It is Time to Build Several ARs

I believe that it is time to build several AR-15s. There are many reasons why. These include:

  1. You will soon need them.
  2. Prices are down, due to the Trump Slump in firearms sales. A reasonable cost for an AR equates to $600 today.  This is definitely a “low point” in pricing and hence the ideal time to buy or build.
  3. Your family is not building them, so you should.
  4. The government doesn’t want you to build them. (Read: The threat of upcoming legislation.)
  5. It will help you to better understand how the firearm runs.
  6. Building your own is just fun.

I retired after 21 years of service to our nation as a Cavalryman. My years of service spanned 1980 to 2015 and included active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard service. My civilian schooling includes multiple trips to Thunder Ranch, instruction under Gabe Suarez and Rifles Only, as well as one course at Gunsite. I am not an “expert”, but feel okay with stating that I know my way around firearms.


Rainy days are coming. In the last week, I saw at least four articles openly discussing a new civil war in the United States. Our political system has been driven to failure by the professional teat suckers in Washington, District of Criminals. (A result of no term limits and original sin.) The politically correct nazism of the liberal left has done a quite decent job of silencing cogent discussion of issues. The leviathan tech bullies of YouTube, Google, Fakebook have taken away the town square from anyone not supporting their agenda.

Theft of your firearms could occur. Therefore, keeping spares at multiple locations are prudent. However, you should realize that not all theft occurs via petty theft and burglary. The federal and state governments are now actively murdering citizens and taking their firearms. (The shooting of Gary J. Willis was just the beginning.) To date, 14 states have passed Red Flag gun confiscation laws. And 25 more states have this Constitutional violation under consideration.


Two is one and one is none. Man-made items break. You will not have an arms room and armorer to fix a weapon that breaks. The local gunshop (if one exists in your neighborhood) won’t be available to fix things for you. The only spare parts you will have are the ones that you set aside now. You have to be your own arms room. Extra parts kits and spare complete ARs are prudent investments.


All of us have grasshopper relatives and friends. The ones with pro sports season tickets. Marble countertops. New cars. Vacations. New iPhones. Big screen TVs. They can’t be bothered with insurance against a rainy day and choose to perpetually frolic. They will show up on your doorstep, hat in hand, or demanding that you take them in. It’s their right to be cared for at your expense, after all. If you are unable to shut the door in their face due to family issues. But they will be zero use to you if you cannot hand them an AR and tell them to watch a sector of your perimeter.


I primarily source AR parts from Palmetto State Armory (PSA), Brownells, and Blue Force Gear. I have no affiliation with any of them other than as a consumer. PSA provides stripped lowers (thus reducing the Federal tax on firearms) complete uppers and lowers, or parts kits for both. Their wares are mil-spec or better. I have assembled several combinations of their offerings. You can tailor things to your tastes/needs easily from what they offer. I will get to suggested specifications later.

Brownells always seems to be a bit more expensive, but runs a wider range of goods and certainly has more technically complete tool selections. CMMG makes excellent ambidextrous safeties that sometimes are out of stock at PSA and Brownell’s. Blue Force Gear makes excellent slings that quickly adjust in length to your changing needs.


The light weight and modest recoil means that young adults and even the grasshopper relatives who have never done a day of PT in their life can use the AR M4 carbine. (As opposed to, say, a CMP Garand.) The ergonomics of an AR are excellent. They are easily maintained. There is a tidal wave of parts for them available. They are inexpensive. After 50 years of military use and civilian market development, they are quite reliable. Until the military leaps forward into a new small arms platform, reasonably priced ammunition will continue to be available. (5.56mm NATO ball ammo is ubiquitous.)


The absolute minimum that you must secure are Mil-Spec parts and processes. Granted, these are old standards from the 1960s. However, they serve as a solid starting point. I have a friend who has run a company-sized arms room for two decades supporting the only civilian-owned set of MILES gear in the country. He tells me that it doesn’t matter if they run the MILES gear on a boutique AR, or an entry level one – if the gun is not built according to Mil-Spec or better, then it will not hold up and run. Short of re-enacting the Battle of Wanat, blank firing with MILES is about as tough as one could be in using an AR. His experienced opinion carried a great deal of weight with me.

Now, to the actual specifications for the build:

  • Stripped lower receiver – $40 to $50 at PSA
  • 16” barrel 1/7 or 1/8 twist – unless you live way out west, 100 yards is a LONG shot here in the Midwest. Yes, you see an occasional farm field shot, but what business will you have shooting at a human past 300 yards? Identifying them as friend or foe will be problematic. One who routinely picks fights won’t live long without rule of law (WROL). If you want a sniping platform, then build one of those. I am recommending parts for a reliable, reasonably priced, general purpose combat carbine. 16” barrels are handy, carry well, and don’t overtax the weak Grasshoppers. Yet, they are long enough to stay clear of the ATF minions.
  • MOE BUIS – these are polymer, but tough. They are, after all, BACK-UP sights. Put your money elsewhere.
  • Midlength gas system – because you won’t have an infantry company arms room backing you and Uncle Sugar providing spare parts, being gentle with your weapon matters. The reduced stress on the extractor, et al, through lower chamber pressure, is prudent.
  • Nitrided metal finish or stainless – markedly easier cleaning and less propensity to rust
  • PSA Enhanced Polished Trigger set. (An aside: Geiselle triggers start at about $200. If you must have one, then go for it. Building  6 to 10 carbines with an extra $200 cost per carbine adds up quick.) The slightly polished and nickel boron coated parts in this set from PSA make a very nice “stock” or issue trigger. For $30 more, I think it is quite worth it.
  • Nickeel Boron (NiB) or Nitrided BCG – the ease of cleaning is significant. Maybe you would gain a tiny bit of breathing space if you have a tough fight and fire A LOT of rounds due to the enhanced lubricity of the coatings. I will still lube my BCG enthusiastically. NiB runs $90 for a complete BCG. Nitride is $50.
  • Magpul MOE sets – While USGI grips and handguards will provide a functional platform that shoots bad guys, the MOE gear is so much easier to mount lights and slings to. The additional cost is not very significant. At worst case, start with USGI and upgrade as funds allow.
  • Elftmann Anti-walk/rotate pin kits – one of my EPT trigger parts kits caused a trigger pin to repeatedly walk out of position in the lower receiver. This $20 kit stopped that cold. Now that the fear of this happening at the typical Murphy moment was introduced into my cranial cavity, I have put the Elftmann sets on all of the ARs I own. Never have to worry about it now.
  • CMMG ambidextrous safety – $28 to help run the gun from either shoulder.
  • Roller cam pin – If you have the manliness to run an AR-10, then by all means buy the Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF) roller cam pin to save the wear and tear on the inside of your upper receiver. (Not only does the rifle weigh more, but humping 25-round 7.62×51 PMags is not for the faint of heart.) This adds one more tiny morsel of reliability. I would check my zero after installation. One of my AR-10’s zero jumped up 3”, which I attribute to the change in the overall firing harmonics of the gun.
  • BFG Sling – The Blue Force Gear sling keeps the carbine tight to your body, or quickly loosens to permit torso carry on the back. You can get padding for another $10 if you are humping an AR-10’s extra weight, or just really must have cushy comfort!.

The Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF) E2 chamber fluting is not within the scope of these specifications. That bit of enhanced reliability starts at about $2,200 per copy. Also, if you want to spend $45 to upgrade the cam pin on an AR-15 to the POF roller cam pin, then you must also replace the gas key. With that, you would also need high temp locking compound and a staking fixture for the grade 8 fasteners. I doubt that I will be wearing through the side of any upper receiver any time soon with the USGI cam pins.

PSA does not have any upper kits that employ taper-pinned front sights. I would like to have that extra insurance to make certain my gas system stays aligned. However, realistically, what are the chances that you or the Grasshopper you hand the carbine to will be doing any bayonet work?

So, here are some estimates on your current costs, for two options that I can recommend:



The Editor of SurvivalBlog (JWR) has repeatedly recommended that you stack weapons and receivers deep. For those not particularly weapons savvy, I have provided a roadmap that I know provides a reliable, well-priced self-defense AR. Tempus Fugit. – D.B.

JWR Adds: I concur with the author.  There is great wisdom in redundancy. The current Trump Slump Interim Period is the ideal time to do multiple AR builds.

If you buy any parts from Palmetto State Armory (PSA), then I’d appreciate it if you would start assembling your shopping cart with this link, so that we earn a small commission, to help support SurvivalBlog. We also have an affiliate relationship with Brownells.

Be sure to lay in a supply of at least eight Gen 3 PMAGs for each build.

I’m presently in the middle of building ARs for each of my kids, their spouses, my grand-kids, and any grand-kids reasonably expected in the next 15 years. Oh, and I’m also not overlooking the future spouses of all those grand-kids. Yes, that is a lot of ARs, but the pricing and availability of parts is presently very advantageous.

I should also point out that D.B. presciently included a mention of Red Flag laws. I predict that those will become a genuine threat and a political cudgel of the leftists–much like we’ve seen with SWATing. So, stack them deep, but as D.B. says: not all in the same place. Always have a Plan B and a Plan C.