AR-15: Buy or Build?

The following is a guest post from Michael Denmon.  He’s previously written articles on introducing his wife to firearms and reloading ammo.  Michael is a Dad who is working on being a better man, one project at a time. Catch up with his latest attempts at Dad Level Viking.

I have a problem.  

I like spreadsheets.  Making them, naming them, populating them with data, formatting…all of it.  If there is an opportunity for me to compare multiple items and break them down into the particulars that help define their essence, I get giddy.  

Luckily for me, there is a popular endeavor I enjoy that absolutely fits the need to overanalyze everything. That endeavor is building my own AR.  

Now, generally speaking, whether the item I want is a new laptop or a pickup truck, I am typically a guy who purchases the items I wanted from a reputable vendor, ready to go.  I don’t have time to search around for something that fits absolutely all of my wants.  I just want something that is reliable and ready to use without wasting more time.  This would ideally be something I could pull out of the wrapping and get to work enjoying.

I first looked into the process of building my own AR several years ago.  Growing up as a hunter, I had never built my own hunting rifle. I used what was readily available. I didn’t understand the need to load my own ammo or buy customized stock and triggers with the optimal amount of pull for discharge. To be honest, the idea of being able to build my own weapon never even really entered into my thoughts. However, as I have gotten older, and grown more particular about where my hard-earned money goes, I have started being more demanding and discerning with any big-ticket items.  Enter spreadsheets.   

If you were to search for how to build your own AR, you would end up with 1001 links and then some, with everything from diagrams to videos to animations on what to do, what not to do, and how to do what you should do.  The topic of DIY in the AR world is a quickly accelerating and very broad topic that has as many animated and exuberant personalities as any other niche hobby that attracts people with means or interest. 

So is DIY the right way to go about procuring your own AR?  Well, that depends.

As we notice a surge in Americans looking to arm themselves for protection, there’s a corresponding rise in vendors looking to meet the demand.  Variety is the spice of life, and when that variety is reviewed in the world of AR modular builds, then you come to realize that life is very spicy indeed. You can find any one of approximately 100 parts that go into a rifle build, broken down into varying material types and tensions and finishes.  Repeat that variance by those 100 pieces, and you have an almost limitless number of ways to customize your weapon.  Again…YOUR weapon.

So, why is there such an increased fascination with building your own AR?

I think a lot of it has to do with the satisfaction of building something for yourself.  Sure, being able to customize the type of swivel mounts you have for your sling is intriguing, but many of the people who are building their own ARs, come from varied backgrounds, including people who may have never even changed a spark plug before. Yet, there they are, sitting at their kitchen table, trying to assemble a rifle without sending a spring flying or a pin rolling underneath the kitchen cabinets.

The level of expertise to assemble your own rifle is no longer outside the realm of the average person.  Thanks to the abundance of different resources that exist on the Web, you can sit in your garage with a very minimal toolset and watch videos that explain, among other things, how to accurately adjust your sights or change out your trigger assembly.  The wealth of knowledge that is available, not just in video or written form, but also in the advice and assistance from real people, is staggering.  This level of opportunity to learn has helped drop some fears of trying to build an AR for yourself.  As that fear drops, the demand grows, and the supply and variety increase.

The option to buy a ready-made AR from reputable vendors is still an attractive one. Buying whole requires no special tools or time spent on the Internet, and it runs zero risk of making an expensive mistake. While you may pay more for that ready-to-go status, you might also pay less.  After all, there are multiple opportunities to spend an unreasonable amount of money on individual parts for your own DIY build, adding up to a total that could make you second guess the need to build something for yourself.

But if you like spreadsheets and/or the specifics of comparing and selecting the exact bits you want to be in your weapon, then building your own AR is just the project for you.

Have you built your own AR-15?  Let us know how it went in the comments below.

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