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Bought vs Built AR15: Are you really saving $$?

So it’s May 2016 and it seems like every one is making Direct Impingement AR15’s. So is it more cost efficient to build your AR15 or just buy an entry level AR and make it your own? We’re going to break it down for ya. One main question you have to ask yourself, what are you planning on doing with this rifle? Are you using this rifle for home defense? Are you thinking about a SHTF scenario? Are you going to be using this rifle to go to the gun range for fun? Are you going to be competing in your local 2 or 3-Gun matches? These ideas should be coming into your head when you are either building or buying an AR15.

We’re going to start off with buying an AR15 and making it your own. Today’s entry level AR15’s make great platforms to build on. AR15’s are just like cars, they can be customized to your liking. Let’s start off with a run of the mill entry-level AR15 and use quality, budget friendly aftermarket accessories. I live in North Carolina, so Del-ton is the hometown favorite. So we’ll use one of their rifles in this article. The Del-ton Sport is their entry-level AR15 Model that costs around $500 locally. It will include a 16″ light weight barrel with 1×9 twist and M4 Feed Ramps, 6 position M4 stock, CAR handguards with single heat shields, flat-top upper, forward assist, dust cover, and an A2 flash hider. So all you’ll need to complete this rifle, in my opinion, would be an optic, sling, and back-up iron sights (BUIS). This rifle would make a great little plinker, home defense rifle, and even a SHTF scenario rifle. Let’s break the cost down:

  • Rifle: Del-ton Sport- $500
  • Optic: Vortex Strikefire- $180
  • Sling: Magpul MS3 Sling- $50
  • BUIS: Magpul BUIS- $50
  • Approx. Total after taxes/shipping- $825

But let’s say you wanted to use this 16” barreled rifle for some 2 or 3-Gun matches and you really want accuracy. So let’s use the same $500 rifle and go from there.

  • Rifle: Del-ton Sport- $500
  • Free-floating rail: Midwest Industries M-Lok Extended Rail- $190
  • Low Profile Gas Block: $30
  • Trigger Upgrade: Del-ton Two-Stage Trigger- $100
  • Optic: Bushnell 1-4x AR Optic- $170
  • Optic Mount/Scope Rings: Vortex Optics Cantilever 1-Piece Mount- $100
  • Sling: Magpul MS3 Sling- $50
  • Approx. Total after taxes/shipping- $1180

That’s using a standard M4 Collapsible Stock and A2 Pistol Grip. So if you wanted to add something better, like a Magpul MOE Pistol Grip and Stock, the cost would be about $1230. So you’ve taken a basic entry level AR that will get the job done at a 2 or 3-Gun match, which will still be good for home defense, SHTF, and just for plinking and spending $1230, but is it really worth it? There are manufactures out there that have 2 or 3-Gun ready rifles out on the market and is ready to go out of the box, like the Armalite M-15 3-Gun (found locally around $1500). It will come with a 3lb trigger, adjustable gas block, and tunable muzzle break. Why not just buy that one and just add the optic and scope mount of choice and call it a day?

Now, what if you wanted to build a rifle from the lower receiver up, using budget friendly, yet quality parts; would you save any money? Let’s take a look at it:

  • Lower receiver: Anderson Manufacturing- $50
  • Lower Parts Kit w/ A2 Pistol Grip: AR Stoner- $50
  • Buffer Tube/Buffer: AR Stoner Mil-Spec Tube with Buffer- $40
  • Stock: Magpul Mil-Spec MOE Stock- $36
  • Upper Receiver: AR-Stoner Complete Barrel Assembly- $330
  • Back-up Iron Sight: Magpul- $50
  • Sling: Magpul- $50
  • Optic: Vortex Strikefire- $180
  • Approx. Total after taxes/shipping- $840

So you’re spending slightly more money if you built it versus buying it, but you do get a better stock, but the same standard A2 Pistol Grip.

If you were to build an upper receiver assembly, it would go something like this:

  • Upper Receiver: Yankee Hill- $120
  • Upper Receiver Parts Kit: Del-ton- $17
  • Standard Charging Handle- $16
  • BCG- Aim Surplus- $90
  • Barrel- AR Stoner Carbine Gas Length- $80
  • Gas Tube: Del-Ton- $13
  • Delta Ring Assembly- DPMS- $8
  • Barrel Nut: US Contractors- $7
  • A2 Front Post Assembly: US Contractors- $20
  • Flash Hider: Anderson Manufacturing- $8
  • Upper Handguards- CAR Handguards- $15
  • Approx. Total after taxes/shipping- $430

So getting a completed Upper will save you time and money. Plus, you know the parts will be put together properly and have proper alignment and fit.

Now, if you wanted to build a 2 or 3-Gun Rifle, the cost could vary drastically due to: Trigger, Free-Floating rail, Butt-stock, Pistol Grip, Barrel length, Optic, etc. The list is endless to be honest. The average cost would be roughly around $1200-$2000 depending on all those factors.

At the end of the day, if want a good quality/entry level AR15, it is obtainable, be it built or bought. It just all depends on what you are planning on doing with the rifle. My wife built her AR15 by herself and she did an outstanding job. She got all the parts she wanted and made it her own. She could have easily purchased a rifle and added all the stuff, but it was going to cost just as much, if not more than just her building it herself and making it the way she wanted. It’s all about what you like, not what everyone else likes. Also, if you decided to build your rifle, you can stretch out the cost over time, and not have to pay for everything all at once. That helps out if you are not in any big rush for a rifle. If you have never put together an AR15 lower, there are videos out there on YouTube that will assist you. Or you could pay a Local Gun Shop/Gunsmith to put it together for you, but again, you want to save money. Plus, you can brag to all your friends that you built this rifle all by yourself!

Ya’ll be good and be safe!


***Disclaimer: I am using name brand, middle of the road products. I know there are cheaper brands out there, as well as “no name products” that can be purchased off of eBay and some items can be found on sale or bought at gun shows for cheaper. But for this article, I’m using MidwayUSA current price listings (at the time the article was written) on almost all products listed and I also used a completed upper with BCG and charging handle. But there are ready-to-go kits out there from, let’s say Palmetto State Armory, that all you need is a lower receiver for around the tune of $400 with free shipping for a basic model and even a free-floating rail model for around $450 with free shipping. So yes it can be a little cheaper buying a kit and doing it yourself, but if you were to buy each piece individually, it would cost you a lot more than these kits. Also note, specialty tools may be required when assembling your rifle and those costs are not included in the prices shown above.***

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