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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just picked up two DPMS lowers from a local shop. Now comes the fun part. I have never built an AR before but I have spent the better part of the last two weeks reading and viewing everything I can find on the subject - lots of great web sites and info out there.

I plan to build two rifles:

1) Pretty basic M4 lightweight with A2 or A3 upper and a collapsable stock. I'll probably start with basic iron sights and add some sort of optic later. I want to keep this pretty much as a basic combat/tactical configuration without a lot of bells and whistles. I may go for the short quadrail and/or a railed gas block with detachable front sight eventually but not at first.

2) This will be a tack-driver. Probably 18" or 20" Heavy Barrel (floated) A3 flat-top with an A2 solid stock and mid-sized quadrail. Maybe piston driven with a fairly high-end optic and a detachable bi-pod. Weight is not as much a consideration as I will be shooting this one mainly from a rest (prone or bench). Definitely an adjustable target trigger group is in order.

Unfortunately, everyone seems to be out of pretty much everything right now so patience will be key. At this point, I plan to build #1 first and then #2 but that may be driven more by availability of parts. The next show in my area is 12/20 - hopefully it will be better by then (the "panic" will subside?).

Any suggestions/recommendations on configurations, specific components and/or possible suppliers?

Like I said, I would like to build the 2 rifles pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum but it will be interesting to see what I end up with.
 

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1) If you ever plan to mount any sort of optics on it, I'd go ahead and get the flat top upper now. If you want BUIS, get them and use them until you can get your optics, but I wouldn't go for the A2 and then get stuck with limited options on mounts/optics.

2) Magpul PRS (pick your color); Magpul MIAD grip with the large backstrap and front with the integral triggerguard )again...pick your color); If you want to wring the most out of it and at extended ranges, you want a minimum of a 20" barrel and you may want to consider a 24"; Harris BRM-S bipod with pod-loc; several 20-round PMags; Leupold VXIII or Mark 4 scope (I'd get at least a 14x top end for targets and I'd suggest maybe even a 20x); and for the trigger, take a look at the newer Timney 3lb Target Trigger unit!!
 

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For the first AR, I would pattern it like a Rock River Arms midlength A4 flattop with 16" light barrel, midlength gas sytem, standard hand guards, fixed A2 front sight tower, GG&G flip up rear sight, standard single stage (moderate weight) trigger, Magpul CTR stock (anti-wobble clamp feature), and optional co-witness C-More railway optical sight. A free float quad rail would be an option but then you might be tempted to make it heavy and cumbersome with lasers, flash lights, and kitchen sink add ons.

For the second, I would pattern it after a Rock River Artms Varmint 18" or 20" stainless bull barrel, aluminum free float tube, NM two stage light trigger, fixed A2 or ACE skeleton stock, LaRue Tactical LT-104 scope mount for 1" tube, a Leupold VX-III 3.5-10X40 scope (1" tube), and optional flip-up BUIS's. With a big scope you will need a low profile rear BUIS like the ARMS 40-L. 1" tube scopes are easier to find at local stores than special order 30 mm tube scopes.

I would order the complete rifles from RRA as they will build one to your exact specs with no left over parts. Its the left over parts that can be a waste of money. Spending a little extra for proper assembly, fitting, test firing, and a lifetime guaranty is worth the money when you buy a complete rifle. Do you have any experience lapping an upper and lower for optimal fit? RRA has very close tolerances and they hand fit their uppers and lowers. If you insist on building, build the lower but order a complete upper from a company like RRA.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
All great suggestions. I was pretty much set on getting a complete upper at least for the first one (maybe both). I didn't want to get too crazy with it but was thinking that the flattop with a detachable handle/rear sight would be the way to go. The flip-up would be an alternative too. Light weight and simplicity are primary requirements.

I may go 24" with the target rifle, just not sure that the extra 4" of barrel will result in a measurable improvement in accuracy. There is no sight radius advantage since I will be using a scope. Bull barrel is an option I guess. Are they really more accurate than the Hbar? I do like the Leupolds - we put a VXIII on a Rem700 for my brother-in-law and it is a nice piece of glass.

For me, building it is one of the primary drivers of the whole thing. I love "projects". To just go out and buy one, for me, misses the point. Not to mention the prices for complete rifles is pretty high right now and the lead times are months out. A great part of the thrill of owning it is the satisfaction of assembling it and the thorough understanding of how it works. I'm an engineer - what else can I say?
 

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It is often easier to go with complete uppers or rifles on projects like this, but at the same time...it isn't nearly as much fun as building it yourself, nor do you get the satisfaction once it is shooting like a dream of knowing "I built this and Damn does it SHOOT!!" Additionally, unless you can get a true custom built to your exact specs, then you will pay for features you don't want, that you'll have to change out later and will end up costing you more in the long run.

As for the barrel, the bull barrels (.920 or so) have a few advantages. First, heat dissipation. Second, better harmonics. Third, more weight. Fourth, generally speaking, the bull barrels are better quality barrels depending on who manufacturered them and are thus more prone to offer better accuracy (Douglass, LW, Kreiger, Wilson, Shaw, etc.).

While my 20" HBAR is very accuracy, with prolonged shooting, it looses its accuracy compared to the heavy bull barrel upper. Also, with additional weight, the rifle tends to hold, stabilize and shoot better for me (from the bench that is). The 24" barrel will give you an additional edge in velocity and stabilizing the bullet which equates to a better long-range rifle in my experience. There is almost a 100fps difference between my 18-20" barreled rifles and my 24" barreled rifle.

The disadvantage to the bull barrel over the HBAR is the additional weight. Going from a 20" .750 or so barrel to nearly a 1" diameter tube adds a surprising amount of weight to the front of the rifle which obviously changes the balance a good bit. This is particularly true of the 24" barreled models. My 24" barreled rifle is heavily fluted both under and in front of the handguards and it is also threaded 1/2x28 for various reasons. ;) With a Magpul PRS, MIAD, Free-float HG, Harris BRM-S bipod, Leupy Mk4 6.5-20x50 scope, rings, and a full 20-round mags weighs around 13lbs which is a ton for an AR.
 

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Great advice as given above, but just to add on...

Buying complete rifles from the manufacturer ends up costing more b/c of the excise tax. So if you decide to buy "complete", buy the lower first then order the upper next, or vice versa.

It is nice to have a "tight" fit between the upper and the lower, but it is by no means a must. A little bit of play is ok, I've seen and handled some of the higher end brands, and they have some play. Minimal is acceptable, but it should not be a worry.

I had the mentality of "this for now and then buy all the goodies later" for my first AR. But what I didn't know is, how much of an addiction it is to just buy everything right away. Maybe it's because I kept looking through the picture threads on various forums, and I saw the endless possibilities. Y.M.M.V, but my discipline isn't nearly that great!

Good luck!
 

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If you're going into the first build wanting to eventually upgrade to a railed forend, figure out what you want now and it'll save you some headache. If you're fine with a 2 piece, don't worry about a thing and carry on. If you want a free float, it may be easier for you to get a 16" barrel (that doesn't have a permanently attached muzzle break/flash hider)... it'll make swapping it out later on a lot easier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I may upgrade to a quadrail later but for now, the round forend will be OK. Since I will probably never float this one, a 2-piece would be acceptable. I will probably go with a 4-rail gas block and a detachable flip-up front sight though (looking at the YHM). That will allow me to attach a small tac light and/or laser if I want. The detachable sight can be removed if/when I go to an optical sight or just flipped down if I want to keep it as a backup.

The remaining question is what to do with the rear sight. I am definitely going with a railed A3 upper. I actually like the look of the handle (very traditional) so I could get a detachable and call it a day. However, the flip-up rear sight makes alot of sense for the same reason as on the front. If I get an optical sight, the flip-up can stay on as a backup. With the handle, I'm kind of stuck with whatever will mount on it or go with no backup. For my purposes though, a backup is really not necessary, just nice to have.

As far as barrels go, there doesn't seem to be alot of difference in weight between a Lightweight, Standard, and Heavy barrel in 16" so I will probably go with the Standard profile.

I have a Ruger 10/22T with the stainless hammer forged bull barrel and it is great but heavy.
 
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