Build or Buy?

I get asked this a lot.  Do I build my new AR, or do I buy my new AR?   That’s a good question.   First, let’s talk about the economics of it:

This guy, I don’t know this guy. But he makes a lot of sense.  If you are buying a rifle in that 1000 or Less price range.
Or what you do is spend a bit more out of the gate and buy a rifle that is closer to your ideal of the final configuration you want.  There’s a lot of rifles out there in the 1500 range that come pretty much done out of the box.   Or even less.  I’ve seen some very good builds that are complete and good to go for about 1200.

Unless you are wanting a lot of specialized aftermarket stuff with spiky bits or excessive milling for either weight or cosmetic purposes… stuff that isn’t available OEM from anyone… Then building makes sense money wise.

Or you just want a Cheap Out build.  And you are going to be shopping for low cost parts.   Then in that case, you are going to end up with a Cheap Rifle.  I can’t tell you how many times guys have shown me their Cheap Out Build and then they blow sunshine at me that it’s Custom.   No, it’s not Custom.  It’s a Cheap Out Build you put together on your coffee table.   That’s not impressive, so don’t expect me to act impressed.  And don’t get mad at me for not being impressed.  Anyone can order those same parts from Brownells and Midway USA.   A Cheap Out Build though, can get you into an AR for the same or less than most entry level AR’s.  I’ve seen some Cheap Out Builds that were about 400 bucks that were actually solid AR’s.  So if you do it RIGHT, you can really have something.  The problem though is too often, it’s not done right and the result is just another cheap AR.

Another reason to build your AR is that you BUILD your AR.  You might need some help or borrow some tools or even buy some tools… But the end result is your own rifle you put together yourself.  There’s a lot of satisfaction in that.  And if that’s your goal, and you are happy with the rifle – Awesome.   That’s all that matters.  That’s all that’s important.  Because at this point in the AR Market – NO ONE CARES.  Do your own thing, be your own man.   You only need to impress yourself.

The 3 Things to Splurge on:
1.  The Barrel.
2.  The Trigger.
3.  The Optic.
Spare no expense on these items.  Expensive BCG’s are over rated.  Expensive fore grips and stocks, are over rated.  Back Up Iron Sights, unless you are going to run Iron Sights, are over rated.

7 thoughts on “Build or Buy?”

  1. I was going back and forth couldn’t decide what I was going to do. Then I got laid off, and had $500 in my gun fund. The wife let me use another $100 and I end up buying a Ruger AR-556, and 1 extra pmag and 120 rounds. It runs good, and uses all standard parts so I could use it as a base for something better later on. The only thing it doesn’t have that I would have really wanted is the crome lined barrel. I can live without that for the amount of rounds I will put through it. It make’s the build cheap or buy decision a little more complicated.

  2. Here’s a question , esp. when it comes to building…. How do you feel about 80% lowers? Any experience, brands you feel might be higher quality, etc., etc. James Yeager thinks this is all bull stuffing, no one can build a working, reliable rifle out of an 80% receiver, bla, bla, and bla. What does the Ogre think, George?
    As the poor church mouse I is, it’s appealing, one part at a time, like Johnny Cash’s lunch-box Cadillac….
    Is there any consensus among the “pros”? Thanx for all you do.

    1. I know you can buy a quality lower cheaper than an 80% lower.

      You can build a reliable AR on a 80% lower but why? Now if you want a gun that can’t be traced that is going to take more work than buying an unfinished lower off the internet with a credit card.

  3. I just went through this. I decided I wanted a gun that would work right now, not a set of parts to fitz with.

    I bought a entry level AR from a company most folks have never heard of. The gun was $499(No sights). I couldn’t have bought the parts for that. Its been 100% reliable and has a lifetime warranty.

    Its the golden age of AR’s
    However the next one will be built. Just because I want it my way and I have access to all the tools.

  4. For a trunk gun that is pretty much a semi-auto M4 clone there really is no need to build your own. Lots of choices of good quality for not much money. It is hard to build one of equal quality for the price. S&W M&P 15 Sport 2 comes to mind.

    I did just splurge on my own custom build for precision shooting. I mean PRECISION, as in 1/2 MOA from a relatively light barrel. I wanted a so-called Recce build based on the real deal barrel. You can’t just go out and buy one of those ready made. So, I did not skimp on the very things Ogre correctly identifies. There is no way, for instance, to buy a complete rifle with a Lilja 16″ Recon barrel that is the same profile as supplied by Lilja to the Navy for SEAL recon rifles. You have to build it. Same if you want a Kreiger or Hart or Bartlein or Douglas, Shilen or such.

    In that instance, and for such specialized purposes you build the rifle you want. And that means including an appropriate free float rail, a relatively light two stage trigger, and a fairly high grade optic that is consistent with the mission of the rifle. And, because the platform is so modular, with patience and just a few relatively inexpensive, but somewhat specialized tools, it is an easy task.

    Such rifles will never be able to be resold for what you have in them, though. You do this for yourself and plan to keep them a lifetime.

  5. ok, i’ll be “that guy”.
    I thought we had long ago established that the “AR SUCKS!”
    now, never having owned one myself, preferring instead to go the down-and-dirty AK route, albeit in 7.62×51 (a Man’s caliber), I’m absolutely not here to bash another fella’s (AR) passion.
    But as I think of the mechanics of a confrontation, whether it be griz, a home invader, or a- shall we say- UN “peacekeeping” force…
    my own tendency trends more from a $2000+ CQBR-

    to a CQB… Shotgun (augmented, perhaps, with Dad’s old $600 deer/sniper rifle already leaning in the closet- perfect for long distance work).
    Ogre, I’ve seen you leaning along similar lines with your exhaustive reviews of remington vs. mossy pumpguns, so in a future post, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the relative merits of both “philosophies”.

    1. That is a most interesting topic to cover… Yes. Which is better for CQB work.
      Man, if I still worked at a range, I’d do this on video. With demonstrations.

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