Building your own AR platform rifle

Toward the end of March, my son-in-law advised us that he and the family were coming to visit us during spring break. He also said he was bringing an AR-15 rifle that he built himself from a kit in which one buys the lower receiver from a firearms dealer and puts the whole rifle together at home.

My son-in-law built his rifle from an upper receiver plus barrel kit from Palmetto State Armory and the lower receiver from a federal firearms dealer in his city. There are several companies that offer AR-15 kits, and the ones that I have seen are offering good quality kits that rival the quality of most manufacturer's AR-15 rifles.

Because AR-15 rifle parts are standardized to the same specifications, by building one from a kit and then purchasing the lower receiver from a federal firearms dealer, most people who can follow directions or watch the included video can easily put one together and save hundreds of dollars over buying the same quality rifle from the gun shop.

Another advantage to building your own is that you will know the rifle inside and out. I have noticed that many who have purchased an AR-15 don't know how to disassemble it for cleaning, particularly the gas tube, bolt and bolt cam pin. If you build it yourself, you had to put the rifle together yourself and know how to disassemble it for cleaning.

Anyone who has served in the military during the last 40 years probably understands how to disassemble an AR-15, but not everyone served in the military, and those who didn't and are now buying an AR-15 may be confused as to how to disassemble the rifle for cleaning.

In my case, I received excellent instruction from knowledgeable people and purchased a couple of technical AR-15/M-16 manuals. I have also modified my AR-15s enough that I have a pretty good understanding of the AR rifle platform.

When my son-in-law and his family arrived, I was really impressed with the AR-15 he had built. I believe his rifle is easily as good of quality as mine, and it cost him about $500 less than my newest AR-15.

I have always said that if I were to get another AR platform rifle, I would choose to get it it in .308 caliber or 7.62 NATO. The 7.62 NATO AR platform rifle I like the best is a DPMS, GII MOE.

My son in law did some research to see how much it would cost to build one from a kit and buy the lower receiver from the gun shop in his city. It looks like close to $700, and I would then have to put the sights I want on it, which could bring the price to about $900. Not too bad for the quality of rifle I want, but still a whole lot more than putting an AR-15 kit together.

Now I just need to figure out how to get my wife to go along with me on the project.

Because of a lack of standardization in 7.62 AR platforms or AR-10 rifles , the process is not as simple when building one from a kit as it is with the AR-15. There are basically two primary versions of the AR-10 platform: the original AR-10 version built by Eugene Stoner for Armalite and the DPMS LR 308 based version. The DPMS-based AR-10 version controls approximately 87 percent of the parts market for AR-10 parts kits. But one must purchase a DPMS-type lower receiver and hopefully have access to an excellent machinist if any problems arise while trying to put the upper and lower receivers together. Fortunately, my son-in-law has the tools and a shop if we need to make some adjustments. However, I still haven't decided whether to build my own AR-10 or not.

You may have received advertisements on the internet from a "Ghost Gun" company that tells you how to build an AR-15 and lower receiver that has no serial number and therefore the government has no record of your completed AR-15. First of all, you will probably get better quality parts for your upper receiver and barrel by going with one of the companies that provide those parts. Second, although the company insists that no laws are broken if you personally machine the lower receiver from and unfinished lower receiver block with no serial number, I would consult an attorney if I were going to try to make a "Ghost Gun." At any rate, it seems like you would be asking for trouble if the BATF ever got wind of your ghost gun, and they seem to have a way of staying on top of people who try to go around the law.

Building your own AR platform rifle can be a very satisfying and legal project, and you can build it with the accessories you personally prefer. If you choose to build an Armalite AR-10 version or DPMS LR 308 version, you must purchase a kit and lower receiver for the version you choose to build. When finished, you will have a rifle you can be proud of for less cost than buying an AR-15, AR-10 or DPMS LR 308 at the gun shop.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at

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