The customisation of the AR rifle has become a real cottage industry, with plenty of after-market parts available for you to create exactly the type of gun that you want. When you decide that you want to get into customisation and begin planning it, you have to start right at the beginning and consider what you actually want the gun for. Is it for hunting? Sports shooting? Tactical-style usage? Concealment? Whatever the reason, the usage will impact the parts that you need to buy, and with that the overall cost.
You will also need to consider what parts you can modify yourself, and the relative cost of doing that. Many custom-gun makers start right at the very heart of the gun with the Lower Receiver, and build up from there. This is the part that houses the fire control group magazine well, and pistol grip, and essentially supports the other parts of the rifle. This part is available as fully completed items or renowned 80% Receivers that require a bit more work to complete them. Finishing off an AR 15 Lower Receiver – I.E. completing the remaining 20% yourself - also allows you to get to know your rifle inside and out. It gives you a look at how the weapon works, and gives you a deep understanding of how the weapon functions. On another note, building up a weapon from this standard grants you the knowledge to fix any issues that may arise in the future, and how to strip your gun down, even in the field.
Of course, if you really want to get to understand your gun by taking an active part in its construction, you are going to need to use a jig to get the holes in the right place. While this might have its own cost, the good news is that once you have such a jig, you can use it to create as many custom AR’s as you like, and if anything is certain, it’s that building custom guns is addictive!
Along with the drilling jig, you will need to buy a good stand drill to be able to clamp it too and perform the drilling and milling operations required. Get this part right and the rest of the gun will almost literally just fall into place. The jigs are hardened steel, so there is little chance of you wrecking it if you don’t align a hole properly the first time, and once you have completed your first 80% lower, you are likely to want to do more of them.
Once you have the 80% lower machined to the 100% standard that you want, you can start to collect the other off-the-shelf components that you want to make the gun your own. You get to pick from a selection of barrel lengths, stock types, magazine capacities, and assorted other goodies. Barrels can come in anything from 7” pistol to standard 20” heavy duty. Many gun owners prefer the 16” barrel length because it results in less recoil and smoother cycling, but it’s entirely up to you, as this is your build.
Constructing an AR from the ground up is a hugely satisfying experience, and is something of a learning exercise as you go. If you build you dream gun and then find that you dislike some aspect, strip it down and change parts; that’s the beauty of the AR!