Build! No, just kidding. The AR-15, like many others, didn't have the smoothest introduction into the US military in the late 60s. But how time flies? Through consistent improvement over the years, it has become one of the most efficient and accurate weapons – trusted by the men and women of the force. And that confidence has been transmitted to sportsmen, firearm enthusiasts, home defenders, firearm collectors as the AR-15 becomes the most popular sporting rifle in the US – and for good reasons too. I mean, it is easy to shoot, highly customizable and quite affordable too.
Although the AR-15 name is a trademark of Colt, many variants of the firearm and the various parts to customize them are made by a plethora of manufacturers. And because the AR-15 has been here for a long time, many companies make parts for it. That brings us to the biggest advantage of the AR-15: modularity. On that note, it is easy to see why building your own allow sportsmen take full advantage of the AR-15 platform – and no kidding this time.
Whether you decide to take full advantage of what the AR-15 world has to offer, we'll see. What's important is that you have decided to get your own AR-15. Congratulations! Now the question is: should you build it yourself or purchase it off the shelves? Well, simply saying buy or build would be a disservice on both fronts.
Buy or Build: which?
This argument could sometimes be heated, but we’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons of both sides.
The case for buying:
The bottom line is when you purchase an AR-15, you get a fantastic rifle no matter what. Even a not so advance AR-15 is still a high-quality firearm. So, what else do you get?
- Easiest and fastest way to own an AR-15: it doesn't get any faster than this. Walk in, lay down your bucks on the table and walk out – with a fully assembled and functional AR-15. In a matter of hours, you should be gunning down targets. This may appeal to you, most especially if you are not a tinker man. There are several options available and you should be able to find one that suits your specifications as closely as possible – even though you obviously won't have the same freedom that building will offer you.
- Warranty: if this is a big deal with you, then buying an AR-15 of the rack might be your calling. The manufacturers of sporting rifles will stand by their products and repair them if something goes wrong. You get peace of mind, even without the sense of pride that goes with assembling the whole thing yourself.
- Fit and compatibility: for someone building their own AR-15, the flexibility that it offers bring with it added consideration. Some components have a varying degree of tolerances and dimensions. Hence, poor selection might result in parts which are not completely compatible. If you buy a rifle off the rack, you lose no sleep over the distinctions. Buying a complete rifle ensures the components fit together properly and would work as it should.
When you purchase a complete AR-15, you get peace of mind. And maybe that is all you need. However, many AR-15 owners soon realize that there is more to justify owning one. After a few months using your new Barbie, you'd realize that you probably want something as simple as handguards upgrade to feel more comfortable. But you aren't getting that upgrade without an extra cost, that's if compatibility is not a problem – And you would be losing out on even more fronts, as we'll see.
- It’s complete – with what you like and what you don't: for sure you get a functional AR-15 alright. But depending on what you choose, you may feel let down by what you get actually. You might decide to upgrade parts to give you that custom feel, but you won't get the whole package. In addition, it will cost you more energy and more time, and most definitely, you would end up spending more money compared to if you had built from scratch in the first place.
- Comfort ability and satisfaction:how do you expect to come out on top in the local shooting competition if you can't get a good grip on the trigger without burning your fingers? You're a better shooter when you are comfortable – something buying an AR-15 off the shelves can't guaranty you. And unless you're comfortable with the basics, you may want and need to make upgrades as you become familiar with your firearm.
- Upgrades not always possible: while you get endless options from manufacturers: from low end to high-end systems complete with advanced stocks systems to create a high-end You can find yourself in a one-way traffic where you'd have to make do with what you have, with little tolerance for upgrades or downgrades. Some manufacturers use proprietary components like barrel nuts, handguards, gas block parts which render using another piece impossible. So if you think you would need changing parts in the future, you might want to do your research before opting for a complete rifle.
The case for building your own
Perhaps, the major reason why we have so many variants of AR-15s in the market is to give buyers as close a rifle to their needs as possible. But how close can the manufacturers come with one that suits you perfectly? The answer is not so close. Satisfaction is the primary benefit of building your own rifle for the majority of Americans. The thoughts of assembling an AR-15 down to the last detail: the last scope mounts, iron sights, slings attachments, bipods – gives sportsmen goosebumps!
- You get everything you want. Nothing you don't: Underestimate these at your own peril. You get the rifle as you want it, with nothing you don't need. No compromise here, you're your own boss! Why buy ready-made rifles and swap out parts later that makes you uncomfortable? While already paying for them? Unless you have so much cash to burn, building your rifle from scratch guarantees you get it right the first time. And getting it right the first time is all that’s needed.
- Comfort ability and satisfaction: for emphasis, I have to lay this one out alone so people don't neglect its importance. On a normal ground, you only need to purchase one rifle or build one, as the case may be. It’s not the sort of thing you do every day. If it’s uncomfortable, you won't like it, and your shooting won't be as great as when you use something you're fully comfortable and satisfied with.
For instance, young shooters and shorter people need a shorter length of pull. Likewise, people with smaller hands and fingers tend to use smaller, thinner pistol grips. And conversely for taller folks. There are other components of the AR-15 which is better suited depending on the physical stature of the shooter. Seeing things from that perspective, you can handpick each and every component to suit your requirements and wants.
- Better deal for your money: while it’s cheaper buying a ready-made AR-15 compared to building one, for the same money, you will most likely end up with a better overall rifle. Made with higher grade components. Just learn to pick the right components at the right time.
- Knowledge of your AR-15: what better way to know the nitty-gritty of your AR-15 than assembling and dissembling? You will know exactly where each part goes, what it does and how it works. The education you get from building your own rifle is power – and is practical. Imagine something happens to your rifle or one of your buddies at the range, who's going to fix the problem? You! Upgrade time? You. After all, you’re going to be the expert. Just think of one thing you know your way around expertly – it’s the same feeling you get with the knowledge of building your own rifles.
- It's mine! I built it: everybody gets to show off once in a while. That wow factor when the guys spot your new AR-15 cannot be bought off the rack at the LGS, it can only be built! Like everything else, the pride and satisfaction knowing that you're the only one who owns exactly what you’re using is And that's cool.
The challenge of building your own
Really, the only downside to building your own AR-15 comes down to money and the time, patience and will to learn something new. The extra expense comes from the fact that to properly assemble your rifle together, you would need some other tools to help you do the work. Basically, an armorer's wrench, Screwdrivers, roll pin punches, a level, a vice, torque wrench, and some other tools. For a first timer, you incur extra cost. But hey, these tools are no one trick ponies. Making the investment in those tools, you will benefit regardless whether you buy or build the AR-15. The knowledge required to build anything can easily be gotten from countless videos and resources from the internet. Yes it will take time and effort, and it’s not particularly easy – but nothing worthwhile ever is!
Whether you buy or build, always remember to keep everyone and yourself safe.