View Full Version : New buyer, questions about building or buying an AR-15

January 2, 2011, 12:24 AM
I've been looking into getting an AR-15, and please forgive me for my ignorance about the complexities and differences among different versions of this particular rifle. I live in Arizona, and have know of only a few places in which I can purchase an AR-15 or the parts necessary to build one. I do not own any specialist tools to build anything fancy outside of the most basic tools you'd find to do typical home maintenance jobs. I would like to ask those of you out there if it would be better for me to build one by purchasing the parts separately, or to simply go out and invest in a pre-assembled rifle.

I do not have a lot to spend, and would like to start off with a fairy basic platform in which I can build upon and change down the line (Like mounting rails and optics) From my understanding and simply reading, you need to buy an upper and lower receiver, barrel, and trigger group (If that is not apart of the lower receiver in the first place) among other essentials like the magazine and so on and so fourth.

I'm not 100% what I should be looking for and what price range I should expect. I'm hoping to stay under $700.00 if I can, and will be using the rifle just for fun times at a local range.

Thank you for baring with, any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

January 2, 2011, 12:39 AM
Welcome to the forum!

ARs are relatively simple to build yourself, but I very vividly remember being where you are and thinking the exact same things.. there are so many options out there, its mind boggling. Once I had hands-on experience, cleaned it a couple times and fixed a few jams (all from bad mags) it all clearly came together.

My advice is to get a completely put together rifle for your first one. Yes, it can be done cheaper if you build it yourself. But, yes, you can get less than quality parts if you don't know what you are looking for. And then you are replacing parts, so your probably not saving money unless someone with experience is walking beside you every step of the way.

And finally, your idea of starting with the basics is sound. It's all too easy to go out and get the coolest, latest accessory only to realize you don't like it or really don't need it. Shoot it for a while and then you will have a much better idea of what you may or may not like for upgrades.

January 2, 2011, 12:39 AM
Since you mentioned your budget, I can't but recommend for you to BUY an AR and have it shipped to a dealer for you.

$700 isn't going to build you an AR if you don't have the necessary tools to do it-and you're looking at another $150 or more just on tools. So look around for a basic carbine AR and once you get more cash, build off of that platform.
That's the wonderful thing about AR's; you can buy a
Basic model and turn it into a highly custom performance
Rifle-not to say a basic AR isn't a performer, but just the idea that you add all the bells and whistles later.

Trust me on this one. I have built several.

January 2, 2011, 01:07 AM
I appreciate the advice. I was considering saving up instead and purchasing a completely assembled rifle. However, I am not sure what price range would be ideal. Arizona does have some perks as far as obtaining a firearm, one being that every month or so we have a gun show that rolls through, usually the vendors there offer better deals than any local gun shop or range. Another thing that has me bothered is I don't know exactly what is "basic" I suppose, and what isn't, nor do I know of any other company that sells an assembled AR-15 other than Colt.

This website here links to Scottsdale Gun Club, and if you check the prices, they are definitely not cheap. But in the end, I think the investment will yield me a great amount of enjoyment with said rifle.


January 2, 2011, 01:11 AM
What do you want to do with it? Enjoy having a semi-automatic weapon that shoots cheap ammo? Are you looking for a really accurate weapon for hunting varmint? Would it be for home defense? Just general purpose fun/plinking? Purely something to learn the AR platform off of?

January 2, 2011, 01:20 AM

If you asked for a "typical, base AR" to a gun salesman, something like this is likely what he would pull out. It could have a non-collapsible stock (think old-school m-16 if you've ever seen one of those), but other than that it's about as basic as you can go. I've shot Stag Arms before, and I think they are the best beginner/lower-end manufacturer out there. They really do work great in my experience.

Of course you would have to add some kind of sight like a scope/red-dot or flip-up sights that attach to the rail.

January 2, 2011, 01:32 AM
What I had in mind for the most part, is a CAR-15 or M4 style AR-15, I would be using this for general fun for plinking, and eventually, bring it up to be accurate for distant target practice (in excess to a 100 to 200 yrds maybe?)

I don't plan on taking it hunting or anything, but I would prefer to keep it in line with the .223 caliber or 5.56mm (I'm still learning the different calibers, and if I am correct, I think these two are essentially the same thing)

Eventually I will want to take this and use it to try and test my marksmen skills at the range, but for now, I just am looking for the bare bones to start of. Sweet and simple if possible. I like the old A2 carry handle irons, and have had no real trouble with irons as a matter of fact.

January 2, 2011, 01:42 AM

Here's an example where the street price should be right around $700 or so. Notice however that the Upper says "fixed carry handle". Some ARs will have a rail (like on the stag) and then have a carry handle attached as an accessory. In the case of this DPMS, the carry handle is part of the upper so you have no ability to upgrade or change later.

The Stag Model 1 ( is sold for $760 on Buds. It has the detachable handle according to Stag's Website. A good, reliable AR for under $700 (new) could be hard to come by. If you figure out how, let me know. $760 on Buds really is a decent price for a decent gun that sounds like right in line with what you want. That would be a good starting point for comparing prices/features.

There are other good manufacturers that other members may recommend. I'm just posting what I've personally experienced in the past.

January 2, 2011, 01:53 AM
Ndking, that is pretty much exactly what I'm looking for the Model 1 to be precise. Might you be able to link me to where you found that for around 760?

I noticed on that link to Stag Arms it says FFL required? what does that mean? If I recall, I think it may have something to do with that since you can't have a firearm shipped to you directly, you must set up a place in which you can have it delivered to, this can be a local gun shop, range, or local ATF office if I recall, as long as they have a federal license to sell or store firearms. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

But yes, the Model 1 would be exactly what I'd be looking for in an AR-15 platform

January 2, 2011, 02:02 AM

You're right about the FFL.. You can only mail firearms to an FFL holder (with some exceptions for repair work at the manufacturer). Any business that sells guns has an FFL. It's pretty common for gunsmiths to have them also so they can build custom rifles. All you would do is ask if they will do a transfer for you. Not all gun shops will do them because they want you to order the firearm through them. If the local business is going to charge you much more than $25, keep looking. $25-30 is about typical for a transfer fee. Budsgunshop probably already has an FFL in your area on file. You would just want to call the shop and let them know who you are and what you are buying.

January 2, 2011, 02:26 AM
Thank you Ndking, you have been very informative and helpful. I think I recall one of my local ranges offers that service for a reasonable fee. Next time I run down there I'll have to ask them exactly how much they charge.

Might you have any other suggestions or advice for a first time buyer of an AR-15? Any special tools I should become familiar with before purchasing one?

The standard cleaning essentials and security items are obvious

Bore cleaner, gun oil, bore rod/bore snake, carrying case/trigger lock etc.

January 2, 2011, 11:24 AM
I wouldn't think you need any special tools, not for learning the basics. Taking it apart for cleaning doesn't require special tools, except maybe a pair of needle nose pliers to push the 2 pins.

I would say shoot, wipe down and shoot again :) If and when you are ready to do upgrades you'll need a few things, but that's a little down the road.

January 2, 2011, 11:31 AM
An option is to buy a complete upper in the configuration of your choosing, and build the lower.

All you really need to put the lower together is a set of punches, and maybe a wrench depending on which stock you decide on.

January 2, 2011, 11:40 AM
A basic AR is that of what appears to look like the A2 style rifles.
Anything with quad rails or free float tubes will be around $100 more.

Also-as someone mentioned-you can build the lower and then buy a custom upper. That's probably a better approach.

Something to consider: an AR with a 16" barrel Or longer will do fine out to 600 yards for paper punching, varmints and BG's. ;). Some will go even farther.

I think your best bet it to get an A2 HBAR AR carbine and plenty of ammo/magazines.

S&W, Stag, spikes and CMMG make some nice starter rifles. I don't care too much for some of DPMS's lower end rifles.

January 2, 2011, 12:28 PM
I'd pass on the Colt. People hang thier hat on mil spec as the level to reach for but itsvactually the lowest common denominator the the military will accept. For 1400 you can certainly get more bang for your buck.

Rock river and spikes will get you something solid at around 1000 and dsa offers thier new line for much cheaper if you just want an entry level beater gun.

1400 to 1500 puts you in arms reach of high end stuff that will have way more features than the colt.

January 2, 2011, 12:29 PM
Kimio, I would definitely spend a few weeks researching ARs. Read all you can and ask questions and go handle as many different configurations as possible. Rent some of different weights and barrel length to shoot. You will very likely get the best deal online and have it shipped to an FFL instead of buying just anything off the rack locally or at a gun show.

I suggest spending a bit more than $700, an extra $150 or so moves you up to a good midrange AR. These days it makes more sense to go with a government profile or lightweight profile 16" midlength barrel instead of the M4 profile. If after researching you find you still love the M4, then that's fine - just be sure it's for you.

To someone new to ARs I'm torn between recommending buying a complete rifle vs. building a stripped lower receiver then buying a complete upper. I did the latter for my first AR and am glad I went that way but I spent months researching first.

January 2, 2011, 12:42 PM
I have/had 3 AR platforms. The first; I still have; I made out of Gun Show parts about 15 years ago. Went to a gun show, and bought every part needed to build an AR. When all was said and done, the price was basically the same as buying a complete AR. Yes, you can usually build a "Better" AR for the money, but "Better" is definitely a subjective term.

I was thinking of building another one recently. However, if you are patient, you can buy a complete AR actually for LESS. And not junk either. I just bough a brand new S&W M&P15OR from sportsman's warehouse. Normal retail price: $1069. They normally sell if for $949. They had a christmas sale with $200 off. Sold price $749. PLUS: S&W had a military/police appreciation $100 rebate. So, I get the M&P15OR for a final price of $649. Sorry, but I can't build an AR with the S&W quality for $649. Not going to happen. So, look around. Be patient. Prices of guns and ammo are definitely dropping. Buy a complete AR for cheaper than building one.

January 2, 2011, 12:53 PM
I would like to help out the OP. Here is an idea for a basic rifle. Try a CMMG bargain bin. I have not heard anything bad about them except maybe a blemish or a scratch on them. For $600 for a complete rifle is not a bad price at all. here is a link for you. http://cmmginc.secure-mall.com/shop/?cat=161

Hope this helps you out. Otherwise I would just get a complete upper and complete lower and pin them together. Best of luck to you. And welcome to you,

January 2, 2011, 07:18 PM
Thankyou all for the help and suggestions. I will definitely be researching this more. The biggest reason I prefer the M4 layout with an adjustable stocks is because I'm a but short, only 5'4 here, so when I had the chance to handle an M16A2 (rented it from a range) it was a little uncomfortable, while the shorter M4 style was a lot easier to manage, at least for me.

As for the last poster who suggested that bargin bin site, I didn't see if it said it comes with a magazine or not. Ill try looking around for an assembled upper and lower receiver, but from what I've found so far, it will still cost me about the same amount as buying one assembled in the first place. I found a site that seems to explain a bit more about the AR15 that being a company called brownells. Since my knowledge is limited on what manufacturer or firearms salesmen is good and bad at, I'd appreciate anyone who might be able to give me some feedback on this particular company.

January 2, 2011, 08:53 PM
Try a CMMG bargain bin.

Nice!! Never seen this before! I've heard of CMMG, just didn't have a clue they offered these. Thanks for the post.