I'm sure I'm not the only guy who built up an AR lower in the past few weeks since the election. I put this together over the Thanksgiving break. Here's the "before" shot with the parts all laid out. The stripped lower receiver was purchased earlier this summer. The parts kit and other bits post-election.
If you haven't built an AR-15 lower before, they're not too hard. This is my second lower build, and I don't really have all of the "correct" tools or a great workspace. This time around I at least had a decent set of properly sized punches (these Stanley ones - good deal, sturdy too). I've used this Tapco castle nut wrench for both builds, it works, it was cheap and that's about all.
If you're interested in doing it, go for it. There are lots of "how-tos" out there - ITS Tactical has a pretty good one, but there are a ton. Take your time and be cautious and it should go fine.
Why built it yourself? Learning experience is a big one - no better way to learn how an AR-15 lower half works! You can also pick the parts that meet your specifications up front--trigger guard, grip, sling plate, etc., versus having to switch those out down the road. You do usually save a little bit of money--I have, I dunno, about $265 into it, including the Magpul goodies. Don't expect HUGE savings though unless you're really keeping your eye out for deals, though.
One thing that was different this build: Amazon carries a really wide selection of AR parts at good prices, with free shipping. Last build (in '08), they sure didn't have what they do now. You can buy everything you need to build up a stripped lower on Amazon - I bought everything, save the lower and parts kit on Amazon.
Here's the run down:
- CMMG Inc. Lower - my first AR is a CMMG and has treated me well. They're mil-spec and good to go.
- Doublestar Lower Parts Kit - Nicer overall parts than the DPMS kit I used for my first build. Had a couple extra small bits, which can come in handy. I bent up a takedown detent spring up pretty bad - had a couple spares already, plus an extra in the kit. You can buy the CMMG and Daniel Defense lower parts kits - both good makers, in my opinion - on Amazon.
- Magpul MOE + Grip in FDE - An overmolded/rubberized grip with a storage compartment. Nice feel to it, very comfortable. Way better than the standard AR grip, and better than the plain-jane MOE grip, too. I'll probably switch out the grip on my other AR for one of these, too. Check it out here.
- Magpul Polymer Trigger Guard in FDE - Again, a definite upgrade over the basic trigger guard. Fills in that annoying gap between the trigger guard and grip, and is generally a more ergonomic/comfortable trigger guard. More room if you have to shoot with gloved fingers, too. Nice overall addition. I wish Magpul included the tiny size allen wrench needed to tighten down the grip's one screw, though. Amazon for under $9.
- Mil-Spec Buffer Tube/Receiver Extension and Castle Nut - Good quality, affordable, threads work fine and they're sized right. Not a lot more that I ask! Receiver extension for just over $20, castle nut for under $9.
- Magpul ASAP - I have one of these on my current AR, and generally like it for running a single-point sling. A bit pain to install after everything's put together, so I wanted to do it during the initial build. Here for under $24.