View Full Version : Building my first AR-15.

October 27, 2010, 09:02 PM
You know I'm new to this because I didn't just call it an AR.

I bought a lower receiver when Aim Surplus had a good sale going. It is stripped. So first I need a parts kit. Midway has one on sale. Is DPMS a good brand for a lower parts kit?

Now I understand that it's hard to get an opinion out of people, especially about guns. And especially on the internet, but please try.

If someone here has some parts they will part with I would be interested, but mainly I'd like some direction on where to get good deals on quality equipment from a friendly place.

Ideally I really like the look of the old Viet Nam era M-16. The triangle shoulder thing that goes up and the solid-esque butt. You can't buttstroke a man with an adjustable plastic butt.

Any help is appreciated.

And please dont make fun of me for saying, "You can't buttstroke a man with an adjustable plastic butt." That didn't come out right. I meant to say I like a big, solid butt.

Oh hell.

October 27, 2010, 10:48 PM
The DPMS kit will give you a serviceable trigger group, but the trigger pull might be stiff depending on the engagement between the hammer notch and trigger nose.

The problem with building a retro AR is finding a real A1 buttstock that isn't trashed. But Cavalryarms.com makes a close replica.

Also be aware the A1 barrel twist rate only stabilizes 55 grain (or less) bullets. Surplus 62 grain (or more) bullets will likely fly downrange sideways.

But if you find the parts to assemble a retro A1, they are a blast to shoot. I enjoy shooting my retro AR because it reminds me of an SP1 I owned 25 years ago.

October 27, 2010, 11:44 PM
Do you have a recommendation for a brand name and what I should expect to pay?

Also, thanks for the info. I think I followed. Is there a reason I can't get a triangular barrel shroud to look retro over a new barrel?

October 28, 2010, 01:47 AM
The lower receiver parts kits are all about the same. It is really the upper receiver, bolt carrier group (BCG) and barrel assembly where you see significant differences in options and quality.

Lower parts kits (LPK) can had from many vendors. I have built rifles using DPMS, Rock River Arms, and CMMG.

If you truly want a Vietnam era looking rifle then you want the A1 or A2 upper with handle/rear sight, triangular handguards, and solid buttstock.

This may look "traditional" but it makes mounting optics more troublesome. If it is just for looks and plinking, or service rifle competitions then no big thing.

An A2 will look pretty much the same but add the forward assist and a rear sight that is adjustable for elevation as well as windage. An A3 upper gives you the flat top with Picatinny rails for mounting optics and sights. An A4 or M4 is same as an A3 but also bullet guide cuts in the feed ramp leading to the chamber. Only get the A4/M4 if the barrel will also have these M4 feed ramp cuts to match. Generally most 20" and longer barrels do not have the M4 feed ramp cuts and 16" barrels do, but you want to make sure the receiver and barrel/chamber match.

You can find the triangular A1 handguards usually only in the 20" barrel length. And you have to hunt for them. A real retro would have actual USGI handguards from that era but they would be more costly. Easier to find the round tapered A2 handguards which were used in the latter years of Vietnam. cavalrayarms.com offers some of these as well as other styles and various buttstocks.

A true retro will have the A1 USGI buttstock also more costly as a collectible. Cavalary Arms sells a replica as well as the slightly longer A2 solid buttstock. A replica or retro will have the steel butt plate and trap door for the cleaning kit cavity.

The retro look will need a 20" barrel. The Vietnam era used a fairly thin profile barrel to save weight. Over the years the barrel was made thicker and had a cutout in front of the handguard for the M203 grenade launcher to attach. The thin barrel is lighter to carry but more susceptible to warping while shooting a lot from the heat. A thicker barrel is stiffer to aid accuracy but heavier to carry especially on a 20".

Another way to go is to get an A3 upper (flat top without the M4 feed ramp cuts) and a removable carry handle/rear sight assembly. That way it can look retro with the carry handle attached, but can also remove it and mount a scope or other optic or iron sight.

Main thing is to decide whether you want it to be as authentic Vietnam A1 as possible or "reminiscent" of that era but has the flexibility to use more modern optics and options.

Rock River Arms has a good selection of various complete upper assemblies. Cavalry Arms has a good selection of furniture. Bravo Company has a good selection of quality bolt carrier groups, backup sights, and other accessories. Just some ideas to consider.

October 28, 2010, 05:17 AM
Awesome information. I prefer to have something reminiscent of the A1 with the modern advantages as you describe. However, later on I might just try to build an A1,.or get as close to it as possible.

Thanks for the recommendations. I want a trigger that breaks clean (no two-stage triggers) and isn't a monster to pull.

Honestly I expected more replies to my question. I also looked for a FAQ on the subject but didn't find one.

October 28, 2010, 07:47 AM
Try AR15.com (http://www.ar15.com/forums/board.html?b=3) There is even a section dedicated to "retro" builds. Grab a snack though, there's a lot of information there. (There are some idiots there too:rolleyes:)


October 28, 2010, 08:23 AM
If you go with the Cavarms stock, buy it from Fulton Armory. They include a pretty good butt plate. Most shooters hate the Butt plate that Cav includes on their complete stock.

Some guys have even reported that they can pull the stock OFF of the buttstock screw because the plate is so flemsy.

October 28, 2010, 09:41 AM
There's some good information over at AR15.com, and they have a forum dedicated to the retro style models.

IMO, for the LPK, I've used DPMS and Rock River. Rock River is superior- it goes in more easily and just has a better feeling of quality. I've seen only about a $10 difference between them, so I'd personally buck up the ten spot for the RRA LPK.

October 28, 2010, 09:59 AM
I had heard good things about RRA, so I'll do a search and find the best deal. Is there a difference in the kits? I don't want a two-stage trigger, I know that. I guess there will be a description with any kit before I buy it.

October 28, 2010, 10:06 AM
It's easy enough to tell the regular RRA kit from the two stage. The regular kit is going to be in the $80 range. The two stage trigger usually doubles that.

I often buy parts from PK Firearms; fast shipping and good prices. If it's on their site, it's in stock. They have the RRA kit for $70 right now. (http://pkfirearms.com/content/1/20/34/124)

October 28, 2010, 03:21 PM
I would also pay a little more for a better LPK. In addition to the ones mentioned Stag and ArmaLite have good ones. Daniel Defense is even better.