Revisiting the AR

In decades past, an entry-level AR would set you back some $800 whereas you could pick up a decent AK pattern rifle for around half that. As a consequence, I became an AK enthusiast. At the time, they were cheaper to own and cheaper shoot (~$.20 a round vs ~$.35 for the equivalent 5.56 ammunition).

Accessories for the AK developed into a cottage industry, and before long, many of the features that used to be exclusive the to AR became available for the AK (e.g. railed hand guards, telescoping buttstocks, optics, enhanced triggers, AR-style grips etc.).

Even so, the utilitarian nature of the AK lacked many of the quality of life features standard on all ARs (e.g. magazine wells, last-round bolt hold-open, easier safety selector, better ergonomics… etc.). Do any of these features inhibit your ability to send lead down range, or appreciate the simplicity and elegance of a proven platform that has continued to serve its purpose for 70 years? Not at all.

So why consider an AR now? For the same reason I bought my first AK’s: price!

Over the last 6 months, we’ve seen a 180° shift in the market. AK’s (and other mil-surp imports) that used to run $400-800 are now selling for $900-1,600+. AR’s which were manufactured during the election scare that were fetching as much as $700-800+ for a basic plain Jane AR can now be had for as little as $300 with a stripped lower and parts kit.

For that reason, I decided to look into buying one, here’s what I settled on:

  • Caliber: 5.56. Exotic uppers and ammunition get expensive and can come later (if ever).
  • Mid-Length Gas System: Carbine-length (from what little I know) is intended for shorter barrels (14.5″ and less). Rifle-length barrels start at 18″+, and since I’m building on a 16″ barrel, mid-length was optimal.
  • MOE Furniture: Magpul furniture is solid and comfortable. The basic MOE buttstock was designed to be light-weight and snag free. I was very happy with my last MOE lower, and they are still a good option today. While I used to like quad-rail hand guards, I found that I never used all that rail space, which most people would just end up covering with panels/covers anyway. If I wanted to mount a flash light, sling adapter, rail etc., that would still be an option.

The last AR I built was on a Palmetto State Armory complete lower, which cost me $300 in 2012, which I was very happy with but ultimately sold to buy Natasha, an SGL41. Boris, my Saiga 12 will only tolerate 3″ magnum shells…

Today, you can get the exact same complete lower for $160. I opted instead to buy a mid-length rifle kit for $330, and a $40 stripped lower. With a Magpul PMAG and shipping, my total cost was $399.58:

PSA AR-15 Lower Safe/Fire - 1728

What am I expecting for $400? An entry-level AR-15 that cycles reliably under normal operation and is reasonably accurate (at least no less accurate than my AKs). Is that realistic? Ask me again once it arrives! The stripped lower has already shipped whereas the kit might take a little longer. My hope is that I receive both by next weekend month, but we’ll just have to wait and see!

Procrastination and Projects

A couple months ago I picked up an AR-15 lower receiver with the intention of building, owning and eventually firing my first AR style rifle! So far, this has consisted of me staring at the lower receiver and parts kit as they collect dust on the shelf…

thejack_arlower
Spike Tactical’s “The Jack” AR-15 Lower

Well no longer! I finally got up the motivation to go out to the garage and gather up the tools I will need to assemble the parts I do have. I plan on this being a longer term project as quality parts are not cheap, and I am on a rather limited budget. I figure it will take me a few months (at the very least) to save up the required cash to purchase the hardware that will be needed to assemble an operating rifle.

Taking time will also give me the added benefit of researching the staggering array of custom options the AR platform offers.

I will need to pick a stock…

  • Plain Jane classic fixed A2?
  • Multi position mall ninja tacticool Magpul ?
  • Something entirely different?

Barrel length and caliber…

  • Do I bother filling out the NFA paper work, set up a trust, and go with that awesome looking 8 inch SBR setup in .300 Blackout?
  • Maybe Bambi slaying .458 SOCOM?
  • Regular old 5.56mm?

The All-Important Personalized Dust Cover!  with something witty on to show that my rifle is not to be confused with any of the other little black rifles out there today!

How many rails will it have? And what should be attached to them? Vertical fore grip? Angled fore grip? Flashlights, optics, laser sights.  Maybe no rails at all so I can keep it high speed and low drag?

The choices in flash hiders and muzzle devices is enough to overwhelm the brain alone!

This says nothing about things like magazine wraps, slings, custom grips and the host of other parts that will need to be contemplated over before it all comes together as fully functioning machine.

So, before I put too much thought behind getting whatever newfangled, hi-tech, super-coated bolt and carrier out on the market (that I can not yet afford), I need to start with what I got.

I will be spending the rest of the evening watching YouTube videos on how to assemble all the tiny springs, detent pins and other bits and pieces that go into a lower receiver.

Almost like Legos for big kids…

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Stay Tuned!