Building an AR-15 is a helluva fun adventure, especially with how the market’s exploded in recent years. Never before have so many options been made available. Now, you can build your own AR-15 from scratch with an 80 lower! But there are some important tips and secrets to building your own AR-15 that you should take to heart. Yeah, we know, everyone has an opinion – especially when it comes to guns. But take a second to consider these suggestions:

Have a Goal for Your AR-15

What’s the purpose of your AR-15? No, we’re not trying to get you to declare whether it’s business or pleasure – we’re not like the legislators in California. You don’t need a specific reason for building a black rifle, but you should think about what you want to do with it.

Will you be hunting, target shooting, using it as a home defense weapon, or for competition or speed shooting? If you hunt, take a look at a stainless barrel, which will guarantee the most accuracy.

If you’re in competition, consider a shorter barrel with a stabilizing brace, a la AR pistol. Want a fun plinker? Look at some mil-spec stuff – it’s affordable, quality stuff. AR parts are relatively universal, but having a goal will guide your entire build and ensure you’re buying parts meant for each other. After all, you wouldn’t mate a 20” heavy target barrel with a simple Magpul MOE buttstock designed for quick movements.

Avoid the Internet Forums

Seriously, just don’t go there. Especially when it comes to AR-15s. The Internet’s black rifle forums are cesspools of cool guy wannabes, mall ninja operators, and Fudds – all of whom see their opinions as God’s himself. The best part? Most of them are just plain old wrong about, well, everything related to the venerable black rifle.

Instead, do your own research. Read up on how barrels are made, which length gas systems impart the most-felt recoil compared to failures to operate, and which buffer and spring works best for which 5.56 or .223 load. The raw data’s there – it’s up to you to figure it all out, sans the opinions of others.

Buy a Full-Built Upper

We advocate for the best value. Yeah, building your AR from scratch is cool and machining an 80 percent lower into a finished receiver is a serious money saver, but piecing together a stripped upper, barrel, gas system, and muzzle device can be time-consuming, dangerous, and expensive.

Most full-built uppers (like our own) are manufactured to exacting tolerances and are test-fired and guaranteed to function reliably and accurately. Once you’ve got that full-built upper, swapping out a part or two at a time is easy, and you’ll be working with an upper that you know works. If a new part ain’t right, just revert it back. It’s kind of like backing up your smartphone.

Don’t Be Cheap

Seriously, just don’t. You’re not building a simple tool or piece of IKEA furniture. You’re building a weapon that can take a life. Be affordable, but don’t be cheap. That stripped upper made from cast aluminum for $30? Yeah, it’s probably from overseas. It will probably explode in your face and it could kill you.

Have the Right Tools for The Job

Building an AR-15 is an art form. Brute force and cutting corners just won’t work. You can’t use a Phillips screwdriver in lieu of a proper roll pin punch, and you certainly can’t substitute an armorer’s wrench for an adjustable pipe wrench.

Invest in the right tools when you build your AR-15. That includes an 80 lower jig, if you’re going the complete DIY route (which we strongly encourage!).

Guest post by James Walton who does a podcast at