[Ed: This article was first published here back in 2019…what now seems like decades ago. Other than the references to low prices and low crime rates it’s just as relevant today.]
By Key Stone Scout
This past Christmas I wanted to get my two LEO brothers gifts without draining my bank account. This was mostly because I love them, but I also wanted to fill up the good will bucket in case my foot feels gets too heavy.
After a little online research, I found a set of three consecutive Spike’s Tactical lowers and scooped them up. I thought it would be fun for each of us to build one from the ground up. As luck would have it one of the lowers matched one of their badge numbers so that made it feel even more like a home run.
I immediately got impatient and started buying components almost daily. (No honey, I swear this was on back order from months ago – and yes of course I’m still contributing to Junior’s college fund!). As the parts trickled in I got even more excited.
What I ended up with is a rifle that will give me some serious utility. This certainly isn’t a rifle with “top-end” components. It lacks precision tuning by a skilled gunsmith. It lacks prestige because because it doesn’t have a famous name on it.
I don’t really want to show it off to anyone, especially my gunsmith who might want to beat me senseless with it. It’s also not the most attractive rifle I’ve ever seen. But let’s get into some very good reasons why you too should build an AR-15 regardless of your skill level.
1. I made it. There are many like it and this one is mine. There’s a lot of pride involved in assembly followed by punching accurate, consistent holes at 100 yards. My little project also has never hiccupped after nearly 2,000 rounds through the thing. All of this stuff builds confidence and fluffs the ego.
2. Customized is the way to go. This AR-15 platform is so ubiquitous that there are scores of component manufacturers out there, making it a great first gun build. Also, being that I shoot most comfortably as a southpaw, I ensured the rifle I built is fully ambidextrous.
Topped off with a little JV rattle can action this weapon turned into my truck gun, ready for any situation, good or bad. At first I was hesitant to spray paint my AR. But I weighted the options (black rifles stick out like a sore thumb) and went for it. I was also comforted to know how easily the spray paint can come off.
3. You will learn a lot. I am a life-long learner. It was a good experience to look up articles and how-to videos on the topic. Besides learning to build your rifle, you’ll learn about the laws involved. You will learn about what’s important to you personally for attributes and usage. You will also learn how deep your passion for self-defense and/or shooting sports can go.
Even if you end up buying a complete upper as I did, you inevitably will be researching things such as barrel length laws and pistol vs. carbine compliance. I’d even go out on a limb and say building an AR-15 is the responsible thing to do.
4. You’ll save money. Get the parts you want and leave the rest of the junk out. I realized that I’ve had five AR-15s in the brief time I’ve been a Second Amendment enthusiast. Every single one I owned and sold had been slightly customized by yours truly.
These were always small changes, but the costs added up. I ended up selling each of them because they just weren’t quite right.
I will keep this one. Lowers are very inexpensive right now. Even if you don’t have the means to build the whole rifle now, buy the lower (or three) and stash it in the back of your safe for when the time is right.
You can start your build slowly. Next time you go to the gun shop, buy two boxes of ammo instead of five. Now you probably have the funds for that upgraded grip.
5. The times in which we find ourselves make this a very valuable piece of equipment. Let’s face it, this is an important piece of hardware to have at hand as an option no matter what the situation. While the national crime rate is low, there are always those out there who would do you harm.
My LEO brothers couldn’t agree more. Police simply can’t be everywhere, and when seconds count, a cop is only minutes away. At best. Having the means to provide your own effective self defense and protect your family is a must.
My next goal with this rifle doesn’t have anything to do with hardware. Instead, I want to select a quality training outfit and take a carbine training course.
It’s been some great fun building America’s rifle. It’s yet another piece of equipment in my inventory that my father-in-law will probably ridicule. Then again, he won’t be seeing this little guy any time soon.