I posted in the "What have you done today" thread that I had picked up kits to build out 4 relatively inexpensive ARs and to PM me for more info. I've replied to a few people and keep tweaking the response as I think of more info. What better way to remedy that and make sure all the TSPers get it if they want it? Start a thread. So here goes... below is an email I sent to a neighbor who believes that the name brand imparts some mystical power to a piece of clothing and/or equipment. I developed the email to both a) back him down off the $1200 rifle ledge and b) educate him a bit. This is full of links and I can email it to you with all the HTML if you'd like - I've put the links in to the parts I actually bought. Drop me a PM with your email and I'll just forward you the original email... no editing. Brownells has the absolute best step-by-step video series on How to Build an AR-15
that I've ever found. I've opined in other emails about advantages of other calibers/configurations on the AR if you're interested - but it's basically hot air with a few good points thrown in occasionally. The email below may be elementary school crap to you and you may already have an opinion, so take it for what you're paying for this info. But it's the whole package I sent him. I ended up with free/cheap shipping on everything, so all in for 4 rifles I am at:$1736.00: $439.00*4 - 4 Complete Lightweight profile A3 rifle kits without lowers shipped free
$ 203.50: $98*2 + $7.50 shipping- 2 stripped Spike's Tactical Mil-Spec lowers
$ 219.90: 109.95*2 - 2 complete New Frontier Armory polymer lowers shipped free
$ 75.00: 4 FFL Transfers - 2 lowers at $45 and 2 lowers at $30
$2234.40: 4 Complete rifles or $558.60 each + 2 sets of spare lower parts (already capitalized into rifle prices)
I still need to buy magazines (PMAG at $15 each) and backup irons (I use Magpul BUIS for $60 - since I used them with Uncle Sam and am familiar - but there are others available like UAG for less than $30) - Prices are from joeboboutfitters.com, comparison shop as you wish. I also could have saved $120 by going with stripped NFA lowers rather than complete lowers. However 2 is one, 1 is none, right? So 6 sets of lower parts should keep at least 2 of my ARs functioning at all times even in the worst of times. If you include the mags and backup irons you are at $633.60 per rifle with spares all in. Without the spare parts I would be sitting at $603.60 per rifle, ready to accept and fire ammunition.
>>>> ORIGINAL EMAIL with [UPDATES] <<<<
1. Mil-Spec Stripped Lower:
$89 from Aero - Out of stock most places, but you can find them if you look at Brownells or Cheaper Than Dirt
$45 from New Frontier (*POLYMER lower in stock at JoeBob's - NOT MIL-SPEC)
$130 from Roggio Arsenal (in stock at Brownells)
The Mil-Spec describes an aluminum receiver. However, the lower receiver doesn't see much stress during the action of shooting. I've seen lots of "downers" of the polymer receiver, but they seem to come from those who like everything shiny and name-branded. I've also seen some pretty strenuous tests on the thing. I'm strongly considering it for my third AR-15 if not the carbon fiber one from Bushmaster (which is $800 all in at Van's). If you assume $130, though, that lets you get an S&W, or any other stripped Mil-Spec receiver as soon as you see one in stock somewhere. The real trick with this part is to find one in stock. I got the two Spikes Tactical lowers for the boys for $99 each. Saw an email that they were in stock and jumped on it that day. Gold'N'Guns pawn did the FFL for me for $45 total. On this, part, mil-spec is mil-spec is mil-spec. You're paying for logo. [UPDATE - I bought 2 NFA COMPLETE Lowers and 2 Spikes stripped. Van's/Gold'n'Guns are Local Gun Stores.]
THEN you pick EITHER:
2. Complete rifle kit (except lower). Here's 3 options: [all from akpartskits.com]
$439 M4A3 - flattop with a railed gas block, so you add back-up irons and/or optics of your choice
$439 LW Carbine - same as M4A3 except a traditional front sight gas block and the lightweight barrel profile
$535 Modular Carbine - flattop with carbine-length lo-profile gas system and a mid-length 4-rail free-floated tube (will look scary)
Free-floating is unnecessary for your intended purpose [Home defense and shots inside 300yds]. My 308 came that way, so I replaced the handguard with a free-floated rail. I would replace the handguard with a 2-piece rail that fits in with the delta ring (e.g., Blackhawk) just like 90% of the .mil crowd who change our rifles do with our rifles. The only people who need free-floats are those who require precision shooting for competition or those who are hanging 10 pounds of kit off the rails (like the high-speed special warfare folks). I'd save the money. You can always add later. I'm leaning toward the M4A3 since it has 4 small rails already. However, I might go with one of both of the $439 options. I will solicit child input before making the call for the boys' rifles. [UPDATE: I went with all four configured as the Lightweight (LW) barrel profile A3 upper configuration - the second one in the list. I plan to change handguards on mine, leaving me with a spare set. Since I ordered complete lowers (includes stock, trigger group, handguard), I will end up with 2 spare sets of parts for a stripped lower. At akpartskits.com there was not enough difference in the complete kit price and the upper + bolt carrier group price to justify only buying the upper.]
- OR -
2. Lower Parts Kit (all with standard Mil-Spec trigger unless noted)
$58-70 from Bravo Company
$60 from DPMS (seems to be most popular lower parts kit)
$56 from Del-Ton (not the best reviews, but meets Mil-Spec)
$152 DPMS kit without trigger ($30) + Rock River 2-Stage Nat'l Match trigger ($122) both from Brownells
I personally think the 2-stage trigger is overkill for hunting or for any tactical eventuality you might foresee. If you're trying to shoot the dust off a flea's back, sure. But again, that's 200 rounds of ammo that you could break in the mil-spec trigger with. And Uncle Sam is happy with it. You can also spend <$10 on springs to lighten up the action. Just don't change out the hammer spring and you'll still get consistent ignition even with NATO rounds.
You can spend $300-400 if you want and don't have anything better to do, but I keep coming back to a basic M4 stock.
$58 - Adv Tech from Jabtac
$60 - Mil-Spec from Brownells
$75 - Tapco from Brownells
$66 - Tapco from Mounts Plus
4. Upper Half
Too many options to count. I'd go with something with a 16" barrel, M4/Gov't or LW profile. NOT bull barrel or "HBAR". I think this is the direction you go when you want a second upper in a different caliber (9mm, 6.8, 5.7, 7.62x39, .50 Beowulf) for your lower.
$269 - M4A3 upper half + ~$120-$130 Bolt Carrier Group like DPMS or Stag
$339 - 6.8 SPC
$715 - .50 Beowulf
And then there's this:SlideFire
ONE of the two of us should own one of these... If I can find the $300, I will volunteer.
Path A is going to be much easier to deal with, and you will save some money because of shipping and vendors taking slightly less margin. However, there is also less customization. If you NEED the 2-stage trigger, you'll pay more for the entire rifle. I recommend getting a working rifle and then kitting it out like you want it. The stuff you pull off the rifle is then available for trade or (more importantly) as spares for things like fire control group and anything that has a spring in it. The attached list from Brownells
is pretty exhaustive and walks you through it. If you want to make it happen for $600, you can do it with path A or with some good deals on Path B. Again, you have to account for shipping and availability, too... another plus to getting a complete kit that is in-stock. If you want a second rifle under $1200, I think the second upper would be the first start (unless you were going for identical rifles). I think it would be awesome to do the first rifle straight up mil-spec at $550-600, then add another $715 to it to get yourself a .50 Beowulf. That would be one bad mutha of a hog gun.... $30 for 20 rounds, so cheaper than 308. This is definitely a candy store. You're the kid... you'll enjoy anything you get. You just have to decide what you want to take to the counter.