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Old July 30, 2019, 11:18 AM   #1
dahermit
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Low price = malfunctions?

Being retired and not having much to do (except cast bullets for the Summer shooting season), in the Winter time here in Michigan, I am toying with the idea of assembling a AR15 .223 Carbine.

My question is, (and it applies only to those who have built an AR15 from inexpensive parts that are available these days), having built a "budget" AR15 from non-premium parts, was it a reliable (functioned, no stoppages), gun in YOUR EXPERIENCE. People who have actually have done it only, please respond.
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Old July 30, 2019, 12:15 PM   #2
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"...Low price = malfunctions?..." Nope.
"...built an AR15..." That'd do it though.
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Old July 30, 2019, 01:07 PM   #3
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People who have actually have done it only,
How many AR's have you built in Canada?
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Old July 30, 2019, 02:12 PM   #4
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I tend to "build" at the extreme ends of the spectrum; either high end builds whose pile of parts costs thousands of dollars and continue to get upgraded with expensive parts (such as the .17-223, 6x45mm, and .475 Tremor), or stuff thrown together with the cheapest parts I could find to make something out of the crap I had lying around (...pretty much all of the .223s/5.56s, including the 7.5" pistol, golf ball launcher, and "Nutless Wonder").

Cheap assemblies that I've purchased, such as complete uppers or uppers without a BCG were fairly reliable; but the barrels were terrible.
Cheap lowers that I've bought (we're talking stuff on the fringes of the market, such as TAC-15 polymer lowers) were a huge PITA, due to bad dimensions. 'Cheap' lowers like Anderson's work fine. I consider them more "budget friendly" than 'cheap'.

I have not, however, had much of an issue with anything that I've assembled from cheap parts, as long as I was building around a good barrel and a fire control group that was at least one step up from something carved from a leaf spring by a monkey with a rock.

Even though the stuff may work, you can still be sacrificing in some areas with cheap parts, however.
Cheap BCGs may have a very rough finish that can require break-in before the bolt can cycle at the correct velocity.

Aluminum gas blocks will be eroded and cut more quickly than steel.

Cheap LPKs may have springs that are too light, too stiff, or the wrong length; or detent pins that have to be reworked by hand to do their job. Pivot and take-down pins may be poorly finished and require hand polishing, stoning, or deburring, before installation.

Cheap adjustable stocks usually rattle. Cheap buffer tubes (receiver extensions) for adjustable stocks are often made from soft aluminum, the slots in which may tear out with abuse or heavy-recoiling cartridges.

Cheap free float tubes may have attachment methods that are sub-optimal, or downright stupid. (Like AR Stoner FF tubes, with their 8-sided nut that most people can only grab with an adjustable wrench or vise, but the flats are narrow and the metal soft, so the nut likes to round-over. Not a fan!)

Cheap rails and railed gas blocks may have non-standard dimensions and not actually fit the item that you intend to mount. ...Or be so soft that the rail deforms when the item is mounted.

Most cheap AR parts still work. But you may not like them, may need to replace them sooner than more expensive parts, and may need to do some fiddling before they can be installed.

Back to barrels, as I believe it to be the most important part of an AR "build":
Don't go with the cheapest thing you can find, unless it's some special deal from a company known for at least 'decent' quality. (Such as Anderson.) Right now, the hot name and biggest offender on the market for crap barrels, in my opinion, is Bear Creek Arsenal (BCA). Lots of talk. Lots of praise. But even more problems.
Buy a decent, or good barrel, and go cheap with the other bits.
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Old July 30, 2019, 02:40 PM   #5
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I've built 3x "budget" ARs using cost effective parts: 1x 5.56, 1x 300 Blackout and 1x 224 Valkyrie (the 224 was using more expensive parts compared to the other two). There was one time where I had issues for assembling where the takedown pins and the takedown pin holes in the upper were NOT the same size. That was a simple fix by getting different company takedown pins and then perfect fit. So you may have issue with fitting if using all different company parts, but I wouldn't expect it to happen often.

Other than that, all of my builds functioned flawlessly. And that's using both quality and not-so-quality ammo.

That being said, I agree with F.Mauser above. Better parts = better feeling gun and more accurate. My fav thing about the AR though, you can start off with a cost effective build. It'll go bang when you pull the trigger and, heck, maybe accuracy is just fine for what you want. But you can slowly upgrade the gun over time by removing and replacing parts with better parts. My first AR build (the 5.56 one) started out as an under $500 build. Now, it's closer to a $1000 gun with all the upgraded parts in it. But that additional ~$500 put into it was spread over years. Could I have just bought a $1000 gun in the first place and replace a lot less parts? Sure, but I really enjoyed building it and I have more ownership into it.

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Old July 30, 2019, 04:27 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. O'Heir View Post
"...Low price = malfunctions?..." Nope.
"...built an AR15..." That'd do it though.
Posts such as this are not useful for my purpose.
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Old July 30, 2019, 05:05 PM   #7
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Are you thinking about a scratch build or a build kit?
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Old July 30, 2019, 07:17 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by GarandTd View Post
Are you thinking about a scratch build or a build kit?
I was thinking more along the lines of assembling a complete upper and a complete lower and adding a carbine butt stock and carry handle (with rear sight). Although I have the mechanical skills (I was a machine shop instructor), I am too old and tired to get too involved...just want a possible diversion for the Winter months.
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Old July 30, 2019, 07:52 PM   #9
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Franken Mauser nailed it. Nothing more that I could say that he didn't already say. Would make a nice project for a couple of weeks it you took your time. You'll need some special tools to install the barrel properly (i.e.: barrel wrench, torque wrench, something to hold the upper, and bench vise. Plus some other tools can make the job easier. Assembling an AR is easy.
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Old July 30, 2019, 09:28 PM   #10
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I have built a few, and I too agree with Frankenmauser.
Spend some money on a good barrel ( I like Green Mountain for the price) and for the rest of the build , use whatever you can get at the price you like.I have seen less expensive barrels shoot, but there is a better chance that it wont be very good. In other words, a gamble.

I find Anderson lowers to be just fine. I also like Aero, but Anderson has the best price I could find.


This is the best time to build an AR on the cheap. Parts a plenty. Just pay for the barrel!!

Good luck

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Old July 30, 2019, 09:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dahermit
Being retired and not having much to do (except cast bullets for the Summer shooting season), in the Winter time here in Michigan, I am toying with the idea of assembling a AR15 .223 Carbine.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dahermit
I was thinking more along the lines of assembling a complete upper and a complete lower and adding a carbine butt stock and carry handle (with rear sight).
Emphasis added.

I have built inexpensive ARs, and I've yet to encounter a problem that made the item unreliable. I've used parts from Palmetto State, and have found Anderson upper and lower receivers great to work with. I have below average mechanical aptitude and have found none of the assembly process overwhelming, except for one step. I have never attempted to drill and pin a front sight and barrel. It looks to require precision and the right tools, and appears to result in ruined parts of done wrong, so I haven't even tried. I have fixed sight rifles, but I bought complete uppers for those.

To be happy with whatever you put together, you want an idea of what you want in general terms before you shop for it. I agree with FrankenMauser and other that the barrel and trigger are the wrong parts for making the lowest price the priority. I have a 20 inch 1;12 pencil barrel from Green Mountain that was $170 and a Rock River two stage trigger (Neither the best nor the cheapest) that sit in an Anderson upper receiver with an Ebay carbon fiber free float tube and a New Frontier polymer lower (cheap stuff). It's a great rifle. I've a Dez Arms barrel and Armalite National Match trigger sitting in a rifle otherwise composed of cheap parts.

When I wanted an upper with fixed sights, I ordered it built from Palmetto State. I don't think I could have built it for less. Build your own lower though. It's easy enough, and you'll have the confidence of knowing exactly how it all works.
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Old July 31, 2019, 08:41 AM   #12
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All of my cheaper builds (not so cheap imo) are mostly PSA components and the cheaper Ballistic Advantage Modern series barrels. No issues.
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Old July 31, 2019, 04:14 PM   #13
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My one and only "build" was a PSA MOE kit on an Anderson stripped lower. I spent less than $400 including tax/transfer on the rifle plus a couple mags. It has been 100% reliable after nearly 1000 rounds down range.
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Old July 31, 2019, 07:36 PM   #14
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I am ambivalent about the whole thing. I anticipate being bored with time on my hands this Winter (Michigan), and thought that building/assembling a Carbine style AR 15 would be interesting. However, I sold my Colt AR 15 H-Bar (I think it was called a "Target-Competition), a few years ago because I gave up shooting in local Service Rifle competitions. So, I really do not have any pressing need or use for an AR.

Nevertheless, I have always liked the concept of the Car 15 instead of the Vietnam era M16.

I don't want to get into assembling a lower or upper, but just buying a completed upper and lower seems to defeat the purpose of having much to do. So, I am still considering the pros and cons of either a simple project, or a more complex project. I have not finalized the decision as of yet.
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Old August 3, 2019, 07:58 AM   #15
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I've built 3 for myself, 3 with a buddy and 1 with my brother in law.

All but two used low end uppers, lowers and other parts.

Some were were complete uppers, some were completely assembled.

I've built one in 300 blackout and one in 6.8 the rest were 5.56.

The one thing in common is that they were all, more or less, fun to build, easy to build and all have been 100% reliable.

My PSA M4 is amazingly accurate.

For the money, you can build a great shooting, inexpensive gun that's incredibly fun to shoot.

I'd suggest buying a complete upper and build the lower from a parts kit. The upper build can have a high suck factor.
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Old August 4, 2019, 09:12 AM   #16
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If you just want to plug completed upper to completed lower PSA and PA usually have great deals. Also I think Aero Precision has a "builder kit" that doesn't have any furniture on it.

My last "cheap" build was a 16" 5.56 a few years ago just over $400. Probably accumulated parts over 6mos prior to assy, just about everything on sale. Nowadays, stuff is cheaper, probably would have come in under $400.

Broke in (read: zero and shoot the s#1t out of it for ~100rds), cleaned and shot a 2gun match (~200rds) without issue.

*I think* it was a Radical barrel I got from PrimaryArms on a black Friday sale for like $50. Trigger ALG ACT (don't care for it but, again, on sale at the time). Toolcraft BCG. Upper/lower Anderson. After "break in" (lol), was getting ~1-1.2moa. My goal was less than 2moa so, for the cost, I was pretty happy for a blaster carbine.

I am not a gunsmith by any stretch, but do use torque wrenches, square the upper receiver, blue Loctite, etc.
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Old August 4, 2019, 11:02 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by greentick View Post
If you just want to plug completed upper to completed lower PSA and PA usually have great deals. Also I think Aero Precision has a "builder kit" that doesn't have any furniture on it.

My last "cheap" build was a 16" 5.56 a few years ago just over $400. Probably accumulated parts over 6mos prior to assy, just about everything on sale. Nowadays, stuff is cheaper, probably would have come in under $400.

Broke in (read: zero and shoot the s#1t out of it for ~100rds), cleaned and shot a 2gun match (~200rds) without issue.

*I think* it was a Radical barrel I got from PrimaryArms on a black Friday sale for like $50. Trigger ALG ACT (don't care for it but, again, on sale at the time). Toolcraft BCG. Upper/lower Anderson. After "break in" (lol), was getting ~1-1.2moa. My goal was less than 2moa so, for the cost, I was pretty happy for a blaster carbine.

I am not a gunsmith by any stretch, but do use torque wrenches, square the upper receiver, blue Loctite, etc.
I ended up buying a 5.56, 16" complete upper from Palmetto State Arms. Also a lower parts kit with Carbine style multi-position stock. I bought an Andersen stripped lower from my local Gander Outdoors for $50.00.

After watching a video on completing the lower, after I finish this build, I will likely go with a stripped upper, separate barrel, upper kit, etc. Just completing the lower is just not all that complicated or challenging.

I still have to find a carry handle [SIC, "rear sight assembly"], but Palmetto is out of stock at the moment. I could use some suggestions on a "good", but not so expensive Carry handle...but not from Brownells, they are way too expensive.
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Old August 4, 2019, 11:08 AM   #18
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I've assembled "cheap" AR platforms on both Andersen and PSA lowers. Nothing fancy, just a knock around gun, a 5.56 for the wife, a 6.8 SPC because it's awesome.

Torque to spec, use loc-tite, and read/watch before you being and it'll do fine.

I haven't subjected these guns to anything for than a club 3-Gun match, but they haven't given me issues.

But that being said, they aren't serious duty weapons.
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Old August 4, 2019, 12:32 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dahermit
I still have to find a carry handle [SIC, "rear sight assembly"], but Palmetto is out of stock at the moment. I could use some suggestions on a "good", but not so expensive Carry handle...but not from Brownells, they are way too expensive.
I have a $200 Rock River Dominator Eotech base with an A2 sight, an Ncstar A2 style sight, and a no name A2 style sight. They all work well and do the same thing.
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Old August 4, 2019, 12:59 PM   #20
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I haven't subjected these guns to anything for than a club 3-Gun match, but they haven't given me issues.

But that being said, they aren't serious duty weapons.
What specifically is different from a "...serious duty weapon."? What will they NOT do that a "serious duty weapon", do?
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Old August 4, 2019, 01:01 PM   #21
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I have a $200 Rock River Dominator Eotech base with an A2 sight, an Ncstar A2 style sight, and a no name A2 style sight. They all work well and do the same thing.
No issues with the cheaper sights not adjusting correctly, moving when the should not, etc.?
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Old August 4, 2019, 01:48 PM   #22
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I have read that the UTG-pro carry handles are decent for the price, but I have no experience with them. I am using
a Magpul rear back up sight that gets the job done. The Magpul sight was included in the PSA build kit that I chose. The included rear sight was part of my decision making process.
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Old August 4, 2019, 02:14 PM   #23
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Low price = malfunctions?
Nope.

AR builds, even the least expensive ones are like putting Glocks or Ruger 10/22's together. The parts are so ubiquitous, that it's hard to find parts that are out of spec. The issue isn't malfunctions but longevity with inexpensive builds. If all you're looking for is an occassional plinker or something for a rainy day, then an inexpensive build will do. If you intend on doing weekly 3-gun with them, then make the investment.
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Old August 4, 2019, 03:05 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by dahermit
No issues with the cheaper sights not adjusting correctly, moving when the should not, etc.?
None. Blind folded, I'm not sure I could distinguish the operation of the Rock River wheel and knob from those on the cheap units. The cheap ones I have look like LMT knock-offs. https://lmtdefense.com/media/2017/09/L8A-1.png

My shooting is nearly all within 100m, so I don't do a lot of adjusting after the initial sighting in. For that reason, I don't see the adjustment wheel and knob of the A2 as an asset, and see the A1 arrangement as a better concept for me.

I've my eye on one of these,

https://www.midwestindustriesinc.com...p/mi-cbuis.htm

I haven't switched because they are $65 and what I have now does the job.


Quote:
Originally Posted by dahermit
After watching a video on completing the lower, after I finish this build, I will likely go with a stripped upper, separate barrel, upper kit, etc. Just completing the lower is just not all that complicated or challenging.
Aside from the drilling of a front sight base I noted earlier, I don't think you will find the assembly of an upper complex or challenging. The real problem in starting with a blank slate is narrowing down your options. There must be a hundred different free float handguards. Will the barrel be stainless, chrome lined, nitrided, 4140 or 4150, heavy or pencil or some kind of government profile, 14.5 with a welded muzzle device, 16, 18, 20 inches or longer? What kind of muzzle device? Is a $7 A2 device really only 1/15th as good as $107 brake a fellow on youtube uses? YouTube fellow says they are the best, and he looks sporty unloading his rifle and wallet faster than you might like to. Adjustable gas block, and should it be steel or aluminium? Red dot or scope? How high for an appropriate cheekweld?

The prospect of sifting through so many choices is going to be a lot more complex than it will be to screw one together.

Last edited by zukiphile; August 5, 2019 at 12:43 PM.
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Old August 4, 2019, 08:12 PM   #25
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I've assembled two, both 5.56. The first used a finished mid length Delton upper with 16" barrel. I used a Spikes tactical lower (which is what a local shop carried). I don't recall the brand of the lower parts kit, but it was a basic low cost one.

Except for the Spikes lower and basic lower parts kit, the second was quite different. For it I purchased a rifle length Delton upper with 20" barrel. But I replaced the upper and stock with M2 type parts. This was more work of course, especially the swapping of the M2 upper onto the barrel and gas tube. I liked the result of the second M2 type build much better.

Fortunately I was able to borrow a few of the fixtures and tools, and bought only a few additional ones. I didn't encounter any significant problems during the builds, nor were there reliability or functional problems with the finished rifles.

Did it mostly to learn about the design. But I don't enjoy the rifle enough to assemble any more.
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