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Strong Side Tactical


Build or Buy?


Buying “Off the Rack” vs Building Your Own AR15 or AR10

In this article, we’ll be focusing on some of the advantages of building your own AR15. If you’re already a rifle builder, you can probably just skip this particular blog post. But if you’ve never owned an AR15, or if you are new to the AR platform, this blog post will have some great insights for you.

For the purposes of this article, we are throwing the word “budget” out the window for now. Many people ask us “Can I build an AR cheaper than buying one?” The answer is yes and no. It can be done, but this article mainly focuses on the pros and cons of wrenching on your rifle yourself to get it set up with the exact parts you want.

Buying off the Rack

This simply refers to buying a fully assembled rifle from your favorite firearms dealer. These can range from approximately $350 for a simple .22LR carbine to upwards of $3000 for a high end rifle. Just like anything else, the sky is the limit. No matter the price range, buying off the shelf enables a consumer to go straight from the gun shop to the range, load up some ammo, and start having fun immediately. There’s something for everyone when it comes to buying off the shelf, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. Pick one and go have some fun.

                                 AR15s on a Rack

Building your Own

Building your own rifle can mean a few different things. The two primary parts of an AR rifle are the upper and lower halves. Many people like to buy a complete upper receiver and a complete lower receiver so that they can still purchase a custom rifle, but it's not an "off the rack" type of rifle. Some builders will assemble their lower half and then purchase a fully assembled upper. Others will hand pick every part of their build out, selecting each part all the way down to the little springs, gadgets, and doodads that they will be installing.

None of us here at Strong-Side just started building rifles in one day. Every one of us started with an off the shelf rifle (or gateway rifle as we like to call them), such as a Bushmaster XM-15 or DPMS Panther. After shooting it a little, we started customizing them to suit our liking. By changing butt stocks, hand guards, sling mounts, and other simple things that we felt “upgraded” our rifle. Over time, we all started learning the ins and outs of the AR platform. Subsequently, we also ended up with a drawer full of spare parts.

There’s good reason that the AR15 is the most popular rifle in the U.S. Its modular platform, options for customization and the ability to build/change everything at home on the work bench in your garage. With some fairly simple tools and a little bit of research, building an AR15 rifle is extremely straightforward. 

Why should I build my rifle, versus just buying one?

  • 1) Avoid the drawer full of spare parts. Taking the philosophy of “buy once, cry once”, don’t be scared to just jump in head first. Figure out what type of rifle you want to build, do your research and start from scratch. It's more money to drop up front, but you'll end up saving money in the long run.
  • 2) Learn something. At some point, you will need to break down your gun for cleaning and maintenance anyway. There’s no better way to learn how everything is assembled than actually assembling one with a decent amount of knowledge and understanding of how the AR operates.
  • 3) Have fun. If you enjoy turning wrenches, building your own rifle is fun. You can take pride in knowing that it was built correctly, because you did it. There’s a cool factor in knowing you completely designed and assembled your new rig.
  • 4) Customization. Let’s face it; none of us like to have the exact same thing everyone else does. Whether you want to simply have a particular color on your rifle, or you want to build out a super duper long distance precision tack driver, the choice is yours. Figure out how you will be using your rifle and then select your parts based on the desired end result.
  • 5) Prioritized spending. Once you figure out the type of rifle you want, start prioritizing the parts that are important to YOU. If you’re building a self-defense style rig, then having an expensive long range scope may not be the priority, but rather a good quality red dot or 1-4x optic. If you’re looking for a competition gun, then the match barrel and good trigger assembly become much more important elements. And so on and so forth, you get the picture.

Let us help…

The staff here at SST all started building rifles at some point and have approached almost every question that you are facing. We have learned from our mistakes and all of us have sat at our workbenches (or computers) scratching our heads at some point. Please feel free to ask us any questions, there is no stupid question. Remember, when it comes to something that goes “bang” 2 inches from your face, never make assumptions