DIY AR-15 Build: Introduction, Parts and Tools Required

by May 23, 2011 05/23/11
ITS Tactical DIY AR-15
1 of 8 in the series DIY AR-15 Build

Today marks the start of a new series on ITS Tactical where we’ll be walking you through the COMPLETE assembly of a Direct Gas Impingement AR-15. There’s an awesome offer involved with this build too, so be sure to read on below to find out what’s in store!

We’ll be starting this journey with an introduction to the series where we’ll go over the laws surrounding owning and building your own AR, as well as the parts we’ll be using and the tools required. Up front you should know that building your own AR-15 isn’t as hard as you think and there’s not better way to learn about the AR platform than to build one from the ground up!

Rather than go over an assembly of a standard AR, we’ve included what we feel to be some of the best and cost effective hard-working aftermarket parts to consider when building your own AR. This series is also a supplement to our articles on How to Keep Your AR Running. We decided to undertake this new build series so we’d have details to refer to when we discuss in the common wear parts and replacement schedules.

Special Offer

Before we get into the build and laws, we’d like to mention a special offer for ITS Tactical Plank Owners and Crew Leaders ONLY. We’ve partnered with Spike’s Tactical to put together a special run of stripped lowers with the same ITS Tactical Logo Laser Engraving seen in this photo.

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

The stripped lowers will run $99.00 plus a $5.00 engraving fee. Spike’s will be handling the payment and we’re not making any profit on these, we’re doing it as a thank you to our supporting members! As this is a members only purchase, please click here for all the details on how you can reserve your ITS Tactical engraved lower!

These are very much a limited edition and won’t be available for long!

AR-15 Laws and Restrictions

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

The very first and most important thing we’re going to mention is to always KNOW YOUR LOCAL STATE LAW! While we’ll go into some specifics regarding laws and restrictions, you should always defer to your state law. Federal law has NO RESTRICTIONS preventing you from owning an AR-15!

We’d suggest familiarizing yourself with the past Federal Assault Weapons Ban and what life used to be like back in late 1994 thru 2004 and how the government stepped in with restrictions on so called “assault weapons.” While there have been attempts to revive these restrictions, nothing has even reached the House floor.

There are however, quite a few state restrictions on owning an AR-15 in California as well as other state restrictions on things like stocks and flash hiders/suppressors. It’s depressing to even talk about them and perhaps we’ll address those at some point, but for the sake of brevity, just move out of California.

Under federal law, the Lower Receiver is the only serialized part on the AR-15 and the only part that is considered a firearm. This means that the ATF requires the buyer has a Federal Firearms License or uses a licensed FFL dealer to conduct the transfer of the Lower Receiver from manufacturer/distributor to buyer.

Form 4473 will need to be filled out and most FFLs will take care of this transfer for you by charging a fee, commonly refered to as a “transfer fee.” This can range from $25 to $75 depending on the dealer. It never hurts to call around to your local dealers and find out if they deal with FFL transfers and what they charge for transfer fees. Just always use a reputable dealer!

An exception to this is if you’re buying a lower or firearm from a private individual who isn’t a licensed dealer, in this case you DO NOT have to fill out a Form 4473.

Short Barreled Rifles

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

Now that you understand the federal laws surrounding the lower, you’re probably wondering about barrel length and aftermarket parts. The National Firearms Act classifies any AR-15 having a barrel length under 16″ or an overall length under 26″ (with any collapsible stock extended) as an SBR (short barreled rifle) and listed as an NFA firearm.

So basically you have to have a minimum 16″ barrel or a minimum overall length of 26″ with a collapsible stock extended. You can however have a 14.5″ barrel with a permanently attached flash hider/compensator that brings the 14.5″ barrel up to the minimum length of 16″. That’s what we’ll be doing in this series.

As the lower is the only serialized part, you can technically purchase any size barrel, complete upper or any part for that matter without any worry about federal law. Pay attention to this next part though, because as soon as you assemble the firearm using those parts you’re subject to federal restrictions under the National Firearms Act.

We’re not going to get into the intricacies of owning an SBR in this article and will save that for a future article, but it’s definitely not illegal by any means. You just have to fill out a Form 1 to register a dedicated lower as your SBR and write the BATFE a check for $200 to buy a tax stamp. There’s of course a little more than that to it and since the lower is what’s registered as an SBR, you could have multiple uppers/barrels of different lengths that you swap out on that lower and still be in NFA compliance.

It’s your responsibility to know your state laws on ownership, not ours or the dealer/distributor selling you the parts, so do your homework!

What We’re Building!

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

We’re assembling a 14.5″ Direct Gas Impingement Hybrid AR-15. It’s a hybrid as it uses parts from various manufacturers and represents what we feel to be some of the most reliable and well made parts available on the market today.

Lower Receiver

Upper Receiver

CRC Hydrographics

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

We were interested in getting all our Magpul accessories coated while assembling this build, as we’ve had an interest in the durability of water transfer imaging and how it holds up compared to Krylon. We reached out to CRC Hydrographics and are very fortunate we chose them for our needs, as they’ve just released an additional service they call “Grip-Tec.”

Grip-Tec ads an additional flat protective coating on top of the water transfer, which is nicely rubberized! It’s hard to show photos or video of the Grip-Tec at work, but from what we can say about our feedback so far is awesome! It really seems like a fantastic addition to their dipped patterns. Some intial feedback they’ve gotten so far is that it works well both combined with gloves and without.

It’s also important to note that the Grip-Tec is for use on firearm contact points such as stocks, grips, rail covers and handguards, etc. CRC notes that it’s also been popular on bolt action rifle stocks. We’re thoroughly impressed with the quality of the water transfer imaging and are looking forward to getting this build completed and putting it to the test.

Gunsmith Tools

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

It’s entirely possible to put together a complete AR-15 with not much more than a set of punches, but why wouldn’t you want to have the right tools for the job? We’re going to suggest a few tools that will make your life easier when assembling your AR and save you the aggravation of things like bent roll pins.

The reason this is so important, particularly with the lower assembly, is that the first purchase you’ll need to make after the Lower Receiver is a Lower Parts Kit. The LPK will come with just enough parts to assemble your lower. If you bend a roll pin or lose a part, you’ll either have to find a supplier that sells that part individually, or buy another LPK. Since we’re talking about LPKs, we’ll mention that we’re going to be using a Stag Arms Lower Parts Kit that comes with one extra Takedown Pin Detent. If you don’t know why that’s awesome, you will when we get to the assembly of the Takedown Pins.

As we’ll be starting with the assembly of a stripped Lower Receiver, we’re going to go over the tools that we’ll be using for the lower only. The tools for the Upper Receiver assembly will be discussed in the first article of the start of that assembly. These tools discussed are also not necessarily the minimum you can “get by” with. Our hope is that you approach wanting to learn how to assemble ARs as a way to learn about them, maintain them and keep them running yourself. With that, it’s important to have good tools at your disposal.

Workbench, Vise and Block

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

The first thing you’re going to need is a good surface to work on. There’s lots of small parts to keep track of in a Lower Parts Kit and a large stable surface is highly recommended. At the same time you’re also going to need a sturdy vise to work from. The reason to have a vise is to securely hold an AR-15 Vise Block that’s used to place the magazine well of your lower on to work on it.

Punches

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

While it’s perfectly acceptable to invest in a set of good steel Drive Pin Punches like this set from Starrett. While these are some of the best punches you can get, they have their limitations when it comes to working on the AR platform. AR-15s are assembled with many Roll Pins than can easily bend or cause your punch to jump off if you don’t strike them perfectly with a standard punch.

What we recommend is what you’ll be seeing us use, which is a set of Roll Pin Punches and Roll Pin Holders from Brownells. These are superior to standard punches, as the Roll Pin Holders do exactly what they sound like. They feature a hollowed out tip that holds the first 1/3 of a roll pin in an aligned position while you’re starting to tap it in. Once the roll pin has been properly started, you can then come back with the Roll Pin Punches to finish the job.

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

The benefit of the dedicated Roll Pin Punches is the nipple on the face of each of these that automatically centers the punch and prevents the roll pin from collapsing. This can be especially important if you have to remove a roll pin for any reason, as damage will require replacement of the roll pin. Plus you can damage the surrounding metal.

Another tool we’d highly, highly, recommend is the Bolt Catch Pin Punch which is contoured to ride over the raised portion of the magazine well and drive the Bolt Catch Roll Pin straight and without damaging the surrounding metal.

One last tool is optional depending on how secure you’ll want your Castle Nut that holds on your Receiver Extension Tube (Buffer Tube). We’re jumping a bit ahead, but to properly “stake” the Castle Nut to prevent it from rotating you can either rely on the proper torque, use Blue Loctite (non-permanent) or stake it with a center punch. We’d recommend the Starrett 264E Center Punch or any well made center punch. You don’t need a spring loaded center punch unless you’re buying one to keep in your car in case you accidentally drive into a lake.

Wrenches and Hammers

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

Since we just left off with the Castle Nut, you’re going to absolutely need a Stock Wrench to tighten the Castle Nut. We like the one we’ve linked to here, as it grips the Castle Nut in three places and has a cutout for inserting a torque wrench if you want to torque the Castle Nut to it’s proper spec of 40 in. lbs. If you do that, you’ll of course need the proper torque wrench too. As mentioned previously there’s other options though, rather than buying an expensive torque wrench. Totally your call though.

You’ll also need a lightweight Ball Peen Hammer (4 oz.) and a Nylon/Brass Hammer or a hammer that won’t mar metal. A set of Hex Wrenches would also be a good investment if you don’t already have a set. We’ll be using a 3/16″ Hex Wrench for the assembly of the Pivot Pin, but we show that to demonstrate how much of a pain it is to install the detent and assemble it so you’ll see why we suggest that you purchase the Brownells Pivot Pin Detent Installation Tool. It’s worth the price to prevent the headaches that come with your detent shooting across the room and crawling around on your hands and knees to find it.

Other Tools and Options

ITS Tactical DIY AR-15

If you elect to not purchase the Pivot Pin Detent Install Tool, you need a Multi-Tool or pair of needle nose pliers to hold the detent while you work your magic to get it installed. You’ll also need at least a 3″ long large flat head screwdriver to install the Pistol Grip Screw. Additionally a small diameter non-marring punch or something similar like a Takedown Tool is needed to depress the Magazine Release Button far enough in to properly install the Magazine Catch.

Again, keep in mind that these are just the tools needed for the Lower Receiver, some are needed again when working with the Upper Receiver, but those tools will be gone over later in the series when we complete the Lower Receiver assembly.

Notes

Now that you know what parts we’ll be building our AR-15 with and what tools we’ll use to assemble it, stay tuned for our next article where we’ll start the build with assembling the Lower Receiver. Specifically the next article will deal with installing the Magazine Catch.

Give us some feedback on this series and let us know your thoughts, have you built an AR-15 before? Are you looking forward to our step-by-step series with detailed video and photos?


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geoff2
geoff2

Well, I figured it out. The instructions are there for those who will look.

geoff2
geoff2

Well, I figured it out. The instructions are there for those who will look.

geoff2
geoff2

I installed the trigger group from the Stag Arms lower parts kit and the KNS pin set per the instructions (for which, thanks). My function test results did not agree with the video. When I move the hammer back with the trigger back (that would be the second step in the video function test), the hammer does not lock, as described in the video. Any suggestions?

Jerry Odell
Jerry Odell

Do yall still offer the strip logo lower , If so I will join to get one.

mike
mike

you got to be shitting me california is now the red socalist shit hole from hell in regurds to fire arms their expelling kids for toy guns shirts and anti new or any thing pro american were going to have to shoot and nuke these fuckers in power right now and take our country back you know its true

the only law is the constitution so no more gun control and open carry or carry any thing you want to protect you and yours other wise bend over because your going to get raped by these muslim sheep fuckers and shiped off to a fema camp or murderd by the irs

Bob Smith
Bob Smith

You are really pathetic. You are impoverished by Obama? Maybe you are impoverished because you have a high school education and three kids to support. You sound like one of those people that absolutely hates "Obamacare" but would be the first in line for a free doctor visit since you are impoverished...I am by no means an Obama supporter but don't BS a bunch of grown men. Is it really the president of the United States fault that "you" specifically are impoverished? Does Obama just make every decision for every corporation in America? I never knew the president could just make laws on his own with the approval of congress(the republican congresss) Why don't you blame the owner of your local McDonalds franchise for letting you go in favor of some high school kid that doesn't spout off stupid shit all day about how he can only qualify to work at McDonalds because of Obama.

david
david

is it possible to build a 308 caliber ar using your recomended parts?

Joey Ferguson
Joey Ferguson

I just priced this out without buying tools and came up with $1800+ I may just buy one thats built already for that pricing.... Awesome videos though. Thank you very much for doing them.

Roger Ronas
Roger Ronas

Question

You mention that the permanent attachment of the compensator to the barrel must be done by gunsmith. Is that law or could a diy guy be able to do it to satisfy the law?

Thanks

Roger

Roger Ronas
Roger Ronas

Question You mention that the permanent attachment of the compensator to the barrel must be done by gunsmith. Is that law or could a diy guy be able to do it to satisfy the law? Thanks Roger

Andy Head
Andy Head

Do you have a complete parts list to build the AR-15? if so would it also have prices and points of contacts to purchase the parts from Dealer/manufacturer?

Ryan Edmondson
Ryan Edmondson

just finished building my lower last night. Thanks for the great series. now onto an upper. thanks for all the great info guys. keep up the great work!

Mike Petrucci
Mike Petrucci

Unfortunately they aren't. They were a limited run available for members although they may come up again. Although, it may be a bit hard to find a lower at the moment.

JOE GONZALEZ
JOE GONZALEZ

Having only recently found your site, I have to ask are the lowers still available to purchase?

Ryan
Ryan

I am just starting to get the parts off of here for the build! I'm excited to finally get started.

A quick question: On here it says that a 14.5" barrel was used, if I want to use a 16" barrel, would I need any different parts from those listed above? Thanks in advance!

Ryan
Ryan

I am just starting to get the parts off of here for the build! I'm excited to finally get started. A quick question: On here it says that a 14.5" barrel was used, if I want to use a 16" barrel, would I need any different parts from those listed above? Thanks in advance!

Jessica
Jessica

Just received my stripped lower as a birthday present. This will be my first build, and I can tell your site is going to be beneficial. Thanks for the great articles!!

Victor Ryden
Victor Ryden

Brownells also sells each of Roll Pin Holders separately. Do you need all of them for the build?

Keith
Keith

I just finished my first lower. After following the videos on ITS it was so easy. They did a great job thanks. I got all my parts at Machine gun tours in Denver total cost was around $400.

Now I will start my upper

Keith
Keith

I just finished my first lower. After following the videos on ITS it was so easy. They did a great job thanks. I got all my parts at Machine gun tours in Denver total cost was around $400. Now I will start my upper

Lee
Lee

The barrel you recommend has a 1:7 rifling ratio, I found an alternative barrel that has a 1:9 rifling ratio, what would be the negatives in the 1:9 as opposed to the 1:7?

Gary Brock
Gary Brock

Yup - You are missing a castle nut from the parts list. I got to the buttstock installation part, and, guess what? No castle nut. So... I'm ordering the part, and will start the next phase of my build when that comes in... :(

Ryan H
Ryan H

Any idea if CRC is still in business? The link to their site brings up a page where you can see pics and get an order form but there's no address to send it to and no phone number to call...there is an email address but I didn't hear anything back...may have been caught by the junk filter though. Anyway, the paint job looks great so I'd like to have some parts done. Also, excellent articles here...I used it to make not only a 5.56 but a 300 AAC Blackout as well...

Thomas
Thomas

It seems like you can select either the drive pin punches or the roll pin punches/roll pin holders. You don't really need both. Is that correct?

Also, you seem to be missing a castle nut from your parts list unless I am missing it.

Thomas
Thomas

It seems like you can select either the drive pin punches or the roll pin punches/roll pin holders. You don't really need both. Is that correct? Also, you seem to be missing a castle nut from your parts list unless I am missing it.

Derrick
Derrick

I am going to build an SBR. Am I going to have to pay tax on the lower and the short barrel?

Chuck
Chuck

The bolt, too.

Steve
Steve

Hey Bryan i have a question. The bolt carrier group you have listed in the article is for full auto M-16. I know it will fit but if i wanted to put one in my AR is there anything else i would need to upgrade? Or any weird law i would be breaking. I live in Virginia beach. Thanks Man and thank you for your service.

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Not that I know of mmasse. That's what I meant with my comment, it's usually a kit replacement and not as "ground up" as DI can be.

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Dugas, We went with the impingement system because that's what is more readily available and most piston guns are being bought "off the shelf" and not built. Not to say piston parts aren't available though.

DugasM
DugasM

I was curious as to why you went with the impingment system instead of piston?

Matthew Bauer
Matthew Bauer

Can't wait to see the rest of the series. I am following along with this to build my first AR although I went with a Daniel Defense LPK that comes with the Magpul Trigger Guard already. and will probably make a few tweaks along the way.

Cervantes
Cervantes

I was a small arms repairer back in my Devil Dog days.

This should be an easy build for me.

I was about to drop $250 on an AK kit (me not know AK anatomy and stuff), but I think I'll go American and build me an AR. I just had a question on making my AR accept 7.62. I'm sure it's in the article, but I got places to go and things to do...Any problem w/ that change?

I can't wait to get started.

Cervantes
Cervantes

I was a small arms repairer back in my Devil Dog days. This should be an easy build for me. I was about to drop $250 on an AK kit (me not know AK anatomy and stuff), but I think I'll go American and build me an AR. I just had a question on making my AR accept 7.62. I'm sure it's in the article, but I got places to go and things to do...Any problem w/ that change? I can't wait to get started.

SPCNABKEY
SPCNABKEY

what is the difference between a receiver with M4 feedramps and one without? basically, what the hell are M4 Feedramps? im building one with a 16inch barrel..what one do i need?

Kris
Kris

According to the links provided above, the prices (as of today) for all the parts listed above is approximately $1500.00 US. That does not count shipping and includes some parts that are on sale. That does not include any of the tools listed.

Bass
Bass

Quickly browsing over the article, it looks as if they used the parts many would consider "high end."

Id say this gun would easliy claim one of the higher end prices if it was bought as is.

Just sent my e-mail out to you all, can't wait to start a shorty build with the new lower!

Phil
Phil

Not that I'm advocating breaking any of CA's ridiculous gun laws but there are ways around them. The easiest to get around is probably the 10rd mag, if you live in SoCal it's easy enough to make a Vegas run and buy mags (in cash or through a friend) at one of their gun stores and bring them home. But if you were to use them in a home defense situation it might cause some problems but aside from a zombie apocalypse, I don't really think that 10 round mags would be that much of a liability in home defense situation.

As for the "bullet button", there are companies that make "bullet buttons" that are designed to be easily removed or made toolless for if you were to ever to move to a state with more realistic gun laws.

dog491
dog491

@Bob Smith   if you do not believe Obama is causing money problems on purpose then you are either very stupid or are drinking to much of the cool aid. keystone pipe line and gas prices are just first to come to my mind.

dharvell
dharvell

@Bob Smith   - While I agree with you, for the most part, there is the whole State of the Union address where Obummer  promised to slam through his legislations, even if it means bypassing Congress.  So yes, Obama has made the threat to slam through laws without Congressional approval.  He has no regard for the American process.  It's his way, or the highway... and that is almost a direct quote.

Tony Ventura
Tony Ventura

Joey, I built one for under $800 using DPMS parts. Use the $1,000 left to get accessories.

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

It's not the law Roger, just a recommendation so you don't have to buy the equipment to do that yourself. If it's something you can already do on your own, then bonus :)

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Thanks for the heads up Gary, we'll make sure that gets added in there. Sorry you have to wait on one!

Chuck
Chuck

While the M16 bolt won't function full auto without the rest of the full auto parts and an extra hole, don't do it. I am NOT a lawyer, but the word I've gotten is that the ATF gets very upset about any full auto part being on the same property as the semi-auto. You might want to look up "intent to build a machine gun" and the associated penalties.

mmasse
mmasse

The only parts that I could find is the replacement kit for the DI which adds another $400 to the cost. Is there another kit available that you have a link for?

Exo
Exo

Still kinda new to ARs also but I'm pretty sure all you need is swap out for a 7.62 barrel and magazine, everything else should be the same.

Roger Ronas
Roger Ronas

Thank you. I would then assume as it is part of the upper, I could have a friend drill and weld without an FFL as long as it's not attached to the lower.

Roger

Roger Ronas
Roger Ronas

Thank you. I would then assume as it is part of the upper, I could have a friend drill and weld without an FFL as long as it's not attached to the lower. Roger

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