View Full Version : Newbie with AR Questions

12-06-2009, 4:46 PM
Hello Everyone,

I am a newbie who desires a CA legal AR-15.

I am new to firearms, got my first firearm - a benelli super black eagle shotgun (for upland/waterfowl hunting) a little shy of a year ago.

I am a bit of a search junkie on here so I have learned a bit from searching.

I'm interested in the benefits of doing a build vs. Buying a complete rifle. Do we (californians) have to because of the OLL lists? Can you make a more quality finished rifle using various parts?

Either way, who makes the best products that are CA compliant? I see a lot of mention noveske. Any other honorable mentions?

Thanks folks - I appreciate your knowlege and wisdom.

12-06-2009, 4:54 PM
You can buy a cali legal ar15 and end up changing everything on it to suit your needs or buy a lower and start there. You need a lower parts kit, stock, bullet button, mags, sights and a complete upper. The first one I bought was a complete gun and changed everything on it but the lower itself and upper. It will cost more in the long run to buy a complete but you can shoot in ten days. If u have the money buy a lower and all the rest of the parts and build it yourself. There is alot of help on his site.

12-06-2009, 5:01 PM
You're going to save money by building your own, and while I haven't done that yet, from what i gather...if you can put together legos, you can put together an AR. You might get a better quality rifle quicker if you go with a complete gun from a shop, but if you shop around and are in no hurry, you can build a really nice custom rifle that will give you years of enjoyment, and be easy on your wallet. to build a decent setup you can expect to pay around $1100 +/- and if you bought the same rifle from a store you're looking at around $2100 +/-.

In CA you ust need to make sure that you don't have a detachable magazine AND any one of the "evil" features. click here (http://www.calguns.net/caawid/flowchart.pdf) to check out the AW ID Flowchart. it breaks down what is a legal and illegal configuration. here's a website (http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.riflegear.com/blogimages/Stag15_ctr.jpg&imgrefurl=http://blog.riflegear.com/articles/building-a-california--legal-ar-15-rifle.aspx&usg=__ApdTm15BjVAtwn0lB-TkXiQtBxw=&h=262&w=800&sz=42&hl=en&start=4&um=1&tbnid=cedB4-KDpyd0oM:&tbnh=47&tbnw=143&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dca%2Blegal%2Bar-15%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26sa%3DN%26um%3D1) that kinda helps with the build too.

To my knowledge, there's no OLL "list". If it's not on the banned list, its ok (hence "Off List" Lower). The best products (really a subjective term) are up to interpretation/discussion/argumentation. If your short on cash, the best products are going to be different from the ones you could throw all the money in the world at. It's usually easier to ask which ones to stay away from. There are plenty of posts here that show pics of rifles and list the parts used, and sometimes their price breakdown. There are THOUSANDS of configurations, you just need to decide what your priorities are and go from there.

Good luck, welcome to Calguns, and don't be shy to ask for help. that's what everyone is here for. if you post your location in your profile you might be able to find someone in your area to help you out personally!

12-06-2009, 5:07 PM
Best recommendation would be to first determine what role you intend to use your rifle for (target, competition, SHTF etc.) this will give you a better path to follow as to what type of parts you will need.

Its easy to piece together your lower. (It took me about 40 mins for my first time and that was going slow). I would recommend to assemble your own lower and buy a complete upper. Putting an upper together on your own isn't that hard from what I've read but it will definitely require more tools which will offset your cost savings.

12-06-2009, 5:43 PM
Historically, there were far more options building than complete - as many stores in CA would not sell complete. That has begun to change.

Buying complete has Federal Excise Tax (10%) which accounts for a large part of the cost difference. Simply buying a complete upper and complete lower and putting it together (2 seconds) can avoid this.

Assembling allows one to pick and choose (sales, discounts) that wouldn't be available on a complete rifle. However, don't forget to factor shipping. You also get the benefit of being able to choose exactly what you want. Except for mating barrels to receivers (requires a few tools and some knowledge) everything can be done with VERY limited tools and about an hour of time.

In the end, it's personal preference. Given the tinker-toy nature of ARs no build is ever really finished. Most of us tend to tweak with time.


12-06-2009, 6:11 PM
Today u can build a ar15 for 800. U will end up throwing alot of it away and buying better quality parts. I built a entire gun from parts( upper and lower). It was more expensive to buy the complete and change everything then it was to build it from scratch. Sacramento black rifle would love to help you out in any way.

12-06-2009, 6:52 PM
I bought my first rifle complete, but I'm building the second one due to my inability to save and impatience. Either way good luck, have fun and remember..safety first.

12-06-2009, 8:15 PM
I was new to AR’s a few months ago and did all my research via the internet. There is so much out there, you just have to research and read. I took everything with a grain of salt, since some advice is not correct. Did most of my research via AR15.com and other forums. I too recommend building your own so you get a AR that is custom to you. However, if you are not really into doing things yourself, you may want to think about buying a AR from a quality shop. The mass produced AR’s will be lower in cost but will not give you 100% of what you want. You may change them later or try a smaller custom-built site, but the cost goes up.

Figure out what you want to build first (i.e. short barrel tactical, long-range varmint, bench rest, etc.). From there you need think about what caliber you want (.223, 6.5, 6.8, .308, etc). From there you will start to build your rifle on paper. Just remember a quality barrel and trigger will improve your rifle the most. The fancy tactical light is a nice to have.

Remember you do need to get an OLL through a FFL. Forged is stronger but not a pretty. Billet is pretty but not as strong as forged. Do not go with cast metal. Also, if you are in CA, you will need to put a bullet button on the AR and no more then a 10 round magazine, to make it legal.

Brownells.com has a great how to build an AR video series.

Some great sites

Do not forget you will need tools to assemble and maintain your AR
Brownells.com is a great site.

If you want to read two good books, try THE AR-15 COMPLETE ASSEMBLY GUIDE and THE AR-15 COMPLETE ASSEMBLY GUIDE.

Good luck. Before you know it, you will have Black Rifle Disease (BRD). Also, do not drink the cool-aid. You will learn what that is on the forums.

12-06-2009, 8:25 PM
Thanks everyone,

I can now see the benefits in building my own.

The firearm will primarly be used for shooting range recreation. I won't lie, I'm bot the best shot so I am trying to get more involved to improve my skill. I don't see myself part-taking in any competitons in the near future. I would like the ar to be more "short barrel tactical".

I believe in spending the proper dough to buy top knotch products. Doesn't need to be gold plated or anything. I just rather do it right the first time.

From what I read from my searches. Most lowers are pretty similar, so buy whatever I can get the best deal on or what logo I like the best? But I read I am not to skimp when buying an upper.

So, now that you guys know a little about me can you give some upper/lower combo recommendations?

12-06-2009, 8:54 PM
No, not all lowers are built the same. There are some great quality, good quality and low quality lowers. Do some more research on lowers and uppers. You can also buy stripped lower/upper combo’s from places like Rainier Arms (mega). Again, a good trigger and stainless steel barrel will be key. I am piecing my entire rifle together and not buying a complete upper. I am sold on Adams Arms piston systems (conversion kit and one-piece bolt carrier), but that is a matter of opinion. Some would argue that a DI system is how the AR was intended to be built and carrier tilt is systemic with a piston system. Do the research and make your own mind up.

12-06-2009, 9:00 PM
So, now that you guys know a little about me can you give some upper/lower combo recommendations?

If you decide to buy complete I would strongly suggest Daniel Defense. If not...

Any lower will be fine. Pick one with the coolest logo. With the laser engraving, logos, and prices it is hard to beat Spike's Tactical (www.spikestactical.com). I have their Jolly Roger lower and love it, but it is pricey. In the next few weeks their Biohazard and Zombie lowers should be released.

Here is the thing with uppers there is a clear accuracy and quality difference between different manufacturers. If you build it yourself you can get exactly what you want, although frankenbuilds also have a reputation of being worse off than factory builds. Not because building from multiple parts is bad but because people usually use lower quality parts because they are cheaper and don't put it together correctly.

For a good upper you can't go wrong with Daniel Defense. A small step down that would be equally affortable, if not more is the CMMG. If you really want the goods get yourself a Bravo Company, though to be honest DD is not that far behind BCM.

It sounds like you want a 16'' barrel. For the gas length system a mid length is suggested. There is nothing wrong with a carbine and I do want to get into the carbine vs midlength discussion but it is safe to say that either will do their job but given the choice a midlength is the way to go.

12-07-2009, 9:17 AM
I see you caught the BRD :)

"Building" your own custom AR to your specs is the way to go. Assembling the lower and buying a complete upper is probably the easiest. First thing is to decide what you want your AR to do.

You can get one of them thousand dollar uppers or a gas piston upper, but a BCM or CMMG upper will do just fine. RRA and Stag are not bad either. Looks like a 16" is what you want. Carbine or mid-length; I suggest the latter as well. Getting an H buffer for the carbine length would help a bit.

Lowers are basically they same. Most lowers come from 4-5 manufacturers who send it to CMMG, Spikes, Stag, Noveske, Mega, RRA, DPMS , etc etc, and they then engrave their logo and what not on it. So you're basically right, pick one you like.

Here's a basic list of what you need:

OLL receiver
mag lock
lower parts kit
buffer assembly
16" flat top upper
bolt carrier group
charging handle
rear sight

12-07-2009, 9:34 AM
A better question than what do you want to use the gun for is what kind of ammo are you going to shoot.

I'm cheap and I consider my 5.56x45 AR's to be plinkers. I shoot PMC Bronze and XM193. I'm also lazy so chrome lined barrels for me.

Stainless steel barrels are more for target rifles. They don't last as long and you don't really see all their accuracy unless you shoot expensive ammo or reload.

I'm a big fan of chrome lined barrels.

12-07-2009, 8:47 PM
First off, thanks for all your advice. I am taking note and using it all.

okay so here is where I stand, so I've been doing a lot of research. I did a hypothetical mock-up (following C_1 items needed for build) and I am building a rifle that is coming out to about $1,600 (not including, mags, ammo, or mag lock).

Upon my search, I ran into this M4 Comparison chart: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pwswheghNQsEuEhjFwPrgTA&single=true&gid=5&output=html which I based a lot of my decisions on. The mock-up is basically a (Charles Daly Lower with a Bravo Upper, and mostly other bravo parts). Anyone know where Daniel defense would fit in on this chart?

So back to one of my original questions. With the price point I have created - should I buy a complete? Daniel Defense's most expensive setup is $1,700. Does Bravo Company make a complete rifle setup? If so, does anyone have a link to information on one?

I understand that with a completely custom build, I have the ability to completely customize. But, I just reminded myself that I am a newbie and have never even shot one of these rifles. So the event that I make a rifle nicer than a Bravo Company or Daniel Defense complete is highly unlikely.

12-07-2009, 9:08 PM
BCM and DD are both good, probably better than you'll ever need. If you wear one out you'll have really got your moneys worth.

In my opinion as long as you've got a decent barrel and a good bolt you'll be OK. Hammer forged barrels are fine but will you really notice the difference? I doubt it.

12-07-2009, 11:25 PM
Don't get hung up on the lower receiver. Any one will do, literally anyone. For the most part they are all the same. This link is old, but it is still very useful. It tells you the differences between the lowers: http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=50947

That is the old M4 chart this is newer:


Upon my search, I ran into this M4 Comparison chart: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pwswheghNQsEuEhjFwPrgTA&single=true&gid=5&output=html which I based a lot of my decisions on. The mock-up is basically a (Charles Daly Lower with a Bravo Upper, and mostly other bravo parts). Anyone know where Daniel defense would fit in on this chart?

12-07-2009, 11:40 PM
I like your locations! If you are between here and Tahoe a lot/ look up Hoffmeyer's in Grass Valley. He has lowers from various mfgs on hand.

If memory serves, he has lower parts kits, AR magazines and bullet buttons in stock as well.

12-08-2009, 2:46 AM
DD is great.

12-08-2009, 4:09 AM


2. LMT

3. Matter of opinion BCM/NOVESKE depending on who you ask...

I have seen problems w/ Noveske QC lately so I do NOT recommend them.

12-08-2009, 7:36 AM


2. LMT

3. Matter of opinion BCM/NOVESKE depending on who you ask...

I have seen problems w/ Noveske QC lately so I do NOT recommend them.

I'd take a complete BCM mid-length over an LMT carbine any day of the week.

12-08-2009, 9:48 AM

I'd take a Bcm anything over an LMT any day

12-08-2009, 10:12 AM

I'd take a Bcm anything over an LMT any day

I wouldn't. BCM has nothing like the MRP.

12-08-2009, 3:48 PM
I'd take a complete BCM mid-length over an LMT carbine any day of the week.

I humbly defer to your advice UCLA. :notworthy:

12-10-2009, 10:04 AM
Buy a Colt 1640 for 1400 bucks bullet button it and your done.... You can buy them out of state, No tax and have shipped to ffl with bullet button HELLOOOOOOOO....

Colt will hold its value not like all these other offlist dime a dozens. There is even a calguns.net lower LOL....Next month there will be a lower with my name and picture on it.

The only ar's that hold value are Colt, Knights, and Noveske... So build your own for a grand or buy sometyhing built that will go up in value..