What You Need to Build an AR-15

AR-15 Stripper Lower on Wood Floor

Purchasing a factory AR-15/MSR certainly satisfies your need for instant gratification.

Perhaps you are new to the black rifle world and intimidated by the seemingly never-ending array of choices on lowers, uppers and parts that buying stock just seems easier.

However, building your own AR-15 rifle satisfies in the long term.

Building your own AR-15 has plenty of benefits over buying factory:

  • Cost – Building your own can be more affordable than even the cheapest factory rifle.
  • Knowledge – You know your gun inside and out and understand how it functions.
  • Satisfaction – You get exactly what you want.
  • Pride – You get a sense of accomplishment from building it yourself.
AR-15 rifle on wooden table.

What You Will Need

You do not necessarily have to be mechanically inclined or a whiz at do-it-yourself projects.

An AR-15 rifle, once you have all the parts and step-by-step instructions, will come together in about three hours.

Start Saturday morning and by Saturday evening, you’re at the range.

That is not much time difference between buying one already built and putting it together yourself.

To start, you will need a lower receiver. The lower receiver is the part of the firearm that makes it a gun and comes with a serial number.

A lower receiver must ship to or be purchased through a licensed FFL dealer.

To purchase a lower receiver, you will need to go through a background check, just as if you were buying a complete firearm.

For your first entry-level AR-15 build, the Del-Ton stripped lower will handle hundreds of thousands of rounds.

It has a smooth, flawless finish and most of all, it’s affordable.

Made of forged 7075 T6 aluminum, the Del-Ton stripped lower receiver is hard-coat anodized. There are no tool scuffs or machine marks.

However, a stripped lower receiver means it does not come with any internal parts.

To complete the lower, you will need to purchase a lower parts kit that comes with a magazine catch, bolt catch, pivot pin, fire control group, trigger guard, selector, grip and pins.

Further, you will need a complete rear stock and a spring assembly.

Once you have picked out which parts kit you want, you will need to pick out an upper assembly.

If you wait for a sale or shop around, as most of us do, you can buy and build a complete AR-15 for around $600.

Del-Ton Sport AR-15

AR Parts Options

Most of the people I know who have assembled their own AR-15 have gone almost as cheap as possible.

They wait for sales on trusted name brands that are not the most expensive.

These parts from Del-Ton, CMMG and Yankee Hill have served AR-15 owners well over the years.

One of the coolest things about the AR-15 platform is its modular design.

There are so many different companies making parts for the rifle that you can go from extremely cheap to extremely expensive.

You can find lower parts kits from CMMG for over $100 to DPMS kits that retail for less than $65.

You will need a lower parts kit to make the Del-Ton stripped lower receiver functional.

As for quality, the Del-Ton stripped lower receiver will handle whatever you throw at it.

Whatever you plan for your AR — be it a competition gun, plinker, home defense or a varminter — you won’t have to worry about the Del-Ton lower breaking on you.

A higher-quality barrel and bolt are more important than the stripped lower.

The barrel and bolt are where your rifle’s accuracy — or lack of accuracy — comes from. The experts agree — go ahead and spend less on the lower.

Surprisingly, you do not need special or expensive tools to complete your build. For the lower, all you need is a light hammer and a roll pin punch set.

Putting your lower together is easy. The hardest part will be keeping track of all the small parts.

Make sure you start with a clean workspace with enough area to spread out and keep track of all your small parts.

Later, after purchasing your upper receiver, barrel and stock kit, you will need a vise, pliers, a screwdriver and some AR-15 specific tools.

For example, it will be easier to complete your build with an AR-15 stock wrench multi-tool or armorer’s wrench specifically made for AR-15 rifle assembly and takedown.

The experts at Cheaper Than Dirt! also highly recommend The Flipper. The Flipper is a device that holds your lower receiver securely in your vise.

AR-15 complete lower receiver

Conclusion: Build AR-15

Many people have successfully built their own AR-15s from cheapy will-it-fire-safely Frankenguns to extremely expensive hand-picked-each-piece competition and precision builds.

Fortunately, many of these people are willing to share their knowledge with the world via YouTube, online forums and blogs.

A simple Internet search will pull up all you need to know about assembling your own AR-15 rifle. In fact, Cheaper Than Dirt! has a few of our own.

To learn what you need to complete your stripped lower receiver, read “What Your AR-15 Lower Builds Needs” and for step-by-step instructions on assembling your stripped lower and parts kit, please read, “Building Your AR Lower Receiver.”

Did you build your own AR-15? Share your experiences in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. I have built a few AR-15,s from 80% lowers, to stripped lowers and built from the ground up. My latest build is an Anderson Lower with Palmetto State Armory LPK, Magpul MOE stock and pistol grip. The lower was paired with a Stag Arms complete 16″ M4 upper receiver. All in all, the build cost me about $700 dollars or so.

  2. I pieced mine together over the course of 2 years or so. I wanted to do it as cheaply as possible. I went to gun shows, closing guns stores and websites with great deals. I have lots of MagPul accessories, a Bushmaster lower, DPMS upper and a Geiselle trigger and some other good stuff. The rifle came in (minus suppressor and optics) at about $600I found an EoTech 512 at a Sportsman’s Warehouse that had a minor scratch and got it for $140. Picked up the EoTech magnifier for $200 from a closing optics store.

  3. I live in Washington state and bought the lower locally and got the DPMS kit from CTD. Used USMC manual to put it together. If you can read a comic book, you can put one of these together. Best buy and have been shooting it for 2 years now. If you are not sure about putting one together, get it, and DO IT. You will NOT be sorry!

  4. Normally I try not to get to vocal on gun rights issues and such. I have my views but I keep them to myself unless asked, usually. This is a special situation though. Most have already seen and heard about the tragic shooting at the Washington naval yard yesterday. Immediately politicians, and media started blaming so called “assault weapons” and calling for bans again because one was apparently used. Here’s information I found and posted a short You Tube video on. Please spread the word. This doesn’t need to be buried.

  5. Neil,
    Being in Kommiefornia and having done a couple lowers, here is what “I” believe is true, and I am no lawyer, so verify on your own. has great resources on the rules. CA limits you to 10 rounds not 5 in a mag, unless you are hunting, then I believe its 5, but I dont hunt. So far they still allow 20 or 30 round size mags that only accept 10, but that may change. Yes, you need the bullet button or similar device that requires a tool to release mag. That may also change thanks to Assemblyman Yee. Barrel must be 16 inches. You can run afoul with uppers that are 14.5 inch barrels that use flash hider to get you to 16 without welding the flash hider. 14.5 inch requires pinning and welding the flash hider. 16 inch barrel alone does not require welding. But some vendors wont ship 16 inch threaded barrels to CA because they could accept a suppressor.
    There is no registration of the weapon in CA. But you must have the lower shipped to an FFL, do the DROS and 10 day waiting period. Then you take your serialized lower home and build it up. Everything but the lower can be bought online and shipped to your door.

  6. The torque, from what I have heard, if properly done should not exceed 40 ft-lbs. It is aluminum after all. The other part not mentioned is EYE PROTECTION. Springs, pins, and the tiny holes they go in can conspire and create a visit to the ER if you dont wear eye protection. That brings up the one part of assembling a lower where you would want the special tool, unless you are very mechanically inclined, and that is installing the front takedown pin. Watch the youtube videos and decide for yourself how much fun it will be without the tool.

  7. Alex, a business that has poor communication policies is in the long run doomed to fail, or at least fail to realize a higher success rate than would have happened had they responded promptly to inquiries. I called Windham Weaponry and received an immediate rundown on their products, with advice on how to purchase at least two of their models that would be legal in California. Now, that’s the way to run a company.

    Your post will make me think twice about using Delton as a supplier.

  8. I tried to buy one of Delton’s kits a few months ago, but was not successful. I sent them e-mails and inquiries through other retailers, and never got so much as an acknowledgement from them. Regardless of their so-called quality parts, I don’t consider them to be a reputable company to do business with.

  9. Nice article, but there should be a follow-up article that explains whether or not the finished rifle will pass California laws regulating the final product’s features. For instance, Windham Weaponry sells ARs that are specifically geared toward California buyers. For instance, their CA-legal model features having to use the end of a bullet or other tool to remove the magazine, and the magazine is limited to only 5 rounds.

    I know that the lower end is the part that has the serial number stamped on it, but is this all that is required to get the gun legal in CA? In other words, once I have bought the lower end, should I be concerned about the purchase of an upper end that may subsequently prove the gun to be CA illegal? And….what’s the next step? Registration of the completed rifle, such as would be ordinarily required when a gun is purchased at a California gun store, or what?

  10. There are also many fine videos on the web that will take you through the building process, step-by-step. I recommend those by Brownells, but beware of those made by a guy named Bubba wearing camo. I don’t mean that you can’t watch them, just be careful in taking onboard their advice.

  11. Putting an AR together is easy. If you aren’t completely comfortable with something take it to a gunsmith for any part you aren’t sure about. I have two custom rifles, one AR-15 and one AR-10 platform. I agree with the knowledge, satisfaction, and pride aspects but cost usually is the same for built vs out of the box in my experience.

    Here’s first of a 3 part video series on my AR-15 build showing every part needed.
    Check out all 3 to see it go from parts to finished gun.

    Here’s another video of my AR-10 platform build

    There is plenty of how to videos and information out there for the do it yourself crowd.

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