I’ve gotten a bee in my bonnet lately about learning how to do my own AR build. This has been a challenge that has been dangling in front of me for a number of years – starting from when I learned to change a stock and buffer tube a few years ago. The desire for the challenge bubbled back to the surface in the lead-up to SHOT Show, and boiled over during my visit to the Aero Precision booth during SHOT in January.
The folks at Aero Precision and Ballistic Advantage have given me the opportunity to build my own .308/M5 rifle for hunting, and I plan to take readers along for the ride. So prepare for a multi-part journey into “A-Pediatrician-Learns-to-Build-An-Evil-Black-Rifle” Or #soeasyapediatriciancandoit .
It may give some people pause that a middle-aged female physician wants to try out her mechanical skills on a rifle build, but WHY? Wasn’t it Heinlein who said that specialization is for insects? Besides, I need a new project. I just finished sewing a baby quilt for my niece last month, and my creative juices need another outlet now.
My main reason for wanting to build rather than buy is that I can build exactly what I want with exactly the features I desire, rather than waiting for what I want to just appear on the gun shop wall. (And it almost never does).
Aero Precision and Ballistic Advantage have built a reputation for quality and value in the firearms world, and providing for home builds like mine is exactly what they do. They offer the excellent quality I want, while still allowing me the budgetary savings of doing my own labor. If I had to special order exactly what I wanted – already built from another manufacturer – it would likely be out of my price range. But Aero and BA have everything I need, and I can order exactly what I want – from my kitchen table in my pajamas if I want. That’s hard to beat.
It is important for me to express here at the outset that I am attempting this as a non-gunsmith. I am not an expert and will be learning this process as I go along – just like anybody else would. I’ve got a booklet, and some websites, and BA has videos to help me, and I also have some friends to ask for help if I run into trouble. But my goal is to do this by myself if at all possible. I have only average mechanical aptitude, and I tell people – as I wave my fingers in front of me – that there are ten very good reasons that I never became a surgeon – ha! I also plan to have a knowledgeable friend do a final once-over inspection for me before I attempt to shoot this gun.
The first segment of my “learning experience” was navigating the parts ordering process. One has to know what parts are involved in a build in order to know what one needs to order. Aero Precision makes that process easier by offering “builder kits”. Obviously the kit doesn’t cover absolutely everything, but it gives you a good place to start. It also gives you options. I opted to include a pistol grip, but not an FCG (trigger group). I’m a bit of trigger snob and wanted to try one from Geissele, so I ordered that separately.
One of the first steps is overcoming the intimidation factor of all of those little parts and pieces. Learning the various parts required, what they are called, why this material is better or worse than that material vs cost – all are part of the learning curve and ordering process.
I do have precedent with the parts and pieces though. I learned how to field strip and clean my first AR with a book, a DVD, and a big white mattress pad spread over my living room floor — in case any little pieces went flying. That was about 8 years ago.
Then 2 or 3 years ago I learned how to change a buffer tube and stock on that same AR, in addition to installing a drop-in trigger, and a different pistol grip. The internet is an amazing resource for photos and how-to videos. I am a very visual learner. If I can watch it being done, I can usually duplicate the necessary action.
Also on the learning curve was finding out what tools are needed and why. I’m long-time divorced. I don’t have a significant other’s workshop full of tools to draw on. I have my own tool box, punch set etc, but there were other tools specific to this job that I needed to order. That involved MORE reading up and asking questions.
The choices on the website were a bit overwhelming at first, until I realized that they could be narrowed down by caliber, length, etc. into a more manageable group.
The online shopping process also became less intimidating as I figured out what the various letters and acronyms stood for. FCG = Fire Control Group (basically means trigger assembly). BBSS = Bead Blasted Stainless Steel. Another one was – What is an FSB and do I need to care? I had to find that one the interwebs. But I did ultimately find the information, and now I understand. Just like learning the acronyms and terms in medicine, there are terms to learn in gun building as well.
Knowing that certain terms are roughly equivalent also helped. For instance, .308 and 7.62 use the same BCG (Bolt Carrier Group), though there are subtle differences. I also learned that the terms AR10 and M5 mean roughly the same thing.
It’s important to realize though, that you don’t have to learn everything all at once. (heaven knows I haven’t) Don’t let the avalanche of information intimidate you. One of the advantages to building it yourself is that you can “baby-steps” your way through the process.
Ask for specific Aero Precision or Ballistic Advantage parts for Christmas and anniversary gifts. Ask for gift certificates to Brownell’s or Geissele for a “tools” birthday gift. You can turn credit card miles into gift cards or cash back that you can use to buy tools or parts, too. (That’s how I got my punch set and vice last year.) You can slowly accumulate what you need as budget and time allows. You don’t have to bite it ALL off at once if you don’t want to. That’s the beauty of a build – you can do it at your own pace.
So you can follow along from home, here is my personal parts list:
M5 Builder set w/ Atlas R-One Handguard 15” M-LOK FDE Cerakote
M5 MOE Lower Parts Kit Minus FCG in FDE
.308/7.62 Bolt Carrier Group Complete – Black Nitride
Radian Raptor Ambi Charging Handle AR10
Magpul PRS Gen3 Precision Adjustable Stock FDE
M5 .308 Rifle Buffer Kit, No Stock
VG6 Epsilon 762 Muzzle Brake
AR15 Flip-up sight set.
SKU# BABL308004P WITH pinned Gas Block AND tube
18” .308 Tactical Government Midlength AR308 Barrel premium series
You now have a choice – you can come along on this build ride with me and we can build it (and yours) together – or – you can let me make all the mistakes first, and learn from my experiences and then build your own. The choice is yours – let’s go!