Category Archives: AR & Related Rifles and Pistols

Great Step-by-Step AR Assembly Book For Novices – Very Well Done

Hey folks, if you are looking for an affordable book on how to assemble an AR rifle that is step-by-step with a ton of photos – check out Rob Reaser’s book “AR-15 Rifle Builder’s Manual: An Illustrated, Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling the AR-15 Rifle”.   I bought this because I have the Amazon Kindle app on my Samsung tablet and the book was real cheap so I figured why not – I might pick up something new.

This book is aimed at the novice and, to be clear, is an assembly guide.  It is not aimed at engineers or guys who want to really get into the guts from an armorer’s perspective.   The author literally walks a beginner through everything.  I’m not at that stage any more but I could really appreciate his attention to detail.

I know a lot of guys are intimidated by the thought of assembling an AR rifle but Mr. Reaser really does a nice job of stepping you through everything.  So, if you want to build your first AR – get either the Kindle ($7.99) or print edition of this book ($13.49).

AR-15 Rifle Builder’s Manual: An Illustrated, Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling the AR-15 Rifle


By (author): Rob Reaser

If you want to build your own AR-15 style rifle, this is the book you need. The AR-15 Rifle Builder’s Manual is the fully illustrated step-by-step guide to building the AR-15 style rifle. No procedure is left out or glossed over. The primary AR-15 groups (upper receiver assembly, lower receiver assembly, and bolt carrier group) are broken down into their component assemblies to provide every detail in the AR-15 assembly process. This book is not only the authoritative guide to building an AR-15 rifle, it is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to upgrade or modify their existing AR. Key concepts such as headspacing, trigger function, troubleshooting, and cycle of operation are also covered.

TOPICS INCLUDE:
•Lower receiver group components, tools, and assembly
•How an AR trigger works
•Headspacing an AR-15
•Bolt carrier group assembly
•Upper receiver group components, tools, and assembly
•Function check procedures
•Basic AR-15 operation
•Service and lubrication
•Troubleshooting

You won’t find a more detailed AR-15 assembly manual anywhere. Designed specifically for e-reader platforms, this manual offers reader-friendly navigation between the Table of Contents and all subsections. Take it to your workbench or the range.

List Price: Price Not Listed
Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

Firearms Lube Tip – Use Mobil 1 Synthetic 5W-30 Oil and The Right Dispenser

I’ve been experimenting with different lubricants for a year now because a lot of the firearm “oils” are 99% marketing and 1% oil at a premium price.  You’ll notice that how to lube a firearm is a religious argument for many and I’m not going to get into that.

After doing a lot of digging, I bought two different types of automatic transmission fluid (ATF) (Dexron III and ATF+4) and Mobile 1 Full Synthetic 5W-30 engine oil.  I then loaded up a bunch of squeeze bottles that have needle dispensers on them, labeled each and proceeded to try them out.

Here’s the big secret – they all work.  Of the three, I like the Mobil 1 mainly because it doesn’t have a red color or the smell of transmission fluid.

I’ve now used it to lubricate my AKs, RPK, Uzi, POF-5/MP5 and PTR PDW and am very happy with the results.  It works just fine and a quart will last you forever.

I still prefer Tetra Grease where sliding parts are involved.  As the old saying goes, “if it rotates then oil it.  If it slides, then grease it” has always worked for me though I do admit to reading armorer manuals to see their recommended lube points.

The Right Dispensers Make a Huge Difference!

Regardless of the oil you use, having the right dispenser really helps.  Growing up, we used engine oil out of the tried and true cans with the finger squeeze pumps.  I really don’t use that type of dispenser on firearms but do when I work on cars and what not where a large volume is needed.

With firearms, you’ll notice that you often need to get the right lube to the right place.  In the shop, I use the squeeze bottles.  The dispenser pens are something I take in the field as they don’t leak and will not make a huge mess if crushed — let me assure you the bottles will do just that so that is why they stay in the shop.

You can get both of these dispensers very easily off Amazon.  Be sure to read reviews as some brands leak and others don’t.  The ones I am listing next are what I currently use.  I use the 25 gauge needle especially for reaching down into fire control groups and lubricating pins and their attached parts such as triggers, hammers, selectors, etc.

The 18 gauge is good for general use when I want to apply oil in larger quantities:

I have give of the Titan precision oiler pens and all work great:

Now there are still times where I want to spray on thin oil.  While I have used a ton of CLP over the years I find myself using Rem Oil quite a bit.


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Yes, 922r Does Apply to Short Barreled Rifles (SBRs)

Please note that I am not an attorney and this does not constitute legal advice.

The topic of 922r compliance and parts counts came up the other day as whether it applies to Short Barreled Rifles (SBR). In reading the conflicting ATF documentation, the last guidance given in technical branch letters from 2009 and 2010, the ATF does say it applies.  I put it this was as you should look at the trend over time which does seem to point towards 922r being applicable.

I am a very conservative guy and always try to stay on the safe side of legal issues so I would recommend ensuring your SBR is compliant with the 922r parts count requirements.  If you do this then you do not need to worry about it and I am sure there are folks who would disagree with me.

Here is the 2009 letter:

Here is the three page 2010 letter:

Again, please let me stress that I am not an attorney.  If you have any questions on this, I would recommend doing your own research and/or retaining legal counsel.

 


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A quick and easy way to snug up a loose flip-up lens cap so it stays on

I like flip-up scope caps and, in general, I have had very good luck with Butler Creek.  Recently, I bought a scope cap for my Hawke air rifle scope’s front objective and the thing wasn’t tight enough to stay on when I would flip it up.  There’s a very simple way to fix a loose cap that I want to share.

This isn’t a magical fix – you do want a cap to be real close to the size you need.  In my case the cap was just a hair too big.  For the “fix”, remove the objective and smear a bit of black silicone RTV glue (Black Goop works too) around the inside of the cap and let the glue fully cure with the cap off the scopeDO NOT STICK IT ON THE SCOPE WHILE WET!  You are using the glue to add mass and fill the space – you do not want to glue your scope on.  I let my dry overnight and the problem is always fixed.

Here is the lens cap and I used black Goop on this one and let it dry & cure all the way before I reinstalled it.  It’s nice and snug now.

Here’s the finished product on my Galadius:

I hope this helps you out.  I prefer black just for looks but you could use any color of rubbery cement you have – just keep it inside the cap out of sight.  What I use more than anything is Permatex Black RTV just because I keep in stock for repairs.

 


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Video: How to Choose a Geissele or ALG Defense Trigger With Bill Geissele – The Man Himself!

  

For years I have have heard how great Geissele (pronounced Guys-Lee) triggers are.  They offer a ton of models so I actually called them and talked about what trigger to use for a target rifle – which is the rifle shown above.  After some talking, the gentleman I talked to recommended their Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced (SSA-E) trigger.  I bought it direct from them and have been very happy.  Here are the SSA-E specs on the trigger direct from the Geissele web page:

Type: 2 Stage
1st Stage Weight: 2.3lbs.
2nd Stage Weight: 1.2lbs.
Total Pull Weight: 3.5lbs.
Adjustable: No
Recommended Use:  Target Shooting, Precision Shooting
Pin Size: Mil-Spec

After shooting with it, I can tell you it is my favorite AR trigger hands down.  Now I know why guys swear by them.  The only con is the cost but you are definitely getting value in return.

I was surfing around on Youtube and found this video today – I wish I had known about it before as it would have helped me also.  Bill Geissele, the man himself, walks you through their 15 models of triggers and answers common questions he gets about them.  I definitely want to try one of their Super 3-Gun (S3G) or Super Dynamic 3-Gun (SD-3G) triggers in the future and will definitely go the SSA-E route again if I build another precision rifle.

By the way, unless you are in a rush, Geissele triggers go on sale 2-3 times per year at Midway, Brownells, Primary Arms and other sources.  I paid $240 for my trigger and could have saved 40% if I had timed my purchase better.  That’s what I am doing with my 3-Gun trigger purchase – just waiting for the next sale.


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A Heavy Target AR With A 26″ 5.56x45mm White Oak Upper, Geissele Trigger and Vortex HS-T 6-24×50 Scope

This is a purpose-built target rifle.  I like my precision rifles to be very heavy as the weight helps absorb my tremor.  Granted I still have to control my breathing and pretty much meditate to get to the right point to pull the trigger but the weight really helps.  The rig as shown without ammo weighs 13.7 pounds.  Now let’s get into the details of the components used in this rifle.

In this case, the upper was the most important item I focused on first.  This is a 26″ White Oak Armory (WOA) complete upper and these folks are known for building accurate rifles.  White Oak Armament is in Carlock, IL, and owned by John Holliger.  John has a ton of experience with competition shooting starting in 1980 finishing 15 times in the Presidents 100, earning the Distinguised Rifleman Badge, 2000 CMP Pershing Trophy winner and more.  Needless to say, he knows his way around a competition firearm.  John founded White Oak Precision in 2000 and then While Oak Armament after that as he noticed that custom gunsmiths and picky shooters (me) needed a reliable source of high end AR parts.   What I think is especially remarkable is that his prices are very fair especially given the quality of what he delivers.

From their website they note “Receivers are all forged and mil spec or higher quality, and have the baked-on, anti-friction coating on the inside for long life. Bolts are held to proper tolerances for correct headspacing. Bolt carriers have M-16 style shrouded firing pins for reliable function and added weight. Handguards are top quality compression molded and fiberglass reinforced, not the cheap injection molded plastic. Our NM floating handguard assembly is our own design using heavy walled tubing, a solid welded end cap, and a sling swivel. Many parts are custom manufactured to our specifications. And of course everything is 100% made in the USA!

What I decided on was one of their 26″ varmint upper.  Now at 26″, it’s pretty much overkill but is nice and heavy weighing in at 7.88 pounds all by itself.  While WOA does offer fluting, I did not opt for it as I wanted the weight.  By the way, fluting increases surface area for cooling and reduces weight but it is not something magical.  The unfluted barrel is stiffer.  I am going to try and word this very carefully – a fluted barrel is stiffer than another barrel of the same final weight due to the thicker walls.  In other words, take a thin barrel that weighs X pounds and a fluted barrel that weighs the same X pounds, it will be stiffer because it has the thicker walls around the fluting but it is not as stiff as a the original unfluted barrel.  Now this matters if you are shooting a lot and the barrel is warming up such as lots of target or varmint shooting at prairie dogs.  So, stiffer and heavier is the route I will always take.  If you told me I would have to carry a rifle around a lot then my answer would change 🙂

The barrel itself is a 26″ stainless match grade unit with an 11 degree crown to protect the muzzle and their own “WOA Varmint Chamber” to allow the use of either .223 or 5.56 ammo.  The twist rate is 1:8. I like to shoot heavier bullets to buck the wind and 1:8 will stabilize bullets from 75-80 grain quite well.  I have both Black Hills match ammo as well as just got some IMI RazorCore specifically for this rifle.

Last point, this complete upper – including the matching BCG and charging handle – was only $645 + S&H.  That, my friends, is quite a deal.  [Click here if you want to see what other complete uppers they have for sale.]

The lower is an Anderson.  They are my goto lower receiver as they are mil-spec and work just fine.  I’ve never had an out-of-spec problem with them actually.

It has Yankee Hill Machine (YHM) oversize pivot and takedown pins.  I just like the extra leverage when I have to open or remove the upper.

The buttstock is a Magpul PRS II.  I always like these stocks as I can get my length of pull and cheekweld exactly the way I want.  Under the stock is a rifle length tube with a normal spring and an H2 buffer.

The grip is an Ergo Tactical Deluxe with palm shelf.  I like the rubber overmold they do and appreciate the palm rest on a target rifle.

I’m proud of the trigger – it’s a Geisselle (pronounced like “GuysLee”) Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced (SSA-E) and feels fantastic.  The first stage is 2.3 pounds, the second is 1.2 pounds, which totals 3.5 pounds.  It’s not adjustable but that’s no big deal to me.  For now on, if I build a target rifle, this is the trigger I will use.  Wow.

The Vortex is a bright, clear and rugged Vortex HS-T 6-24×50 scope with a MOA reticle.  Normally I would go with MRAD but Vortex was sold out at the time so I went with MOA.  I’m firing from known distances so it’s not a big deal for me.  The offset scope mount is also from Vortex and gives me a better distance from my eye to the optic.  I used to go with generic rings and mounts but am pretty much just using Vortex now unless I need something specialized such as an RS!Regulate mount for an AK.  Lastly, those are Vortex’s new Defender Scope caps and they are way better than their old ones.  They stay on well and are rugged.

With the big scope, I have a BVM Mod 3 charging handle sticking out.  It really pays off with big optics.

So, this rifle is a lot of fun.  I just fired off 20-30 rounds to break it in and need to get back to the range with some match ammo I have from Black Hills and IMI’s RazorCore ammo to see what it can do.

   


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Vortex Optics Viper HS-T 6-24×50 SFP Riflescope VMR-1 MOA


Features: The Viper HS-T 6-24×50 is one of multiple configurations in the Viper HS-T (Hunting & Shooting Tactical) line. VMR-1 Reticle (MOA) is perfect for accurate holds at extended ranges., Incorporating our premium, fully multi-coated, extra-low dispersion lenses brings excellent resolution and color fidelity. The XR coatings provide enhanced light gathering capability while Armortek coating protects the lenses., The exposed target-style turrets are constructed for precise and repeatable finger-adjustable clicks. A CRS Zero Stop allows for reliable return to zero capability after dialing temporary elevation corrections., A 4x zoom provides magnification versatility while the side focus parallax adjustment provides optimal image focus and parallax removal. The fast focus eyepiece allows the shooter to properly adjust the reticle to your eye., The one-piece tube is o-ring sealed and argon purged to ensure waterproof and fogproof performance. The Viper HS-T is a versatile yet simple riflescope that is at home in a hunting, target shooting, or tactical application.

Tree stands to Mountain tops, bolt guns to ars, the Viper HST is ideal for a wide range of shooting applications. Blending many of the best features from Vortex’s incredibly popular Viper PST and Viper HS riflescopes, the Viper HST (hunting shooting tactical) riflescope is built on an ultra-strong 30mm one-piece machined aluminum tube to deliver increased wind age and elevation travel and optimal adjustment. An advanced optical system highlighted with a 4x zoom range provides magnification versatility. A forgiving eye box with increased eye relief gets shooters on target quickly and easily. Incredibly precise, repeatable and durable tactical wind age and elevation turrets built specifically for dialing, along with its hash mark-based reticle, top off this highly versatile riflescope’s long-range performance features.
List Price: $639.00 USD
New From: $639.00 USD In Stock

A 16″ Palmetto State Armory/PSA 5.56x45mm Tactical AR Build

ARs are a fun, quick build and because they are modular you can take them in a ton of custom directions.  When you build an AR, you need to first ask yourself “what am I going to use this for?” and then plan your components accordingly.  In this case, I wanted a 16″ carbine that was relatively light, chambered in 5.56 and had an optic for short to medium ranges.  In some ways you could say my plan was to build a tactical style rifle.

So, let me explain the components used and why I selected them:

  • At the heart of the AR is the receiver and I tend to use Anderson.  They are Mil-Spec, inexpensive and well finished.  In short, I’ve never had a problem with them and I don’t know anyone else who has either.
  • I like PSA’s lower build kits as a starting point for all the internals.  Sometimes I have left overs depending on what all I upgrade but even their based build kits is solid.
  • The fire control group (FCG) is PSA’s enhanced set meaning the trigger and hammer are Nickel Boron (NiB) coated for lubricity and ease of cleaning.  In general, PSA already has some of the best feeling triggers out there in terms of the Mil-Spec out-of-the-box AR triggers.  The Enhanced set feels a tad slicker but still falls in the 5.5-6.5# pull range.
  • The grip is a Magpul MOE.
  • The butt stock is a Magpul STR.  I like the Magpul stocks that clamp in place – they are rock solid.  The STR can do this and has a great angled top for a solid cheekweld.
  • It has a Spikes H2 buffer to soften the operation up a bit.
  • I like Yankee Hill Machine’s (YHM’s) oversize pivot and takedown pins and get them from Brownells.
  • The selector lever is PSA’s ambidextrous model.  To be honest, I’m going to stop getting the ambidextrous selectors – the capability sounds great in theory but what I find is that I am so used to the traditional selector lever that I rarely use the operating-side lever.
  • The slide release lever is a GIANT Wilson.  I bought it sight unseen via Brownells and had no idea it was going to be this big.  On the plus side, it sure is easy to find and operate.  On the con side, it is big and kind of fugly if you ask me.  My go to release lever these days are the Strike Industries models.  By the way, if you use the Wilson, be sure to apply Loc-Tite to the set screw that locks the paddle in place or it will loosen up.
  • The upper is a 16″ Palmetto State Armory with a 5.56 M4 profile barrel with a 1:7 twist hidden under their cool slim Keymod handguard.  Honestly, I think PSA makes great uppers.  They are running a budget operation and you may have to wait to hear from their customer service department but I have never actually had an upper from them have a problem.  They’ve missed a part in parts kits before but always moved fast to ship me a replacement part.  By the way, PSA also soures some really barrels, that is one of the big reasons I use their uppers.
  • The bolt carrier group is a Nickel Boron (NiB) coated assembly from Fail Zero.  Boy are they slick.  In general NiB BCGs are cool – you can feel they slide easily without a gritty feeling and clean easily.  With Fail Zero you are buying experience – they know BCGs and they pioneered the very slick polished NiB process they call “EXO Nickel Boron”.  I’ve not had the coating flake on me and it is slick.
  • The charging handle is VLTOR/BCM Mod.3 with the large handle.  I like the oversized handle both for working around optics and it is really easy to find and operate.  This is my preferred charging handle and has never let me down.  Beware of the cheap import ambidextrous knock off handles.  You will get what you pay for.  Stick with name brand.
  • For magazines, I like MagPul.
  • The optic is a Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24.  In general, Vortex scopes are excellent and they have a no-nonsense “if it breaks we will fix it” warranty that you can’t beat.
  • The offset scope mount is a generic unit sold by TMS.  It’s my third TMS but I now just use Vortex mounts.
  • The offset backup sights are something I do now on my rifles with optics.  If you have any kind of optics failure you rotate the rifle 45 degrees and use the iron sights.  They look awkward but the transition is actually very smooth and fluid.  If you haven’t tried this, I’d recommend giving them a whirl.  These are surprisingly inexpensive ADE brand sights and they’ve held up just fine.  This is my third set from them via Amazon.
  • The light is a test unit.  The light itself is a LiteXpress X-FIRE1 LED unit that is sold on Amazon.  The mount is from them also and is the only part I am not too keen on as it flexes.  They do have a new model now so I am not sure how the mount is.  The light itself has held up just fine.

Here are some photos for you of the rifle:


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Brownells is at http://www.brownells.com/

Palmetto State Armory is at:  http://palmettostatearmory.com/

 


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Vortex Optics Crossfire II 1-4×24 Second Focal Plane Riflescope – V-Brite Illuminated Reticle (MOA)


Features: The 1-4×24 Crossfire II riflescope is one of many configurations in the Crossfire II line. The V-Brite reticle uses the V-Plex format with battery-powered electronics to illuminate the center dot for hunters/shooters during extra-low light conditions., With long eye relief and an ultra-forgiving eye box, you’ll be able to quickly get a sight picture and acquire your target. The fast focus eyepiece allows quick and easy reticle focusing., Anti-reflective, fully multi-coated lenses provide bright and clear views for the user., Capped reset turrets are finger adjustable with MOA clicks that can be reset to zero after sighting in., A single piece tube constructed from aircraft grade aluminum ensures strength and shockproof performance. O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged, the Crossfire II delivers waterproof and fogproof performance.

With long eye relief, a fast-focus eyepiece, fully multi-coated lenses and resettable MOA turrets, there’s no compromising on the CrossFire II. Clear, tough and bright, this riflescope hands other value-priced riflescopes their hat. The hard anodized single-piece aircraft-grade aluminum tube is Nitrogen Purged and o-ring sealed for waterproof/fogproof performance.
List Price: $249.00 USD
New From: $199.96 USD In Stock

Review: TEKTON Gunsmithing 18-Piece Punch Set #66564 is Pretty Nice

I have a lot of fun experimenting with stuff.  I tend to need punches fairly regularly and what I had was a mishmash of sizes and models from Craftsman, Astro, Harbor Freight and who knows what else.  I was working the other day and had stuff laying everywhere and thought to myself that there must be a more organized approach plus some of my punches were looking pretty abused (I’ve bent the crap out of some of the real small ones trying to start pins) so I started digging on Amazon.  Interestingly enough, TEKTON makes an 18-piece gunsmith punch set that gets very good reviews on Amazon – 4.6 stars with 181 reviews is pretty remarkable.  So, I ordered it and was pleasantly surprised at what arrived – it was very well done.

 

The set was well packed and includes a walnut bench block that is laser etched with what punch is to go in what hole.  Now for a slob like me, that is a God-send.

The punches have a nice heft, feel good, are well finished and have worked fine so far.  TEKTON claims they are high carbon heat treated steel and seem to be holding up just fine.

The set includes the following punches:

  • (7) pin punches: 1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32, 1/4 inch
  • (8) roll pin punches: 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 1/8, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32, 1/4 inch
  • (2) solid punches: 1/16, 3/32 inch
  • (1) center punch: 5/16 inch

I have it sitting to the side of my bench and now I can move the whole set right to where I need it vs. digging for whatever punch I need.

So if you are shopping for punches with a stand, take a look at this set.  It is a great deal when you look at the cost relative to the quality you get.


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Assembling an AR Lower – Step 11 of 11: Other Resources To Leverage & Learn From

The cool thing about ARs is that there are a ton of them out there and people are sharing ideas on how to build, use and maintain them every day.  This series of blog posts I just wrote shows my current take on how to assemble lowers.  I will continue to improve my techniques over time and I do this both through trial and error as well as researching what others do.  In this post, I want to share some links with you that might just give you an “ah-ha” moment because of what these folks are sharing.

Please note that when you click on the below links other than the Youtube videos, a new tab or window will open and you may need to manually switch to that tab or window in your browser to see it.

Lower-Receiver Assembly Resources

Upper-Receiver Assembly Resources

Cleaning and Lubrication Resources


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Assembling an AR Lower – Step 10 of 11: Installing the Upper Receiver Assembly

We’re in the home stretch.  You can buy completed AR uppers from many sources.  I’ve had very good luck with Palmetto State Armory (PSA), Ghost Rifles, White Oak Armory (for precision uppers), Del-Ton, and Rock River Arms.  I bought a few Hardened Arms uppers with bolts and simply was not impressed – they seemed gritty and with a 12.7×42 Beowulf build their bolt did not work correctly but I digress.

With that said, the short barreled upper with the Magpul furniture is from PSA and the 10.5″ upper is from Ghost Rifles.  If you were to ask me who I use the most, I’d have to say PSA.  Subscribe to their Daily Deals email list and you’ll see some pretty wicked deals.  With all of the uppers, take note if they are selling the complete upper with the bolt carrier group (BCG) and charging handle or a stripper upper that does not include those two things.  I buy depending on what I want to do.  For both of these pistols, I bought stripper uppers as I had PSA Nickel Boron (NiB) BCGs that I got a deal on in the past plus I planned to use a PSA charging handle that I had with an extended latch and already had a plain Mil-Spec charging handle that I could use though I do have one of my favorite charging handles – the BCM Mod.3 large latch model – on order.

The next photo shows the two uppers side by side.  The PSA upper had the 7″ barrel, CAK Flash Can, Magpul handguards, gas block, tube, and ejection port dust cover installed – all it needed was the BCG and charging handle.  The Ghost Rifles upper had the 10.5″ barrel, handguard that I had to trim down for the look I wanted, and ejection port dust cover installed.  I added the brake, BCG, charging handles.  The side rails on both uppers are M-Lok and were added by me along with the backup sights.

Now when planning an upper, as long as it is Mil-Spec, and they all claim to be, it should mate (a fancy way of saying “fit”) with your Mil-Spec lower.  What I have found over the years is that some brands go together nice and snug and some are looser.  For example, PSA uppers fit Anderson lowers nice and snug.  The Ghost upper was a tad loose on the Anderson lower so I added a spacer to tighten it up.

Okay, so here is how it goes.  First, open both pins on the lower like so.  Note, you see the buffer already installed.  I took an assembled pistol and removed the upper to take the photos.  Of course, when I am writing this blog post then I notice I forgot to remove the buffer purely for the photos.  Just imagine it is not there 🙂  If it is, no worries – the pins work regardless.  The pins and modular design is what makes the AR like Legos for shooters – you can open them and swap uppers at the drop of a hat.

Step two:  Inspect the bolt and make sure the gas key screws are staked, that the bolt head can move freely, the extractor works, firing pin present, etc.  Normally I do not take the bolt apart – just a quick double check.  I have only had challenges with no-name bolts.  PSA, Aim, and Fail Zero. have all worked just fine for me.  The Fail Zero BCG is very well made if you ever get a chance to use one.  If the BCG feels or looks funny then a closer inspection is warranted but outside of the scope of this post.  Both of the pistols I assembled in this post is a PSA Nickel Boron (NiB) BCG.

Step three:  I like to install the BCG and charging handle before I put the upper on the rifle.  You can install the upper and these items if you want.  First, I oil the lubrication points of the BCG and apply grease to the underside of the BCG.  Do NOT put a ton of grease or oil under the handle.  I just put a very light coat of oil on the whole body of the handle.  You do not want to get a ton of grease on the gas system.

Step Four:  The charging handle has little tabs towards the front.  Slide the charging handle in above where it resides, align the tabs on the handle with the keyway in the receiver and press the handle down to where it normally goes.  Do not slide the charging handle in yet because the BCG slides in next.

Step Five:  Ensure the bolt head is pulled all the way out.  You then put the top of the bolt in the handle and slide the assembly forward until the handle locks into position.

Step 6:  Put the buffer in the buffer spring and slide it into the buffer tube spring first.  When you get to the buffer itself, you may need to push the buffer detent down a bit to get it to slide in.  I like the slightly heavier H2 buffers and used a PSA and a Spikes in these two builds.

Step 7:  Line the front upper hole with the lower and close the pivot pin all the way.

Step 8:  Swing the upper down and close the rear takedown pin.

Step 9:  Technically you are done – the two halves are assembled and you can function test your FCG.  [For a review on function testing the FCG, click here.]  At this point, I do what I call a “rattle test”.  If I shake the rifle and the upper is loose in the lower, I add a rubber receiver wedge (these things have a ton of names) to remove the slop.  Basically it sits in the lower and you trim the bottom of it until you can close the upper but there is upwards pressure from the wedge locking everything in place thus removing any play.

And with that, you are done with the basic assembly and can go ahead and add whatever accessories you want.  When you are planning what to do – ask yourself “Is this a range toy or something I need to rely on and if so, what are key considerations?” and use that to govern what you add.  For example, on a defensive weapon, I have backup sights, a quality Vortex optic and a quality Streamlight weapons light.  I do not go with cheap stuff as I have had them fail on me.  For a range toy, I worry a lot less about what reliability for example.

So here are the two finished pistols.  The 7″ is a range toy and the 10.5″ may well serve a defensive purpose so it has a Vortex Spitfire red dot and backup sights.

Okay – safety briefing time:  When you test fire, consider using a stand and pulling the trigger with a string from a safe distance.  Be sure to inspect the weapon carefully before and after.   If you do not feel comfortable with any of this, please see a gunsmith.  If you have any doubts at all, please see a gunsmith.  I want you to enjoy assembling your AR and shooting it.

By the way, my AR expert is Scott Igert of Modern Antique Firearms.  He is a police officer and has years and years of real world AR building, maintenance and tactical use experience.  If you need a custom AR built, need to buy parts, or have gunsmithing done, talk to Scott.

Hope this series helped you out!  The next post, step 11, will provide additional resource information.


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