Recommendations for first AR-15

rustyshackleford

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Dec 13, 2012
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513
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North Alabama
Just start studying how to build one and start buying components. With AR-15’s you are pretty safe to mix and match. Uppers and lowers aren’t incredibly important. You can buy aero or Noveske or anything in between and be good. If you have a few punches, a vice, and a torque wrench all you really need is an armorers wrench. If you want it to be accurate but durable I’d get a criterion chrome lined barrel. If you want more accuracy you can get a bartlein or rock from craddock precision. In either case get the barrel with a headspaced bolt.
3230B452-EAF8-4501-8B26-CB2A4F88FE79.jpeg
 

snox801

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Sep 19, 2012
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Spring Lake Michigan
Lots of good advice so far. I bought exactly 1 So far. I built it off a stripped Ruger lower I got on sale for $55. 16” 8 twist Wilson combat barrel, geissle trigger, black rain ordinance bolt carrier group. Aero upper. It will stack my 40gr vMax handloads into .5 MOA as well as .75 MOA for cheap Winchester 55 gr factory ammo. Its my go to predator rifle, truck gun, and I’ve shot deer, hogs, and feral goats with it loaded with 64gr hammer hunters.
Get your sh$t together just one. Man I own way more than I do bolts. They sure are fun.
 

Old Infantry Guy

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Feb 12, 2019
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Limestone,NY.
You know, I agree with @meinidaho. Have several friends who fooled around with lower end stuff, and wound up replacing components to get them to shoot. Coming from bolts, you're not going to be happy with 2-3 inch groups.

We have 2 Rock River Arms rifles, one the entry level and a Predator/Varmint, and they both shoot great. Cheap factory ammo <1 MOA.

There is a guy who sells them at really good prices, but I'm unclear as to whether it's "legal" to post sources,

For bang for buck you can’t beat palmetto state.
That being said for your budget. Buy a complete power from them. Upgrade the trigger then order a larue tactical upper.
Say $200 for the lower, $800 ish upper, and do yourself a favor and get a decent trigger makes the ar a fun platform to shoot.
Windham Weaponry out of Maine makes top-notch AR's.
 

7Footer

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Nov 26, 2013
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Colorado
Build Build Build! The AR is an amazing platform that allows the builder to get exactly what you want. The number of quality manufactures is almost overwhelming, especially if you get stuck in that "gotta get the best" loop- many manufactures are really really good, who is best is subjective. I have owned some factory guns that were ok, I've built some really fun, plenty accurate guns. I've also built a dedicated test lower with a great LaRue trigger, Magpul PRS stock and an Aero lower. When I want to try a new barrel, or even cartridge for that matter, I will just build an upper and give it a try. If I love it, it gets it's own lower, if I like it, I just keep the upper, if I hate it, I swap the barrel, try a different bolt etc until I love it again. I invested in some simple tools, headspace gauges etc, and have been having a ball with the ARs for a long time. This platform allows you to explore a nearly endless aspect of your shooting hobby so go build what you want!
My advice to builders is always the same- and it has been mentioned before in this post- every gun I build has a purpose in mind before I start. My really light guns can't do what my big target guns do. My heavy target guns don't handle like the light ones. My "momma bear" guns are sturdy, but on the light side with red dots or LPV scopes. Those guns get a flashlight, maybe backup sights because those are the home defense, zombies, close quarter coyote, truck guns. If I can recommend- In general I like a 1:8 Wylde chamber barrel, length depends on what the purpose of the gun is. I stay away from chrome lined barrels because I'm not the US Army and if I shoot a barrel out, I figure I got my money's worth and I drop it in the scrap pile and then I'll try a shiny new one. I don't build guns without a free floating handguard anymore, and I try not to skimp on bolts. Plenty of sources sell barrels with the option to provide a matched bolt and I think its worth the peace of mind, although I have only had one bolt/barrel combo that was not headspaced correctly and that was on a LR 308. I bought another bolt and now the gun runs great.
The last thing I will say is that I like taking something I built, shoot ammo I loaded and have the gun perform better, look better and for 1/2 the $ as the next guy with his $1800 fancy gun that he has no idea what went into it or what makes it work or fail. Building these guns helps me appreciate the genius of the design, so I say Build and be Happy!
 

xsn10s

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Mar 7, 2016
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3,412
Uppers and lowers aren’t incredibly important.
Sorry I'm going to have to somewhat disagree on this. I've seen where an upper and lower didn't align to the point there was no way the pins would align. Which tells me the upper wasn't test fired rpior to leaving the factory. I've seen people have good results with cheaper priced products. And at a certain point spending more has diminishing returns. But I am definitely in the camp that you get what you pay for. I get what I can afford. And I'll pay extra when it really matters. I just don't always see the need to buy a hundred dollar hammer for a ten dollar job.
 

rustyshackleford

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Dec 13, 2012
Messages
513
Location
North Alabama
Sorry I'm going to have to somewhat disagree on this. I've seen where an upper and lower didn't align to the point there was no way the pins would align. Which tells me the upper wasn't test fired rpior to leaving the factory. I've seen people have good results with cheaper priced products. And at a certain point spending more has diminishing returns. But I am definitely in the camp that you get what you pay for. I get what I can afford. And I'll pay extra when it really matters. I just don't always see the need to buy a hundred dollar hammer for a ten dollar job.
Notice I mentioned aero precision as a baseline in my original statement
 

Schroedernd

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Jan 11, 2021
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S. Oregon
Ive got 6 AR's in different calibers, most of which I built myself. I will say if you want an all around fun AR caliber that you can hunt with and shoot long range, the 6.5 grendel is hard to beat! Do some research on who makes good Grendel uppers (bunch of good companies), buy a complete upper, buy a lower and put a decent trigger in (Larue MBT) and you could be into everything for $800
 

445 supermag

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Mar 4, 2015
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449
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NJ Down the shore
When i was looking years ago i was asking the same questions. After research a ton i ended up getting a 18" LaRue Stealth upper and I matched it with a LaRue lower. So i now have an awesome DMR and not 1 issue. Just make sure its the style you want. Or you just buy another upper throw it on that lower and have a different style rifle.

Best of luck.
 

ARlife4me

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Apr 18, 2018
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338
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Canadian, Texas
Just start studying how to build one and start buying components. With AR-15’s you are pretty safe to mix and match. Uppers and lowers aren’t incredibly important. You can buy aero or Noveske or anything in between and be good. If you have a few punches, a vice, and a torque wrench all you really need is an armorers wrench. If you want it to be accurate but durable I’d get a criterion chrome lined barrel. If you want more accuracy you can get a bartlein or rock from craddock precision. In either case get the barrel with a headspaced bolt.View attachment 307006
Barrel and bolt as a pair that should have the correct headspace I've been bought before and headspace wasn't correct. For good measure get go and no-go gauges or find someone close too borrow from. I own gauges in every cartridge I have because of building so many firearms. Don't just buy a go gauge and add tape in place of a no-go.
 

xsn10s

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Mar 7, 2016
Messages
3,412
Old junk lol? I guess that's all based off perception. My old junk are Colt USGI barrels and USGI bolts. Keyhole, Aero uppers and preban Bushmaster lowers. Geissele trigger before they got big. They've been pretty reliable even through Uncle Scotty's courses. Good enough for me. Boat anchors to some lol.
 

ntsqd

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Nov 16, 2015
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1,234
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Upper SoKA
They may be a bit intimidating to consider building, but buy Zediker's book on building a competitive AR and he walks you thru it. They're actually fairly simple if you have much in the way of technical skills. Might be a good first purchase regardless of what you end up doing.


Quite a few, though not all of the premium barrel makers offer a complete AR barrel. The best shooting barrel that I have is a Rainier Arms "UltraMatch". It is not the most expensive AR barrel that I own, but it is on the upper end. If going with a .223 I'd go with the "Wylde" chamber variant.

You'll likely need a bolt for the barrel maker to head-space to. Some barrel mfg's offer their own bolts, but some will H-S to your bolt. I've bought many complete BCG's and bolts, and I keep coming back to Lantac's offering, so those are what I send out.

For an M4 or carbine type build I use ALG's ACT trigger assemblies exclusively. For a PRS type of build I'm all over the map and don't have a specific favorite although the Jard and the Calvin Elite are near the top of that list.

Sprinco for the recoil springs unless using a JP Ent. "Silent Spring" assembly.

Superlative for adjustable gas blocks. Most of my builds have not needed an adjustable gas block (just buy the Sprinco spring by the application and it works well), but two of them did and I am thoroughly impressed with how easy it was to tune them and get the rifle functioning smoothly and reliably.

Ultra short and/or light M4/carbine builds get an B.A.D. Sabertube butt-stock. More 'normal' length M4/carbine builds get a Double Star ARFX butt-stock. Rifles get a Magpul PRS.

I really prefer Apex "Gator Grip" forearms to anything else that I've handled.

A.R.M.S. for iron sights. For plinker I've come to really like everything about the Bushnell AR 1-4x's in a Burris PEPR mount except for the scope's weight. I think that they punch well above their price point.

Can't go wrong with either Blue Force Gear or Magpul for a sling. I like them equally well.

If a partial assembly works best then I'd give good thought to the White Oak Armament link on the first page or a Compass Lake upper. Buy one of their complete uppers and match it to whatever you decide to do for the lower.

 
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