hat with the subdued US flag on the side. They probably have a well-trimmed beard. Yea, They have an AR. The reason why I’m not into them is
because I carried them for much of my military duty as an military police-dude (Security Forces). M16’s were amongst the first rifles that I’ve ever fired, but the M16/AR-15’s became associated with some negative and unfortunate memories. I just learned to treat them as tools of duty and never learned to see them as “fun”.
I never thought I would ever own another one (I briefly owned a Bushmaster A2-type a couple decades back)… ‘but the urge to get a tool like this has come to me again. This time for home protection, camping, impending gun-legislation [which will lead to impending turmoil], ridiculous gun control efforts, crazy government… and so on and so forth. My only real goal is to make it lightweight, compact, and most of all fairly inexpensive. I don’t need a quad-rail having, laser-sighted, exotic color-coated, rifle that the Special Forces or Navy Seals carry. I’ve seen and carried the evolution of the AR-15 from the M-16 A1, to the M-16 A2, GAU’s (XM177) up to the current M-4 variant, but I don’t fully know why people build those (to each his own), but I just want a basic rifle that handles well and I don’t have to worry about.
‘Just want a “tool”. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just durable, efficient and work reliably. So I guess I should decide if I’m gonna buy one or buy the parts and put one together.
Buy Or Build?
To Buy one or Build one? Well, I could just buy an AR, the price ranges from $650-$3000 (and up)… but, if I buy it, it’ll be the equivalent of a store-bought birthday cake. I’ll get a excellent cake and it will serve its purpose; but I won’t get the pride of saying I baked it myself. People will eat it… but they’d be more impressed if it looked good and I told them I made it from scratch. I believe this may be the reason I sold my last AR-15… It was just kinda boring and I had no emotional tie to it.
So, I’m gonna go ahead and build this ‘AR myself. I’m a bit more confident in my “Gunsmithing” skills because of my Mosin Nagant Project that I completed last year so I’m fully prepared and know that I can do it. Where to start? Obviously the Lower Receiver.
The US Government considers the Lower Receiver to be the “gun”. It is the serialized portion that must be accounted for and registered with the Feds (for whatever silly reason). So it can be ordered over the internet, but will require shipping to a registered Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) or gun store to get this transferred to me so that my identification and background check can be conducted. So it makes sense to get this part first, since, without it… there will be no reason to buy any other part. So, after looking at the options, I’ve decided I’m gonna try something a little new and innovative. Polymer!
I always thought polymer was a bad idea in a AR-15; until… one of my friends noted that yours truly was a “Glock Guy”. Glock has been making Polymer handguns that have become the most popular handgun for police forces around the world. They’ve never had any problems of note. So with that thrown in my face, my arguments against polymer are basically a form of “Materialism” (racism against materials… Witty right?). So as a guy with multiple polymer Glocks, my argument kinda fell apart. Polymer it is!
New Frontier — is a company from North Las Vegas that makes Polymer Lower Receivers. This is a big deal because Lower Receivers have been traditionally made of Aluminum since Eugene Stoner first designed this family of Armalite (hence the “AR” in AR-15; it does NOT refer to “Assault Rifle”) rifles back in the late 1950’s. Although I was prepared to build the entire lower assembly from the parts, New Frontier has a great deal. Their lower comes complete with the stock, trigger, buffer tube, shoulder stock, hardware and everything else required to make it work. And they do it for… $119 smackeroos!!! It would actually cost me more to build it from the parts than to order it. — So an ordering we go!
After having it transferred to a local FFL Guy. It is no doubt the lightest Lower Receiver I’ve ever handled. To top it off, the polymer is actually stronger than aluminum and New Frontier even posts videos of what they can do. Polymer flexes and gives, where aluminum does not… Even still, I’ll not be treating this rifle that bad. Even my rifles in the military never were abused while in my custody (protect your rifle as it is your life, yada yada brainwashing!!!). This Lower Receiver is an impressive piece of machinery. New Frontier even tested the lower to 75,000 trigger pulls (which I’ll never get to). It appears well made and more dense than I would’ve expected. A quick review of this polymer lower on the big-bad Internet reveals the standard positive and negative responses as expected. But what I see is that many of the people who have never handled one, are the people who say polymer is bad. Unfortunately, these are the same arguments made about Glock handguns when Glock was hitting the market. I think, in this case, I made the right choice.
Upper Receiver, Magazines, & Bolt
With the ‘Lower in hand, it’s time to begin the Upper Receiver. So I headed out to Cheaperthandirt.com and searched around and found a $55, Stripped Upper from Anderson Manufacturing. It is a Flat-top Receiver that will require the use of a separate rear sight. I Ordered it up and the only thing it requires is some assembly. I headed over to Amazon.com and found a kit that includes the Ejection Port door and hardware, the Forward Assist button, and the Charging Handle all for a mere $28 bucks. Upon ordering that up, I waited a few days for its arrival and utilized Youtube and AR-15 Armorers Guide (or web page) for specific install instructions. Installation is straightforward and just requires some patience. Upon receiving this Charging Handle, I noticed it was a ‘big-ole piece of doo-doo that was made out of materials that were too soft. It has to go. A quick drive down to the Military Surplus store proved fruitful. They had a Charging Handle that they sold to me for $14.95. It was standard military spec and works great.
Detachable Carrying Handle
Being a Flat-Top receiver, there is no rear sight, so while I was still at the military Surplus Store, I went ahead and grabbed a rear sight/carrying handle assembly. It can be removed by twisting two set screws. Instead of buying some of the common Back Up Iron Sights (BUIS) that are on the market now, I’m sticking with the military issue (that was no doubt sold to the surplus store by a soldier who “forgot” to turn it in). Its got some dings, scratches, and is worn in some areas, but I decided I’d go ahead and buy it because of nostalgia. MAYBE its traveled to the war zones, maybe not, but I choose to believe its got a story. I could’ve bought a cheaper one from Amazon, but this one is standard military issue so I know it’s made right. The possible loss to some military unit is my benefit. All for $28 Bucks.
I’m not a big fan of all the new Magazines like the Tapco, Magpul PMag, QMag, RMags, or whatever other letter/magazine combo. I don’t need clear polymer ‘mags or any magazines with windows. They’re just not my thing. So before I left that same military surplus store I bought a magazine (3 actually) for $9.95 each. They are the standard military issue magazines that have been used by the military since the Vietnam War when the US went to 30 round magazines.
The Bolt I selected was the one I could see that on Amazon.com was rated best by purchasers and I had the confidence to order. If there were spelling errors on the Amazon page, I didn’t order from them. If they didn’t take the time to upload high quality photos of their product, I didn’t order it. What I ended up going with was from, St. Croix Tactical (SCT). They build these beautiful Bolt Carrier Groups that are Nickel Boron coated and look like a million bucks. Nickel Boron coating is supposed to be “lube free” and is supposed to be extremely smooth but, you know what, I just thought I’d spend some money on a good bolt that I new was in perfect tolerance to increase my odds of a perfect fit. Sure I could go for a standard black phosphate bolt but, why not be a bit unique. This was a splurge to quality. It cost $140.
With the AR Upper and Lower Receivers together, you can begin to see a rifle beginning to take shape out of nothing. Kinda cool. With the Charging handle in, the ejection port door on, you can begin to imagine what your ‘AR will look like. But despite how compact it is now, you’re missing the most bulky part. The Barrel.