Don’t Pay A Fortune For An AR-15

This is a guest post by Willard N

[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win a number of prizes including an 84 serving storage bucket of Wise Food Storage, 500 rounds of 9mm ammo, a NukAlert a copy of my book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and a copy of my CD It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine . For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]

I’ve been reading this survival blog and others for a while and when the conversation turns to guns, the waters get a little muddied. Let me say that this is not a “Which Gun is Best” post. This is a “Don’t Pay A Fortune For An AR If You Decide You Need One” post.

I cringe when I read that a prepper has paid 1200 bucks or more for an AR or M4 rifle. I get the same feeling when I read a prepper lament that he/she feels that they need one, but cannot afford one. It does not have to be that way. With a little knowledge and patience, you can build your own rifle for half or less than a new name brand AR/M4 costs. It’s completely legal, not difficult and I’ve had no problems with any of the guns I’ve built.

So that you know that I know what I am talking about, a little about me. I built, repaired, and maintained armament systems for the military for 20 years of a 30 year career. Armament means stuff that shoots. I worked on everything from Ruger 22lr target pistols to M1 Abrams tank turrets. The other 10 years, I USED the armament systems. You don’t need to be an armament expert to build your own AR type rifle though. I will use “AR” to denote any of the configurations of the AR15 family of weapons to include the M4. Assembly is the same whatever type that you decide to build. An M4 is actually cheaper to build right now due to the manufacturers flooding the market with parts.

Okay lets decide what we want. Barrels come in 1:7, 1:9 and 1:12 twists normally. There are others but these three are the norm. Military ARs are 1:7 twist. This means that the rifling in the bore makes a complete circle one time every seven inches of barrel length. The smaller the ratio, the faster the spin. Faster spin is used to stabilize heavier bullets. The 1:7 is the optimum for 62 grain and higher bullets. The 1:12 is the old style “A1″ rifling and is best for 55 grain and smaller bullet weights. The 1:9 twist was developed to use both 62 and 55 grain bullets well, not perfect but well. This doesn’t mean you cannot shoot 55 grain in 1:7 or vice versa, it just means they are most accurate when bullets are matched to the twist rate. I use 1:9 for most of mine so I can use both weights. One note, 22lr conversions work best with less twist but frankly it is getting harder to find 1:12 barrels these days.

Now that you have decided on a twist and weight of barrel that you want, do a search on the net for AR15 Uppers. The results will be all over the spectrum. So go to DSARMS and save yourself some time. They are top quality manufacturers of AR parts and rifles as well as top of the line FAL type rifles. You can order an M4 upper complete for $275.00, a military spec bolt group for 110.00 and a charging handle for 14. So for 400 bucks you have the entire top half of your AR. Again, I have no affiliation with DSA or any other parts company. I have never had a reason to knock DSA, and I cannot beat that price anywhere. There are some close, but the quality is not there. DELTON ,in particular, I have had problems with fit and finish. There are other low end outfits out there, so check reviews and blogs before you buy.

All right let’s get the lower going. You can have any of a huge variety of stocks for your AR. I will not get into the relative merits of each here. Suffice it to say, whatever suits you is best. I prefer the 6 position collapsible stock because I have short arms and its better for enclosed spaces. If I were digging in to defend, I would prefer the fixed stock for stability. Either way you can find a complete lower on the net for about $200 bucks if you don’t care that it does not say”COLT” on the side. All you do is purchase one online and have your friendly local FFL gun dealer transfer it for you. The dealers normally charge a small fee for handling the paperwork, most around $25 bucks.

So you are looking at a $650 to $700 dollar AR with shipping and transfer fee with little or no skill involved. But I don’t take the easy way when there is a CHEAPER way. Here is how you can save even more. Search the net/ gunbroker for “stripped lower receiver”. The results go from $59.00 to several hundred. We’re going $59 here. Thats right, you can get a stripped lower, devoid of internal parts or stock, for 59.00. Several wholesalers offer these high quality receivers, with their name on them, almost at-cost as promotional marketing.

They are made by the same company as the name brands. I get mine from Karrisguns or Aimsurplus online. They are great quality and the internals fit right with no filing or lapping work involved. With shipping and transfer fee you are looking at $95 bucks. Palmetto State Armory sells lower parts kits for 42 bucks on sale. The kit has all of the lower parts except the stock and buffer parts. CDNN Sports carries collapsible stocks complete with buffer and spring for $29 bucks. Though not M4 type, they work and I have not had any problems from them on the several that I have used. Assemly is not difficult for anyone with a little mechanical ability. Manuals are available for cheap online and gunshows. Every one should have manuals for their weapons anyway.

Now what is that $625 or so? Well a little more patience will yeild complete kits, minus the stripped receiver, for less than $500 bucks. The above mentioned receiver at $95 makes for a $600 dollar gun.

Recently I have seen six hundred-dollar guns at the gunshows ,already assembled. They are rare but out there. Beware though of DELTON or Blackthorne as I have had issues with quality of those. When shopping for an AR, go to the name brand guns and feel their fit and function carefully. Then go around to the lower end ones and look for that same feeling. You will know it when you find it. If you cannot find one there, I hope this post helps you realize your goal of an AR for home defense.

Okay, some have asked about optics and such. well until my eyes got old I was never into optics. During my military experience, optics and electronics failed at the worst possible times. i use an eotech holograghic site on my main gun. it is proven military tuff. it has no magnification, but helps the eye find the target FAST. Of the other six AR’s i have, I just paint the sights with a high quality primer white. it helps against dark backgrounds/targets. Lets face it, most attacks come at night. That brings up lights. Never been a fan.

If confronted with a light at night, I shoot it. So, if your head and torso are behind the light, what happens? I have lights on my “door gun” for pests etc. When the stuff flies though, any light I use will be separated from the gun as far as possible. While a cop, i was taught to hold the light at arm’s length to the side and up. If the perp shoots the light, only your arm is in danger. A better technique is to have a partner illuminate the target from behind cover while you engage from the shadows. As far as long-range, use the best scope you can afford. Leupold is nice, but much of what you’re buying is the name.

Look for camera makers, already expert lens makers. Also look for a combination of magnification and objective lens size. Divide the objective by the power, you want as close to 8 as possible. Eight is the most efficient “light gathering” factor. That is why you see 4×32 everywhere.

Caliber, there are many. From .22LR to .50BMG, you can get almost any you want. You have to REALISTICALLY evaluate your range and ability to determine which caliber to get. My area has distant houses that are still in range of 5.56/223. Therefore I have one in 9mm for the door, don’t want to endanger my friends:). Post tshtf, its 223. My friends will know to take cover when they hear the shots. Fifty BMG for stopping stuff, trucks and dozers and such, oh my! If I were just starting out I would look closely at the 6.8SPC. Buy two and 1K of ammo and call it done. It has close to .308 smack with .223 accuracy/envelope.

Sorry for the length, big subject and I’ve only skimmed the surface. I will be glad to answer questions within my ability. Thanks.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Heya Peeps,

    I was surprised to hear of Willard’s problems with Deltons. I own a complete Delton AR-15 M4’gery and am estatic about it’s quality and price. I paid$ 700.00 for a complete gun, with removable carry handle, have had no problems with fit or finish, and find that it has put five rounds of privi partizan in a dime at 100 yards (I have not yet repeated this feat of marksmanship but the target is still on my ‘fridge.) I bought the gun and treated the bolt and carrier with miltec-1 and have had zero malfunctions of any kind after thousands of rounds. I wonder if they have improved their product since his experience because my friend owns a gunshop and sells these like hotcakes and has had no complaints of any kind from any of his customers. (the gun in the photo on my website is the Delton, with dot sight mounted ATOP the iron sights. In case of problems with the dot I just drop down an inch and engage with iron sights.) I find that the Delton I have has the best trigger I have found on a stock AR, you can get better, but it will have to be an add on or upgrade. In any event, given the number of Delton AR’s my friend has sold without complaint I respectfully submit that Delton may be worth a second look. I am VERY pleased with mine.

    Keep on Preppin’

  2. I tell people the same thing except I send them to M&A Parts. Ive done a lot of business wit hthem and they are awesome. THere are lots of good distributers tho and if you watch diligently, you can find some really good deals and get your cost down while still maintaining quality. I also like JSE surplus, they carry some double star and del ton and both are good stuff for good prices. I have two and I built them both. I have shot them against at least a dozen high dollar name brand rifles and the guns just dont compare.

  3. templar knight says:

    Dang, where were you about two years ago, when I spent $1200 for a Ruger 556? Just kidding, I have a Rock River that I bought for $800 from an individual, and I thought I got a bargain. I really want to build an AR, so I printed up this article and I’m going to do it. You will be available for free consultation, rr? Hahaha.

    Fricking great post, rr. I’m glad you decided to enter it in the contest.

    • riverrider says:

      tk, thanks. i’ll help you out any way i can, any time. as you see above, opinions are as plentiful as…donut holes:) i just speak from my experience.

      • templar knight says:

        Well, I feel like you’re a close friend, so I’ll go with what you advise, no disrespect meant to anyone else. We all have opinions and experiences. I’m just glad you submitted the article. Now, where’s Lint? He was wanting an AR in last weeks post.

  4. Good post M.D.:

    I can attest to your results. I saw a brand new CMMG lower in a local shop; which was complete with all the innards, buffer tube with spring and a six position stock. Bought it for $249.95. Then bought a DPMS upper, on line, from a company (whose name I forget) in Carpenterville, IL for $399.95 plus some freight. The upper was complete with with charging handle, bolt carrier and bolt. So, for $650 I had a great little M4! All it needed was a rear sight (the front sight was on the upper I bought) and I already had a variety of suitable sights/scopes, carry handles, etc. But had I not, there are sights out there, adjustable for windage and elevation, for thirty bucks or so.

  5. Ditto on what Templar knight said. I sure could have used this info a couple years ago when I was stumbling around in the gun shops trying to figure out what to buy. I finally settled on a dpms panther and put a cheap ATN holosight on it. What junk! (the sight) I’m saving for an eotech. Then the ATN goes to the gunshow in sept. I also bought 10 very worn colt branded mags that I put spring and followers kits in. Great article (insert code name here) thanks for getting my gears turning. Now I’ve got to buckle down and master it like my 10/22,s.

    • templar knight says:

      Brad, I saved my money and got a Trijicon sight for my Ruger 556. I found one for sale by an individual, and got an excellent price, and the thing never needs batteries, a consideration in the event of TEOTWAWKI. Not saying anything is wrong with the Eotech, it’s an excellent sight, and tough as nails. Just my thoughts.

      • no batteries sure does move it up on the list when considering practicality.ill see what they look like at the next gunshow. we are having one here in sept if your down our way. ill be the fat guy in bib overalls with my best freind, a big ugly tattoed biker dude.we always set up together so one of us can watch the booth while the other fondles each and every gun in the place.

      • riverrider says:

        tk, now who is green with envy? that would be me. i love,love,love but can’t afford the ACOG site. good point on the batts. i’m a batteryholic like lint et al are flashlight junkies. one day they’ll reach critical mass and melt down. then again they may go thermonuclear.

        • templar knight says:

          rr, my son is in the 4ID, and he insisted that I get the Trijicon. He uses one daily, and he said if he was going to be a part of the retreat, he had to have the Trijicon. Even used it was quite a bit more than the Eotech, but well worth the money in my opinion. It is the only extra, other than a sling, that I have on the Ruger. I have a cheap Barska red dot on the Rock River AR, but I’m looking for another Trijicon for it also. Keep the flag flying!

      • Hi T.K.:

        I have two EoTechs. And the batteries, in mine, run clear back to a solar collector……. }:-)

        Batteries ARE an issue and they DO go bad. I learned, the hard way, that not all rechargable AA batteries are the same size.

        Wish I remembered which ones but one brand of rechargables, I had, would not fit in the EoTech.

      • By the way T.K. …….

        How do you like your SR556? Any problems with it-bolt tilt for example? I hear horror stories about such a phenomena but haven’t had any indications of it, in mine, YET. I also have three other ARs and the Ruger is the only one that hasn’t failed me, in one small way or another.

        • templar knight says:

          I’ve had my 556 for over a year, and have fired several hundred rounds through it, with not one single misfeed. No bolt-tilt problems whatsoever. I’m watching, though.

    • blindshooter says:

      ACOG +1, I found a used one some months back and so far I love it. My eyesight sucks and the irons are not so good to me unless I have perfect light so the optics were the way to go. I would love to have a reflex sight but I can’t spend any money until after I move(buying a safe is part of the move). Have any of you folks tried the tritium insert front sight posts?

      • templar knight says:

        You got yours not too long after I got mine, didn’t you blindshooter? I seem to remember a post where you and I discussed the Trijicon.

        • blindshooter says:

          I think I found mine a couple weeks after your post, I can’t remember exactly what I paid(maybe 650-700) but I thought it was a deal. I’ve seen them new for around $900 for the model I have. From what I have read they are very strong, guess the .mil would not buy them if they weren’t half way decent. One of the kids I coached on the Jr high power team that’s since done a couple tours in Afghanistan talked highly of the trijicon scopes, most of the ones they used have the chevron type reticle. I can’t see that one so well so I shopped until I found a TA01NSN with black cross hair reticle. I want another, but I’ll have to wait until I’m done moving and can save some bucks.

          I have always bought good optics and sights, IMO, if you can’t see it you can’t shoot it, at least not well anyway and cheap stuff generally don’t hold up so well. Good stuff cheap is a deal but just low quality cheap won’t save you much and might quit on you when you need it the most.

          • templar knight says:

            One thing I do remember is that you got yours at a better price than mine. I think I paid about $750, and yours was a hundred dollars or so cheaper. Agree with you on quality. Get the best you possibly can.

  6. Willard:

    Sorry Willard, I credited M.D. for having written your post. I promise to pay better attention in the future. Anyway…great post!

    • riverrider says:

      hawkeye,…. but thanks for your positive feedback:)

    • riverrider says:

      hawk, do we know each other?

      • riverrider:

        “Do we know each other?”……….Don’t think so, but I once posted about my SR556 and (I believe it was you) you asked me the round count on mine. I assumed you had an SR556 and was concerned about the possibility of “bolt tilt”, as am I.

  7. The Prepper says:

    I have purchased BMC uppers and lowers and have never had an issue with either. Their prices are super reasonable and their quality cannot be beat. Might be worth checking out if you need a solid gun but don’t have a ton of cash.

  8. blindshooter says:

    Good post, I have done a fair amount of gun plumbing in the past and the AR is the easiest system for the novice to build and modify.

    I’ll add this, with the purchase of a few inexpensive tools you can build and or modify your own uppers. You can have the configuration you want without spending huge bucks.

    • riverrider says:

      blindshooter, tendashfour. i just kept it simple for now. given a few minutes demonstration and manual, there are any number of configurations to build yourself. i get a urge and just switch uppers and barrels left and right:) right now tho, its cheaper to buy them already assembled, unless you want something exotic.

      • blindshooter says:

        Your right, if a person wants just the one gun/upper it’s cheaper to buy assembled.

        OT, the AR is great for people that have back/neck problems, less recoil and a more upright head position has kept me shooting. I was a diehard M1A person until my spine started to fall apart. I know some guys that shot a whole HP competitive season without cleaning the AR at all and at the end of the year they were still shooting great 600yd scores. Most of the ones that had to be perfectly clean to work had some underlying problems to start with. Like you said it’s not for everyone but I say don’t knock them until you try them.

  9. They are over priced and overrated , buy something else . Dont get stuck in the trap of trendy commercialism . something with a real bullet , like 30.06 . Plenty of good old semi auto army rifles out there . Heavy ? perhaps , but you could use it as a club if you had to , More rugged and reliable ? absolutely ! just tells you that you need to work out more often , give the AR to your wife or 18 yo daughter 😉 . During the cold war arms race , there were two theories of armaments . Our theory was fewer things but very high tech will overcome numbers . The Soviet theory was many things that are dirt simple , but very rugged and reliable will overcome . I think that in our case as preppers , as civilians without expectation or access to and of a military style support system , the Soviets were correct . All that jiffy pop crap hanging off your gun , do you really need it ? most likely not in all reality ( just sayin , if you want all that stuff , get it ) . Keep things off your gun that make it cumbersome and delicate . In close quarters , you may have to use it as a club , can it handle it ? I have an army Win. 1895 carbine 30.40 , it was made between 1914 – 1916 , its stock was broken in half and field repaired ,( had a gun expert look at it , he was more interested in the repair than the gun lol ) the break was caused by hand to hand combat in WW1 . Very sobering when you look at it and hold it . How does it shoot ? Pftttt , like it was made yesterday ! The K.I.S.S principle works . Just my 2 cents , do whats best for you as always .

    • T.R.
      Have you owned a AR-15? The M4 (select fire cousin of the AR-15) has been widely adopted by militaries around the world and is the shoulder weapon of choice for every law enforcement agency in the U.S. The AR-15 has been acclaimed as the best platform for a tactical carbine by a host of the best firearms trainers and schools throughout the country.

      No disrespect but I doubt you know more about this than all of those folks. Just saying.

      • Armies and Cops also have a very good support system in place that the average joe/jane will not have . They also take a lot of cleaning/ adjusting to keep them operational vs. the more simple designs with fewer moving parts . The bullet to me has much to be desired , ( I have shot the .223 ) if your lucky enough to be in a group , thats fine . I want to hit the fly with a sledge hammer vs. the swatter . Again , its a personal choice . If its correct for you , your comfortable with it , then thats what you need . pre vietnam ( M-16 ) semi autos fit me better . I’m very hard on my gear . It needs to be able to take a beating , being dropped , sliding around , not being spotless and still work , and if I have to smash somebody or something with it , I want a bit of heft behind it . I have a ruger mini 30 . I like it , Only reason I did get it was for backpacking and fun ( thats all its good for ) Defense of my person ? Personally prefer a heavy caliber or tactical shotgun . Your right tough , they all will kill and do the job , its a personal choice , I just dont like the fact that manufactures are raping the consumer when you can get other things that will serve a person just as well . I’m an older guy , dont like change LOL ;D

      • You take your fancy plastic rifle and I’ll take an M14 or ’03 and we’ll spend the afternoon doing vertical and horizontal butt strokes on a target post… well, I will- you’ll be going to the repair shop for new stocks after one good swipe.
        The Ar may have been proclaimed the best for tacticool, but that doesn not mean it’s the best combat weapon by a long shot. Speaking of long shots when you need them… military and po-po still use real rifles, not Mattel guns.
        Firearms trainers… you mean those guys who’ve been trying to debunk people such as Suarez… and hardly think outside the box? Those same people who have armorers keeping their machines running after each day’s shooting? Those same guys who get tax write-offs for the gear they buy because it’s ‘part of their business’?
        Riggghhhhttt. Got it.
        TR’s comment was that the M weapons are over priced and over rated and loved by the trendy Yuppie survivors, and suggested getting something more along a practical line for yourself, rather than waste tight money on such a weapon, use it for ammo for a weapon you can afford.
        Not to knock building your own from parts scavenged/bought in various places- everyone needs a hobby. But to spend $500 for an upper, then have to spend another $200 for the lower, then another $200 for the innards, you’ve gone well beyond what an average person would spend for a good weapon. Personally, I’ve never found a ‘reasonable’ price for any kind of build that ended being any cheaper than buying a factory assembled piece from the gunshop.

        • riverrider says:

          jsw, i plan on shooting them long before they get within buttstroke range. and i prefer the bayonet anyway. besides, your math is a little fuzzy, like obama’s:)

          • ROFL… Gee, thanx bunch, RR- math ws always a gud class to skip… but, yah- shoot ’em before they get within butt stroke range, cuz taht bay’nit may not hang on too long, either… 😉
            Srsly, from my perspective, it isn’t so much a math problem as a ‘need’ problem.

        • robert in mid michigan says:

          take this from an old bolt action 30-30 guy. i carried the m-16 a1 way back in the day. yes the military has a great maintinence dept. but you have that in every community remember when you put 100,000 units in the field something is going to happen to some that need real doctors to fix. same thing with a ruger, colt winchester you name it things are going to get broken. but i never had to see an armorer to repair my weapon. keep it clean and it will keep you alive atleast able to kill tho sobs friend who got you.

          second i have done literally hundreds of hours of hand to hand combat training and hit and rolls with the 16. yes i saw a few fail and end up with a broken stock normally hand guards for some strange reason. but i have scene a lot of broken wooden stocks than plastic ones. wood has defects and such grown into them that show up at bad times. the carbon plastic stuff they use for the 16 is potentially a more consistant material.

          the last point is the m16 is much lighter thier fore i can stay in close combat longer with out tiring. but close combat is generally a short lived and violent affair where no one wins. our instructer told us constantly first rule of close combat is shoot the bastard before he gets thier. if you are in close combat you are already dead take as many as you can with you. just like a knife fight you are going to get cut accept that and do as much damage before you die.

          like i said i own a bolt 30-30 but the m16 is a great platform that is reliable in every climate and condition. bullet is light for me butu for 600 i might have to add one to take up the job that currently is held by the 10/22 high rates of fire to keep thier head down.

    • i never met an AR accessory i didnt like.i think the folks facing the business end of and m4 would disagree with you. especially those whose life depend on the highly inaccurate and much simpler stamped metal kalishnakov design type weapons. by the way,im typing this msg on my heads up rail mounted text dsiplay. the keyboard takes a little getting used to since its right next to the toothpick dispenser.

    • TR,
      Note that you can get the AR platform in numerous calibers including .308 if you really need that “real” bullet.

    • riverrider says:

      tr, like i stated in the first line…not a which gun is best post. just a little help for folks who already decided they want one. keep the flag flying:)

      • bctruck , OhioPrepper , rivverrider ,
        If the AR is what you like and want , go for it . Ohio , its good to know it comes in the pounder calibers . riverrider , your doing a good service with sharing this information to those that want one but dont want to empty their bank to get it . I have a ’46 M1 garand , and also an M1A ( civie M14 ) . Both are heavy and rugged , thats just what I like . Again , to each his/her own . I just cant see spending that much money for that ( retail ) . I also like the cleaner configuration of the old weapons as well . I just want to point and shoot the damn thing and not have to play around with a keyboard , optics , etc ., etc. , only thing I did get is a night vision scope ………. thats it and only just in case things in the country do go south . K.I.S.S. again .

        • TR,
          I also have an M14/M1A in .308 but have fired a friends AR platform in that caliber and have been looking potentially to trade. Don’t get me wrong, I like that M14, but as I get older, it seems to be getting heavier 😉

        • riverrider says:

          tr, hehehe, we weren’t hating on you bro. love the m14, and dream of owning a garand. i was planning on going down to anniston to pick one up but they are down to the bottom of the barrel, literally. hillary clinton is holding up re-importation of 600,000 from korea now. with luck, she will be out and they will be in and i WILL have one:) take care.

          • Ya we need a few good rednecks in top government this time around . Dont know why they just dont change the name of the Democratic party to the Socialist party and say it like it is . I’d love an Isolationist/ Nationalist party .

          • riverrider says:

            tr, tendashfour on the demoncrat party. but i’m thinking we should break up into 5 or six confederations. the north, kali, fla, are all so far away from the south and west in attitudes and aims that i just don’t think the u.s. can survive intact. a renowned russian political analyst predicts just such a breakup. i know which side of the line i will be on:)

          • Ya riverrider , I agree 100% , their are secessionist groups in Texas already . . Im ready for a break up . only way to clean things up and get our meddling out of the world . we will be the better for it .

        • T.R. YOU SAID:
          “I just cant see spending that much money for that ( retail )”

          So with what you said did I miss something here because both rifles you cite cost more by themselves than an AR platform last time I checked.

          • I’ve had these rifles for decades . They were free from my dad . Grew up with them .

          • Haven’t priced them but even so , they will last longer than an AR even as old as they are . Not to mention you can use them to bash if you need to , and inside your house , it might come to that . Most people dont go on maneuvers .

          • Well time will tell I guess on the AR platform. We currently have AR platforms where I work that are pushing 40 years and still in use. So I think that does say someting about the rifle. I guess your arguement can be made about any rifle. Heck there are still Enfield from the late 19th century still being used in combat in 3rd world countries. The bottom line is proprt care for whatever weapon you choose.

          • Aye that ! cars need gas or they dont run 😉

  10. eight builds later and still no problem with delton.willard what was the problem?spring ;pin; or sear?just like jeff these guys at delton are good.

    • riverrider says:

      del, i got a couple of barrels from them. the chambers were phosphated and had to be polished extensively. i still get jams and one has a burr where the gas vent is in the barrel. never could get it out. i also tested the metal at work. it was not hardened to spec. i will only shoot 55 gr m193 ball in either, and they are cached in a last ditch bol. for like 5 bucks more, i got top of the line ds arms parts, thats all i’m saying. maybe like taurus and others they have improved quality control.

      • wow man! never seen anything like that from them. i chose them after meeting them at the charlotte gun show years ago. plus for me was nc owned bussiness and a family operation. did you call for replacements?20 inc hbar does excellent out to 400meter range. if i had longer i would definetley try it. like your pics take care friend.

        • riverrider says:

          del, i must admit that i did not contact them and in retrospect that was unfair. i assumed they were another corp that wouldn’t give a crap like so many others i have dealt with, so i didn’t waste my breath. glad to see they are making quality products for us.

    • Another dis-satisfied Del-Ton customer:

  11. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Hey Willard (l0l), thanks for the timely info. I’ve been doing some online and in-person research before making a purchase and got kinda overwhelmed with all the options, manufacturers, and variation in prices. Now I’ve got a great foundation for taking the next step. THANK YOU!

    • riverrider says:

      lint, HEY I DIDN”T LAUGH AT YOUR NAME , LOL….i have honestly been tempted to go by “willard the rat” online 🙂

      • i new it was you wheni saw the subject matter of the article. i thought you might want to remain all covert and stuff because of the name snafu. so thats why i put (insert code name here) but since your here using your secret code name then to hell with covertess,,,,ness

        • riverrider says:

          yeah, i ASSUMED(always a bad idea) that it would be posted under my email name. oh well, i guess i’m out of the closet now:) but one guy even knew my last name somehow…..

      • oh one more thing!!! i should be picking up my keltec sub 2000 with 92fs grip,inthe morning! cant wait!

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        Your guest article saved me about $300.00. Thank you. I owe you one.

  12. Great post! Please advise on the different types. You mention M4. Someone told me to get an M3 “flat top”. In my state of freedom, I cannot own one with a folding stock, but I would be interested in one with an adjustable stock.

    Can you find, buy, build one that is more like a tradtional rifle? And, do you have any advise on building one in .308? Lastly, can magazines be had in all different sizes. My limit in this paradise of freedom is only 15-rounds.

    • riverrider says:

      oak, lets see…dif types. well i think your friend was referring to an A3 flattop. that would technically be a 20 inch barrelled flat top receiver version. the M4 has a 14inch or 16 inch barrel depending on whether you want your flash suppressor welded on or not. the great thing about the ar15 is you can have it any way you want it, within the law of course. just because you have a long barrel(there are even 24 inch target barrels available) doesn’t mean you can’t put a collapsible stock on it. mags can be had in 5,10, 20,30 and up. as far as 308, i have never built one. long ago they had feeding issues, but i here that is no longer. the 6.8spc has about the same ballistics and fits a regular ar15 receiver. that would be my choice if i wasn’t so invested in 223. i use fn fal’s for 308. it was the british empires battle rifle until just a couple years ago and highly prised in 3rd world crapholes. hope this helps.

    • riverrider says:

      josh, there is an m16/ar15 A3. its a 20 inch flattop for designated marksmen in the marines and some army units. there was also an A4 that was full auto instead of 3 round burst, like the original A1.

    • Oak,
      Doesnt look like you got the right answer from anyone on your “M3 flat top” question. Some were close but none were completely correct.

      He was most likely referring to an A3.

      The A1 was the original upper receiver. The carrying handle was integrated into the upper. You cant mount modern optics to this type upper without some significant creativity.

      A2 was the second generation. Similar to the A1 design and similarly difficult to mount modern optics to it. The rear sights are a little more adjustable than the A1 but still not great.

      A3 is the “flatop”. The carrying handle is removeable and most people never mount the carrying handle on the upper. You can save some $$ if you order a complete upper by telling them that you dont want the carrying handle. That saves about $20. These are the uppers that you can mount all the cool optics etc too. One thing to remember if you get a “A3” upper, you will have to buy sperate BUIS (Back Up Iron Sights) because there are no rear sights mounted on the upper like in the A1/A2 versions.

      Barrel length is irrelevant to the designation of the upper. The barrels just screw into the upper and in reality arent technically part of an “upper receiver”, they become a complete upper when you add the barrel.

      Here is a good .pdf that expalins all the differences in more detail:,%20A2,%20A3,%20A4.pdf

  13. Tom the Tinker says:

    Interesting mix of comments so far. Everybodies.. opinion.. is right on the money. How many of us make a choice based on ‘fit’, function, ammo compatabilities, shooter capabilities…, parts interchange and barrel life? Who even has the $$ to buy enough ammo to burn out a barrel?

    The lead instructor at the ‘gun camp’ I train at has built a Rock River AR platform that is solid and has never failed him. His best buddy always…. always carries an AK ‘folded’ in his Dept. call out bag. Each of these fellows have voted for what they trust in. So should we. This post is centered on the AR platform…. Those of us who favor a FrankenFAL or BAR…. eh! Me… I’d love a BAR and bipod and some day I’ll own one……. but I own and practice with an AR.

    Thank You Sir Willard!

  14. Willard,

    Great post. Can you tell me what I’m missing:

    I went to DSARMS and they have an upper with handguards, etc. for $275, they have a complete milspec lower for $200, and they have the complete bolt assembly for $110 and the charging handle for $14. That adds up to $599. But their cheapest complete AR is about $860. What am I getting extra for the extra $261, besides a rear site?

    Am I missing something?

    • blindshooter says:

      11% excise tax on complete firearm is part of it.

    • riverrider says:

      jumbo, check their lower. it might be “stripped”, not complete. even so, 50 or so for internals and 30 to 50 for a stock and you’re done. if it complete for real,” you just saved, i thought thats what you wanted”… line from a commercial:)

  15. axelsteve says:

    I have never been the least interested in a ar anything.However if you want one go for it,that is the great thing about America.The 223 or the metric disco equivalent is not practical in my area.the 223 is too small for deer and not enough oomph for pig and too destructive to hunt turkeys with.The mini14 is a fun gun to spray lead with though or should I say copper.I do like the idea of building one though because I like doing that kind of stuff. Steve

  16. I shot an AR15 once and fell in love with it. Thanks for the info!

  17. I’ve had good luck with Model 1 Sales, and CDNN had Para Lowers 5 for $500
    Built two CAR-15’s for around $625 each, 1/9 twist with chrome lined barrels, sold 2 of the lowers for $135 each, so the 3rd build up will be cost of kit and $30 for lower
    CDNN is the place for low cost quality magazines

    • riverrider says:

      duck, roger that on model1 sales. i’ve used a lot of their kits and parts.never a problem. their shipping was outragious last time i ordered tho. thats when i found dsarms. great job on the builds too! and i love cdnn for mags and accessories. they also have outstanding sale prices on guns.

  18. riverrider says:

    all, looks like comments are winding down. i’ll keep acheck on here in case someone has a question. thanks for the great feedback. looks like it helped a couple people get their ar’s, that was the aim of the post, so mission success. thanks all. rr out.

  19. ARs are nice, but I have found a better personal solution for myself. I have a Saiga in .223 . It is plenty accurate and still quite flexible with a 20″ barrel. I purchased it new for $289 and I guarantee you it is probably more rugged than all of your ARs. Not to mention I can make shots with the iron sights with 2 .5 inch groups at nearly 200 yards. It is plenty accurate for me and my terrain and simple to operate. Perhaps its only downside is expensive magazines and they appear to be a little cheaper these days. I think you could find one now for about$349. That would be about the price of your upper and give me some Ammo. And, it is quite usable with cheap Russian Ammo, as that is what it was designed for. Additionally, I purchased a used Remington 700 for $275 in (.30/06) just in case more range is needed. Instead of buying a parts kit, I am just going to buy another one… maybe I will get the 16″ barrel version in .223. Incidently the .223 also handles the NATO 5.56.

    I like the way my carbine works very much and would love to get one in a cartridge that packs a little more wallup. I have seen used ones in 7.62×39 for about $250. That would be nice with about 1000 or so rounds of cheap Russian ammo.

    I know that they make ones in .308 (7.62×51) and even in .30/06. However those will be probably closer to $600 in price. I would like one for sure, but it would prefer another .223 and maybe a .308 bolt gun, for that price. And, I imagine that those would kick quite a bit.

    Lastly, an earlier poster mentioned an AR in 9mm for answering the door and keeping the neighbors safe. Imagine answering the door with a Saiga 20 gauge semi-automatic? And, for an all-out flash mob, a Saiga 12 gauge would be just wicked.

    Yes, I like the Saigas and I am very happy with my little .223 with nothing attached and iron sights.

    • Josh,

      There is a very slight difference between the two – I’ve shot thousands of rounds of both through both the Ruger Mini-14 and the AR-15 without any trouble what so ever.

      • MD
        You can use 223 in a rifle chambered for 556 but not the other way around. AR and Mini are both chamberd 556.
        Josh is right about that.

        • 3rdMan,

          Like I said I’ve used both in the Mini-14 and the AR-15 with no problem – this post is about the AR-15.

          The main difference between .223 and 5.56 x 45 mm is that .223 is loaded to a lower pressures and velocities and the chamber and head spacing are slightly different. When shooting 5.56 mm ammo in a rifle chambered for .223 you could have problems such as extraction problems, ruptured brass or even a damaged rifle because of the additional pressure created by the 5.56 mm.

          • I think you may have answered your own comment on this one MD. The 5.56 should not be used in a rifle stamped for .223 for the the very reason you cite in your response.

            Again there is not a problem in using .223 in a rifle chambered for 5.56 which the AR and Mini are, that is not being debated! Now with that said there are some AR barrels out there stamped .223. You do not want to use 5.56 with these rifles for the very reasons you state about. If you have a box of 5.56 setting in front of you it will most likely say not for use in rifles chambered for .223. The head spacing difference is the main issue not the powder load.

      • riverrider says:

        all, i was going to stay out of this one as it seems minds are made up and won’t be changed. however, i feel compelled to comment…..true, 556 and 223 are SLIGHTLY dif. the dif is the angle where the casing necks down to the bullet. it is only a couple of degrees and makes .002 dif in headspace which is within spec. Have you ever tried to meassure .002? anyway, in 30 plus years i have never even HEARD of a quality weapon blowing up in someones face due to 556/223 difs. most commercial manufacturers have slightly modified the angle to support both. the ones that don’t say “milspec 556” or similar. also, commercial and military chambers are designed to withstand many times the operating pressure of either round. i think part of the myth came from the switch from m193 ammo to the M855 ammo. the m855 and m856 have a dif powder, heavier bullet and yes, more pressure. some folks were afraid the old “a1” rifle wouldn’t hold the pressure, but the A2 chamber is the same. only the rifling changed in order to stabilize the 62 grain bullet. hope this helps clarify the situation.

  20. Bottom line here folks , Just get yourself armed , What it is doesn’t matter . Every man , woman , and child in this country will need protection from the Trogs , Zombies and Government . Get them now , and buy as many high capacity magazines as you can reasonably afford to get . If all you can afford is an old Mosin – Nagant or pawn shop pistol , its still better than a tire iron or baseball bat .

    Stars & Bars !

  21. DennisInOhio says:

    +1 Del-Ton. Just purchased a Del-Ton Middy $425ish (8 week wait for delivery). DSarms rcvr from a local gun show w/RRA 2stage trigger, and M4gry 6 pos stock that cost was $195.00. Yeah, and that’s why I bought it. Delivered and assembled for $620.00 USD. Lookin’ forward to my next build/upper purchase. Thinkin’ about a 6.8. Question. Will a 6.8 round fit in my 5.56 mags? Also, what other concerns/issues am I gonna run into in regard to a 6.8 upper? Any other words of wisdom appreciated.

    • riverrider says:

      dio, 6.8 needs its own mag. they are 25 rounders mostly, but not very expensive. i think cmmg makes them among others. there was a problem early on about their chambers and dif versions. i think they have it worked out now(thats why i never buy when something first comes out). i really like what i read/hear about it but admit i don’t have one, yet. i may have to get one for “research” 🙂

  22. T.R.,

    I like your thinking! Stars and Bars. Personal Freedom, Personal Responsibility, and limited Government.


    I second the Saiga rifles. I wouldn’t mind getting one. They are pretty ugly, though. If you are right, then I could get two for about the same price as one AR. That would give me backup and /or allow my Sugar Maple to help out in a pinch.

    Additionally, I might do that and just pickup an AR lower receiver at a gun show, since that is what is “registered”. I assume by the post, you can get everything else sent in the mail directly to you? An upper, parts, etc…?

    • riverrider says:

      oakheart, 10-4 on mail order parts. just the lower needs to go thru an ffl dealer. i know i’m gonna piss some folks off here but….i wouldn’t put my life behind a saiga. jmho

  23. axelsteve says:

    Is 6.8 a popular caliber or is it rare like my stepdads 280 ackley improved?

    • riverrider says:

      axel, it has a strong and growing following. ammo is available but about 20 bucks a box. but the way i see it, its cheap because you would only need to stock one caliber. i thought about selling all my ar’s and fals and going 6.8, but they haven’t come out with an m1919 in 6.8, yet:)

  24. DennisInOhio says:


    I too have a Saiga 223 and it was purchased before my AR. Love it. SGM magazines work just fine. I did purchase the Krebs aperture rear iron sight. I’ll let you know how it handles.

  25. Am I correct that you can get all parts mail ordered directly to your home, except for the lower receiver? Is there any difference if the Lower is stripped or not?

    • riverrider says:

      oak, yes all the parts except the lower. doesn’t matter whether its stripped or not to the atf. some dealers charge a percentage of the cost when transferring, so a complete lower would in that case cost more to transfer. most charge a flat fee tho. around here its 25 plus 2 for the instacheck fee.

  26. Stinkball says:

    Solid quality and good prices.

  27. Minute Man says:
  28. AZPrepareZ says:

    I have come quite late to this post but I have to share. At a gun show last November there was a new dealer for the AR. I am not sure of a number of specs but it has a composite lower, 4 rail system, free floating barrel, and pop up sights. The complete price out the door was $600. Yes, $600. The weapon is Plum Crazy, literally.

    I might be new but I am frugal… I have put about 500 rds. through it already.

  29. Typical civilian mentality. People on the forums are always arguing about which AR is the best and they will ramble on about milspec, the weight, etc. Here’s my perspective. I was in the Army for 4 years with 3 tours of Afghanistan. First of all, nearly every single AR15 is just fine for civilian use or SHTF scenario. I seriously doubt you will be shooting 50,000 rounds in the desert or jungle under combat situations. You will run out of ammo before your AR fails in most situation.

    For military use, if you really want to get technical with the AR snob crowd tell them the truth – all ARs suck. This is why the military stopped using them. Repeat. The military doesn’t use ARs any more because they are not reliable enough. My M4 sucked and is why the Army is looking to stop using it. What brand of AK-47 does the Taliban use? Do they use LMC, Spikes, Rock River, Colt, Bushmaster, POF, Daniel Defense, Noveske? Nope, they use a Pakistani knockoff version that isn’t “milspec”. It is dirty, but it works like a charm. The 7.62mm AK shoots to 2,500 ft with no problem while our M4s are only accurate to 1,000 ft. Some members of our squad including myself dumped our M4s and used AKs too. We had to issue M110 sniper rifles to more members of the platoon just to get a equal tactical advantage.

    For survival/SHTF scenarios, just build your own or get a basic model. Any one of them will be just fine. Google any brand of AR you want to and add the word problem to it and you will find that they all have tons of problems.

  30. Rick O'Shea says:

    I recently purchased a PPSH-43 at a gun show. I have to say it a fun little gun to run. But I have questions and I hope someone out there can answer them: My PPSH-43 came with a folding stock that was spot welded to the receiver. I think this was only done in order to import it legally into the US. It is in a pistol cartridge (7.62×25) and I’m sure that there is no Federal law prohibiting pistols (once in this country) from having a shoulder stock. Ii can see if it’s in a rifle caliber and would be classified as a short barreled (under 18 “) rifle. So does anyone know if I can remove the spot weld and open up and use the stock as intended? And if I can’t does anyone know what specific Federal statute that doesn’t allow it? Thanks.

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!