Building your own rifle is the perfect family project – Reason.com
I remember one of my mother’s uncles, at a picnic, responding to a comment on a proposed gun ban with a laconic “Never mind. We’ll build ours.” Building rifles was his hobby, I learned on that day how to grill and shoot on his land in old rural New Jersey. Your comment has come back to me over the years, especially afterwards, around Christmas, my wife gave my son and me a template to complete an unfinished AR-15 lower receiver. Like my great-uncle, we built our own. We recommend the experience.
Making personal firearms is perfectly legal under federal law, if that matters to you, although states and localities may have their own rules. To that end, finishing receivers at “80 percent” has become a popular hobby since roughing blocks, shaped like the part of the AR-15 rifle that contains the hammer, safety, and trigger, but with material. solid where those parts should. fit, it can be purchased without the legal gibberish required to buy a firearm (the privacy that a DIY pistol offers it is somewhat committed if you later write an article about their activities). It’s a modern take on my uncle’s hobby, simplified by the use of templates that guide the bits and burrs to finish the project.
My wife gave us the Easy template sold by 80% Arms, which is one of several competing products in that category. I’ve only done this once so I can’t tell you which jig is the best, but the Easy Jig got the job done and came with clear and concise instructions that made our obsessive take on the online instructional video probably a bit superfluous.
AR-15 receivers can be made from a number of different materials, including polymer and various types of aluminum. I picked up a unfinished receiver made of 7075 aluminum. Like everything else related to weapons, the demand for these receivers has exploded and the price is now roughly double what I paid.
The biggest challenge was drilling the initial pilot hole needed to start milling the cavity for the fire control group (basically the hammer and trigger). Despite having a lot of oil, my cheap drill was still stuck. That required using a corded hand drill (much better) to back off the bit, which came in a tool kit also purchased from 80% Arms, before resuming. Ultimately, the bit won the battle.
I hadn’t ground anything since high school, when schools offered workshop classes, and this was completely new for my son. But connecting the toolkit cutter to a router and milling the cavity was much easier than anticipated. The key was a lot of patience as we took turns removing layers of aluminum. Molded into the jig are gauges to gradually extend the tip bur, but our router was unlocked a couple of times, cutting deeper than intended. Fortunately, that never happened at a time when it mattered. We learned to anticipate those slip-ups by feeling ourselves to be able to adjust the router.
Next, we drill the holes for the hammer, the safety and the trigger, using the bits included in the toolkit. The included bubble level helped orient the receiver horizontally in relation to the drill.
Because I was concentrating on finishing a lower receiver, for the rest of the build I bought a kit of parts of the Palmetto State Armory. Serious hobbyists, on the other hand, will customize their rifles with parts chosen from many sources. For guidance on how to place the pieces where they belong, we turn to The Complete AR-15 Assembly Guide by Walt Kuleck and Clint McKee, as well as the online version Definitive visual guide from Pew Pew Tactical. The book walks you through the process step by step, while the Ultimate Visual Guide is well illustrated and suggests solutions if you don’t have a full range of specialized tools. U.S acquired a Economy Gunsmith Punch Set that was essential once we had the hammer head in place so it wouldn’t rotate with every hit.
We encountered a problem when the latch didn’t slide into place. When I tested with the bit to diagnose the problem, I found that the holes on either side of the frame were slightly misaligned. A slow twist of the bit in the drill brought out an aluminum mustache, and on the safety went.
Also, I learned years ago that anything involving complicated bits must be assembled or disassembled in a box. However, the bolt spring and plunger were thrown over my shoulder and bounced off the wall. We both got them back after several minutes on our knees with flashlights.
“It’s simpler on the inside than I expected,” Anthony told me as he set up the pieces. He loved finding out how they interact and how they make the firearm work.
“It won’t make you an AR-15 gunsmith, but it will make you a more informed owner,” Kuleck and McKee comment on the benefits of making a rifle. “In short, if you build it, you will know how to repair it.”
This perspective evokes my childhood hobby of disassembling doorknobs, radios, and appliances to see how they work and then putting them back into (normally) working order. Too many things in our life could also be magical, given our limited understanding of how they work. We cannot demystify everything, But examining some things that are important to us enriches our knowledge while giving us more control over our lives.
With the finished bottom attached to the Palmetto State Armory top kit, everything was assembled. But our new “boomstick “ Come on bang? To answer that question, we went to the local shooting range, as the road to my preferred desert shooting spot was vanished in a recent monsoon storm. But indoor ranges don’t do well with the steel core ammunition that makes up the majority of our supply. Fortunately, I was able to put together a couple of magazines with 5.56 ammo suitable for the range. Anthony took the first steps and to cut to the chase: Yes, our house construction is BANG!
Unsurprisingly, given the politically polarized nature of gun ownership in this country (although that is changing) the Biden administration sees an opportunity to please supporters and criticize opponents of the tightening of rules allowing home-made firearms free from bureaucratic impediments. Specifically, 80 percent of the recipients, and anything that can be “easily converted” to shoot according to extremely subjective criteria, may soon be regulated as firearms.
But even vague rules have limits. The proposed revisions allow that an object must be “clearly identifiable as an unfinished component of a weapon” to be subject to regulation and that “frame or receiver molds that can accept metal or polymer, unformed metal blocks and other items only in a primordial state would not simply be considered a ‘partially complete’ frame or receiver. ” It’s easy to imagine an expanded market for jigs and tools that help hobbyists transform aluminum and polymer bricks into finished receivers. And let’s not forget that my great-uncle made rifles long before you could buy 80% of receivers on the Internet.
My son eagerly anticipates the answer he will offer to the inevitable “what did you do this summer?” questions at school. As for me, I am more prepared than ever to refute the fanatical demands for tighter restrictions on everything. “It doesn’t matter. We’ll build ours.”