Sunday, April 15, 2018

Parts list: $311 AR15 build (with links)

Pointless anecdote: I remember first hearing about the "Assault Weapons Ban" being lifted in 2004.  It was on a videogame forum where our resident gun nut was showing off his AR-15 with a brand-new collapsable stock.  I foolishly asked if the ban ending meant machineguns were legal - I didn't really know much about guns except what I'd seen in Metal Gear Solid, Counterstrike, Rainbow Six and a handful of shooter games where guns were realistically depicted (for the time).  The gentleman informed me about his AR15, what was legal and what was not, and I became interested in owning something the government didn't want me having.  I learned about FFL transfers and soon found myself ordering a brand new WASR-10 AK type rifle to my local gunshop within the following month.

It was a cheap Romanian AK I paid $300 or so.  At the time, an AR15 cost roughly $700 or more for a low-end model.  Roughly thirteen years later, even with inflation, you can occasionally find a cheap AR for under $450 (Anderson AM15, stripped, $410; Andserson AM15, optics ready, $440 are some examples) while a low-end, matched serial AK parts kit cost $400 or more (unmatched serialized kits $319 at Apex).  Funny how times have changed.

Yao Ming, cool story bro
Yeah, cool story bro.  Where was I going with this?

It's ironic how the AK was a weapon that was meant to be built cheaply and quickly, and now every machine shop in the US is cranking out AR15 parts to the point that it is now the more affordable weapon.

I think it's possible to go cheaper than $400 if you build from individual parts, sourcing from different online stores that have deals and sales.  This doesn't take into account shipping charges.  Non-essential parts like butt-stock were not factored in because the AR15 technically runs without it (though I did leave sight option in the list.  No real scientific reason why, I guess).

It would be a waste of time to link to every part that's on sale right now because sales come and go, small shops go out of business, and sometimes inventory just gets sold out.  This list is just to give a general idea on what a good deal is and what's a normal price (as of April 2018).  I check Gun.Deals almost daily, specifically the parts section to see a list of gun parts that are currently on sale.  For a more comprehensive list of links check the end of the post.

THE LIST
  • Complete Buffer Tube Assembly - DHGate Buffer Assembly ($20.58) - Free shipping from DHGate, along with bulk discount pricing.  Comes with buffer, spring, tube, castle nut, and back plate.  If you see an American company selling a complete buffer assembly for $25 or less, chances are good that they're actually Chinese so you might as well buy it straight from the source.
  • Lower Receiver - Modulus Arms 80% Receiver ($40), Noreen 80% Receiver ($40) - You can order a stripped 100% lower through an FFL for $30-50 (plus additional transfer fees).  I've never seen one at a gun shop or gun show sell for less than $60.  It's probably cheaper online if you check on GunDeals.  You can also mill out your own 80% receiver for $40 - with a jig and drill press, of course - and if you don't have a jig, make friends with someone who does!
  • Complete lower parts kit - Gorilla Machining ($40) - The absolute cheapest COMPLETE ar lower parts kit I've ever seen was $35 with $5 USPS flat-rate shipping.  So that's $40.  I don't think it's possible to get the price any lower than that.

    The reason why I believe this is because I was going to list the individual parts so you could make your own LPK, but the cheapest price of a stand alone fire control group is $25.  That means there is no way to buy the rest of the parts individually and keep the total under $40.

    UNLESS - IF you made your own grips from scratch, fashioned takedown pins from 0.250 machine screws/rods - AND there is no safety and detents/springs, which I guess is important to all you normies with good taste.  It's pretty ghetto but it works, but the savings was a measly $7.  I didn't want to turn this post into a "how to make AR15 parts from scratch" tutorial, but I will probably make instructions on that someday.
  • Stripped Upper - Gorilla Machining Blemished ($35), ATI Polymer Hybrid ($35) - If you check on Gun.Deals, you can find a blemished upper for $30 or even $25 for an un-anodized one on rare occasions.  Blemished means it's just cosmetic defect, and has no affect on function. You can also take a chance on a polymer upper from ATI.  It is re-enforced with a metal insert.  Stripped Anderson uppers are usually $45-$55.
  • Barrel Nut - MidwayUSA Barrel nut ($6), Chinese Free Float Tube 4"-15" ($15-$35) - A barrel nut by itself can be had for $6 but you will probably want a handguard. For $15 you can get a Chinese-made, 4" free float tube which includes a built-in barrel nut. The 7" handgaurd cost $23 and the price increases further with length.  Free shipping because Chinese.
  • Sights - Fake-ass Magpul BUS ($4.36) - Sights are optional - I'm assuming this weapon is being used to mass execute political dissidents, infiltrators, and enemies of the peace, but maybe you want to aim.  If you check ebay and search "front rear sights" you'll find a bunch of $1-$2 sight sets that are actually molded airsoft sights that don't have crossbolts to lock into the rails, but with modification they would probably work.  For $4.36 you can get these slightly nicer plastic sights with with the cross-bolt built-in and a box that says "Magpul" on it!
  • Bolt Carrier Group - Palmetto State Armory ($79.99) - Standard, mil-spec, complete bolt carrier group, not magnetic particle-tested (James Yeager, internet gun expert, says MPI is a waste of money anyways).  I was seeing surplus and used BCGs and some new ones on sale for $65 as of December 2017, but I think the prices are returning to normal.  New BCGs cost normally cost $90-$110.
Cheapest bolt carrier group: $65, December 2017
OMG look, I'm not making this up!
Total price ~$311, rounded up to the nearest dollar, based on parts that are actually available now.  But suppose you went full-ghetto and made a lower receiver from scratch, used a FCG and machine screws in lieu of a complete LPK, didn't use a handguard, got your hands on the $25 upper, and found one of those $65 BCGs?  That's about $225 for an AR15.

I wasn't trying to make this an AK vs AR15 comparison, but on the subject of AK47s, you could probably piece one together by sourcing parts from different online shops, but overall it would cost more:  Front and rear trunnions are $110-$50, respectively; BCG assemblies are over $100 now; you're lucky if you find a barrel for $60 these days; gas blocks and rear sight blocks are $40-$60.  The days of cheap AK47s are officially done.

And that's about it.  I didn't work today and I drank, like, 50 Mountain Dews plus a pot of coffee and spent, like, 3 hours at the gym, I think I could bite through metal right neow - that's why this whole post is a jumbled mess, but I hope at least this was helpful to somebody.  If not, maybe humans in the future will look back at this and be like "Hey remember when we used those $300 AR15s to fight hippies in that civil war the democrats started?  Those were the good old days.
Shhhhheeeeeeeeitt
LINKS

There's a hundred online gun accessory stores that sell AR15 parts.  While I can't possibly list them all, as long as you're not some helpless old person and can do a simple google search, you can probably find more of these places easily.

Gun.Deals for everything.

I wasn't originally planning on listing PrimaryArms, but they kept popping up on my radar during my last minute research for cheap gear, so they get a cookie.

If you you're a gun guy you already know about MidWayUSA and Brownells, but I'm listing them here just in case AR newbies are watching.  These online stores usually sell at or slightly above the average price, and I haven't ordered from these types of websites in a long time, but they're a good source of parts if you need something in a pinch:
MidWayUSA is pretty quick to process and ship and they usually have a discount of an undisclosed quantity for your birthday if you're registered with them and had an account with them for a while.
Brownell's has consistently had a 10% off + free shipping after ThanksGiving and Christmas.
JoeBobOutfitters has a smaller selection of stuff but sometimes has cheaper things (and a 5% military and LEO discount).

Chinese sites I use are DHGate, and AliExpress which are useful for stuff like grips, handgaurds, rails, scope mounts, and stocks and have bulk order discounts.  eBay also sells these Chinese parts listed under the hunting section, but don't directly name the AR15/M4 (search "free float tube," "gas block," etc...). 

Note: DHGate and AliExpress might state "airsoft only."  This applies to cosmetic things handguards, gasblocks, charging handles, rails accessories etc.  You should be able to tell if it will work in an AR15 just by looking at it.  Obviously an airsoft BCG or barrel won't work in a real AR15.  The "airsoft only" statement is usually there to skirt international weapons export laws and all that other crap.  You won't get in trouble for ordering this stuff in the US because that only applies to sellers/manufacturers/exporters.  Also because 'MERICA/SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED/MOLON LABE, etc...

Also I have to give a holler to Gorilla Machining for good customer service and for being a quality, budget-priced parts source.

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