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.