AR-15: Building vs. Buying Pros and Cons

Building vs. Buying an AR-15: Pros and Cons

The AR-15, also known as the ArmaLite Rifle-15, is a popular semi-automatic rifle that has become a symbol of American gun culture. Its versatility, reliability, and modularity have made it a favorite among firearm enthusiasts, sport shooters, and even military personnel. When it comes to owning an AR-15, there are two main options to consider: buying a complete rifle or building one from scratch. Both options have their pros and cons, and the decision ultimately comes down to personal preferences, budget, and level of expertise. In this blog, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of each option to help you make an informed decision. Whether you choose to buy a ready-to-shoot rifle or embark on the adventure of building your own, the AR-15 offers endless customization options, unparalleled performance, and a sense of pride that comes with owning a firearm that is uniquely yours.

Understanding the AR-15: A Brief Overview

build or buy an ar

The AR-15 is a versatile rifle that consists of two main components: the lower receiver and the upper receiver. The lower receiver houses the trigger mechanism, magazine well, and stock, while the upper receiver contains the barrel, bolt carrier group, and handguard. The AR-15 can be found chambered in various calibers, with the .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO being the most common.

One of the key advantages of the AR-15 is its modularity, which allows for easy customization and adaptability. The lower receiver serves as the foundation for the rifle, and it can be paired with different uppers to change the caliber, barrel length, and other specifications. This versatility allows shooters to tailor their AR-15 to their specific needs and preferences, whether it's for long-range precision shooting, close-quarters combat, or hunting.

In terms of ammunition, the AR-15 can use both .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO rounds interchangeably, although there are some technical differences between the two. The .223 Remington is a civilian cartridge, while the 5.56x45mm NATO is a military round. The main difference lies in the chamber dimensions and the pressure levels of the rounds. While most AR-15s are chambered to safely handle both rounds, it's important to consult the manufacturer's specifications and use the appropriate ammunition for your specific rifle.

The AR-15 is known for its lightweight design, ergonomic features, and reliable performance. It has become a popular choice for various applications, including target shooting, competition shooting, home defense, and even military and law enforcement use. Its accuracy, low recoil, and high magazine capacity make it a versatile and effective firearm in the hands of a skilled shooter.

The History and Evolution of the AR-15

The AR-15 has a rich history and has undergone significant evolution since its creation. The rifle was originally developed by Eugene Stoner and his team at ArmaLite in the late 1950s. It was initially designed as a lightweight and compact rifle for military use. However, due to financial issues, ArmaLite sold the rights to the rifle to Colt in 1959.

Under Colt's ownership, the AR-15 underwent further development and refinement. It was adopted by the U.S. military as the M16 rifle in the 1960s and saw extensive use during the Vietnam War. The M16 went through several iterations and improvements to address reliability issues and enhance its performance under combat conditions.

In the civilian market, Colt introduced the semi-automatic version of the AR-15, which became known as the Colt AR-15. This civilian version gained popularity among firearm enthusiasts, sports shooters, and hunters due to its versatility, customization options, and reliable performance. Today, the AR-15 platform has been adopted by numerous manufacturers, and there are countless variations and configurations available to suit different preferences and shooting needs.

Key Components and Features of the AR-15

The AR-15 is composed of several key components, each playing a crucial role in the rifle's functionality and performance. These components include the lower parts kit, muzzle device, iron sights, and handguards.

The lower parts kit consists of various small parts, including the trigger, hammer, magazine release, and safety selector. These parts work together to facilitate the firing mechanism and allow for the safe operation of the rifle. The lower parts kit can be customized to suit individual preferences and shooting styles.

The muzzle device is located at the end of the barrel and serves multiple purposes. It helps mitigate recoil, reduce muzzle rise, and control the direction of muzzle blast. There are different types of muzzle devices available, including muzzle brakes, compensators, and flash hiders, each with its own advantages and characteristics.

Iron sights are a traditional sighting system for the AR-15. They consist of a front sight post and a rear sight aperture, allowing for precise aiming at various distances. Iron sights provide a reliable backup option in case of optic failure and are commonly used in military and law enforcement applications.

Handguards are another important component of the AR-15. They provide a protective covering over the barrel and allow for the attachment of accessories such as optics, lights, and foregrips. Handguards come in different lengths and styles, offering shooters the flexibility to choose the configuration that best suits their needs.

The Advantages of Buying an AR-15

Buying a complete AR-15 offers several advantages, including convenience, reliability, and peace of mind. With a complete rifle, you can simply walk into a store, select the one that meets your requirements, and take it home. Complete rifles are usually assembled and tested by reputable manufacturers, ensuring that they function reliably and meet industry standards. Additionally, buying a complete rifle often comes with warranties and customer support, providing you with the assurance that any issues will be addressed promptly and efficiently.

Time-Saving and Convenience

One of the primary advantages of buying an AR-15 is the time-saving and convenience it offers. Instead of going through the process of researching, sourcing, and assembling individual parts, you can simply walk into a store or visit an online retailer and purchase a complete rifle. This can be especially beneficial for those who don't have the time, knowledge, or tools to build their own AR-15.

Buying a complete rifle from a reputable dealer ensures that you are getting a high-quality and reliable firearm. Reputable dealers have stringent quality control processes in place and offer warranties to provide peace of mind to their customers. They can also provide guidance and assistance in selecting the right AR-15 that meets your needs and preferences.

Reliability and Warranty Considerations

When buying an AR-15, you can have confidence in its reliability and performance. Complete rifles are assembled and tested by reputable manufacturers, ensuring that they meet industry standards and are free from defects. This means that you can trust your AR-15 to function reliably and consistently.

Additionally, buying a complete rifle often comes with warranties, providing you with peace of mind. Warranties cover any manufacturing defects or malfunctions, and reputable dealers will promptly address any issues that arise. This ensures that you can enjoy your AR-15 without worrying about potential problems or the cost of repairs.

By purchasing an AR-15 from a reputable dealer, you can have confidence in the quality of the firearm and the customer support that comes with it. Reputable dealers have a reputation to uphold and are committed to providing their customers with reliable products and excellent service. This means that you can trust that you are getting a high-quality AR-15 that will perform as expected.

The Downsides of Purchasing an AR-15

While buying an AR-15 offers convenience and peace of mind, there are also some downsides to consider. These include the higher initial cost and the limited customization options compared to building your own AR-15.

Higher Initial Cost

One of the downsides of purchasing an AR-15 is the higher initial cost compared to building your own. Complete rifles often come with a higher price tag, especially if you opt for well-known brands or higher-end models. This can be a deterrent for those on a tight budget or looking for a more cost-effective option.

However, it's important to consider the value you are getting for your money. When purchasing a complete rifle, you are paying for the expertise and quality assurance of the manufacturer, as well as any additional features and upgrades that come with the firearm. It's also worth noting that the resale value of a complete rifle from a reputable brand tends to hold its value better than a self-built AR-15.

Limited Customization Options

Another drawback of buying an AR-15 is the limited customization options compared to building your own. While complete rifles often come with some basic customization options, such as different stock options or handguards, they may not offer the same level of flexibility and personalization as building your own AR-15.

When building your own AR-15, you have the freedom to select every component and tailor the rifle to your specific needs and preferences. This includes choosing the barrel length, trigger, handguard, and other accessories to create a rifle that is truly your own. This level of customization allows you to optimize the firearm for your intended use, whether it's for precision shooting, competition, or self-defense.

The Benefits of Building Your Own AR-15

Building your own AR-15 offers several benefits, including personalization, customization options, and a deeper understanding of the firearm. By building your own AR-15, you have the opportunity to create a rifle that is tailored to your needs, preferences, and shooting style. Additionally, building your own AR-15 allows you to gain a comprehensive understanding of the firearm's components, functionality, and assembly process. This knowledge can be valuable for future maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.

Personalization and Customization

Building your own AR-15 allows for a high level of personalization and customization. You have the freedom to select every component and tailor the rifle to your specific needs and preferences. Some benefits of personalization and customization include:

  • The ability to choose the exact specifications, such as barrel length, caliber, and handguard, to create a rifle that is optimized for your intended use.
  • The opportunity to select aftermarket parts and accessories to enhance the rifle's performance, ergonomics, and aesthetics.
  • The satisfaction of building and owning a firearm that is uniquely yours, reflecting your individual style and preferences.
  • The versatility to easily upgrade or modify your AR-15 in the future by simply replacing or adding components from a wide range of options.

Understanding Your Firearm Inside and Out

Building your own AR-15 allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the firearm, its components, and its functionality. By assembling the rifle from individual parts, you will become familiar with each component and how they work together to create a functioning firearm. This knowledge can be valuable for troubleshooting issues, performing routine maintenance, and making informed decisions regarding upgrades or modifications. Additionally, building your own AR-15 provides an opportunity to learn about the specifications and performance characteristics of different parts, allowing you to make more informed choices when customizing your rifle. Overall, building your own AR-15 can be a rewarding experience that not only results in a personalized firearm but also expands your knowledge and expertise in firearms.

Challenges in Building an AR-15

build an ar

While building your own AR-15 offers a range of benefits, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. These challenges include the learning curve and the requirement for specific tools, as well as potential issues with compatibility and assembly.

The Learning Curve and Required Tools

Building an AR-15 requires a certain level of knowledge and familiarity with firearms and their assembly. There is a learning curve involved in understanding the different components, their functions, and how they fit together. In addition to the learning curve, building an AR-15 requires specific tools, such as an armorers wrench, punches, and a bench vise, to properly assemble and install various parts. These tools can be an additional investment in terms of both cost and space, as they may not be readily available to everyone. However, with the help of online resources, tutorials, and guides, the learning curve can be overcome, and the necessary tools can be acquired to successfully build your own AR-15.

Potential Issues with Compatibility and Assembly

Another challenge in building an AR-15 is ensuring compatibility between different parts and components. The AR-15 platform offers a wide variety of options and variations, and it's important to ensure that all the components you choose are compatible and will fit together properly. This includes factors such as ensuring the correct fit between the upper and lower receiver, selecting the appropriate barrel and gas system for the handguard, and ensuring that all the components align and function correctly. Additionally, the assembly process itself can be time-consuming and requires attention to detail to ensure that all parts are properly installed and secured. However, with careful research, proper planning, and attention to detail, these challenges can be overcome, resulting in a successfully built AR-15.

Legal Considerations and Responsibilities

When it comes to owning and building an AR-15, there are certain legal considerations and responsibilities that need to be taken into account. These include background checks, safe handling and storage, and compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.

Regulations Surrounding AR-15 Ownership

Before purchasing or building an AR-15, it's important to familiarize yourself with the regulations surrounding its ownership in your jurisdiction. This includes understanding the background check requirements for purchasing a firearm, as well as any additional requirements for owning an AR-15. In some cases, you may need to apply for a Federal Firearms License (FFL) or obtain a permit from your local gun store. It's important to follow all applicable laws and regulations to ensure that you are in compliance with the law and are legally able to own and possess an AR-15.

The Importance of Safe Handling and Storage

Safe handling and storage of firearms, including AR-15s, is an important responsibility for every gun owner. This includes following proper safety protocols, such as treating every firearm as if it is loaded, keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and ensuring that the firearm is stored securely when not in use. Safe storage options include using a lockable gun safe, a lockable gun cabinet, or trigger locks to prevent unauthorized access. Properly storing your AR-15 not only ensures the safety of yourself and others but also provides peace of mind knowing that your firearm is secure and inaccessible to unauthorized individuals. This is especially important for home defense purposes, as it helps prevent accidents and ensures that the firearm is readily available to you in case of an emergency.


In conclusion, whether you choose to build or buy an AR-15, each option comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the history, components, and legal responsibilities is crucial before making a decision. Buying offers convenience and reliability, whereas building allows for customization and a deeper understanding of your firearm. Consider factors like cost, customization preferences, and time commitment to determine which route aligns best with your needs and goals. Ultimately, prioritize safety, responsibility, and adherence to regulations in either choice for a fulfilling AR-15 ownership experience.

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