Building your own AR Revisited – Premium Build
Several months ago, I wrote an article on building your own AR on a budget. (Click the link if you missed it.) It has become this site’s most popular article as more and more people take an interest in owning and building an AR rifle.
In that article, I wanted to give readers the information they would need to build their own AR 15. I tried to stick to the basics and not overwhelm the reader. I also listed AR parts that would not “break the bank”. The response was very positive.
I received a lot of email about it, asking all sorts of different questions. The one question that kept popping up was: “I want to build a quality AR and I am willing to spend more $$. Which parts would you recommend?”
Now before I answer this, I want to give a little clarification. While I have always advocated getting quality firearms (because some day your life might depend upon them), that does not mean that I believe that you always have to spend huge amounts of money to get quality. Yes, I believe that you get what you pay for. But sometimes, you can find quality on a budget.
I have built two different AR rifles using Palmetto State Armory (PSA) parts. Both have served me well. They were dependable and accurate. And both would fit within “budget” pricing. Hence I do NOT have any problem recommending PSA when looking for decent AR parts while on a budget.
The very first AR build I ever built was a PSA lower and parts kit, with a PSA Stainless Steel Freedom upper. This “16 stainless steel barrel had a 1 in 7 twist with a free-floating rail. I used a PSA nickel boron BCG.
The Freedom line is PSA’s entry-level rifle parts. For a basic rifle, it felt solid. When I went to the range, it held about a 1.5 MOA at 100 yards. However, I was using Federal 55 grain .223 ammo. I tend to believe that the MOA would have been a bit tighter with a heavier grained round.
I had no problems or issues with it. It had no failure to feed or jams, regardless of the ammo I put through it.
As I talked about in the previous article, the two areas where quality will count the most with an AR is in the barrel and with the BCG. With each new build, I tried to upgrade in those two areas over the previous build.
So my second build was also a PSA lower, but this time I used a PSA Premium upper. The Premium is of course the next step up from the Freedom line. This rifle included a chrome lined, “16 1/7 twist barrel with a Magpul MOE hand guard. I went with another PSA nickle boron BCG. Again, the rifle felt solid and well made. It ate the several different types of ammo I used without any problems.
I changed up the ammo I used, and instead went with American Eagle, 62 grain 5.56 round when I sighted it in and ran it through its paces. The MOA was a bit tighter, at around 1 MOA at 100 yards. I quickly preferred this rifle to my first build.
High End Build
That being said, I decided that for my third build I wanted to step up even more. I wanted to build a high end AR, so I increased my spending threshold.
This time, I used a BCM “16 BHF upper, a Sharp’s Balanced nickel teflon BGC (Bolt Carrier Group), and a Spikes Tactical lower and a standard parts kit. This rifle was obviously more expensive than the PSA builds.
As I said, I went with a BCM mid length upper. This is a cold hammer forged “16 inch barrel with a 1/7 twist. It is chrome lined and has a “15 KMR (Key Mode Rail). It arrived just two days after I ordered it. That shocked and impressed the HELL out of me.
Upon taking it out of the box, I noticed it was lighter than my previous two uppers. Even with a “15 inch keymod rail, it was very light weight. The “15 aluminum rail weighs only about 5oz.
The Spikes Tactical stripped lower I used is a forged aluminum receiver. I added a standard lower parts kit, although I did put in a Geissele S3G trigger and a Magpul B.A.D. lever. On the buffer tube I included a Magpul STR buttstock. (I like the cheek-weld.)
When it comes to Magpul parts, I believe you are getting quality stuff, and I recommend them to everyone. However, I found a Blackhawk ergonomic AR grip that I liked even more than the Magpul grip, so I went with that.
When sighting it in and running it through its paces, I used Armscor .223 62 grain ammo. This ammo wasn’t my first choice, but it was all I had on me at the time. After sighting in the rifle, the rifle had NO issues at 100 yards.
The Armscor ammo seemed fairly accurate to me, though it was kinda dirty. I did have one failure to feed issue, though I’m not sure if that was the ammo or just breaking in a new gun. Either way, it is something I will pay attention to the next time I use that ammo.
The next time at the range, I used PMC Gold .223 55 grain ammo. My AR ran through it without a hiccup.
So was the extra money worth it? To me it is. My BCM/Spikes Tactical build is a bit lighter weight than my PSA builds. (6 lbs with optic as opposed to 6 lbs 6 oz without optic for PSA.) I also found it to be a just a bit more accurate, and held a slightly tighter group. This will be the rifle that I carry on duty.
Again, I’ll tell you that in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with PSA. I truly believe you are getting quality parts without spending a fortune. But if you want to go a step or two above, BCM is certainly one way to go. I have no problems recommending BCM to anyone that wants a high quality AR.
BCM was founded by a veteran US Marine who wanted to make quality AR and AR parts that stand up to the rigors of battle. The video above details a little about the company and their products. Be sure to click the BCM link above and check out their website.
Again, I am NOT being paid by any of these companies, nor am I receiving any sort of compensation. (I wish I was!) I list them here simply because I believe in their products and their quality.
The video below (not me) is more about buying a high-end AR as opposed to building one, but it does give you some ideas on what to look for and what to consider when building. The same principles will apply when buying AR parts.
Be sure to check out my article on things to consider when buying an optic.
Stay safe out there!
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