Hello, as the title stated, I am looking to build my first AR15.
I am currently in the research stage of things and looking at what tools would be recommended to complete the job. I see there are “AR builder tool kits.” I wasn’t sure if those would be necessary or if I would be alright with a few of the “more important tools.” If someone could maybe provide links to a either a decent tool kit or a few specific tools that would be very much appreciated.
For my first AR I plan on purchasing a prebuilt BCM upper and BCG. I am mainly looking for the tools needed to completely build the lower receiver. A kit that would do everything though would be alright.
I am also looking for lower parts kits and trigger recommendations. I was considering a PSA lower parts kit and Geissele SSA-E trigger. I typically go by “you pay what you get” when it comes to firearms and accessories. I wasn’t sure, however, if that was the case with lower parts kits. If someone could point me in the right direction of a quality lower parts kit with a link, that would be awesome.
There are several threads here detailing the trials and tribulations of a build. For some reason I am drawing blanks on the names of the players but I am inclined to direct you to the search function. All things from recommendations to laws and regulations are discussed. In general “Kits are Kits” you can spend a lot or a little. On your first build spend as little as possible and modify or upgrade as you see fit once you run the gun. I will always default to the Aero Precision M4E1 lower as it has just too many cool features on it. I’ll even send you a free spring plug if you send me a SASE. (Bonus plug if you know what that is without looking it up). At a minimum get a free floating fore arm and a gas block that goes under it (unless you REALLY need a bayonet mount and fixed front sight.) Leave the high dollar Gee Whiz stuff untill you learn the platform.
A couple of tools are handy. I am partial to the vice blocks from Brownells that have the filler bit that goes into the upper to keep you from collapsing it in a vice. I have a DPMS action wrench that has served me well on multiple platforms over the years. The best tool is a 1/4" clevis pin from Home Depot to put your retaining pin springs in. PM me and I will explain this little bit to you. It makes no sense when you read it and perfect sence when you try to install those bloody springs and plugs.
I just did a kit and stripped lower for the first time. The upper was already assembled. I built the lower. The only tool I had to buy was an AR15 multitool from Cabelas. It made doing the castle nut a breeze. Other than that I used a pair of channel locks (taped the jaws to protect rifle), punch, pocket knife, hammer and nut driver with allen head bit.
I will be going to the range over the weekend to shoot it for the first time.
I’ve done a bunch of lowers. I prefer to buy my uppers already built with an included BCG. There are so many good options for every budget out there it almost doesn’t pay to build an upper.
There are many YouTube videos on the subject. Not difficult and you don’t need a kit. Normal household tools, a set of punches, an AR tool and channel lock pliers and tape come in handy. Anyone with a modicum of mechanical skills can knock a lower out in 15 minutes.
Which doesn’t mean you should on your 1st one.
Take your time and learn everything you can about why you’re doing what you’re doing.
This is a firearm after all. At the very least a catastrophic failure during testing would be bad.
On the higher end of terrible, in a family defense situation it could just fail. Knowing how it goes together and what all the parts do is something you’ll never regret.
I took the time to research how the platform worked before making the decision to buy the rifle kit and stripped lower. There are lots of resources on the internet. The members only training by USCCA on the AR platform was very helpful as well.
For me the great thing about doing it this way was everything you need to complete the rifle comes in the kit ecxept the lower and magazines. I went with a kit and lower from the same manufacturer. It took away my fear of will this particular component work with a different component.
I will say it took me about an hour to build the lower. I took my time and also triple checked each step was correct. I had a step by step written tutorial on my phone and a video on my tablet.
I would also highly recommend watching videos on how to clean an AR and also picking up an AR cleaning kit. Can you strip and clean one without the special brushes and pick tools? Yes. But you will do alot more thorough job and it will be easier with the kit. When I cleaned mine for the first time before going to the range everything was new so it was easy. After a trip to the range I realized my budget universal gun kit just wasn’t cutting it. I went and picked up a kit specific to an AR.
You are, IMO, going the best route. The upper requires the most tools and has the most risk of your build failing, so I wholeheartedly agree that buying a complete upper and then building just the lower is a good first step in building an AR.
For getting tools to complete the lower, honestly you can do it with tools you probably have lying around the house so don’t go crazy buying a ton of things. There are a few items that you’ll want to get though just to make your life a little easier. You’ll want a punch set to save yourself a lot of cursing, and a little nylon mallet/hammer if you don’t already have one. For the castle nut, you can buy a specific tool for not too much money (< $20), however there is a category of tool “armorer’s wrench” that will likely come in handy not just this build but in the future. PewPewTactical has a good list here, I like the Magpul Wrench. In fact, PewPewTactical’s “How to Build an AR-15 Lower Receiver” guide is really good as they list tools/parts needed and do a pretty decent walkthrough of the process.
You’ll want to have some painters tape handy to prevent scuffing the lower while you install parts.
The BEST ADVICE I can possibly give you though… is to be careful of the springs, well, springing away from you. If it falls to the floor, good luck finding it. If you lose a spring you’ll likely just end up getting another Lower Parts Kit (LPK) and you’ll have to wait until it arrives before you can pick back up again.
PSA makes good stuff. They are my #1 recommendation for inexpensive (not cheap! there’s a difference) parts/builds/etc.
PSA LPK are all you need, you can buy a more “premium” LPK but I’m not sure what that will get you since its mostly just pins and springs. As long as they are built to spec from the right materials (which are defined in the spec) any LPK should be just fine. You’ll see in pricing online most of the LPKs are priced pretty similarly so just beware of really “cheap” kits which may not be to spec and/or made from inferior materials.
If you get one of the PSA kits that comes with stock/brace, LPK, buffer, grip, etc that is usually a really good deal. Sign up for their newsletter and just keep an eye out for a kit that you like. They have a near endless set of combinations that looks “kinda the same” so make sure to read the descriptions. Pay special attention to the ones with “EPT” and that stands for Enhanced Polished Trigger (or something like that) which is a pretty good 1-stage trigger. MOE is the Magpul plastic grip, while MOE+ is the Magpul slightly rubbery grip.
For the trigger… this is very much a personal choice as to your intended purpose and what you like and don’t like. You can typically choose between a single-stage or two-stage trigger. A single stage trigger is what most mike think of as a “milspec” trigger. There is only one break and the trigger pull weight is somewhere in the 5-8lb range. There isn’t any “slack” really, but some of them creep a little. A two-stage trigger generally has a bit of slack that you take up before you hit the “wall” and then that is usually a very crisp break with a little more pressure. The two stages are very distinct and the advantage is you can take up the slack with a little bit of pressure and the second stage is usually very light.
Single stage triggers are generally used in duty/combat roles where two-stage triggers are generally used in precision shooting. But some folks may prefer one style or the other regardless of the role. And the pull-weight and “feel” of the trigger as it breaks will also influence the best use-case for that particular trigger.
If you are familiar with the Geissele SSA-E and it’s pros/cons then by all means go for it. But if you aren’t, I would probably recommend you look at another option. The SSA-E is a 3.5lb total pull weight, and IMO it is too light for anything other than precision shooting. The SSA is a touch heavier at 4.5lbs and that is about as low as I’d personally go, or feel comfortable recommending, for a rifle that would see usage such as a home-defense/duty/combat. I like the SSA as in typical shooting you can pull straight through both stages as if it was a single-stage trigger, but if you have the time and need precision you can pull that 1st stage and then the 2nd stage is just such a light clean break. One of the major downsides to buying a Geissele is that you are forever ruined to other triggers and you’ll need to put them in all your rifles. That money adds up.
If I were in your boat, I would grab one of the PSA kits with EPT which is a pretty nice single-stage trigger with a pull weight somewhere around 6-8lb. It will do nicely for pretty much anything you are likely to need it to do. And the cost savings you can spend on ammo or other accessories. If you don’t like it, keep an eye out for sales from PSA or Primary Arms as they have had the SSA/SSA-E as low as $180 during the panic and $160 pre-panic.
@Harvey have you tried the Larue MBT triggers? I added one to my AR and really like it though I don’t have an SSA to compare it to. They can generally be found for less than $90 and come with a 4.5 and a spare 6# spring so you can decide if you want to go a little light or a little heavy.
I have the SSA-E on my precision AR-10.
The effective range of the .223/5.56 really shouldn’t require anything that tight.
On my AR-15’s I use either LaRue or Botach (unless I’m going binary that is).
I like 2 stage flat, my wife prefers the standard bow.
It is such a personal choice that I wouldn’t attempt to recommend to someone.
I have not, but I have only ever heard good things about them. Is yours flat or bowed? I’ve always wanted to try a flat trigger…
I’ve used milspec triggers were are honestly terrible for anything other then just going pew-pew at the range. The PSA EPT 1-stage is an considerable upgrade over milspec but still being a single-stage. I jumped from there to geiselle because I wanted a 2-stage for a more precision oriented rifle and got it on sale, and now I can never go back
Mine is bowed but the the curve is more subtle than most. I am setting up the gun for some potential future competitions as well as for defensive situations. Definitely a worthy upgrade wouldn’t want it any lighter than it is with the 4.5# spring.
So PSA has a daily deal for 3 blem stripped lower receivers for 160. Or you can get a single blem lower receiver for 80. They are labeled multi caliber so can be used to build just about anything.
They also have a blem 16 inch MLOK kit with 13.5 inch hand guard and flip up sights.
I did a blem stealth lower and the blem MLOK kit I mentioned above. On the lower it has what looks like a pencil tip sized mark just above the trigger area. It took me quite a while to find it. I was not able to find the blem on the kit. Those 2 along with a MSR multi tool from Cabelas and a couple of magazines is all I bought. I wound up following the lower build walk through by Pew Pew Tactical that was mentioned earlier. I put several hundred rounds through it this past weekend with no issues. I did get a CMMG 22 conversion kit and the bulk of the rounds fired were 22 LR. The conversion kit was around 200. It paid for itself on one trip to the range.
PSA also has deal on 200 rounds of 223 Tula Steel cased ammo and 10 30 round magazines for 160. I was able to run Tula Steel case through my 9mm pistol at the range when ammo was scarce. I had no issues other than it is dirty.
Thanks for that tip. Didn’t think about extractor.
I try to steer clear of the steel if I can. I only ran 50 rounds through my 9mm when I went to the range. Since ammo was hard to find I wanted to make sure I knew whether or not my gun like what was available.
For my first AR, I bought pre-assembled upper and lower from PSA. I recently bought a stripped lower and lower build kit (also from PSA), and assembled the lower in about 2 hours. It was my first time doing this, and was taking my time ( and trying to avoid damaging the receiver). Be sure to get some painters tape to protect the finish on the lower when installing pins. Also, get a pivot pin tool!
I am not at the point where I would try to build my own upper. Much more that could go wrong with headspace, gas block, etc.
The SSA-E triggers are fantastic! As Harvey mentioned, you will be spoiled and want them in everything once you get one of them.
I’ll also recommend the EPT from PSA or anywhere else you find it. There’s a little logo with capital S inside a square on them. You will notice that many advertisements will lay the triggers with that logo facing down in their photos but “nickel Teflon” is what you are after. Then add a set of JP “enhanced reliability” springs To the trigger to lighten the pull a touch more and you have a fantastic trigger for $36-$50 depending on where you find them. There’s a lighter set of JP springs but there’s warnings that you may get misfires from light primer strikes.
There’s a two stage nickel Teflon trigger out there as well. It runs $69-100 normally. Same thing S inside a square logo. If you order it from DSG Arms in Texas you can get it with the good springs as a set.
I believe those are made by Schmid Tool and available from recognized suppliers-
PSA, Botach, Primary Arms, etc…
Good intro to 2 stage that won’t break the bank. If they’re the one’s I’m thinking of, that’s my standard install on general use AR’s.